You’ve heard it before: Teams will make or break your new venture. And we know putting together a strong team is not only crucial for any startup -- especially for early stage startups -- but also one of the hardest things to do as well.
Don Fornes of Software Advice recently identified four personality types you should look for when building your core team: the matrix thinker, the savant, the champ and the giver. Usually in a co-founder structure, you see a balance of two or three of these personalities, with perhaps the most common pairing being a matrix thinker with big ideas and a savant with execution skills.
But beyond what personalities and thought-processes are effective together, it’s also important to think about the more intangible qualities that can help guarantee a stronger group of first hires for your startup.
One obvious one is mutual confidence. Nasir Ali, managing director of StartFast Accelerator in Central New York, and founder and CEO of Upstate Venture Connect, has found that trust and faith in a partner "enables honest discussion of uncomfortable truths without worrying about egos." We all know egos are common in the startup world, and being able to measure them against a trusted partner can go a long way.
However, Ali also notes such a tight bond can be detrimental, leading to difficulties in hiring that first "outsider," with the added effort of not only bringing he or she into the company, but into "the circle."
"Another part of the founding team is the ability for each person to become a leader in their own right as the organization grows," says Ali, emphasizing that independence, inclusiveness and open-thinking help overcome this possible hurdle.
Once your founding team is put together, building the next level of your core team is also make or break. Once you’ve decided that skill-set and personality-type criteria, aligned visions and brand image should be a part of the equation.
Maxine Bédat, co-founder of Zady, a fashion-focused ecommerce site for conscious consumers, considers the next set of hires crucial not only to a team, but to your brand.
"Unlike a big corporation, early team members are not just employees, they're key brand builders for your company," she says. "Skill, drive and cultural fit are the three elements that must be present in each and every early hire."
When she and her co-founder, Soraya Darabi, were forming their core team, they dwelled on the characteristics they thought would be valuable to an emerging brand, and sought out people who embodied those characteristics.
"We looked for intelligence, creativity, energy, positive attitudes and generally optimistic people who demonstrated that they would be great team players. Most importantly, we look for folks who believe in and love our mission as much as we do," says Darabi, who, with Bédat, insists that everyone from engineers to their creative director "joins the movement" at the core of Zady’s brand.
When it comes down to it, while core personality types and skill sets are a key part of building your startup’s team, having trust in your teammates alongside independence of thought and general inclusiveness, understanding if a person has truly bought into the mission and vision of your company and recognizing whether he or she will also make a positive impact on brand image should be big considerations as well.
"We meet people all the time who love our idea and want to help out," says Andrew Young, the CTO and co-founder of SWILL, an on-demand beer, wine and spirits delivery service (yes, you heard that right), "but in reality, is that person qualified? Do they really believe in our vision? Are they willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to make this business a success? It’s hard to really judge that from one conversation."
Young has found that building a relationship with a person allows his leadership team to get to know them and understand how their brain works.
And all of this is hard to do quickly. As the old saying goes, hire slowly and fire quickly.