How to build a killer start-up team

In this post you’ll find a few tips on how to build a great
team for your start-up.

Starting a business is one of those things that although has
gotten relatively easier and easier as time went by, it’s still challenging. If
you’ve read enough content about businesses, you’ve probably stumbled into the
notion that most start-ups fail within the first year of operation. This could
be due to various reasons, among them having the wrong product/service, as well
as having the wrong people at place. So, along with the need to have a killer
idea, starting a business also requires us to have a killer team. One can just
assume that if people are a part of the problem when new business ventures
fail, that he/she might be better off without anybody. The truth is that
although interesting and even appealing, starting a business by yourself is
harder than it seems, unless of course, that the business you plan to start is
both small enough to be successfully ran by you and you alone, and that you
don’t plan to see that business grow into something bigger than it is. Because
either you want to admit it or not, you’ll need people at some point, being
that at the start-up stage, or  when you
want your business to scale.


How to build a killer star-up team?

So the question is: how can I build a great start-up team?
Well, while there is no exact science to this process, there are a few long
lasting ideas, that might be of use when you chose to start your own business
journey. Below are a few.

1.Chose people with a track record for starting
what they finish

This is one of the most overlooked ideas
that  has a major impact on a start-ups
ability to thrive. There are people who like to stay where they are, and don’t
have any grand visions of the future. Those are the ones who enjoy having their
9-5 jobs, and wouldn’t trade them for a possible shot at making it in the
business world. You’ll have a hard time even convincing these people to get on
board with you on your venture, so don’t bother.

The second kind of people is the kind of
people who likes to think about the amazing possibilities of the current times,
and dreaming of prosperous moments in the future. These are the people who you
don’t have to try hard to convince to get on board in a new idea. From the
dreamer land, we have two kinds of people. The ones who are just good at dreaming
and the ones who make the dream a life mission, reshaping their routines and
life just for the sake of being able to see the vision come through.


The big problem with the dreamer category
is that it’s often difficult to distinguish one kind of person from the other
at first glance. We can spot a dreamer by the passion of their words, and their
enthusiasm when the subject is a rosy future. They both share our passion in
the early stages of a venture, and depending on their subtype, one of them
becomes a no show after a few months, weeks or even days after the real work
has begun, or sticks with the vision until they see it come through, or until it’s
absolutely clear that there is nothing that can be done for it to succeed.

So, distinguishing which is which is a very
big deal, since at the early stages of a business it’s not uncommon for the
founders to be responsible to all parts of the business without having any
clear distinction on who takes what position. Everybody does everything, and
this is not for the sake of bonding, but for necessity. At the beginning there
is barely any money to put in the product/service, let alone to hire people who
will probably be expecting to be highly paid.

When we build a team with unreliable
members in it, you eventually find yourself alone doing everything, and after a
while even you end up quitting on the whole idea.


The solution is to, as much as you can, do
a background check on your prospective team members. The idea is to get passed
the excitement some of the prospects might be showing at first, and try to get
a clear idea of what kind of people they are. If they  have completed multiple personal projects,
specially of the difficult and time consuming kind, there is a big chance that
you have in front of you a potentially great team member who will stick with
you until the end.

If the person however, has many unfinished
past projects, or have never been in any project by themselves, or in a team,
this is a sign that either they are likely to “mentally check out” on the
project when results don’t come immediately, or that they might not know what
they’re up against, and might later abandon the project when they figure that
it wasn’t what they had in mind.


2.Chose people whose big picture goal is to
see the venture succeeding


The second thing to think about when
building your own killer start-up  team
is about the personal goals of each member. We all have our own list of
personal goals. At the top lie the most important ones, and as we go down the
list the least important ones.  On our
way to checking off the items on our lists, eventually it is the case that we
have to choose between two different tasks both of which will allow us to make
progress in some goal on our list. If they target different goals, the most
sensible thing is then to drop the goal with the lowest priority in the list.
So, if our team is made of members whose main goal is something other than the
venture the group is engaged in, then nothing prevents everything from falling
apart when that day comes where one or more members is faced with that goal
conflict and is forced to “call in sick”.


