A great team is a key to the success of a startup. Startup founders are very passionate about their business – successes are an emotional high and when the company is in trouble, that is all the founders think about.
Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that the team at an early stage startup is much more than just a set of employees.
Sam Altman, the founder of the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator, points out
“Mediocre people at a big company cause some problems, but they don’t usually kill the company. A single mediocre hire in the first five will kill a startup.”
However, it is important to remember that metrics that attract corporate employers, such as a track record at prestigious companies or a top-tier MBA are not benchmarks of someone being the perfect team member of a startup.
Great startup team members can be found in unusual places because they are less likely to be looking for a standard career path.
One of the basic thing while hiring a team member is to check if the person is suited for a startup environment. Attitude is more important than experience. While hiring it is important to ask few questions – if a potential hire is smart, can get things done and if the employer would want to spend a lot of time with them. If the answers to all three are yes, then this is likely to be a good hire.
Waverly Deutsch, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says,
“Building a company is different to management.”
She opines that in a startup no one sits and makes strategies. MBAs and corporate managers can overvalue strategy at the cost of execution because they think the strategy is a job in itself.
Those at the start of their career are better suited to work in a startup, than those who have climbed up the corporate ladder.
It is important for the employer to understand the problem-solving capabilities which can be tested by case methods.
While it is normal for large companies to review applications, interview and then offer jobs, startups need to be much more reliant on their networks.
The risks of getting a hire wrong are much higher in a startup and thus the hiring process needs to take longer and be more thorough. Sometimes, the hiring process can take as much time as an average of 6 months to hire someone for a startup.
In startups, business and emotion are intertwined, especially in the early stages. It is this meeting of passion and business that makes teams work hard, build great products with tiny resources and overcome the odds.
However, none of this is possible if team members cannot or will not band together around their mission. A strong startup team braving a problem is a rare picture as it takes time, effort, luck and wisdom to build.