For entrepreneurs trying to form a startup, one of the first challenges they face that persists throughout the businesses life is how to find and keep talented partners and employees. From finding that first co-founder to finding the prolific programmers to fill your ranks later down the line, talent acquisition is always a major step in any business. Just look at some of the deals that have gone down in the Valley; Facebook didn't buy FriendFeed for their technology, that deal was mostly about getting FriendFeed's talented employees on the Facebook team.

A new book from author David Russo, 17 Rules Successful Companies Use to Attract and Keep Top Talent: Why Engaged Employees Are Your Greatest Sustainable Advantage, seeks to make this process more clear for businesses. Russo is the CEO of Eno River Associates, Inc., which is a consulting service that helps business executives build better team relationships. Their portfolio of clients includes American Express, Johnson & Johnson, and the CIA. With his new book, Russo outlines the key strategies he has learned over the years as a consultant and human resources executive that has helped him and others create winning teams.

The book doesn't waste any time getting into its 17 rules; after a brief introduction the entirety of the book consists of one chapter per rule. The rules cover a broad base of topics, including the more straightforward rule #4, "Provide Ample and Appropriate Resources," to the more abstract rule #12, "Understand Human Capital." One of the key rules that sticks out to me is #3, "Cultivate Leadership, Not Management, and Know the Difference!"

"Whereas managers administrate, leaders have the power to influence, to motivate, even inspire, and those are distinctly different traits," writes Russo. "Indeed, true leadership is the ability to display attributes that make people want to follow."

Russo points out that leaders need to have passion, vision, and energy, as well as recognize that each employee has value to the success of the business. He likens this value to a tight end in a football game running "a crisp pattern" and distracting the defense despite knowing before the play that he's not going to be the ball carrier.

Another rule which will likely strike a chord with the startup culture is #10, "Make Room for Fun in the Workplace (Nurture Lightheatedness/Levity)." Anyone who has seen the popular workplace movie "Office Space" knows what a bland work environment can do to employees spirits, but I don't think we have to worry about startups not having enough fun on the job.

Aside from being passionate about the job they're doing, most startup employees are probably used to everyday being "casual Friday" and taking a brain break in a game room. Granted, not every experience is like this, but we all know that many startups are a very relaxed environment, which Russo says is very important for attracting skilled employees and keeping them happy.

Other important rules Russo includes on his list include knowing how and when to "cheerlead," acknowledging and rewarding efforts and contributions, and the lastly, telling the truth. While this book isn't aimed directly at startups, young entrepreneurs looking to lead their team to success should certainly take a look at this book.

One of reasons I would suggest it is that at times, young entrepreneurs who have little or no workplace experience are suddenly thrust into a CEO role. If your company takes off, you might be in charge of a lot of people very quickly, and this book will certainly help keep them happy.

Disclosure: A review copy of 17 Rules was provided to ReadWriteWeb by Pearson Education, Inc.

Photo by Flickr user madebytess.