A Role That Every Start-Up Should Hire
As a long-time baseball fan, I was recently thinking about the often underrated position of the “utility player”. These guys are not specialists; they play multiple positions in the line-up but often fly under the radar. Managers love this position as such players give them many options on the field.
Utility Roles in a Start-Up World
You may be wondering how this relates to the world of start-ups. As with baseball, your start-up needs a well-rounded team that includes utility staff. I spent most of my work life as a utility guy, applying my skills to any part of the workflow as required. A start-up needs “utility” staff—people who may be employed in one role but, to use another baseball phrase, "pitch in" in many areas.
Skillsets to Look For When Hiring a Utility Role
As a manager, you should look for people who: • may not be experts in all areas but are multi-disciplinarians. This will allow them to understand many different roles. • are always keen to make a difference no matter their position in the organisation. • are inclined to share knowledge across the organisation. • are able to look beyond tools and a desire to help build people and processes as well. • have strategic and systems thinking, often looking at the bigger picture. • have a natural tendency towards thinking about scalability.
You may believe that you should hire a whole team of "utility players", but just like a baseball team, you need specialists as well. It is true, however, that people who want to work for a start-up tend to have the skills listed above.
Specialist vs Utility
The difference between a specialist and a utility employee is that specialists want to focus on their specialty first and foremost and put other things second, whereas a utility person wishes to do "everything”.
A specialist will fill other roles, such as support, but they dislike it. Most of the time, they are thinking: "I could be coding but I am on this support call. However, we are a start-up, and it is required."
Utility staff tends to jump in with both feet as it means they get "to build something new". Their first thought is, "Great! Another part of the business in which I can learn".
However, there is nothing wrong with being a specialist. In fact, they are much needed, as your company requires individuals who are passionate about your product and want to be the best in their chosen profession/role.
A utility person is necessary to allow these other positions to succeed. To put it another way:
Utility people allow developers to develop the product, allow sales to sell the product, and allow marketing to market the product.
The utility person takes on those extra jobs and supports the specialists as well as the rest of the business.