This is why I’d never hire people in my SaaS again

published on 28 July 2023

This post has a YouTube version!

The need to hire

Since day one of building my SaaS, I was told to start hiring people. So-called "experts" told me I had to do it ASAP. It sounded so nice: you delegate tasks while focusing on growth. Easy and cool, right?

But I was afraid to hire for a long time. In the beginning, there was an excuse: I had no money for hiring, lol. I only had savings for a few months of rent. I could not pay a salary to myself. How do I pay a salary?

A year after, I could afford a hire. But I still hesitated because, you know, no one can do your job better than you. A programmer? They will ruin my baby! A support manager? They will be too lazy to provide quality support! A marketing guy? Oh God, no one can market a SaaS with zero ads budget. I still believe that!

But eventually, I started to hire. So enjoy the story of four people who worked in my bootstrapped company. A real experience of hiring and managing both devs and non-tech employees. What worked extremely well and what was pissing me off. Why one of them took $6k of cash and never returned it and why I will never hire anyone in my life again.

Support genious

Let's go straight to the people. Number one - Axel.

I have always been sharing my journey publicly. Being radically open gave many benefits. Some are obvious: traffic, sales, recognition. But some are not.

A young talent named Axel read one of my stories and reached me. He said, "I want to work with you. I do not have any skills but I will learn."

I decided to hire him and ask to help me with product support which I was providing by myself.

Dozens of fears were floating in my mind:

  • What if it will take him too long to learn the product?
  • What if he is not polite?
  • What if he is lazy?
  • What is he misses an important message?
  • What if he gets scared?
  • What if he does not understand something?
  • What if he does not understand everything?
  • What if he does not understand everything and pretends he actually understood?

And so on.

I decided to onboard him as slowly as possible and see how he goes.

The first thing I asked him to do is to read some past messages in the live chat. Hang around, to get some understanding about the common issues and how I provide help.

I thought I will give him a basic understanding of the workflow. Then I would start teaching him.

But things went in an unexpected way.

During the first day, he scanned the WHOLE DAMN HISTORY and learned EVERYTHING. Like a ChatGPT. A goddamn terminator.

The next day, he started to provide excellent support to the clients. Often better than I did. He started to realize he can do it even better by learning how to code. So he started learning HTML/CSS/JS and in a few weeks his replies to the clients were insanely good. His proactivity inspired me as well. Axel updated the guides from the helpdesk and created many more.

I could not be happier with the guy! But this would be a boring story if it ended so well haha. Four months later, his productivity started to decline fast.

Why?

Such a talented young guy with ambitions just got... bored! Yes. I could not find a way how he can grow in my company, so he just left. We are still friends with Axel. He now runs his web design agency.

The first developer

The second person I hired turned out neither to be a success nor a failure. Meet Andre, the first developer in the team besides myself.

Adding Andre was a risky thing because devs are paid much more than a support manager. But I decided to give it a try.

Honestly, Andre was doing well. He shipped features. They worked. But all he did was alright. Not great, not bad. Just alright. And this lack of greatness and the lack of passion in his work always were disturbing to me. It took much time to check his work. To help him to get from an idea to a result.

I was tired of constantly cheering him up by telling "hey your work is awesome, but there is a little thing that you need to change". People with low self-esteem seem to be the toughest to communicate with, not only in work.

So one day I came to his place and said, "Sorry bro. You are fired." It was a damn tough decision because we were friends. God, I was not worrying this much when I quit a girlfriend!

Overall, he contributed a huge part of the SaaS. He made blogs almost entirely. But it took so long and was taking so much of my energy. At some point, I realized that half of my day is the "Andre time" and it sucked.

Controversial experience? Maybe. But the next one is definite. That girl took $6,000 of my money and never returned it back. How come? Introducing Mia...

Minus $6,000 🫠

Mia was recommended to me as a hard-working and responsible worker. I hired her to help with the client support part.

I soon realized that not all people in the world can parse the entire history and learn the product overnight. Mia was a slow thinker. She was draining all my time to understand the simplest concepts. The worst, she was always whining that "she is not smart" so I had to spend energy finding a way to cheer her up.

Things could not get worse. Or could they?

A few weeks after Mia started working with me (well not exactly working. Learning how to work), she called me all out of sudden. She sent a bloody picture of a person in the hospital.

Mia said she hit a girl with her car and now she needs cash for lawyers and doctors or she will go to jail. And I turned out to be the only person who can help.

That was shocking to me. We barely know each other and live thousands of miles away. Why should I borrow her money? But I did send her $3k because I must act like a good person, you know.

A few days later, she asked to send 3k more. Which I did.

I thought she would just pay me back from her salary over time.

A few weeks later, she got back to work. Unfortunately, she was still that slow thinker Mia that she was before the accident.

I was trapped. I hated working with her because she took all my time and energy. But I could not fire her because I will not get my money back.

I suffered for a few more weeks, grew some balls, and finally fired her. She promised to start sending money back soon. But as you may have guessed, I never received a penny.

I was so emotional about this Mia episode not because I'm angry at her. I'm angry at myself because I had been weak for so long. And because I thought I had to be a "good guy". God, I would be better spending that money on charity or giving to a talented young maker.

Let's jump to the last person. Meet Elisey. Unlike the previous ones, it's his real name. He still works in my company. And hiring him was the best decision in my career as a maker.

Efforts payed back

Let's talk about Elisey, unlike the previous persons, it's his real name because he still works at Unicorn Platform in my company.

Hiring him was the best decision in my career as a maker. Elisey started his career as a support manager, much like Axel. He learned everything almost instantly, just like Axel. He went above and beyond, writing articles, guides, and improving his knowledge of web technology. At one point, he even started teaching other support managers how to do their job effectively. He was like the chief support manager.

But in a few months Elisey also got bored.

I saw his potential and didn't want to lose such talent again, so I approached him and said, "Hey, I see you're losing your motivation and getting bored of supporting clients, but we also have a product. There are two ways to contribute: the code part and the design part. Would you like to work on something in either of these areas?"

He said, "Yes, why not?"

So, he wanted to become a UI designer. I thought it was cool, but I told him he'd have to learn a lot.

And he did!

He became a graphical designer and a UI/UX designer in just a few months. I guided him a bit, providing a few links where he could find inspiration, and it worked! He turned out to be a natural. Now I had a designer, which was great.

A few months later, he approached me again and said, "Hey, I started to learn React.js. I want to be a programmer now."

And indeed, a few months later, he started to contribute real code to the main repository of Unicorn Platform. Honestly, I was shocked. He figured it out almost by himself—how to build, deploy, and code both backends and frontends.

So far, Elisey has contributed so much value to the product, including our latest and perhaps most important feature in our history—the AI integration. He implemented GPT in our page builder all by himself.

Outro

This was the last story on my list. As you could see hiring is a pure random. You win in 50% but in 50% you had to suffer so much.

But the importance of hiring the right person can't be ignored. You can win SO MUCH by playing this game. In my case, Elisey contributed just tremendous value to the project. I even gave him a large portion of the cash I got after the acquisition.

Thanks, God, my SaaS is now a part of the MarsX network. And I do not have to hire and manage workers. We have people here who can do it better than me. So I can leave the humans part of the job to them and focus on the things I do well and enjoy.

🧑‍💻 Follow me on Twitter: https://x.com/alexanderisora

🚨 I share trends for SaaS founders: https://10k.isora.me/ (a weekly email newsletter);

😛 Binge all my videos about making startups: https://www.youtube.com/@alexanderisora

🤝 Check my SaaS: https://unicornplatform.com/ (a part of https://marsx.dev/)

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