We’re not going to sugar coat it–90% of startups fail. While cash flow issues, misreading market demand, poor marketing, and bad timing all contribute to this stark number, one of the most notable findings is the 23% that go down because they chose the wrong people.
Stop holding your breath. This is a good thing because creating a kickass startup team structure is something you can control and get right, increasing your chances of survival by 23%. Here’s how:
Step 1: Know your weaknesses.
Many founders are naturally the visionaries of their companies–the people who not only determine overall goals but help direct their businesses towards the future. They/You are dreaming of what the company looks like in 10 years and are determining the moves you need to make to get there. But you can’t do it alone. And to succeed, you’ll need to make yourself painfully aware of your weaknesses so you can fill the gap.
For example, you may be great at selling your service/product but lack the organizational skills to handle day-to-day client management. In this case, you’d need a team member who excels in project management, someone to keep the team on track once you bring in business.
This could also translate to management. Not everyone is capable of being a great manager, even entrepreneurs. Having those soft skills are just as important to the success of your business as hard skills. Be honest with yourself. Can your team flourish and grow with your management or are you better suited to focus your efforts on the product/service and have someone with stellar soft skills do it for you? Lose the pride, win the growth.
Step 2: Hire for the future.
The goal of any startup is to grow. Best case scenario, you’ll scale quickly. That’s why it’s crucial to hire employees that are in it for the long haul–the ones who are fully bought into your business and possess the capacity to grow with you.
Know how to recognize future rockstars.
The reality is, the most qualified candidate for the job may not be the right fit. Instead of experience alone, look for potential. You can train and help an employee increase their job knowledge and get the experience they need. You cannot instill enthusiasm and passion for your business that isn’t already there.
It’s important to hire a diverse team with people of all different backgrounds that can complement each other. You want an organizer who will keep everything straight. You want a creative who isn’t afraid to go outside the box with ideas. You want an over-achiever who will inspire everyone to hit benchmarks. This type of diversity will give you a well-rounded team of people who aren’t afraid to push back on each other’s ideas and encourage them to look at things a different way.
With that said, make sure you can have fun with each other. Bottom line: Hire good people that you wouldn’t mind having dinner with.
You want the best of the best (who doesn’t) but a startup can be a roller coaster, one that requires you to lean on your team for support, help, and more often than not, a good laugh. Hire people who are compatible with your objectives and goals for the business, but also compatible with your personality.
Step 3: Keep it agile.
Startups are exciting, fun, invigorating, and tons of other enthusiastic adjectives. But they’re also extremely fast, unforgiving, and require flexibility. Your team needs to eb and flow with the changes whether that means quickly pivoting from original daily tasks to mitigating a major client issue or the willingness to wear multiple hats.
With that said, be careful not to inadvertently overwhelm your employees. Have processes in place that can help with time management and reveal when someone might be taking on too much.
A major benefit of working at a startup is that employees don’t have to always stay in their lane and are often given the ability to learn and grow in multiple areas. Your job (or your manager’s job) is to make sure they aren’t spread too thin. Consider implementing project management software like Monday, Trello, or ClickUp.
Step 4: Share your vision.
“Startup teams that reported high levels of previous experience but average to low levels of passion and collective vision were overall weaker.” – Harvard Business Review
Communication is a crucial component for any relationship–whether business-oriented or personal–and it’s magnified at a startup. If you’ve hired well, your team is invested in the company. That’s why it’s imperative, as a leader, to consistently share your vision of the future and goals you’d like to achieve with the team. Not only does this help to reinforce their passion and buy-in to your company but it also helps to keep everyone on the same page.
Be the exception.
The odds are against you. Statistics show that your chances of failing are much higher than your chances of succeeding. And while some of that is out of your control, the startup team structure you create is not. So, learn from experts who have been there.
Founders of the entrepreneurial community growth10, Tom Healy and Joe Buzzello, put their collective experience together and wrote “Entrepreneurial Landmines”–a book written to help founders avoid major mistakes and scale faster.
Learn details of what successful startup team structures look like, how to lead your team, when it’s the right time to expand, and more. Much like the mission for growth10, Healy and Buzzello’s goal is to leverage their decades of experience building and growing companies to help those who are just getting started.