Nargis Jafferali, owner of blazon social media agency, considers how start-ups can build their team
When you’re launching a startup, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your very first venture, or your fiftieth…it’s hard work and a challenging process. Fact. Most founders start that journey either completely alone or alongside a trusted co-founder, however it’s a long way to go until you have a team to support your business.
So, what are some of the most important considerations to make when you’re thinking about your team and how to build it up? We break down some of our top tips to think about:
Hard in the initial stages
The vast majority of founders will embark on launching their startup business completely solo from the beginning. It’s an early idea, a mere concept at this stage, and you may not even have done your market research to test out whether it’s commercially viable at all. So, it’s unadvisable nor is it realistic to have team members at this stage.
Sure, it doesn’t make the early stages any easier for you, with the pressure of establishing a business framework resting entirely on your shoulders, and an early founder having to take on each and every role of the business themselves. No easy feat. But then startup land is not for the faint-hearted either, is it?!
Be prepared to put in those long hours, to make those tough decisions alone, to wear more hats than you ever thought could possibly fit on your head. The early solo journey is hard and rocky, but it’s massively crucial too. These early learnings about your market space, your customers’ feedback and your own self will set the precedent for your business to come, and it’s the rite of passage that needs to be done. No question.
Timing is everything
So, when you have the confidence that your startup has legs – perhaps you’ve already got your first paying customers, or enough valuable user feedback to determine the need for your business – then you need to consider when is the right time to make that all-important first hire for your new team. And this decision is one that stumps many a founder.
If you hire your first ‘employee’ (the terms of their contract with you are irrelevant, as the considerations remain similar whether you’re dealing with interns, freelancers, part-timers, full-timers etc) too early on, there could be unnecessary pressures placed on your delicate finances. If you’re yet to sign up a paying customer, or only have a handful, then chances are you’re still bootstrapping the business anyway – paying a wage too early on adds more risk to your circumstances.
There’s also the pressure of unrealistic workload expectations for your new hire. You’ve hired them and said they’ll be managing X, Y and Z, but perhaps your predicted clients don’t sign up, or you lose customers – then what does your new team member do? Without the security of an established business at this stage, it’s tough to predict too far ahead, and that places an element of risk upon your new hire.
On the other hand, founders should not leave it too late before bringing in someone to help them. If you’ve been managing so many things for a long time yourself, chances are you’re already stretched quite thin, and under significant pressure. The risk attached with letting standards slip don’t seem worth it – what’s the point of risking losing all your hard work, by simply not realising you’re drowning in pressure and need help?
Timing is crucial when building a new team, and it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons carefully to make the best decision for your individual startup.
Long term vision
Having temporary help for your business may be great support in the short-term, particularly when you’re still trying to establish yourself and finding your feet, but a really successful startup will benefit from having people on board that are ready to grow with you.
Finding individuals with the right skillset and experience is essential of course but finding people that share your vision and prepared to embark on a journey with you, are worth their weight in gold. These types of characters become so much more than ‘hired help’, they’ll be adding some serious extra value to your processes, perhaps offering important feedback, creative suggestions and supportive encouragement.
Team members that are looking to grow with your startup can often be far more productive too. Being hired for a job at your company that enables more accountability and getting more involved in the decisions can add tons to the overall appeal and job satisfaction – all great for general employee satisfaction.
So, when you’re finally ready to make that next hire, how do you go about it and what things should you keep in mind? Recruitment should be an honest, transparent process, bearing in mind to always be realistic about the job role and the situation of the company with the candidate where appropriate. Whilst it’s good to be flexible and accommodating as an employer, it’s also important to stay true to the objectives of your startups too – whether it’s wages, hours, responsibilities or something else that comes up during the hiring process, a founder must be vigilant not to deviate too far away from what they’re able to offer. Desperation is a killer, but stay true to your goals, and the right person will come your way, eventually.
In the early stages, a founder will have done everything themselves, so naturally the handover process will be a tough step to undertake. Think about making that process as simple as possible, perhaps thinking about organising processes and systems in a clear format that’s easy for someone else to understand and pick up quickly. Over time, the handover process will become more routine and far easier, but the majority of founders find those first stages challenging and often frustrating. So, hang in there, you’re not alone, and remember, your new hire is supposed to be there to make your life easier!
The number one piece of advice to all founders has to be about learning from mistakes. Not every startup is the same, not every founder is the same and not every journey is the same. And throw in a bunch of circumstances and roadblocks that are beyond your control – and it’s one hot mess! But, if you’re able to remain fluid in your approach, constantly adapting yourself, constantly challenging the status quo, and always trying to improve the process, then you’ve a greater chance of success.
Building a team is a necessary and thoroughly exciting part of building your startup – do it right, and at the right time, and you’re laughing!