Recruiting via Problems

So I was thinking about that problem you are having, have you thought of…

This is when you know you have them. When they are ready to invest, or join your cause.

Like Cobb in Inception, you have planted an idea so deep into their that it is now living rent free in their mind. No, that analogy doesn’t even do it justice. Let’s try again.

You have planted a seed deep into their subconscious and not only is it living rent free in their head, but they are watering the seed. They are taking care of it, giving it sunlight. They want to see the seed grow. You get it, they are thinking about it unprompted and that is really cool.

This is how you recruit and enlist busy, awesome, intelligent and impactful people to your cause. You have conversations, you ask questions, you visualize a shared future together and you plant seeds. So how does this practically work, let’s cookbook it:

  1. Identify 5 people you would love to have on your side, to help you build something. Might be book, might be a movie, might be a company, might be a charity, this strategy works on all of them.
  2. Don’t pitch anything. Ask to get their thoughts and advice on a hard problem you are trying to solve. Could be over email, via Twitter, in person, on the phone, in VR, doesn’t matter. Just make contact
  3. Describe the problem.
  4. Wait for them to start asking questions or trying to help you solve the problem.
  5. Use We and start to build a shared vision of what the future could look like when the problem is solved.
  6. Leave the meeting and send a thank you email.
  7. Wait

Waiting is the crucial part of this. Detach yourself from the outcome and wait to see what you get back. If you get a

No problem Kent, good luck with your project.

Keep waiting.

If you hear nothing, that’s OK. It means you didn’t plan it deep enough, or the person isn’t the right person to help you.

What will happen more often than you think is you will get this email back a few days later:

No problem Kent, good luck with your project. Actually, I was thinking about X, have you considered Y.


No problem Kent, good luck with your project. I was able to find some notes that a competitor of yours gave us when they pitched that you might find useful.

These are gold, this means you have them. You have the chance to turn them into allies, investors, members of the team, advocates and hopefully friends.

If you don’t hear back, remember that people are busy and in a few weeks, send them an update and ask them another question or ask for their advice on something else. The key is that this has to be genuine, people can tell when you are faking these questions, so be real and ask something hard. In fact, the more technical the better. People love solving problems, and giving them a problem where they are expert and can solve it for you, might be the most fun part of their day. You are looking for a similar set of emails to the ones above.

Repeat this process with lots of important, smart, busy people. As many as you can find. People’s most scarce resource in life is time, so don’t waste it. If the meeting can be done in 10 mins, do it in 10 instead of 30. If you can get what you need via email, don’t do a call, etc. The more you do this, and watch the replies that come in, the more you will be able to see which folks in your idea resonating with and who simply isn’t interested. If you are going to work with something, or have them become an investor, or board member, you want them to be thinking about you and your company without telling them to, or without them feeling like they need to.

Get an idea, formulate hard problems around the idea, ask smart people to help you solve those problems, keep the ones that respond without being badgered close as this will be your future team.