Building Your Startup Team: Fundamentals Explained

In the early stage of running your own business, it’s natural to try to do as much as possible by yourself. It’s the most cost-effective, comfortable, sensible way to do things in the beginning.

But as your enterprise grows, you will find yourself stretched thinner and thinner. Eventually, you’ll find you just can’t continue to oversee operations, sales, accounting, fulfillment, and marketing and hope to grow your business.

When you reach this point, it’s time to think about bringing other high-level managers on board to help you out. You need to build a team that’s able to manage all the critical areas of your business to take it to the next level. Building your team demands jobs matching to people’s strength. That means giving people responsibilities according to their skill level. That includes you as well- don’t give yourself an impressive title and job unless you deserve it.

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives.

Team building is a four pronged process. The elements of this process are, building a strong foundation, creating the strong pillars to build the next floors, building the first model floor and then just replicating as long as you grow.

Why a strong foundation?

For maintaining an effective team you have to concentrate on foundations required for them. You must build or repair the foundation first if you are seeking to build an effective team.

[Tweet “Stronger the foundation, higher the building will go.”]

This stage needs lots of digging, too much patience and unbounded perseverance.

Who qualifies to be a founder member?

Identify the three core skills needed for your business and get them in the team as much as possible. The members should have shared goals and similar values. Don’t mix personal and professional relationships in your business because friends and relative don’t always make a good team.

Who builds the pillar and the first floor?

This is the next core team, may be next 5-6 key people. This may include more functional experts (marketing, HR, technology, sales etc depending on your business). Hire them for passion and skills. New businesses are much about ownership, hardship and passion as much as about skills. Hire for attitude with shared goals and values, and train for business.

Who builds the floor?

This is the growth stage where your business is working. You know what to sell, to whom you sell and where you want to go. Here skills are more important as you know what you are looking for. Passion, common goals and shared values are important too but to a lesser extent now.

How do I find co-founders?

[Tweet “The key to find a co-founder is networking”]

The key to find a co-founder is networking: network, network and network some more. Make an effective impression: talk about your business with passion.

Apply your checklist to all prospective co-founders: core skills, shared values and common goals. Come clean on every discussion point as you spend more time with your co-founders than your better half.

How do I deal with stock options?

Ideally co-founders should own common stocks. It’s a good practice to have vesting for founders too, it keeps you accountable. The options should be decided based on your plans for next three years. You will always need more senior people than your plan says.

The core team should be given healthy dose of options, nothing like ownership. 20% is always a good number to keep as options pool. Give options but only once you have explained the value.

How does Board of Advisors add value?

It is an interesting approach to add skills to the team. Look for the key skills missing in the team; it could be networking, bouncing of ideas, reality check or anything else. Do good reference checks and look for relevant advisors.

Some must do’s as you grow

You must personally meet and interview every person you want to hire till your first floor is complete. Keep in mind that first set of team members join because of you not for the business.

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more, it is never enough. Try to answer all the tough questions yourself. Behave like a foundation and support everyone. In reality, great people organizations are in inverted pyramid style.

The inverted pyramid is a metaphor for a reversal of traditional management practices. Employees who are closest to clients or production processes are placed at the top and managers at the bottom.

The employee is empowered with greater decision-making authority and freedom of action. The manager becomes a facilitator spearheading a team effort. In theory, overall organizational performance becomes faster, more adaptable and more effective.

Some don’ts as you grow
Never ever strive to fake values, it just doesn’t work. Don’t try and hide behind system and processes. Early stage companies need more personal touch than process for people. Your core message can be same but words need not be for different teams.

To conclude, teamwork enables you to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently than tackling projects individually. Cooperating together on various tasks reduces workloads for all employees by enabling them to share responsibilities or ideas.

As a business owner, you would benefit from increased productivity through efficient team projects, which may be completed well ahead of the deadline.

Happy building your building!

This post is based on a webinar by Mr. Vaibhav Tiwari. You can find the recording of the session here.