A great founding team to build a successful startup
Issue 8 🪜: How to build a founding team that has the same value, intent, motivation, determination and commitment to growth?
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 20th newsletter.
Actually, it’s not just the founding team but the market and product that influence the success of your startup. Although, the founding team is the one that rides the startup in the right or wrong direction, building the right one is the founder’s prominent job.
Based on your founding team, you’ll be judged everywhere - reputation, competition, co-founder, product, hiring other talents, etc.
It’s the founder’s ability that determines who they attract on the founding team stage with value, intent, and goals.
That been said, for example, I was looking for a CTO or Head of Engineering who would take over the development part and without my interference, he would do his best job. The first thing I did was met with a person who has previously build something & discussed my product with them to get an understanding of what needs to be done in the development sector (or you can also hire a business consultant). Somehow I knew this person who was a great developer, has a desire to grow and can take over responsibilities. Working with him felt more like we are running towards the same goal with same intention.
The thing was that he wasn’t the best in the industry at that time but little investment over him and the right opportunity gave both of us the best team and product. He was the person who wanted to work for a startup and we worked towards the same values and goals together.
These types of people are in your surrounding, so the people you meet and connect with matter a lot, who are aligned with the same value, intent, motivation, determination, and commitment to growth.
Building a founding team isn’t easy
Before you get into building a great team, you are the master of every job in your startup.
As a founder, you need to think about everything - marketing, sales, designing, legal, accounts, customers, development, copywriting, branding, fundraising, etc. - before hiring the first person.
In the past few years, I’ve hired and worked with dozens of people. I have built a small team, twice and have to say hiring isn’t easy at all especially in the early stage, I’ve made mistakes when hiring people both times. My first few hires were a complete waste (and waste of money) and the approach I've taken to hire them was absolutely wrong.
And I’m not alone in this ship, even fully-funded startups (and experienced ones) do make the same mistakes 👇🏻
I would have went to a HR or hiring agency but the kind of person I was looking for was around me. I just didn’t know by then. So, there were a lot of trial and error methods.
I was looking for someone who was a creator, good at communication, not just devoting himself to the building process but also growing socially & personally, can be trusted, and openly contributing with ideas.
If we aren’t on the same page on this, it won’t work.
Where is the problem?
As a first-time founder, no one told me how to go and where to navigate. On the counter side when you don’t know how to get things done you build a team or hire people for specific tasks. These are the common problems a founder faces:
Poor financial management - Running out of cash is one of the biggest reasons why most startups fail. Even when you’re adequately funded you can’t leverage spend money on hiring for every role or on other sectors. Managing your finances is important. If you're bootstrapping it can even be a lot harder.
Building a culture is important to attract the right people in the early stage. When no one knows you, why would someone like to work for you, at what potential? Your startup has no reputation or brand identity, so it’s you who build trust and brand awareness. People will want to WORK WITH YOU and not FOR YOU. And that’s where you build a solid foundation. You are likely to work more like a “family" than a “team” in the early stage.
Hiring the wrong person. Honestly, I had a fear that I’ll end up hiring the wrong person or the right person will slip right out of my hands. This tweet is such a perfect example of when you’re hiring your dream candidate 🧵
Whether to build a remote team or rent a workplace. Renting an office and making the whole team to work from the same place no longer is people’s first choice. Not just because of the pandemic but it’s understandable how effective, convenient and economical it is.
Each person should be a generalist and specialist. I’m hiring a person so I don’t have to complete that task myself or guide that person on how to do it. But if I had to do so then I’ve hired the wrong person. It’s better to look for generalists who like to figure things out on their own but have a sense of specialist that their role is unique.
Hiring for a job role I have no understanding about. Well, it has been a struggle for me to hire a developer. I’ve hired several wrong candidates before understanding the job role. The last one I hired felt like the icing on the cake. Because of so many trials and error approaches I was able to break down the framework of hiring a developer. Remember don’t hire two people with the same skillset. It will create conflict within your founding team.
Where to look for when hiring. The old traditional approach to go through the list of CVs or hiring an HR person didn’t give me any benefit when building a founding team. Rather a close-knit surrounding helped such as communities, niche-based job boards, ads with newsletters/creators/influencers, Twitter, or referrals. Look at the right place where you can attract the right people.
What founder’s should do?
Build a culture and reputation, how you think working with your startup looks like. As a founder, your job is also to build a place/culture where people want to work and collaborate. What most founders forget is that people don’t just work with you for money or have an intention to work just the way you want them to work. You have to make them enjoy their work, and make their environment filled with energy and motivation.
It’s not just about work, it’s also a place for them to grow along with you and your startup. It’s your startup that helps your team fulfil your business goals + accomplish their personal goals.
Check your cash. If you’re bootstrapping your startup, it’s even harder to pay yourself, so hiring can be tough. Think about what can be economical for you? Is it hiring a freelancer, contractor, or full-time employee? Hiring a full-time employee can be a lot tricky, you have to pay monthly, and give additional benefits, and equity, if you’re hiring from another country then you may have to follow the laws and regulations. On the other side, it can be cheaper and you expand your pool of hiring the best talents from across the globe.
If you’re hiring a freelancer, it can be good for your pocket but you need to understand that you have to tell them what needs to be done and they won’t be participating in brainstorming sections as your employees.
Know the reason you’re hiring. This is important. Not every task needs to be delegated. Why are you hiring for this particular job? Does it make your work a lot easier, do you require help from the expert, does it take too much of your time or is the way you’re working isn’t contributing to the growth?
Simply filling the positions won’t help. To craft a solid job description and attract the right candidates you need to understand the job role & the reason you’re hiring. This happened to me a lot of times when I was looking for developers, as I’m a non-tech founder and technical things were harder to get through.
Look for the talent at the right place. The traditional way of approaching candidates isn’t fun at all anymore. Now, whenever I have to hire someone I usually spot them through these things - communities are a great way to find experts in the field, community job boards, people who are into the creator economy or Gen Z or crypto (or in some way active in their niche), people who love to connect and have social proofs, people through referrals, etc.
Building the right team. Figuring out what type of team you need to build to grow your startup will set the focus on success possibility. The best practice is to hire the Head of a Department - may be a CTO, CMO, community manager, etc. These people will be part of your founding team and will reflect the culture and environment of your startup. Think of the role as not just a skillset but with the approach, personality, and methodology.
Prefer building a remote team
I have personally never worked in an office and only had a great experience working and building a remote team. Even with a remote team start by figuring out what value are you bringing:
How would you like your team to be treated?
How will you stay connected without distracting each other?
How will you solve the conflicts and give rewards?
What will be the ground rule of decision-making and meetings?
How will the team collaborate without you - the founder?
When building a remote team it's good to know what tools are right for you & your team. Here's how I do it:
Small teams usually don't require too many paid tools so first look at how you can have budget-friendly options - Notion, Google Docs, Zoom, Slack, etc.
Have a systematic way to communicate and work with documents. Ask your team to automatically update the documents each time when something needs to be added. It's even beneficial when a member isn't present on the time and you can even go through it later on.
Carry out meetings on audio and video calls. At these meetings, you can use shared screens and note down important notes or actions in the tools at the same time.
In a remote team, you spend more time doing deep work and getting things done than spending time on unwanted meetings and distractions, there are so many tools for it such as Toggl, Trello, etc.
Remember building a right founding team is another thing, and operating it well together is another.
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