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Startups need more than just a great idea to succeed; they need the right people to bring the company to life. In my own entrepreneurial experiences, I’ve seen how being able to bring together a team of talented individuals can make all the difference for an up-and-coming startup.
Of course, finding the talented, passionate people who will take your business to the next level isn’t always easy. In the early stages of launching your startup, you can’t afford to waste your time or money by hiring the wrong people. So how do you ensure that you bring the right team together and avoid making a bad hire?
While there is no completely foolproof method to making startup hires, the following tips are some of the best strategies I’ve found that will help guide you through this important process.
1. Focus on your own strengths and weaknesses
As an entrepreneur, you naturally bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to your startup. Without your ideas and determination, the company wouldn’t exist in the first place! However, this doesn’t mean you know everything. To build the right team, start by analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses so you can create a balanced team.
As Alex Bard explains, “Have the confidence and self-awareness to analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and build the rest of your team to complement what you bring to the table. In an ideal world, your founding team will resemble a Venn diagram — some skills will overlap, while each person will have his or her own specialities.”
2. Look for relevant experience
A person may seem to have the right skill set for the job, but do they understand your niche and the challenges and opportunities your startup faces? The more relevant an individual’s prior experiences are to what your startup is trying to accomplish, the less of a learning curve they’ll have to deal with.
This is something John Monarch, CEO of ShipChain, made a top priority when assembling his staff:
“Combining supply chain logistics with blockchain technology presents some very unique opportunities and challenges. But to be successful, we couldn’t just look for people who understood tech and logistics. We needed people who already understood what it was like to launch and grow a startup. That’s why we brought in people with that background, like Kevin Harrington, Brian D. Evans and Justin Wu. Their expertise has helped us grow so much more than we would have otherwise.”
3. Define your team culture
Your startup’s unique culture will directly influence the type of people who are attracted to your business. You shouldn’t wait to focus on company culture until after you’ve assembled a team. The last thing you need is for someone to be brought onboard and then quit shortly afterwards because they are unpleasantly surprised by the culture you try to develop.
Instead, take steps to create a high-performance culture before you begin expanding your team. Communicate your culture in all aspects of your business, including interviews.
When your culture becomes a focal point of everything you do, it will be far easier to attract the right people to your company. Talented workers will be drawn to you for who you are, and will be more likely to stick around for the long haul.
It can be hard to assemble a dream team out of nothing, and most successful startups rarely do this. Instead, they network. Both online and face-to-face networking create opportunities for you to connect with like-minded individuals long before you start looking for potential hires. Even if you don’t hire someone you’ve previously connected with, these people can still serve as a great source for talent referrals.
It’s much easier to have confidence in your hires when you (or someone else you know and trust) can vouch for an individual’s talent, experience and work ethic. There’s a reason surveys find that 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking — it’s because we value personal recommendations far more than what someone’s resume says. The more you network, the easier it will be to find the right fit.
5. Trust your feelings
While you shouldn’t let emotions dominate your business decisions, you also shouldn’t try to ignore or suppress your feelings, either, especially when it comes to making a “super team” hire. A candidate could have the perfect background, but if they don’t get along with the rest of your team, they could drag everybody else’s performance down with them.
Paul Graham puts it this way: “Don’t suppress misgivings. It’s much easier to fix problems before the company is started than after… Don’t start a company with someone you dislike because they have some skill you need and you worry you won’t find anyone else. The people are the most important ingredient in a startup, so don’t compromise there.”
Wrapping things up
The work isn’t over after hiring your “super team” — after all, you’ll still need to motivate and inspire employees and create a positive culture to help them truly latch on to your vision.
But as you take the right steps during that initial talent search, you’ll be far more likely to find the people who fit your company culture and help you grow to the next level. Finding the right people to join your team may require a fair amount of time and effort, but the results are always worth it.