Starting a new business can involve building a team of capable people who complement your strengths and skill set. Venture capitalists fund teams, not business plans, as they know these plans can change every day as market conditions change and new opportunities present themselves. They’re looking for a solid team to make these adjustments and be able to quickly pivot.
Here’s our advice for building a great small business team.
Don’t start with a layer of executives
If you hold the vision for your company, you most likely need functional roles more than you need a roster of VPs. At GoForth, we started with a single founder and a team of writers and creative people. We complemented each other in every way: a business prof and a creative team – but we had to make sure we would get along. The only team members you need are people you wish you’d see when you look in the mirror.
Bring experience to functional roles
You may be a founder or CEO for the first time in your new business and there’s a lot of on-the-job learning you’ll go through. Don’t surround yourself with people who are making it up as they go along. Experience matters.
Look for generalists rather than specialists
In the early stages, you’ll need people who can do lots of things, who can brainstorm outside of their function and see how their roles affect others. To ensure this framework is rooted in your young company, hire the core technical skills you need but surround them with “deep generalists,” or people who have a specific role but the proven ability to cross into others.
Look for failures
Yes, you read that correctly! People who have failed and recovered are better than people who have never failed. Failure is a great source of insight. But more than that, people who are not hobbled by failure and can figure out how to rise again have the right personality for a new small business.
Don’t hire people like you
You need diverse experiences, philosophies, and talents to cross-pollinate. That said, hire people you like! You’ll be spending a lot of time with them. Always focus on the next step. Everyone you hire is a magnet for future hires. Never hire a jerk, no matter how talented they are, and never hire an ego, no matter how accomplished they are. They can do more damage to your culture than their talent can possibly make up for.
Defer to other people’s greater experience
You don’t have the experience they do, or you wouldn’t have hired them. That said, always seek to understand how they’re applying their experience to your business. You’ll learn, and you’ll be able to guide how the pieces fit together.
There’s no substitute for passion
If you’re like many new small businesses, you can’t pay top dollar for talent, and you don’t want to be a stepping stone to a bigger salary at a corporation. So you need your team to share your passion for what you’re doing. They should see getting to change the world through your business as a valuable, if nonmonetary, part of their compensation. If they aren’t passionate, if they don’t feel they’re changing the world with you, they might not share your overall drive and vision for the business you’re growing.
Manage out under-performers quickly
If you’re starting from scratch, you need to see the business move forward every day. You can’t fund anything but A players. Every successful company has an equally successful team behind it. The first step is to build and foster a team that can drive your business – whether it be fashion, technology, hospitality, or however else you seek to change the world.