Building a Hard-Working Team Starts With You

For better or worse, the cornerstone of a startup's culture is going to be the founder.

learn more about George Deeb

By George Deeb

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Startups require a lot of hard work, with no rest for the weary. Since you need to be moving at light speed to gain first-mover advantage, it often means a lot of late nights in close quarters alongside your fellow team members. The founding team must be able to thrive in that environment. Capital will be tight and you will need to stretch your human resources as far as you can, without breaking the bank.

Recruit the right people.

You want a hard working team? It all starts with recruiting the right people out of the gate. In addition to seeing if they have the right skills for the job, you have to see if they have the right attitude and hard work ethic for the job. Don't take their word on it, as everyone will say they have the "right stuff". You have to talk to their former employers as references, and have them give you real examples of how they have functioned in that capacity in the past.

Related: 5 Hidden Dangers of a Stereotypical Startup Culture

Foster the right team culture.

Once you have the right people, surround them with hard-working peers. Create a culture of "all for one, and one for all" prepared to do whatever is necessary to help the company win the race. Create realistic targets for them to hit by certain dates, and create a competitive spirit within the company, where people can show off their skills.

Reward desired behavior.

When people are showing your desired hard-work ethic behavior, reward them. Give your key team members a piece of the equity. Give them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. Take them to a ball game. Create an employee of the month program. Do whatever you need to do to make sure they know their hard work did not go unnoticed, and was appreciated by the team.

Related: Startup Culture 2.0: Why Kegs No Longer Cut It

Don't push people past their edge.

All work and no fun, makes Jack a dull boy. Working around the clock can be exhausting. And, you don't want the team to burn out. After a big sprint, let the team take a day off to catch their breath, and spend time with their friends and family, away from the office. People are human, and you need to foster an even work-life balance, to retain your team for the long run.

Don't tell them, show them.

When you have something that needs to get done, it is important you show the team how to get it done, as opposed to simply telling them to do it. Don't leave anything ambiguous, that will leave the team spinning their wheels in frustration, not clear on what you exactly need. When you show them what to do, that leaves nothing up for interpretation, and will more quickly get you to your desired end product.

Related: Creating The Right Culture For Startup Success

Hook them with your daily behavior.

It all starts with you. If your employees do not see you putting in the hard work you are asking of them, they will never give it to you. So, roll up your sleeves, tell your spouse you may be late for dinner, and jump into the mosh pit with your team. That will help you gain credibility as a leader and comradery as one of their colleagues, prepared to jump into the trenches of battle.

So, as you can see, if you are complaining about not having a hard working team, you really only have one person to blame . . . yourself!!

George Deeb

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Managing Partner at Red Rocket Ventures

George Deeb is the managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a consulting firm helping early-stage businesses with their growth strategies, marketing and financing needs. He is the author of three books including 101 Startup Lessons -- An Entrepreneur's Handbook.

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