How To Build a Great Startup Team

Gorish Dua Gorish Dua
Nov 3, 2020 7 min read
How To Build a Great Startup Team

Any startup’s journey to success begins with a great team. The team will determine whether the startup turns into a business module or a thing of the past. According to statistics, not having the right team is the third-highest factor (accounts for 23%) behind the failure of startups. And the startup failure rate itself is forty-four percent. There’s no such thing as a startup having a sole owner. If you come across successful startup stories, you will find that they owe all their success to the team. If you’re thinking of launching your very own startup, make sure you have a great team.

What makes a successful startup team you might ask?

How to build a startup team?

‘A team that believes in the vision and works tirelessly to achieve it’ is an answer that gets an A+. Unfortunately, it is slightly more complicated than that.

Startup Team Structure
Startup Team Structure

When we break down what makes a great team, we arrive at this conclusion:

The Vision

It starts with your vision. Self-aware teams have fared better than teams with no clear thought process. Dedication and perseverance are great qualities to have, but if they were the only ones necessary, the failure rate of startups would be less. Everyone needs to be in the same boat and row in the same direction. That will get you ahead. But every startup needs an edge. Then what is that edge?

It is what makes your crew WANT to row in the same direction and a willingness to work with others to make it happen. In order to make that happen, you have to convince each and every person in your team and make them believe in your vision. Your vision must ultimately result in making your customer’s life better. Every team member must individually feel responsible for that. Only then will they give their heart, soul, and maybe even throw in an arm and a leg to see your vision come true.

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The Hiring Process

What is the process to hire a dream team? There is neither a rule book nor an HR in your case. The process is tough and will send you somersaulting for suitable hires. A potential hire is one with a great attitude. If that person is smart and gets things done in time, recruit him/her. A likable personality is a bonus. Scout colleges, browse LinkedIn profiles, network with your circle. Sell them your vision. Define startup roles and responsibilities accordingly. Hiring five managers because they are excellent is a hiring disaster. Take only the people you need.

However, cooperation is slightly more important than talent in the beginning stages. A team with a tight bond is more likely to achieve success than one in a constant state of the cold war. Never settle. If your vision excites them as much as it excites you, hire them! An important thing to remember when interviewing a candidate is to see if they will stay with you at least until the startup is solid. A good way to ensure that is to have a transparent contract binding them for a stipulated time.

That being said, recruit as if you were recruiting for a business and not a startup. That way you don’t have to hunt for a new core team when your startup turns into a full-fledged business. Beware of bad hires. A bad hire in a corporation results in a loss of time and money. A bad hire in a startup is a recipe for failure.

What Must Your Team Be Made Up of ?

After the hassle of recruiting is over, we have a team. Let’s dissect the team. An ideal team is balanced. If there’s a risk-taker, then there must a speed breaker. The startup team structure should be made up of – a brainiac, a hard worker, a financial expert, a crisis solver, and a leader. These traits are not mutually exclusive and are a generalized set of traits any startup needs. Your team needs at least one person for each trait.

Startup Team Roles
Startup Team Roles

Team Dynamics

The core team is the face of the company. Their personalities and interactions will breed the eventual company culture. That is why initial hiring is difficult and important. A core team for startup is like a family. The company’s losses and gains are personal to them. Your team must at the very base get along. Connect with individual members and make them feel like family. That will result in their hundred percent effort. Be open with your team right from the hiring process. Be clear about your expectations of them. It is better to have someone not aligned with your goals quit sooner rather than later. Earn their trust.

Even if things don’t go well, inform them. Don’t get too caught up in work though. Take time out to enjoy yourselves occasionally. It shouldn’t be all work and no play. Also, continuously monitor and evaluate your team to find and remove inefficiencies.

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Role of a Leader

We are yet to discuss the importance of a leader. There are a lot of unknowns at the start. A leader must be an idea-generator, a crisis averted, a problem solver, and must also constantly boost the morale of co-workers. If that leader is you, then you better start working on these skills. Soft skills are important as well. Develop a good rapport with the team. If at any point in time, the team loses a sense of direction the startup will sink. The leader must keep them on track.

Most Importantly, the early stages are critical and can make or break the team. Early-stage leaders are in a position to make the most impact as compared to the later stages, where the company already runs on a well-defined set of factors. A CEO at that point has no major impact on the process, only the major decisions. The leader is also responsible for the kind of image the company projects. If the company has an online presence, then the CEO’s personal opinions if expressed become a reflection of the company’s culture and policies.

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Don'ts When It Comes To Building a Startup Team:

Avoid homogeneity at all costs. Likeminded people rather than minds that think alike. Homogeneity kills creativity. There would be no exchange of ideas as everyone will agree on a single idea. Everyone has the same weaknesses and strengths. There is no balance. Don’t sacrifice diversity at the altar of cooperation.

Another don’t is taking the pressure of hiring on your head. If it proves to be difficult to obtain recruits, hire a recruiter. It is a good investment in the long run.

Third, don’t prolong firing a bad hire. Cut your losses now rather than incurring them later. Fourth, don’t reject people who have faced failure. They are more likely to take risks, which is what startups need.

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Having said all that, there are no ‘building teams for dummies’ or ‘advanced team-building theories’ to get you there. The startup journey is a rollercoaster. Many times, you may have to ‘wing it’. The dynamic nature is what makes it a thrilling journey. Seeing your vision turn into reality after putting in months or years of work is highly rewarding. The journey is as important as the destination. And the right team makes it an enriching experience. Remember, your company is only as good as its core team for startups.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you build the right team?

6 Steps to Build a Strong Team:

  • Focus on roles.
  • Value each role.
  • Communicate.
  • Set goals.
  • Celebrate successes and failures.
  • Know each other.

What makes a successful startup team?

Startup experience, product knowledge, and industry skills predict the success of a new venture.

How do you strengthen your team?

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Team:

  • Hire with Purpose.
  • Lead by Example.
  • Communicate Effectively.
  • Ask for Feedback.
  • Team Building.
  • Recognize and Appreciate.

How do you start a startup team with no money?

Tips to start a startup team with no money:

  • Stay true to the core purpose.
  • Form a kickass team.
  • Expand your social media presence.
  • Collaborate with established brands.
  • Make every customer feel special.
  • Keep an eye on your competitors.
  • Make the most of the tools.

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