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This question comes up quite often from entrepreneurs starting up their first enterprise.

Question: How do I recruit top talent to build my startup? How many people should I recruit when I am just starting up?

1. Figure out what it is going to take to get your venture to a point where you have proof of concept and market traction. That is truly the only point when your business is considered eligible and investable.

This means, you have to do a paper napkin business plan on how you are going to get your business to a point where you have a working product and paying customers.

2. Based on this established point (call it milestone #1), figure out WHO needs to be on the team to get you to milestone 1. Don’t try to recruit "e;top talent"e; at the management level yet. Focus your energy on the people who will actually build/sell your product.

3. Now figure out what it would cost you to hire and support those people in real cash dollars. Add in all the other operating costs to get you to milestone 1. (Once you have picked yourself off the floor…continue to step 4).

4. Decide how you are going to fund this team (personal resources, seed funding round, loans). Take VC and Angel funding off the list for now. That will not be an option until after you have passed milestone 1.

Recruiting top talent really comes down to the CEO’s credibility, vision and charisma. Recruiting top talent comes down to you being able to present your vision to them in a way that engages their attention and tickles their capitalistic desires.

Chances are, you have a strong network of individuals who know, like and trust you. That should be the first group you recruit from. If your immediate network does not have the quality of people your venture needs, consider using LinkedIn as a tool to find potential candidates. (This is why step 1 and 2 are so important).

You should have no trouble finding high-quality candidates on LinkedIn. If all else fails, consider using a headhunting firm in your industry. My guess is that if you do step 1 correctly and leverage your linkedIn network, you’ll be able to find just the right people to join your team.

But as a reminder… The MOST IMPORTANT piece of the puzzle is the CEO (you). You must have a clear vision and strategic plan ready to share with potential recruits. A recruit will base a significant part of their decision to join a startup on the CEO’s charisma, leadership quality, vision and passion.

If there is any chance you are going to have to use equity to compensate these individuals, it just adds more importance to you having a very exciting and visionary plan in place.

In summary, design your business plan on a paper napkin, figure out who you MUST have on your team to get you to milestone 1, figure out how to compensate them (cash, equity etc) and finally, pitch them on joining you with as much passion, vision and creativity you can muster.”

This Business article was written by Joe Abraham on 1/26/2010

Joe is a serial entrepreneur who has been involved as a founder, executive or advisor in the startup and growth of over 20 companies in industries ranging from IT and healthcare to sales training and motorsports. Learn more at Joe Abraham