Building Your Dream Team

Part 1 of a 2 part series looking at how to build a high performing startup team by ThincLab advisor Eduard Liebenberger.

Entrepreneurs are some of the most driven people on the planet, but they all started from the same point: with a passion for their product and not knowing if their big idea would be a huge win or lead them straight back to the drawing board. Much has been written about startup success and what the most important elements are. Timing, market, value proposition, access to and amount of capital, and connections are all crucial. But there’s one more aspect that’s often overlooked — the team.

With the explosion in numbers of startup businesses worldwide since the pandemic, the competition for talent has become fierce. So, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the team you’re building is the right one. A solid foundation is crucial and knowing that you share overlapping values with your co-founders is essential. We’re definitely not saying that you have to share the exact same thought process and vision, but there is a strong correlation between mindset and success, and having those connected touch points will help to prevent ongoing conflict as you scale.

A recent interview with Anna Mallon from the AWS Startup Team delved into some of the biggest hiring mistakes founders make and how to avoid them and why personal development within the team is the key to your startup’s longevity. “What you value will determine how much alignment you have and set up longevity with your co-founders,” says Mallon. Chemistry between the leadership team will ultimately determine whether you sink or swim.

Looking at the wider team, keeping up with the pace of change and being able to rapidly turn ideas into action is not just necessary to ensure success long-term, but crucial for early stage startup survival. A proactive and scrappy team can adapt and mold to new environments quickly, but only if the structures put in place allow them to do that. That’s why it’s so important for startup founders to keep these structures flexible and any procedures minimal, especially in early stages when funding is still coming in.

If your team is highly-technical, it’s easy to fall into patterns of advanced structure and planning to fit product development and testing schedules. While this of course this is still important to work on (particularly in later stages of business), remember to let your team stay creative and experimental to not only develop their own skill sets, but to stay agile and curious as their roles shift throughout the company’s growth. For those functional and technical teams, some structure will be necessary for them to succeed. Their unique skills are important assets to the organization, but it’s also necessary to remember that the needs and roles you’re filling now could look very different in three to six months. This is why hiring for attitude is so crucial in working toward startup success.

When you hire for attitude, your goal should be to look for big-picture thinkers rather than someone who is more detail-oriented. This will be your greatest asset, as details can slow down your pace of change and introduce barriers to scalability that you didn’t previously have. A rapidly-changing environment can also be more challenging for individuals who are used to focusing solely on a practical job role, so ensuring that the team is invested in the mission and vision from the start is one of the best ways to prevent high turnover and team conflict.

Clear company values that are conveyed at every opportunity will set you apart from the competition and inspire your team. As the founder, it’s vital that you use your voice to constantly and consistently share this narrative, both internally and externally. This will be what brings new people to the team and will be part of the story when it comes to raising capital.

Knowing where to break down functional roles versus entrepreneurial leadership positions is crucial, and it should become clear throughout the recruitment process if individuals will fit into your company culture. While each role has its own specific needs and importance, attitude and company fit are just as vital to the success of your startup as the day-to-day work.

Reproduced with permission from Fingerprint For Success.

In Part 2 of this article we will look at key qualities found in the highest performing startup teams.