Team building is arguably the most crucial exercise a founder will undertake. A lot of people who are new to entrepreneurship think that learning a particular skill or improving your sales are the most important things an entrepreneur will do. While each of those is important (you need to be continuously learning and growing), the reality is that one person doesn’t scale well. You can do things by yourself for a little while, but eventually, you need a team that will surround you and supports you in your vision.
Without a fantastic team, you will severely limit your ability to scale. You’ll not only face physical limitations (there are only 24 hours per day), but you’ll also miss out on valuable insights and knowledge that other team members can bring to the table. Without the right group of people surrounding you, you’ll also miss out on investment opportunities. It’s well-known that angel investors, for example, tend to look at teams, not ideas.
If you want to thrive in your current venture, you’re going to need a quality team around you – one that will be as passionate about turning your vision into a reality as you are! If you’re in the phase of team building, here are six strategies for building the optimal startup group!
Table of Contents
- Knowing Yourself Is the Key To Team Building
- Build A Diverse Team
- Hire for The Long Term
- Build A Team That Is Prone to Well-Reasoned Action
- Find People with Previous Industry Success
- Network A Lot
While it might be strange to think about at first, team building starts with yourself. Before you can find the right team to advise you and guide you through your entrepreneurial journey, you need first to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
In what areas do you excel? Where do you need assistance? If you are one of the best computer programmers that have ever existed on this planet, then you don’t need to surround yourself with competent programmers. You already have that skill! You’ll be able to handle the tasks of creating a website, creating an app, etc. yourself.
All humans, though, need assistance in some areas. Nobody knows everything! While you might be a fantastic programmer, perhaps you find selling your products to be challenging. Or maybe marketing is difficult – you’ve tried Facebook and Google ads before and just blown through the money. Find your weaknesses and assemble your team to complement those. Leverage your team to fill in the skills gaps that you have.
Every startup needs people who excel in specific areas of business. Typically, startups need people who excel in marketing, finance, sales, human resources, customer service, IT, and skills that are core competencies of your business (so if you’re in software development, you would need some fantastic programmers). Identify which areas you’re already good at and find people who will complement you appropriately!
Research by Gartner has shown that diverse and inclusive teams outperform homogenous ones by 50%, on average. Diversity is critical to ensure that you have a high-performing team that is ready to take on challenges.
While it can be tempting to try and find like-minded people during the startup phase, in actuality, the startup phase is when you want the most diversity. When you’re building a product from scratch, you need as much feedback as you can get. If you have a team of ten middle-aged people who all grew up in San Francisco, you’re going to naturally build a product catered to middle-aged people in San Francisco.
However, if you have people from San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, London, and so on, then you’re bringing the diversity of thought and experiences into the mix. If you have some people that grew up poor and others that grew up rich in your first team, then you’ll have those different perspectives as well. Each person will bring their unique view to the table, and you’ll create a product that will appeal more broadly.
As an entrepreneur, your goal should be very straightforward: to build the best product for customers and, of course, make money doing it. You want to fill a need – a void – in the current marketplace. If you surround yourself with like-minded people, you’ll have tunnel-vision and won’t see other opportunities around you. You won’t see all the ways your product can fill that need, or you won’t have the full picture of how your product will do in other places.
By having a diverse and inclusive team, you empower each individual on that team to bring their best work to the office every day. In turn, they will each put their own “fingerprint” on the product that you produce. If you have enough diversity of fingerprints, you’ll be significantly more likely to create a product of value.
Do not wait to build a diverse team. Use your original team building to get this right the first time!
The startup phase is temporary. Your strategy for team building shouldn’t be merely hiring the best people for the startup phase of your company. You want people who are passionate about your business, and that will stick with you as the company grows. As a small business owner, you cannot afford significant churn in team members during the initial building phases of your business. Furthermore, as your business continues to grow, you need to keep that core team in place to continue to have the same success. Investors will look at your company and see the team has been responsible for hitting these metrics, and have confidence that the same team will hit your future ones as well.
Remember, angel investors don’t invest in ideas. They invest in teams. If the people surrounding you won’t be around for very long, then you may run into problems. For example, while it might seem desirable to bring that one person on-board that has expertise in finding and securing angel investment funding, it’s a skill that your business will quickly outgrow. Then you’ll have to disrupt your team dynamics by letting that person go. Instead, find people who have stable, long-term skills that are interested in being with your business.
