At a startup, everything revolves around people. You’re going to be married to your team for the lifetime of the company. That’s right: it’s a marriage. So pick your teammates carefully, because you’ll be in for a long and bumpy ride.
Building a team is arguably the hardest part of a startup. In fact, the quickest way to kill a startup is to make the wrong hiring decisions. Getting financing, acquiring customers, generating revenue — you just need to be a little smart to figure those things out. But ultimately, the success of the company depends on how well the team works together.
This is a fact that most entrepreneurs underestimate. Many entrepreneurs start hiring like crazy because investors tell them to get a product out as soon as possible into the market. Does adding more bodies to the room speed up the launch of your product? Absolutely not.
It takes time to build the right team, and you should not settle for anything less. Here are some things to consider when courting candidates for your startup team.
- Look for shared values. Technical skills, expertise of a particular market and industry contects can be acquired on the go. It’s not so easy to change a person’s view of the world and life; world view is completely subconscious and deeply ingrained in the person’s brain since birth. Unless a drastic event happens in the person’s life, don’t expect a person’s value-system to turn upside down overnight. Ask yourself does this person have integrity? What is his motivation? What is his work style?
- Get some face-time together. Meet regularly with the person, talk about business and personal matters as frequently as possible. Ask about the parents and siblings. Meet their friends if you can and ask for references. Ask your friends or your trusted advisors to interview the person. In the end, just go with your gut.
- Think through the worst case scenarios. You see, people’s attitude change a lot during situations of extreme distress or especially when money gets in the way. For example, imagine you launched a product into the market and the user adoption turned out to be much lower than expected. The entire world began to doubt your business model and your execution capabilities. It is up to you and your team to re-think the entire strategy for the company. Pretty stressful, don’t you think? How would your business partner react in such a situation? Would that person quit and get another job somewhere or would that person fight on your side until the bitter end?
- No egos. This one is important. Entrepreneurship is about adaptation; business models change consistently. It’s about paying very close attention to what people say and adapting your strategy accordingly. To build a great team, you need to surround yourself with people that have more experience than you in certain areas; people that can say no and disagree with your views. You should welcome critique and disagreement, because that is what drives the company to a better place than where it is today. Never take it personally. Do not get offended or defensive about things. Look for people who think the same way about adaptation. Egos are the biggest enemy of adaptation.
Of course, you should bring in people into your team who can fill your weaknesses and can complement your skills, but when it comes down to making the decision, chose attitude over aptitude. Therefore, don’t get pushed into hiring people just because it will speed things up. Always remember what’s at stake.
Jean-Marc Freuler and Ismail Colak are the co-founders of Funding Gates. If you wish to get in touch with them, please contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com. They are both members of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.