How to Build a Rock Solid Team for Your Startup

February 16, 2017

9:15 am

For young entrepreneurs with minimal funding and maximum energy, building a team is not typically a top priority. The thinking seems simple: why not work alone to stretch out limited financial resources, while saving the team building for late in the game? Though the plan may seem cost-effective, believe me — it’s not.

It’s easy to fall victim to this train of thought, but you have to remember that you can’t do it all. While it may be possible for a little while, it’s much easier to just admit your faults and start building out your team. That said, building a core team during the startup phase of your business is challenging. Here are some steps that you can use to assist with building a competent team:

Analyze Yourself

The first exercise in team building for an entrepreneur is to analyze yourself. Ego aside, be objective about what skills you possess, and — more importantly — what skills you lack. Be completely honest with yourself when analyzing your skill set, and make a list.

Not the best at organization, finance, leading a meeting or closing sales? Think about every skill in which you are deficient or have inadequate experience, and remember that there are always others with more experience and time to execute core aspects of your business. Legendary businessman and investor Warren Buffet has said, “Hire smart people and get out of their way.” However, the key is to hire smart people who complement your talents.

Make Sure Candidates Share Your Vision

Before you start building out your dream team, make sure you can clearly and concisely convey your vision to each prospective member. Writing is known to help with cluttered thoughts, so don’t be afraid to sit down with a pen and paper and start writing out your company’s vision and goals.

Once you’re armed with a strong company voice, make sure the people interviewing for the team also share in this vision.

Know What Skill Sets to Look For

Before you start building out the team, go back to the basics and think about which skills are needed for the position at hand.  Here’s a quick rundown of some traditional key company positions, with some of the top people in the positions to learn from:

CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

This person is the highest ranking corporate officer to whom everyone reports. Besides the daily lead of management, remember this is also the person that tends to be the key decision-maker. Who’s a leading CEO to study when looking for skills? Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.

COO (Chief Operating Officer) 

This position is filled by the person responsible for day-to-day operations, and sometimes called president. Think of Tim Cook when he was working under Steve Jobs.

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

This person manages all aspects of financial risk and management, and must be super organized to keep track of data analysis and financial planning.

CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)

This person is the head of product development, with duties of obtaining growth through marketing and sales.

Don’t Forget the Importance of the Interview

Once you find prospective candidates, know what to recognize during the interview. The résumé is obviously important but think of it as a ticket to an interview. During the interview, look not only for drive and passion but also for the candidate’s willingness to learn. Make sure to ask about how they had dealt with tough situations in previous positions. How someone recognizes a problem is one thing, but how they devise a solution is quite another. Those who master both will surely stick out from your applicant pool.

And remember that chemistry counts — you’ll be building a great company with these team members, so make sure they’re the right fit. At the end, it all comes down to trusting your gut: If something seems a bit off and you can’t pinpoint it, keep searching. You’ll know when the right team member comes along.

Train for Talent

When it comes to training, this quote from Albert Einstein can help: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Everyone has special qualities, and your goal is to find those special qualities and cultivate them.

Don’t spend valuable time training someone for something they are simply not capable of. After all, you’re only good as your team. You don’t have to be in business alone, and those initial hires are key determining factors of how successful your business will be.

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Obinna is the CEO of Wakanow. In addition to being a family man, a native Nigerian, and a travel blogger, he also used to play in the NBA with the Grizzlies, Wizards, Mavericks, Clippers, and Hawks.