They say you need three people to launch a startup.
- The Hustler aka the CEO/Founder, the product visionary slash marketing and sales wiz.
- The Hacker aka the CTO, who’s going to code that product idea to life.
- The Hipster aka the designer who’s going to make that code look attractive for the end-users.
And that’s usually what a startup team with no money to spare looks like. However, once you survive the initial tough years and close the first funding round (or even a few) or get the initial product traction and actual revenues, you will have to grow further.
This means not just enhancing your product functionality or user base, but building a tech startup team to help you achieve your goals faster.
The “how to build your startup team” question never gets old for a couple of reasons:
- You still want to be frugal and hire only the best, most dedicated folks, who genuinely care about your product – rather than a bunch of corporates who just do their 9 to 5 and go home.
- Attracting the top talent to a startup without a name (yet) and paying competitive salaries is challenging.
Now, before discussing the exact ways to build a great startup team, let’s focus on the reasons why people actually choose to work for a startup. This will help you pursue the right kind of candidates and hone your “come work for us!” pitch more precisely.
Why People Choose Working For Startups
No, this isn’t a new form of downshifting or a fad of the bored and well paid.
Sara Peary has loved working for Pfizer, her current employer. Yet, she chooses to leave her lucrative and stable job in favor of a job offer coming from an innovative local marketing agency. Her key reasoning can be summed up to the following:
- Startups offer more room to make tangible impact with everyday actions, hence the experience of working for one feels more rewarding compared to working within large corporations.
- Startups are more agile. Decisions are being made faster, the approval process takes less time and there’s more daily action than mere meetings for the sake of meetings.
- Startups have more room for experiments. “We have ideas and strategies that we think might change the market (we are pretty confident they will), but we also have the flexibility to watch the market and respond, reassess and refocus,” – says Sara.
To find a team for a startup, you need to look for candidates, who are interested in getting challenged on the daily basis, capable of functioning in a high-paced organized chaos and being equally productive when working solo and as a team.
However, it’s also worth giving each candidate a good reality check of what it would be like working at your company e.g.
- The work hours might be long indeed.
- CEO can call them on a Sunday night.
- There will be no annual Christmas bonuses etc.
As Iman Jalali, an entrepreneur brilliantly puts it:
“Startups are pressure cookers. Don’t let the casual dress and playful office environment fool you. New enterprises operate under do-or-die conditions. If you do not roll out a useable product or service in a timely fashion, the company is will fail. Bye-bye paycheck, hello eviction”.
The statement is particularly true when working in a management team for startup.
So, when you are hiring new team members, your first step is to make sure whether they have realistic job expectations sans the glamorous Hollywood flair.
Now let’s move on to some more practical tips on creating a team for a startup.
- Identify The Positions You Need To Fill in
While a lot of your team members will end up being the jacks of all trades (which is mainly a good thing), having a defined startup team structure in mind before you start calling peeps for the interview is essential to keep your budgets at bay.
Do you really need to hire a PR professional and an inbound marketer? Considering the overall, most likely one experienced person can do this job pretty great.
- Prioritize The Hiring Process
So, who do you hire first?
The answer heavily depends on your current business goals and the benchmarks your investors have set.
There’s no point in hiring Android developers, for instance, if your iOS product version is far from perfection just yet.
Hiring a larger sales and marketing team is certainly important if your main goal is to double those revenues. However, you may want to skip those in favor of more experienced developers, who will help you build a more marketable product in the first place.
For startups, it’s important to hire professionals based on the current needs, not just because you have found a seemingly nice professional in a certain area.
- Hiring vs. Partnering
This step should be part of your prioritization strategy. Do you really need all the hires to be in-house?
For instance, do you really need an in-house designer on a salary when you are likely to have an irregular workload for them? Outsourcing certain business operations allows you to stay more agile, avoid having a mouth to feed when there’s no work/income and tap into the skill sets you can’t afford to hire locally.
- Full Time vs. Contract Work
Hiring someone full-time is a big commitment. On the contrary, getting per contract labor on board leaves you with more room to wiggle in case something goes wrong.
Again, you won’t have to cash out whenever there’s no work to do or fire anyone as relationships with contractors can be added less painfully (you simply don’t call them for the second round).
The safe route here is to offer contract work at the beginning to certain prospects, and offer them to transition to a full-time position after the “trial” period. Of course, not all the potential employees may feel comfortable with such an arrangement, but the freelance workforce is steadily on the rise and expected to comprise half of the working population in the US by 2020.
- Finding The Best Prospects
As spoken in the beginning, there are certain people geared towards working in a startup and picking up the work pace more effectively.
Where do you find those enthusiasts?
Start networking more. Attend local startup/freelance events, hackathons, and conferences. Tap into your personal network when it comes to potential freelance/remote contract employees.
Speak to other founders and ask who helped to develop their app, design, marketing campaigns etc. High chances are that they won’t mind sharing a few names if the experience was positive.
Connect with more people on LinkedIn. Look for professionals with the required skill set in your area and those, who already have the “startup experience” on their portfolios.
Be proactive and expand your professional network. Filling up new positions will become a breeze once you push your name and your company’s name to the respective community out there!
Slava Bushtruk is CEO+Founder of Alty, Inc. He’s been in software and app development for nearly a decade with over 75 successful projects under his belt, ranging from startups to enterprise clients. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or shoot a quick hi at firstname.lastname@example.org.