The cliche “There is no I in team” comes to mind when thinking of the team-building process for a startup. The team you start your venture with is extremely important as they could be the difference between the success of the startup and you closing up shop in a year. Regardless of how relevant you think your idea is, or how essential the service you are looking to provide might seem, having the wrong team could be fatal to any startup. Here are 5 steps to build a winning startup team.
- Determine key positions: The founders of any startup should reach a consensus as to how decisions will be made moving forward. If one is the marketing expert while the other is the tech wiz, their areas of expertise will determine their roles and who will make final decisions as regards each area. It’s advisable to put this initial agreement in writing and have both parties sign it to prevent misconceptions in the future about what is required of whom. After this step, determine the other areas where you will need expertise like accounting or project management and proceed to the next step.
- Decide on the staff to hire first: This is the prioritization phase. A startup team will most of the time need more members than it can afford (in the early stages at least). This decision is based partly on what is required for current projects, what you believe will be required for future projects, and whether someone who fills a particular role, such as SEO, PR, or social media, can also assist with your marketing needs. There is no secret recipe that always works, but the decision depends on current circumstances.
- Hire vs Partner; Full Time vs Contract: You could hire a designer and some experts for other key roles, but why hire when you can partner with a firm that provides those services, especially in the early stages when building your startup team? Partnering gives you all the benefits of the individual’s expertise without worrying about integrating another member into your team and monthly salaries – especially if projects are a bit low on the ground. In the event that you do decide to hire, you should also weigh the pros and cons of hiring a full-time staff against hiring someone part-time. A full-time employee is a big commitment, especially considering that he/she gets paid every month, regardless of whether or not there is work available. Also, in the event of a falling out with a contractor, they need not get fired – they’re just not called back for another project.
- Interview candidates: After deciding the grounds for hiring based on the criteria above, it’s time to interview the candidates. For managers who haven’t conducted an interview for a startup team before, preparing in advance is the best way to go. Ask questions about the candidates’ backgrounds and test their creative thinking, problem-solving ability and behavior. If the skills needed are not in a field that you’re conversant with, give a mini project with easily measurable results after the interview to a set of shortlisted candidates. See how they operate under pressure, communicate technical points in lay terms and most importantly if they can get the job done.
- Integrate new hires into the team: When a candidate, or candidates have been chosen from the pool of applicants after the interview process, note that the new hires have to be brought up to speed about the way the startup team is run. Have a mini-orientation for new hires where means of further training, promotion and maybe even a post-hire assessment are done. This will keep team members sharp and will serve as motivators for new employees.