How to Build a Dream Team as an Entrepreneur (for Startups)
The purpose of this guide is to help you build your startup from a team of one to a team of many. You’ll know how to identify your startup needs, find the right people to fill those needs, and how you can bring those people together to create a high-performing team.
If you want to get your ideas off the napkin and on the ground running, it can be helpful to prioritize the growth of your team. These are people that you can mold into your workflow, and bridge the gap between your expertise and business knowledge. Not only will you have to expand it, but also make sure these individuals have a strong foundation to launch from.
Have a Clear Vision for Your Startup
If you’re reading this you probably have an ideal plan for your business, but the development of a business idea still has to be completed. Either way, solidifying the vision is a great first step toward a clearer direction.
Once you’ve outlined your idea or “vision”, set SMART goals for building your future team. As a refresher, these are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. They can always be adjusted throughout the different stages of your startup so don’t limit yourself, or feel limited to sticking to your original plan.
During the stage of crafting your business’s vision, find individuals to network with and learn from. They may have gone through a similar process before, or have a well-rounded knowledge of establishing a startup. If conversations go well, and you build trustworthy work relationships with others, you can always further the mentorship process and ask them to be an advisor for your startup team.
These don’t have to be full-time employees, but more of a mentor or phone call away if you needed a helping hand. Without one, you could be missing out on necessary industry and experience-based knowledge so take additional time to prioritize those networking events, and connect with as many people on LinkedIn as you can!
Once your advisor or board of advisors is established, make sure to take the time to review expectations and schedules with them. Take their areas of expertise and experience into consideration when developing a strategic plan for your business. ask questions such as: How involved will they be in the process? Will there be weekly or monthly meetings?
Evaluate Your Startup Needs
As an entrepreneur, you may pride yourself on being self-sufficient and independent, but you doing everything by yourself can actually lead to burnout. Skills that you may lack, another person could really excel at. Instead of thinking that you can do everything the best way, delegate the tasks to other people and work along with their strengths to help build your business.
Write down what skills you can improve upon, and what the main needs of your business are, and find the gaps in between each to create roles for your future team. Remember, self-awareness and honesty are key to benefit from this exercise.
Hiring people who are different from you helps to create a well-rounded team with a diverse skill set. Diversity leads to more creative solutions to problems. Hiring people who are not only equipped with different skills and backgrounds but also different personalities and interests can lead to more success. While keeping diversity in mind, there are a few key abilities and traits that you should also look for when bringing on team members.
First and foremost, startups can be completely unpredictable. Most of the time, they may be strapped for resources, tools, and possibly money. You will want people who can bounce back from mishaps that are bound to happen when you’re working in a company that’s in its early
stages. People who are adaptable, innovative, and capable of multitasking will thrive in this ever-changing and evolving work environment.
Use Your Connections to Your Advantage
This may seem obvious, but making connections is essential when you’re recruiting new business team members. Take advantage of networking events, industry-focused workshops, and other opportunities that may broaden your social reach.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to first find someone (or maybe even multiple people) you trust to serve as an advisor on your team. Depending on what you’ve identified as your business needs, you’ll need people to fill those roles. Typically, the starting lineup of any company will include these positions:
- Chief executive officer
- Chief marketing officer
- Product manager
- Chief financial officer
- Chief technology officer
- Business development manager
- Sales manager
- Customer service expert
However, don’t feel tied down to building your dream team around these positions. You can adjust or delegate multiple roles to team members.
If you feel like the number of connections is looking limited, don’t hesitate to use hiring platforms to build your team too. Indeed, Linkedin and Glassdoor are reliable for finding and recruiting top talent. If you’re not confident using this method by yourself, consider involving your advisor in the hiring process. They can assist you in interviewing and choosing candidates, and it never hurts to have a second opinion on something that’s going to affect your business.
Another thing to have handy in the hiring process is an employee checklist for candidates you’ve decided to move forward with. You’ll want to make sure your employees are set up for success early on in your business beginnings. On the note of successful beginnings, make sure your team is properly compensated whether it’s monetary or otherwise from the start of employment.
Take your advisors, for example, they’re not just doing you a favor by mentoring you through your startup journey. There are a few ways to go about compensating advisors, one of the most common is to utilize the FAST Agreement from the Founder Institute. This is a flexible approach to providing compensation as it depends on the company’s maturity and the level of advisor engagement.
As for your other team members, you may be wondering how you can not only compensate top talent but also entice them to work for you. For startups strapped for financial resources, it might seem like working for a startup is undesirable. Job seekers might opt for work at a larger company with higher pay and better benefits. But, how long does it take until those benefits are outweighed by a lack of satisfaction?
It all depends on an employee’s value, and how they are able to connect with your start-up’s overall mission. Even though a larger company is most likely more established, it does not mean they are prioritizing employee growth and opportunity. It’s all about how you advertise your business to those who you want to hire. Relate to an audience and show them that, even though you’re smaller and in a more development phase, it could give them a lot of experience!
Working at a startup and on a smaller team fosters a sense of belonging and purpose as well. There is a clear goal for the team to work towards, and reaching that goal is the most satisfying feeling. Furthermore, a startup with a clear vision and personable leadership is more attractive than a big corporation with less than ideal morals and goals. As stated earlier, a startup may lack resources and constantly change. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, it gives employees a challenge that they can benefit from professionally.
Making and utilizing connections is an effective way to form a team but it’s also crucial for finding support outside of your internal team. You’ll need people to advocate for your startup to help you achieve your goals. Accelerator programs are a great resource for breaking through a heavily saturated market.
Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, co-founders of the delivery company Gopuff, understood the importance of having an advocate in the early stages of a startup through their small business accelerator program. These are great for business-minded people who are starting their own companies because it gets them in front of the right people to find funding or other resources that can set them up for success.
If you’re looking to expand, take advantage of the resources and opportunities that these company-created programs give you especially as you’re growing your team. And who knows, maybe one day you can give back to the entrepreneurial community with your own accelerator program or fund!
Instill Strong Values In Your Team
When you have finally assembled your team, consider having them take a personality assessment. This test can give you an idea of how individuals will work with you and the rest of your team. Remember, it’s less about who is on the team and more about how the team works together. Once you’ve done this, you know how your team can most efficiently work together.
But, that’s not the end of things. What foundation are efficient and high-performing teams built on? A few things; trust, consistent communication, respect, and honesty. If your team consists of people with all these traits, they’re more likely to be there to support you and each other. From day one, you need to set up the expectations of these values for your team.
Re-evaluate Your Team as Needed
Now that you have your team and know how best to work with each other, it’s important to keep track of your progress as a business. If you find your team is missing something, like a specific skill set or perspective, consider bringing someone on to help. You can either hire someone to fill a role on your internal team or you can outsource an individual or an entire team.
Let’s say you’re lacking the marketing tools to propel your business and you find your team unsure of how to tackle this issue. Ask yourself, “Do I hire a team to do in-house marketing, or should I outsource?” While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, and it depends on what works best for your business, this outsourcing vs hiring guide may help you find perspective on what to do if you find yourself in a situation like this.
At the end of the day, your team is what makes or breaks the success of your startup. Hence the saying you’ve probably heard countless times, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” By utilizing the tips mentioned above, you’ll build the startup team of your dreams in no time.