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Hiring Like a Startup, Not a Restaurant

What startups look for: a knack for problem solving, appetite for risk, and diversity.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been training the next Boba Guy and have finally added him to our ranks. Johan, like us, had no previous restaurant experience. But he does share our startup-friendly skillset—plus the flexibility we lacked due to our full-time jobs.

We consider Boba Guys a food startup and not a restaurant because of the iterative business model we have built. Like most startups, we are small (growing from two to now three!) and fast-paced. What we look for in an employee is very much what startups look for: a knack for problem solving, appetite for risk, and diversity.

Boba Guys is sailing in uncharted waters—there’s no role model out there that we can directly copy for success. We are essentially a popup business inside of another business, and still figuring out how to scale. Over the few months that we have been open, we’ve been able to start analyzing our run rate and plan for the days and weeks ahead. We are learning as we go along, and so experience was not something that we could easily seek in others.

A startup wouldn't be a startup if the problems it sought to solve had already been solved. This is why we placed little emphasis on experience but much more on problem solving. There were bottlenecks and efficiency problems in our first few months that we are continuing to solve. We want to establish a culture of thinkers and problem solvers as we continue to grow and enter new channels.

For instance, what would we do if we had to cater a big event? How do we transport that much liquid? Is there electricity? And why does Bin only have a bike?

Another quality we look for in an employee is someone who is not afraid to take risks, especially as a business that stands behind transparency and experimentation. We feel like if we are up front about our actions and intentions, than people are will understand and support us. We want employees that show that same willingness to take on new challenges and surprise us with their own ideas.

That’s exactly what Johan did, proposing and developing a new flavor for us his first week, even before he’d learned all there was to learn about the business. The mint tea boba he created was a huge success, winning over a lot of customers. It also that demonstrated that Johan could not only do what we asked of him, but also offer something we had not thought of.

Which brings us to diversity, an often-overlooked area when it comes to hiring the right employee. Companies often look for great cultural fits when it comes to hiring, but it’s easy to hire another employee in your likeness. Truly great hires are people who can bring a fresh perspective while enhancing the company as a whole. In the past, emphasizing workplace diversity was seen as a way to curb discrimination. In today’s era, especially in the startup world, diversity is also instrumental to keeping your focus from becoming too myopic. Hiring a crew of clones would only serve to widen our blind spots.

From the start, we've encouraged each other to call things out when we think they’re wrong or can be improved. This type of constructive criticism is what gives us our competitive edge as we grow and begin showing up on our competitor’s radars.

The Boba Guys share their adventures in food enterprise every Monday.

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