How to Staff your Healthcare Startup

How to Staff your Healthcare Startup

Every entrepreneur who has succeeded or failed (is there a difference?) has advice about how to get the right people on the bus. What questions should you ask at the interview? What character traits should you seek and how do you do that? How much is science and how much is just going with your gut and whether you click?

What Google found was that interview scores had no correlation with performance, of those who got hired.

Likewise, advisors or potential employees want to find the right fit as well. The rules are somewhat different when it comes to the board of directors, the management team, employees, consultants and advisors.

Maybe flipping a coin or a job lottery would save a bunch of time and money and get the same results.

I've been on both sides of the table so allow me share my two cents on how to staff your startup:

1. Hope for the best and expect to fire fast. Give yourself lots of wiggle room.

2. Don't hire hood ornaments (doctors with fancy credentials that you parade on your website and pitch deck) unless you simply need one for credibility and really don't expect them to do much more.

3. Clarify expectations, timelines and benchmarks

4. Rent advisors, don't buy them

5. Barter, don't rent, if possible

6. Expect most people to put a hand up, not show up

7. Define your next critical success factor (like raising 2M dollars in seed money) and find people who can help get it done. Once it's done, stop and empty the bus, and reload. For example, suppose your company has achievements to date that include FDA 510(k) submission, provisional and non-provisional patent filing (there is no such thing as a non-provisional patent granted by the USPTO), and patent attorney freedom-to-operate letter. You have raised $200,000 from angel investors and are currently raising $1.5M in the current seed round with a valuation of $10M. Who do you want to help, how and how much will you compensate them and for how long?

8. Don't give away the store early in the game. If you are successful, you'll have to give it away to get the money anyway so keep your powder dry

9. Hire people who are card carrying members of the Get Shit Done Club  

10. Evolve as fast as you can from a knowledge technician to manager, to leader, to entrepreneur to leaderpreneur i.e. work on the company, not in it.

11. Be careful about hiring interns since there are practical and labor law issues that can make your life more complicated than it already is or is going to be. Internships are supposed to be about helping the intern. You want people who primary purpose is to help your company as much and as soon as possible

12. Don't overhire for quality or quantity. Do you really need to hire that expensive CFO when what you really need is someone to keep the books and do payroll at this stage of the game? What about business development, sales and marketing?

13. Figure out whether you are hiring someone, or joining someone, to help with strategy or tactics. At the beginning, it is usually a cacophany of both. As the company validates its model, though, there is the risk of the distraction of traction. For a surgical benefits management company, for example, you need to focus and define your SCOPE.

14. The single most important question you can ask yourself is, "Do I like and trust these people?" The second is, "Can I deliver what they want, or am I just doing this to stroke my ego and make some bucks?"

15. If you had one more day to live, would you spend it in a co-working space wearing a hoodie? How about training and hiring felons?

Here are some tips on hiring sales people and avoiding the mistakes.

One empirical analysis shows that companies that are equipped with both business and technical skills are disproportionately more likely to introduce new-to-the market innovations than firms that have only one of these skills. However, not all firms that are equipped with both types of skills are able to profit from them. Firms profit disproportionately from a mix of business and technical skills when the founder has technical knowledge and employs additional business experts. By contrast, we find no evidence of complimentarity either when business and technical skills are balanced within a founding team, or when a founder with business skills hires employees with technical skills.

Hiring the right people makes the difference between fun and misery. Plan to make lots of mistakes and fire fast. Pivoting often means taking casualties.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs

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  • Jay Caraballo

    Interesting tips

  • Kumar Mohit

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us

  • Stuart Brett

    Hiring the right persons and fostering a strong culture are necessary for the survival of any startup.

  • Ian Franklin

    Insightful !!!!

  • Matt Giesse

    It is not easy to become visible in this market because there are many well-established organisations with decades of experience.

  • Paula Hickerson

    Cooperating with other companies can also be helpful in the growth stage

  • Gustavo Hernandez

    Most of these tips are on point.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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