Startups aren’t built by fairies.
They are built by people. Smart, focused and passionate people.
It’s foolhardy to focus entirely on your idea or product and neglect your team or treat it as an afterthought. In fact, the more important your idea is, the better the kind of team you have to build. Because there’s no such thing as a slam dunk idea.
Building the best possible team for your startup means employing loyal, passionate, and high-functioning teams to get your startup off the ground. Here’s how to do that:
1. Hire people you know
As an entrepreneur, your network is one of your most prized possessions. In it contains all the competent people you’ve ever worked with or worked for. Start from there. Knowing your core team members and being able to depend on their skills are crucial in those early days of the business because delivery is everything.
Bringing on new people can add important skills, but it takes time to build trust in each others' abilities. You want your functional areas covered by people you trust early on to build the right strategy and get your early product out and in an efficient way. The more you know in advance, the more predictable the success of what you're trying to accomplish.
These first team members can also be tapped to recommend people they know and trust for any other roles you want to hire for.
2. Partner with people with the resources to make a long-term commitment
It may be tempting to think that raising money for your startup is a walk in the park, especially with the daily news of funding rounds by African entrepreneurs, but it’s not true.
It can take a while to be in a position where you are able to raise capital. If you're not in the position to work for the better part of the year (as a side job) without being paid, it's going to be harder to manage the overhead costs.
Therefore, partner with people who have the resources to help cover costs so you don't have to bring in angel investors up front. The advantage is that, at the end, everyone makes a lot more money.
3. Don't hire noobs
When hiring for your startup look for people who really know a particular business area well and give them the freedom to do their job.
Swallow your micromanaging tendencies and don’t tell people what to do. Instead set guidelines and give input, but ask more questions than you make demands.
Your ideal startup team should consist of men and women with several years of experience working for established companies as well as the resources that come with that. Your core team should be seasoned, not noobs. Later on, you will hire foot soldiers or drones (for automated tasks), but in those crucial first days, you want veterans and wonderkids.
4. Integrate people with sales and marketing experience as early as possible
Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. Because, as an entrepreneur, you’re running a business. There’s a common mistake where a technical founder partners with another tech type and create a startup, build a product then start trying to onboard someone to handle marketing. This is extremely shortsighted.
Ideally, when you’re building your product, someone (or people) who have experience taking products to market and selling them should be in the same room with you.
This way, you’ll avoid a lot of costly assumptions about the customer and how to market your product. Look for people with consumer-facing sensibilities during your development phase.
5. Staff your core group with people who are passionate about the company, not the financial outcome
In those early days, money is important but passion is more important. Startup success stories like Iroko TV, Hotels.ng and Printivo may paint a picture of startup-ing as a quick way out of poverty into easy street but don’t buy into the hype. It’s not that easy.
Startups take years to succeed.
Startup mortality rate is high and your core team should consist of folks who understand this. Too much fixation on a short-term exit is very dangerous when you're putting together a startup team. After all, startups are by definition, uncertain entities with a lot of ups and downs. If most (or all) of the people in your core team are just looking for the payday, they don't have the right perspective going into a startup.
Have tips on how to build the best team for a startup? Share with us.