The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
What one piece of advice would you give a new startup hire who wants to earn an executive spot on your team quickly?
Don’t Focus on the Money
I find that the people moving up the quickest in the company are those who really believe in the product we’re building, who don’t mind working extra hours or jumping on a call on the weekend because they are so excited about what we are doing. The people asking about hourly rates and hours per week are the ones who lack the passion needed to succeed in the world of startups.
- Jessica Brondo, The Edge in College Prep
The success of a C-level employee hinges on buy-in from the entire team. Will they be able to trust and work with this person? Have team leads involved in each step of the interview process. Debrief regularly with everyone to hear their input and gauge their feelings. This will help accelerate finding someone who meshes well within the organization, and it will add to the established culture.
- Justin Beck, PerBlue
Rome was not built in a day, nor is an executive spot earned in a week. If a potential hire is intent on becoming an executive quickly, he is not taking your company seriously. The best employees know the value of proving themselves over a period of extended time, and are willing to do so. Tell the new hire that the option is off the table until he proves himself worthy of an executive spot.
- Ken Sundheim, KAS Placement
At the end of the day it’s all about the RESULTS. CEOs and business owners despise when an employee with no results and lackluster performance asks for a raise. So create a plan, set performance deadlines for yourself, share it with the CEO, and ask him if you meet these goals, revenue numbers, or company metrics if he’d be open to a step up.
- Chris Brisson, Call Loop & Automize
The best executives are able to grasp the larger, more abstract state of the business. They are always looking to connect the dots of today’s business with tomorrow’s business. To stand out as an employee, aim to 1) better understand how what is being done today influences tomorrow, 2) the overall direction of the business and 3) the overall direction of the market you’re currently in.
- Kent Healy, The Uncommon Life
Seth Godin said it best: One of the most important things anyone working for a startup should master is the art of selling. If you can sell — and sell well — bringing new clients and building long-lasting client relationships for your company, you’ll establish yourself as an invaluable asset.
- Matt Cheuvront, Proof Branding
While it’s important to see potential problems and identify solutions, someone who is adept at executing a solution will stand out as someone who knows what needs to be done and isn’t afraid to get it done. It may seem more “managerial” to oversee others who are problem-solving, but in times of crisis, the executive team needs to see solutions through to the end.
- Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems
In a startup, I need every employee to be ten steps ahead of me in whatever their focus is. If they consistently and impressively are, they become indispensable. If they’re not, then they can’t cut it.
- Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
Executives at startups will run into a lot of roadblocks that could potentially derail projects. The best, however, find a way to overcome these either by anticipating what could go awry and planning ahead, or by being resourceful and finding a Plan B. Demonstrate you can overcome all types of obstacles, and you can earn an executive spot.
- Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Test Prep
Every member of our executive team has made a sacrifice in one form or another. Whether it has been taking a lesser salary, putting one’s own cash into the company, sharing an office or doing tasks that are “beneath” them. To earn an executive spot on our team, you must be able to point to instances where you have put the team in front of yourself.
- Adam Stillman, Ditto Holdings
In most startups, the founders and senior members have a DIY mindset and get their hands dirty in smaller tasks. So if you can take these tasks and responsibilities off their hands (so that they can move on to the next thing), this is a definite precursor for being entrusted with more senior responsibilities.
- Adii Pienaar, WooThemes
Come in early and stay late, and not just when the boss is in town. Keep your head down in the beginning, and over-deliver. Have respect for authority, and support all who surround you. Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t noticed in the first six months; it eventually will be. Don’t have the discipline to achieve the above? Well, you probably won’t move up.
- Ziver Birg, ZIVELO
Startups are not a place for titles or entitlement. I have been everything from sales guy, janitor, network admin, designer, etc. If you want to be part of the executive conversation, you will naturally be included when you provide so much additional value everyone will want you at the table. Earn your seat and increase your chances by focusing on strategic initiatives that executives care about.
- Trevor Sumner, LocalVox
If you want to move up in the company, the fastest way is to find a way to either automate or document your position to the point where you are no longer needed in that job. It’s extremely motivating and easy for me, as an executive, to promote you to a new position.
- Benji Rabhan, MorrisCore
A good employee does the work he’s told to do. A great employee recognizes what needs to be done and does it before he’s told (maybe even before he’s hired). Ryan Graves desperately wanted to work at Foursquare, so he went around Chicago and signed bars and restaurants up with Foursquare mayor specials. Ryan did the work before he sent his resume in and secured the coveted internship.
- Clay Hebert, Spindows
Aim to understand the short- and long-term goals for the business and align your values with those goals. The fastest way to get recognized is to contribute to the company’s present goals, as well as its long-term vision.
- John Berkowitz, Yodle