How To Build An A-Star Team For Your Startup Most investors put the team and the founder as their #1 criteria for an investment.

By Ambareen Musa

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Selling a property? It's all about the location, location, location.

Starting up a business? It's all about the team, team, team.

A startup is all about execution and the team you build. If you have gone through any round of funding, you will understand the importance of having a great team. Most investors put the team and the founder as their #1 criteria for an investment.

Whether you start alone or with a partner, eventually, you can't scale up alone. The success of your business will depend on the talent you attract, and more often than not, a founder attracts a similar caliber team around him or her.

If your business is growing quickly, you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by a group of passionate and smart people, but all coming from various backgrounds. Each member will differ in expectations, lifestyles and career aspirations– so how do you get such a diverse group of people to work well as a team towards the same goal?

Personally, this has been quite a challenge for me, but I think we have managed to build something amazing at Souqalmal. The team gels very well and everybody in their own way is working towards the same goal. There is a brilliant camaraderie in and outside the office. From my experience, the first priority for any founder should be to find the right people to bring on board. Set the culture and bring on people who fit in.

Related: Five Tips For Recruiting Talent For A Killer Startup

Culture should be at the top of your list

When you're sitting across the table during an interview with a potential hire, you should be asking yourself: "Will this person contribute towards the success of my business, and will he/she fit our culture perfectly?" Remember you can teach people different skills, but you can't teach them to have passion or work well with a team. A great company culture is what makes people stick together, help each other out and work towards the same goal. Don't try to compete with a corporate package– it is generally a red flag when a candidate is negotiating his salary to match a corporate offer.

Keep in mind that, as a founder, it's for you to build that culture you want in your startup, and to select someone new to integrate into your team.

Be honest and transparent

Value transparency. If your team is working long hours and putting their efforts in building your company alongside you, appreciate them and be the first to promote communication. I always have open discussions with the team every few months, sharing numbers, plans, successes and failures. If you expect them to put in their 100%, then you need to show them the results of their efforts in its true sense. It also goes on to show that you trust your team enough to have an open conversation about company performance and future plans.

Give them space

This is probably one of the hardest skills I have had to learn. It can be hard as a founder to trust somebody else with important decisions. But remember, giving them space will allow them to grow and get you to learn to trust. I have to admit, I still stay involved heavily in the decision-making, but how the execution is done is up to the team. Let your team deal and negotiate with suppliers or partners on their own. Let them come up with ideas, test them, and bring innovative solutions and only get involved during the final feedback. Very soon, you will find out whom you can trust and who needs a bit more time.

Keep the bad apples away

One bad apple in a basket has an impact on all the good ones. One team member who is not a team player can be detrimental to your business. They can create a negative team spirit and demotivate other team members. Anyone who says, "It's not my job" should, from my perspective, be asked to leave. A startup is an environment where your team should feel responsible for the overall success of the business, and do whatever it takes to work towards success.

After all, your team is your business.

Related: Protecting Your MVP: Going To Great Lengths For Your Team Is In Your Best Interest

Ambareen Musa

Founder and CEO,

Ambareen Musa is the CEO and founder of Before founding in 2012, Musa set up the consulting arm of MasterCard Middle East and Africa. Previously Musa held had various roles including marketing, financial literacy, customer advocacy and e- commerce for GE’s financial arm, GE Money. She led the first online financial literacy initiative in the U.K.,, later relocating to the Middle East in 2008 where she consulted for Bain & Company Middle East, focusing on financial services projects such as growth strategies for banks in the region.


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