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The No. 1 Hiring Mistake Startups Make

I've run three startups, and each time, the most difficult part of the early stages was that I had to do everything. I did everything I could to not have to pay people. When I did pay people to do things I'm not good at, like accounting, it was such a big relief to wake up in the morning and know that work was going to get done without me actually doing it.

Here's the problem with that outlook, though: You are dead if you hire someone for something you should be doing yourself. And in my experience, the No. 1 thing that entrepreneurs think they can hire for but shouldn't is social media.

Here's why social media is an essential job, and why you're the only who can do it:

1. All companies are social media companies.
In the '90s I used to say, "I own an Internet company." Now that would be ridiculous. I mean, who doesn't use the Internet to run their company? What business plan does not assume that the Internet will be there to streamline operations?

Today it's the same thing with social media. According to the Pinnacle Group, 90% of communication on the Internet today happens via social media. Only 10% happens through email. This means that if you are not communicating via social media you are probably not reaching your audience. And you are probably not dealing with business partners efficiently either.

So you need to start thinking of social media as a key part of your company, even if you're not sure exactly how it will turn out.

2. You are the strategist.
The reason you're an entrepreneur is because you have the ideas. You can look at a world of vast opportunities and see specific areas where you add a special value. It's a discipline, really, to think that way. It's constantly looking out for where you and your ideas fit best into the world around you.

You wouldn't hire someone else to do that kind of thinking for you, would you? You don't want to hire out the most important part of your company. First of all, it won't be fun, and second, you'll fail.

The social media strategy for your company is the intersection of what your company adds to the world and how you get that special thing into the hands of the right people. You cannot risk letting someone else figure that out.

3. Startups must pivot. And pivoting is best via social media.
Investors in the startup world tout the necessity of the pivot. A pivot is not a business plan or a product plan, but rather a radical reaction that startups make to real-time information about their business. At this point, the pivot is an expected part of the life of a startup. The question is how well the founders can execute a pivot.

The fastest way to gather the information you need is via social media. And the fastest way to convey a pivot to a client base is via social media. But when so much of the company relies on pivots, and so much of a pivot relies on social media, you don't want to hire someone to run that part of your business.

You can still get some help.
I once interviewed Saras Sarasvathy, who was, at the time, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. She has devoted her career to researching the traits that make a successful entrepreneur and she found that an extraordinarily wide range of personality types can do very well as entrepreneurs. But there is one trait that binds all successful entrepreneurs: They ask for help.

The first step is knowing when you need help -- knowing where you excel and where you don't, and finding someone to help you fill in the missing skills. The second step is knowing what kind of help to get. It's knowing, for example, when you need instruction and when you need someone to just do it for you.

This reminds me of when I started doing my own accounting. I realized, quickly, that I needed to run numbers for the five-year plan. But the plan was so creative and pie-in-the-sky and the assumptions really followed no rules -- only the rules that I made up. But accounting -- that is not creative and it's not open to my new ideas; it's just something that needs to get done in a very rigid way. So I learned to run business models in complicated excel spreadsheets and hired out accounting.

The same is true for social media. You do not need to learn how to install Wordpress yourself. There is a right and wrong way and you will add no value to that process. Get an intern to do it for you. But you absolutely must understand how to develop your company's social media strategy. Your company is small and dynamic, and you need to make sure it's headed in the right direction.

Your social media strategy should be flexible, creative, and tailored to perfectly match your vision for the company. You cannot hire that out.

Don't know where to start? Sign up for this Social Media Bootcamp. Your company will have more dependable growth because of this course. And I'll be teaching part of the courses. So, I'll see you there!

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