Every startup has benefits
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. August's topic is employee benefits.
Designing and implementing a benefits package can be difficult and costly for startups. Let's face it, most startups are willing to take on something that’s difficult, but being costly is something we can't all do.
Most large businesses offer benefits such as health, life, and disability insurance plus other perks like 401K matching contributions and paid time off. These are benefits you can count on – after all, they are in writing (just like most startups, right?). There is a feeling of comfort that comes with acquiring these benefits. They are easy to attach value to, and many of them are a necessity for living a happy, healthy life.
But if your startup can't offer these benefits does that mean your benefits don't exist? Here's why I think the answer is no: there are unique benefits a start-up business can sell to prospective employees that have low or no direct cost to the bottom line. Most importantly, such benefits can lead to the high levels of productivity your startup needs.
- Opportunity. You're passionate about what you do, right? Look for someone who appreciates that passion, and has an abundance of it as well. Startups need positive, opportunistic people in order to make it through the many challenges ahead. Hopefully a candidate sees the opportunity related to being one of the first employees in a startup.
- Learning. Many people enjoy learning and have a strong desire to be challenged by new things. Providing someone the opportunity to learn is something that not every company or position can offer.
- Transparency. Over the years, I've heard many people say that they have lost touch with the vision of the company they work for has. They do their job, but they're not sure what contribution it makes to the big picture. Startups can be naturally more transparent because of the small team environment. Employees at startups are working everyday with the person or people that have the vision, and are determining the strategy. It’s likely that every employee will influence the strategy of a small business.
- Flexibility. Many employers, large or small create a rigid work environment. Take the time to realize what kind of flexibility your business model can support, and be as flexible as you can. While flexibility may be more of a retention benefit, showing a potential new employee that you’ll be flexible- even before you make the offer- may be just what it takes to get them hired.
- Work-Life Balance. This is the ultimate benefit your startup can offer a new employee. Work is a big part of our lives. Working lots of hours isn't something that inspires a new recruit, and will most certainly lead to burnout. Find someone who has come from that environment and can appreciate the work-life balance you have to offer them. In addition, make your employees aware that you want them to have work-life balance. This is about more than the number of hours/week they work. Balance is different for everyone, and work plays a different role for all of us. We each need to find that balance, but many employers can't or don't make this possible.
Also, keep in mind that benefits like health insurance and retirement plans have different values for each new employee. A young person attending college and living at home may be covered by their parents' insurance policy; or an individual may be covered by their spouse's employer. Some people are not concerned about being part of a retirement plan provided by their employer. It's possible they've made other arrangements, or they will likely inherit enough to provide for retirement. Every potential employee has their own unique circumstance, so it's important to get to know them in the recruiting process.
Even if your benefits package feels slim compared to larger businesses, it's important to believe in your benefits and what you have to offer when you start recruiting. The topic will most certainly come up and will likely rule out several potentially great employees. Don't let this discourage you. It's likely you’ll have to make sacrifices to get the right person hired but it’s important to keep in mind that missing the opportunity to bring the right person on board (or hiring the wrong person) could make or break your business early on.
Adding the most common workplace benefits before you intended to may be one sacrifice you make. However, if you focus on selling the unique benefits a startup business can offer, the most expensive benefits may not be needed until later.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Clickstop.
About the author: Tim Guenther is the founder and CEO of Clickstop, the parent company of a suite of 10 online retail stores based in Urbana, Iowa. He began the startup business in 2005, selling ratchet straps and other cargo control merchandise on what has now become the company’s flagship site, USCargoControl.com.
Founder Friday is brought to you by the Heartland Technology Alliance
Thanks to our Founder Friday series sponsor, Heartland Technology Alliance, a nonprofit working as an advocate for innovation and competition in technology and communications across much of the Silicon Prairie and throughout the Upper Midwest.