Why do 50% of startups fail after 5 years? What is happening within these companies, that after ten years, only 30% are still active?
The reasons for failure can be many, but a key building block for success is finding the right team.
Startups are small - very small. The foundations and fuel of the company are almost entirely derived from the skills of the team behind it. Because generous budgets are a luxury startups do not often enjoy, the available resources are limited to what your small group of ambitious visionaries is bringing to the table.
Everyone in your ranks should be a bit of a workhorse. In a startup, being driven, self-motivated, and passionate are essential. Each one of you would never say no to a task considered too small because you all know that every job is equally critical to the company’s success.
Because these qualities are a given, let’s look at the three people you absolutely need to find for your company.
This is usually the founder or CEO of the company, but the qualities would be equally as beneficial coming from any employee!
A visionary sees the big picture and empowers everyone around them to help build their dreams. Charisma comes naturally to a visionary, who is so impassioned by their ideas that they could get you excited about any new project.
Within the company, the visionary encourages all team members to share their ideas as well. While cultivating a work place culture of open communication and collaboration, they also reach out beyond the company to make connections and establish relationships with investors and partners.
A visionary brings an optimism that will keep you all encouraged through the bumps and hurtles which will inevitably come your way. Just make sure they aren’t too impulsive—a little self-restraint and level-headedness are definitely assets.
The Structure Giver
The Yin to the visionary’s Yang, a structure giver is the person who gives shape to ideas. This person sees the vision and identifies the steps needed to get there.
Defining roles, outlining goals, and monitoring performance fall under this team member’s to-do list.
When looking for the right person to fill this role, you want someone who is reliable, organized, inventive, and being a penny pincher also doesn’t hurt. However, for all of their type A personality traits, they are still adaptable. The structure giver within a startup must always maintain a certain malleability—listening to others, staying approachable, and communicating effectively will ensure the company functions as a democracy, not a dictatorship.
The People Person
You are all working very hard, but please, for your own sake don’t forget you are human beings! Putting your heads down and grinding the days out may be productive for a while, but it will inevitably tire everyone out.
Having someone on your team that is naturally a social butterfly and morale booster will keep the positivity alive. You can usually identify the talkative trait in a face to face interview very quickly, but it's not just about being chatty.
This person should be highly perceptive and able to shift their perspective at key moments. They know when a night out for drinks is needed or if the appropriate solution is to offer a helping hand to a stressed out co-worker. They are the consummate listener and mediator: when someone opens up about a problem, they know how to respond and find a solution.
Think of your people person as your HR department, but because you’re a startup, less of a department and more an invaluable force of positive, compassionate energy.
As you sift through resumes hunting for that perfect combination of dreamer and doer, take a moment to reflect on why these applicants are attracted to working for you. Yes, startups are exciting and offer a chance for rapid personal growth and innovation, but they are also agile, fast-paced, and demanding. Many hopefuls are not aware of how vastly different the attitude and skills needed in this environment are from those in a much larger and more stable organization.
But you do know.
So now, your job is to read between the lines of their carefully crafted cover letters and to find indications of courageousness: a startup is no place for the risk-adverse.
You cannot rely on their self-describing adjectives: so they say they are innovative, but what concrete examples of creative “outside-the-box” thinking can they provide?
Lastly, when you think you really have found the right person, have your entire team interview them. A startup is no place for big egos. Put in a room with the rest of your A+ quality team, an arrogant applicant will likely let their need to be the biggest star in the room slip out.
Don’t rush into hiring someone- hold out for the person who can work with every member of your team. Your company’s life depends on it.