An innovative idea may inspire a new business, but it takes brilliant people to make that business a success. Michael Crom, executive vice president and chief learning officer of Dale Carnegie Training and co-author of The Leader in You: How to Win Friends, Influence People and Succeed in a Changing World, discusses the first step to startup success: assembling your team. Read on for Crom's advice on finding the best people and filling leadership roles--while still saving some cash.
What's the most important position to fill at the outset?
No. 1, you need to assess your own competencies. As the founder, you really should have a very strong vision and clear goals for the company. If you're not able to meet that need, that may be the very first thing you have to fill in terms of leadership roles. You need to look at creating a competency map of what you need for your own company: Very often for startups, fundraising and relationship-building are going to be key. Selling skills, project and management skills--those are ones that come to my mind instantly.
What personality traits should entrepreneurs look for?
It's important to look for people who are real go-getters and are passionate about the goals you have for the company. Also, look for people who have past work experience that's relevant to what you're doing, particularly people who have worked in small companies, because they aren't used to having to worry about other people doing things for them. They're not used to worrying about corporate rules and regulations, which you may not have in a startup, so they can be more independent in their ability to do things, and they don't mind crossing over barriers and doing multiple tasks. Experience in a large company can be valuable, but save those hires for when you're beyond the initial startup phase.
Where can valuable team members be found?
New business owners tend to really love what they're doing and are so excited by it, they live with gusto. That enthusiasm will actually begin to attract people to your team and attract people who want to help--that's a great starting point. You also need to take some time to be active in your community. I even encourage you to do something for people who can do nothing for you; you'll be surprised by how many fellow business owners are attracted to that. Volunteering is a great way to get out and meet people to expand your network. In lieu of that, there are some great social networking resources online: LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, are tremendous tools to help find people with talent.
Do you have any tips for adding staff when the budget's tight?
A board of advisors may be the way to do that. By looking at your own social network, you can often find people who just enjoy being around the excitement of a startup entrepreneur. Look for a diversity of backgrounds when assembling your board of advi-sors; you might look for someone who has a financial background, someone who is a great marketer, a person who is strong on business context, etc.
Your first hires should be people who are different from you. The other thing that I would look for in my first group of hires, or the people who are going to help out at the onset, are people with multiple talents.