As a first time founder and CEO, there are many things you just have to learn as you go.
One of those things has been how to manage a team. In our case, an especially young team both in age and experience.
Like many startups -- bringing on experienced talent from the beginning wasn’t really an early option for us. Not only are salary demands higher for more experienced team members (as they should be), seasoned workers are usually less willing to take a career risk on an unproven venture like ours.
That’s how we wound up running a company where the majority of our team couldn’t even (legally) go grab a beer after work.
Since other startups -- even those with experienced managers and founders -- are likely in encounter similar situations with young teams, I wanted to share some insights in how to manage people in their first "real job":
1. Experiment with different roles and responsibilities.
Understand that while your young team members may have grand visions in their heads about which role they’ll be best at, they really don’t know yet. Let them experiment with different roles, observe them carefully and get constant feedback from them on where their true passions lie. You may find someone who wanted to be in sales is better suited for account management or that a marketing director is actually better in a product role. The earlier you discover this the better.
Related: Building a More Balanced (And Successful) Team
2.Encourage mini 'advisory boards.'
Most CEOs do a pretty good job of surrounding themselves with advisors who can coach them through building a company.
Young team members need this support too. At Jebbit, we encouraged every member of the management team to form a mini advisory board (normally three to five people) specific to their individual role with the company -- an account management advisory board, a product advisory board, a tech advisory board and so on.
We encourage them to meet regularly and have experimented with giving some of our managers the authority to issue stock options and other incentives to their most valued advisors. The results have been even better than expected, and we’ve seen exponential growth in improving in their day-to-day operations, especially for our newest team members.
3. Leverage interns to help your leadership team.
Many startups leverage interns, especially in the early days – mostly because you’re strapped for cash and have way more work to do than you could ever imagine.
But interns can also help relatively young, inexperienced members with a testing ground for them to get early management practice. It can also give you a chance to watch how the members of your leadership team manage the interns.
4. Be patient.While our team is hardworking, determined, and hungry to accomplish their goals, we’ve definitely made mistakes that an experienced team never would. It probably took us longer than normal to nail down basic processes and procedures. But in the process we found how important it was to stay patient and let our young managers make their own mistakes and discover their own way. It has paid off in the long run.
5. Make the office a place people always want to be.
Since we knew our team was not the most experienced on the planet, we made it a mission to work longer and harder than anyone else. That meant we had to make the office a place our employees love to be.
But it’s not just about creating an environment where they can work hard during the week: It also needs to be a place they are excited to hang out and let loose on the weekends.
Most Friday nights at Jebbit involve some sort of themed party or get together at the office. Nearly all our employees stay on a given Friday and many invite their friends to join. It’s one of the coolest things for me to see the majority of our team choosing to spend their free time with each other at the office. It’s created an incredible sense of camaraderie and pride and turned out to be a great recruiting and new business generating tool -- even if that wasn’t the goal.
Related: 7 Ways Leaders Can Achieve Big Wins