Your First Follower

Whether there are 1,2,6 or 10 founders in your company already the first employee is a significant decision. This person sets the tone, is your first follower as you scale, will become your petulant child, is the person you are most open with and trust.

It’s easy to be tempted to employ a developer if you are a tech company or an engineer or whatever subject matter expert you need, in my experience unless that technically capable individual personifies the culture you plan to build in your team steer clear of making them permanent, contract technical people until you can hire the right one.

Explaining this visually is Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement – excellent, video and short watch, explains how to transform a lone nut into a leader too:

Designing your Tribe

Like any tribe a work based team needs balance, diversity of thinking, backgrounds and perspectives. Those early employees are the foundations of your future tribe, no matter how empowered individuals are new people will look to their “elders” (your first follower especially) to understand the boundaries of operation. For this reason in my experience finding a first follower who embodies your values and ethics, shares your vision and can champion this with others trumps technical skills, you can contract those until you find the right staff ambassador.

Equally you need to compliment yourself / selves with capabilities you don’t hold. Founders who are all the same will never succeed by themselves. As I described recently in Know Your Biases maturity as an employer doesn’t come naturally to everyone, designing your tribe is an important success factor so seek help if you don’t naturally see who you have and what you need to succeed.

Self-help wise there is a wealth of information out there to shape your thinking on this, the personality types you need to attract, the non-technical functions team members need to fill here is a short list of example reading:

My First Follower Experience

5 years ago we employed OptimalBI‘s first follower, I didn’t know anything I have written in this blog post, had no idea how important he would become and has remained. In our early days the three of us would sit around in our small serviced office talking about everything, this continued until we grew to 6 people (first step change) and had to move location and momentum took over.

For me however our first follower is still my go-to-person, the rest of the team believe everything he tells them (to their detriment at times, he is the biggest practical joker around here) and he is always first to give me the critical feedback a CEO needs often. As Derek Sivers described in his Tex talk, our first follower is my equal, he sets the tone and more critically for me provides me with a raw and honest view. He also supports those we have brought into leadership positions – all while doing his technical day job. All in I would say we chose exceptionally well by fluke – hopefully you can do the same by design! Happy sharing Vic. 

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