“Hire people not for today but for 2-3 years from now, and let them grow with the company.”
For Ritesh Agarwal of OYO, when a founder thinks about the first few hires, he/she must disproportionately test for cultural alignment, and the skill-set to take ownership for various functions.
Ritesh was speaking during Week 1 of Lightspeed’s recently launched Extreme Entrepreneurs (EE), an eight-week business series focussed towards exposing a selected group of eight startups to world-class people, ideas and practices.
Mohit Dhar Jayal, Exec. Director at Motherland JV, also made a presentation to the high-potential founders on the importance of brand building.
As he says, “Your brand reflects your culture, purpose and identity. It’s never too early to start thinking about it.”
Here are a few edited excerpts from the two interactions:
Risk it, vs. Regret it
As an entrepreneur, you have to be open to taking risks, especially when the downside is limited but the upside is high.
For instance, focusing on the business in OYO’s early days would keep Ritesh away from more fun stuff (or school!), and there was a time when he spent money (which he didn’t have much of) on an air-ticket to meet with an angel investor. With hindsight, several such risks paid off years later!
Stay close to your customers, Always!
For Ritesh, this was a literal reality during the company’s early days. He spent several months staying in budget hotels and closely understood each and every pain point a small asset owner has.
The solution you build should be based on this carefully trained mechanism of understanding the customer, and not just pure instinct. Having your ear close to the ground helps build unparalleled conviction about the severity and scale of the problem you’re solving.
Hire the ‘right’ people, that are as obsessed with your mission
As your company grows, it’s important to continuously evolve into a leadership role, and be okay with letting go. The entrepreneurial journey is as much about sacrificing (be it family time, company ownership, control etc.), as it is about gaining.
As you think about your first few hires, disproportionately test for cultural alignment, and the skill-set to take ownership for various functions.
Hire people not for today but for 2-3 years from now, and let them grow with the company.
Prioritise few, but keep rest of the matrix in view
Founders often find themselves lost in a fog of activity, and need to step back and focus on a subset of decisions.
But what do you focus on, when?
- First, focus on survival.
- Next, spend energy and resources on building the solution that your customers truly want. Get to a stage where the product works like a machine – you provide the raw materials, and the model keeps scaling automatically.
- Validate your ability to impact key business levers (e.g. unit economics, customer experience etc.) Doing so will give you the conviction to make deliberate trade-offs in the event this ever becomes necessary.
Take a local view to international expansion
To quote Ritesh here, “We aren’t trying to take OYO to China. We are doing what a local entrepreneur would do if they copied the OYO model in China.”
The difference is nuanced but very profound as it reflects the importance of not trying to replicate your existing business in a new market but instead adapting your business to the unique requirements and context of that market.
Start thinking about your brand, it’s never too early
Your brand reflects your culture, purpose and identity.
In the quest to grow fast, the foundation may often get ignored. Why do we exist? What do we stand for? Make sure you answer these questions and communicate them internally and externally.
This is an excerpt from the Week 1 of Extreme Entrepreneurs, a Lightspeed initiative. Bejul will be exclusively sharing these takeaways and knowledge in the form of weekly articles for the next 8 weeks with Inc42 readers. Founders, game on!