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Start-up Teams: Are They a Special Breed?

If you look at research on why start-ups don’t make it, the wrong team is among the top reasons.

– Niel Patel

It is worth arguing though that the right team in any organization, start-up or Fortune 500, will pivot it to massive success. However, the nature of a start-up lends fragility and immediacy to it, and therefore requires affixing round holes in round pegs to grow it rapidly.

In other words, certain attributes are required of this team that we will call the founder’s team. Five of such are highlighted below

1. Founder first.

The right team begins with the founder.

No founder or co-founder is a superhero; s/he can not do it all. Yes, it is possible to wear more than one hat in the business but for how long will this endure? Especially for those tasks requiring technical skillsets. Before hiring a team with key competencies for the start-up’s growth, the founder(s) must acknowledge his/her strengths and weaknesses, and set out to complement them accordingly.

2. Proactive People.

Years ago, a friend of mine once interviewed for a job in a start-up. She confessed that the final question stunned her: ‘Can you do the job?’ It was so unexpected she almost answered in the negative.

Start-ups need people who can accomplish things, people with hard skills. Ideas are good but execution is better. Actions transform an idea into a genuine, income-making venture. And start-ups, more than established businesses, demand a large helping of such action people to move things along.

On average, it takes six months to hire someone for a start-up.

– Forbes

3. People who understand and buy into the start-up vision.

This ought to be a topic of discussion for all organizations, regardless of size or years of existence. From the doorman to the cleaner. Because creating a vision and selling it to the team is a crucial part of success. Even more so for a start-up.

Team members who are invested in the big picture and have aligned it with their personal goals are never short of motivation; they overperform and overdeliver on their duties, disseminating positive and productive energy with their work.

RELATED POST: Is Working With A Start-up Really Ideal For You?

4. People who recognize the importance of customer service.

My very first job, right out of the university, was as a receptionist at a non-governmental organization. The role schooled me on many workplace qualities particularly patience, endurance and the ability to smile when all I wanted to do was scream.

I’d discover later that the position was a rite of passage for every member of the organisation because the boss wanted us effectively trained in the customer service function.

What’s the point of this?

Well, no one department holds the monopoly for customer service; it should be a collective and deliberate effort by every staff to do right by the consumer. If the team always make the customers their primary focus, half of the organization’s issues are solved, and meeting revenue goals will be no trouble.

This applies to established businesses as well, but it’s even more pertinent for a start-up. It translates into every staff member being engaged in sales and/or marketing duties in one form or the other. Start-up teams must be trained with the right mindset to serve.

Experience alone does not make a team successful — soft skills such as “entrepreneurial passion” and “shared strategic vision” are required as well.


5. Long-term People.

Research says that about 50% of employed people still seek new job opportunities. Start-ups would do well to steer clear from those who use companies as revolving door. That the business is a start-up does not necessarily mean the team behind it should be one as well. The start-up phase is temporary; the team is not. A start-up requires people who will lead key functions from the get-go, according to the organization’s structure, and cause no friction when the time comes to scale the business or expand the team.

In the end, start-up teams are not a special breed, equipped with superhuman powers and unique qualities. They are just regular start-up employees who get the job done, run with the vision, value customer service and are in it for the long haul. They are folks putting in extra to make a start-up succeed and continue to do so.

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