I’m starting up my own online retail business and looking to hire my first employees. Which positions should I be looking to fill first?

I’m leaving employment to start-up my own online retail business. I’ve got quite a few talented former colleagues and contacts that I’d like to bring with me, but I can’t afford them all at once. Which positions should I be looking to fill first, as a priority?


First off, good for you! The opportunities around online retail are terrific and now is a great time to dive in – good luck!

Your question begs two thoughts.


First, it depends on how much money you have. You’re going to want to make sure that you can afford at least the core team before you leave and strike out on your own.


Great businesses are always run by teams, not individuals – and it’s a hell of a lot easier to tackle the lonely world of the start-up with at least one partner. So you will obviously be limited by what you can afford.


Second, it depends on what your new company’s immediate focus is going to be. There’s no right universal answer.


Some businesses focus on product in the early stages, and look to monetise once there is clear evidence of consumer traction. For them the tech team, and product visionaries, are the key early hires.


They can wait until they have something to sell before they hire sales people, and wait until the sales people have sold something before they need heavy-duty financial folk. If your start-up is one of these, you’ll want a CTO and a great product person early in the piece.


If, on the other hand, your early focus is around generating revenue, you’ll approach things differently.


I’m assuming here that your product is at a beta stage at least, and that it can generate revenue. In this case you’ll want sales and marketing leaders early on – and the tech and product people later.


You’ll also want people who can ensure that your delivery is right quickly – customer service, account management, etc. There’s nothing worse than going all out to get your first customers and then lose them through poor delivery.


Whichever of these is right for you, there’s one critical resource you’re going to need early on – that’s your fundraiser.


Almost all start-ups are going to need more capital pretty quickly. If you can find someone (either part-time or full-time) who is skilled at this, it really helps.


Your operational team can focus on building the business while your fundraiser focuses on getting more capital.


Otherwise there’s a huge danger that you’ll spend all your time trying to raise more money and lose momentum as a result.


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