Another reason for the same idea is that
sometimes we can have something worse than two tasks for different goals
conflicting in time. Sometimes in order to get what we really want we literally
have to kill something else we also want. It’s the old idea of opening a door
by closing another permanently. When the needs of the venture are competing
with the needs of another more important venture, it’s not difficult to imagine
a scenario in which one or more members consciously chose to slow down or stop
the progress of the venture because doing so might get them to get something
else they want more.


So, for this point the idea is simple to
understand but difficult to implement: only allow people who are more likely to
take the whole venture as a priority.


3.Chose self-driven/ self-motivating people

We’re all used to the idea of the corporate
leader who’s able to motivate his company into success over the competition.
This is amazing if the leader of the group has that ability, and is also able
to stay present, but it might be a problem if he/she is not able to be with the
team at all times, or for whatever reason leaves the team altogether. The best
solution is to find people who are able to motivate themselves. The kind of
people who don’t need a motivational leader to help them go through the moments
of struggle in which they search and search and fail to find solutions. The
kind of people who actually enjoy to some extent the moments of difficulty that
make life, life.


If the team needs a motivational leader to
work, and often teams are just like that, what we observe is instead of steady
positive results, instead what happens with people who are addicted to sugary
foods. Their blood sugar shows spikes and valleys, and never consistency. The
team might from time to time deliver extraordinary results, or meet with goals
before the deadlines, and just as likely also deliver mediocre results and
failing to meet deadlines. It’s all tied to the leader’s ability to motivate
the team, which makes it all an inefficient strategy for progress.


If the team is made of self- motivating
members, progress, and results are more likely to remain positively steady. The
self-motivating member is able to tell when his/hers motivation levels dropped
below normal, and take the necessary actions to get it back up. Because it’s
only when you know yourself that you can more easily motivate yourself. Another
hidden problem of relying on the leader to motivate the team at all times is
that often different people are motivated by different things. Some are
motivated by fear of some sort of loss, while others are motivated with the
prospect of a potential win. Which means that for the leader to be able to
motivate everybody it must somehow know everybody in a personal level, which
tends to become an unreasonable demand to put on the leader, as the size of the
team grows larger and larger.


4.Think about culture

In the recent years, the idea of corporate culture has
infested many of the recently published books, and that was so for a reason. We
can think of the culture you adopt for your team as a way for each member to be
able to make better day to day decisions, without having to go to the leader to
ask for its opinion. The set of values and desired behaviours defined in the
culture will be enough for most kinds of problems each member will face. Think
of religion for example. A small set of rules often less than even 20 are
proven to be enough for billions of people to make decisions on their day to
day lives, from the way to raise their kids, to how to interact with their
neighbours. One can argue that some of the rules given by religion are the
reason of trouble, and even deaths, but that would be missing the point. The
point here is that by defining a culture, and the set of values that come along
with it, you not only get your team to be more united, but also make the
decision making process easy for each member, which allows the leader to be
more flexible with its time, getting in to solve problems only when the already
defined rules of thumb fail to meet the task.

One very publicised example is that of Google with their
“don’t be evil policy” and certainly dozens if not hundreds of problems can be
avoided and/or solved by following this simple rule.

5.Think about personality

The world we live in is composed of all
kinds of people. Some who work well alone, some who need to be in a social
environment to come up with their most creative work, and those who change
according to the weather. Some people make the groups they get into more
united, while others steer fights and contribute to the division of once united
teams. This is why it’s important to know the kinds of people you bring to your
team. The right person can cause an otherwise average team to become a dream
team, and the wrong person can make a team of superstars fail to deliver
results. Knowing how to do this requires life and people experience, and when
you find out you made a mistake on bringing a new team member, the best solution
is to remove the person as quickly as possible, before the damage in the team runs
so deep that is irreversible.


So, along with all your efforts to finding
motivated and goal oriented people, also comes the need to find the ones who a
fit the kind of personality trait you believe would be best for your new
venture. This is one of these very difficult things that come with the job of
recruiting people, since in interviews, people are more compelled to behave in
a way they think you would want them to behave. Their real insecurities and
even strengths might be covered behind the new manufactured interview ready
version of themselves and the common solution for this problem is to observe
the person when they are not aware of you. This is for sure a difficult task,
but still worth the effort when you do it correctly.


It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

Leave a comment below

One thought on “How to build a killer start-up team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.