Finding the Right Team for Your Start-up

By Eric Dickmann

June 24, 2019

Culture Fit, Fire Fast, Hire Slow, People, Startup Team

Building a successful startup is all about having the right team. According to studies, 23% of new companies in 2018 failed because the employees did not fit together as a team. Founders often focus on building a product and focus on job candidate's technical skills or experience but neglect hiring the right people for cultural fit.

In small companies, employees are often required to wear multiple hats in spite of having special expertise. Tasks need to be completed not only according to their abilities but for the company's needs. A founder should look for flexible and dynamic team members that have a culture fit and are aligned to the mission of the company.

Importance of Getting the Right People

A business is nothing without the people who work behind the scenes. An entrepreneur may have big dreams but it's the team working together that ultimately achieves the success.  Saurabh Singla justified some reasons in getting the right people for your startup: 

  • They Define Your Culture. Organizational Culture is a very important component of success for a business. Building a culture does not happen overnight. The company founders are instrumental in defining the foundations for the company's culture but the goal is to hire people aligned with the company's mission and who will enhance organizational culture over time. It's not about hiring clones, it's about adding diversity that contributes to achieving the underlying mission.
  • They Are a Synergy to Success. A startup needs people who can manage different facets of a business. It needs a group with a diverse skill set but is able to work together to achieve larger goals. The right composition of members will bring synergy and success.
  • VCs Prefer Startups With a Solid Core Team. VCs do not fund startups on business plans alone. They look for a solid team that has the potential to adjust to changes depending on market conditions and new challenges. For VCs, a solid core team gives an edge in the market.
  • To Keep Founders Aligned to the Journey. A founder needs someone to share his passion. His team will be the ones to celebrate when the business is doing well but they will also cheer him up and give support during tough times. The right team will stand by the founder through the testing times and help the ship to stay afloat.

How to Find the Right Team for Your Start-Up

It's a big challenge to find and build the right team, and a founder needs a guide to do so. Rhett Power, in his article at Inc., shares five essential tips to find the right team for your startup:
Build your foundation first

A formidable team starts with its founder. Before putting people on the team, you must:

  • Clear understand your leadership position. Your personality, your values, and your beliefs are all things to take into consideration. After you've got a solid grasp of what you can bring to the table, you can now start building your team to fill the gaps and build on your strengths.
  • Establish an objective decision-making process. Write it down and have everyone sign it.
  • Set a clear cut chain of command. Define everyone's roles and responsibilities.
  • Check your skill set. Assess what you need help with and what positions you need to fill.

It can be a good idea to start with contractors and hire after you find that they're a good fit.

Find some rock-stars

Consider the long-term vision of your business. Write down all the different functions you will need to bring that vision to reality. Consider candidates for their hard skills based on these functions but they should also have the expertise to switch between many roles. Most of all, a rock-star must have the ability to collaborate. It doesn't matter how good they are if they can't work well with others. Consider learning to hire for cultural fit and attract the best talent.

Prioritize passion and potential

A startup needs a team with a strong drive. Surround yourself with people who share your values. This doesn’t mean they have to be like you. Hiring a diverse team can be great for the organization. But you should be able to find common ground when it comes to big-picture strategies. Hire employees with the same passion and interest as yours - one who believes in your vision. Potential is hard to assess but look for:

  • Recommendations from your network
  • Reputable former employers on the resume
  • Relevant problem-solving experiences
  • Ask them to prove what they can do

These right people do all the things that are necessary to get the business to grow.

Check your compatibility

Every founder should get to know his team and be a ringmaster. He must ensure that each performer works together to create a seamless show. Spend time with your potential employee. Likewise, make sure the rest of your team can work well with new hires. Team rapport is essential for building the momentum needed in growing a startup.

You might want to check our article on Learning to Hire for Cultural Fit and Attract the Best Talents.

Translate strategies to team building

Put your team in a position to succeed. Neil Patel suggested these five principles we can use as strategies to team building:

  • Training should be continuous no matter how competent a person is.
  • Everyone should be hyper-focused on their particular role. Each individual level should come together as a team rapport.
  • Ensure that your team has the skills to deal with the ever-changing landscape of business.
  • Never loses sight of the competition.
  • Listen to your team to know what their driving forces are. This way, you know what buttons to push to get their best performance.

As a general rule, "Hire slow and fire fast." Take time to consider the people you're bringing on board. Never settle for someone who's not the right team fit because they will not last and could damage the organizational culture.

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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