In the beginning, each team member will wear many different hats. The IT person might also be the one that deals with customers. Eventually, you’re going to want someone that can be solely responsible for customer service so that the IT person can be solely responsible for IT. Keep this in mind when you’re building your team. Ensure that your core team can handle all the functions necessary for a business. Then, as your business scales, they can transition responsibilities to new hires.
One of the best strategies for building a fantastic startup team is to find people who are prone to action. Startups move fast. It’s best if you have people that will be well-reasoned but won’t have decision paralysis. You should also have people that know, understand, and are willing to put in the time necessary to build the business. All-too-often, founders hire team members who don’t realize what the job will entail and wind up, bringing the entire team down. If your business is not yet at the 9-5 stage, convey that during the interview process and make sure that all candidates are aware of that. Similarly, if you do operate your business on those hours, it also conveys that.
In the early stages, you’ll likely want people who will be in-sync with the overall rhythm of your company. For most startups, that means finding people who are willing to put in the extra work and who have a “can-do” attitude. You want people that invest themselves emotionally into your idea and are ready to go the extra mile to ensure your business will be a success! Avoid picking people that will slow your company’s rhythm down or discourage other team members.
If everyone on your team has never had experience in your domain space, then that can be a bad sign. As part of your strategy for team building, you should always make sure that you have one or more people who have experience with the challenges, problems, and hurdles that your company is likely to face. While having a bunch of people in your team who have never done this before might invoke camaraderie, it doesn’t help you when your business has problems, and nobody knows how to solve them!
Look for at least one team member who has connections in the industry and knows some of the major players. Having someone like this on your team will give investors confidence and will enable you to get through many of the challenges that might otherwise sink a startup. Investors and other insiders will look at the people with successful experience and gravitate towards your venture because of it. After all, if they have had success in the past and they believe in your vision, then maybe other people should pay attention to your ideas as well!
You are unlikely to find the world’s best team by merely posting some job ads on LinkedIn or a similar site. You’ll fill some roles, but not all of them this way. Furthermore, you’ll have less familiarity with hires that you make from one of these channels as opposed to someone you meet face-to-face or someone that another entrepreneur refers to you. The networking you do will introduce you to people who have the experience and expertise you need to turn your dreams into reality!
Networking for entrepreneurs is crucial for many aspects of entrepreneurship, but many times entrepreneurs may not think of finding quality team members through networking. However, since most entrepreneurs network with people involved in their industry, it makes a lot of sense also to hire talent through these channels as well.
For example, consider the scenario when someone who’s currently unemployed with significant coding experience attends a conference. You’re also at that conference. Perhaps you strike up a conversation with that person, and you discuss something you’ve learned or something interesting. Already, you’re able to gauge what it’s like to interact with that person in an informal setting. Furthermore, maybe you learn that they have skills that you need and perhaps they’re also interested in joining your team.
By using these opportunities to network and meet new people in your domain, you can find team members that would be fantastic fits for your startup. Sometimes, depending on the networking event, you can find people who will also vouch for the person’s skills. References are sometimes one of the best ways to gauge a person’s abilities in the absence of interviews and tests.
No pressure, but the team you build will make or break your startup. 23% of startups that fail do so because they have the wrong group of people. The only two reasons that surpass that are running out of cash and the product having no market need.
Having the right team is essential. There are multiple strategies for team building. The first strategy is to focus on yourself first – what are you good and bad at – and build a team that fills in your skill gaps. A second strategy is to create a diverse group. You’ll also want to make a team that wants to be with you for the long term. Look for people who are prone to action and have previous industry success. Finally, the last strategy for team building is to find your colleagues through various networking events!
Note that these strategies are not mutually exclusive. Most startups who are building their teams employ some or all of the above approaches. As an entrepreneur, you have complete freedom, of course, to create the team you want, but diverse, well-reasoned groups, with each member having particular expertise, tend to perform the highest in startups. If you’re going to have the best chance of success, find team members keeping in mind the strategies above. If you do, you might find your business taking off in ways you previously thought impossible!