I have given some thought lately to a key question for startups - how do you know that a new hire will succeed?  What behaviors and character traits should you seek when adding a few employees to an early stage startup?

Here's a quick summary of the behaviors that I regard as critical for early stage employees.  When someone doesn't do one of these things, he/she sticks out like a sore thumb.  Here goes.

1. Thou shalt work hard.

I think this one is a given — you have to put in the time.  I am not a stickler on monitoring time or establishing formal office hours, but I certainly think that everyone on a team has to be willing and able to put in the time necessary for a business to maximize its opportunities.  In a practical sense, this means that you have to be accessible, willing to work odd hours and weekends, and you have to pull your share of the workload.

2. Thou shalt be hungry.

One of the main things motivating you has to be in line with the purpose of the startup.  Maybe you're a contrarian at heart.  Maybe you are out to convince the world that you can do something that people don't think you can do.  Maybe you're craving a success.  Maybe you're just greedy and you want to be rich.  I don't care what it is, but there has to be something deep down inside that turns the job in to a cause for an employee to be truly engaged.

3. Thou shalt become indispensable.

Arguably, this is the most important law.  Early stage employees must know or master something that either nobody else can do or nobody else wants to do.  Plain and simple.  Resources are too constrained in a startup to allow employees to hang around if they aren't doing something that is truly necessary for the growth of the business.  But this isn't necessarily the relationship of the Founder — employees have to find something critical for their own self-preservation.

4. Thou shalt participate as eagerly in the pain as the reward.

New employees who buy in to the concept behind a new startup want to be part of the upside.  Of course — who wouldn't want to make significant money by making the right bet on the right startup.  There are financial and career gains to be earned out of making an early stage startup successful.  But along with that comes a lot of hard work, long hours, and tasks that you just don't want to do.  Suck it up.  If you don't want to do things that are necessary to grow the business — whatever they are - then maybe you should get a cushy job where you aren't pushed out of your comfort zone.

5. Thou shalt not make unreasonable financial demands.

If you really want to be in an early-stage startup, you understand that resources are tight.  Compensation comes in the form of salary but also the ability to influence a business from its earliest stages, some flexibility in your work habits, and some upside via profit sharing or stock options.  These things help to serve as a proxy for a real market salary.  If you want to maximize your income short-term, go for the market salary in a corporate job somewhere.  But if you're willing to undertake the risk, tell your Founders what you are willing to do on the promise of a brighter day.

More to come… have a great Thanksgiving everyone!