4 Secrets for Growing Your Start-up Team (That No One Ever Tells You)

April 6, 2016

Category: Entrepreneurship

Fact: Start-ups and small businesses have limited resources. For that reason, the team you hire to make your big idea a reality plays an important role in your success. But finding the right people to help your company grow can be a challenging task, especially when early-stage founders and CEOs don’t always have the experience necessary to recruit and build a team.

So, what do entrepreneurs need to keep in mind when hiring? Keep reading to find out.

How to Build Your Start-up Team

Hire transformational employees early on. Building a team at the same time you’re growing your business may seem like a tall order, but investing in the right people now will pay big dividends later. Transformational employees usually wear many hats in your organization, and have the power to drive your business forward with their work ethic, scrappiness, and focus on execution. Andrew Chen calls them “T-shaped” people: They have broad knowledge of an industry, which allows them to work with different team members, combined with deep knowledge or expertise in one specific area. They won’t always be the type of employee you need the most, but in the critical early stage, transformational employees are essential.

Make it feel like a family. Think back to that one job you absolutely loved. Remember it? At least part of what made it awesome was that your coworkers were significant contributors to your success, just like a real family. They cared about your work, helped you achieve the best outcomes, and were vulnerable in ways that made collaboration fruitful. Make it your mission to create a workplace that feels like that. As Don Charlton, founder and CEO of Jazz aptly states, “That closeness–and the desire to be there for each other–that energy can drive a business.”

Treat your employees like adults. Steve Jobs is famous for the quote, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This couldn’t be more applicable to the start-up environment. If you work hard to hire a talented and transformational employee, you have to step back and let them do their job. Guidance is important, but micromanaging your best people can only lead to frustration and disengagement in the workplace.

Develop a (real) culture. Culture is more important than many entrepreneurs and small business owners realize. According to David Hauser, co-founder and former CTO of Grasshopper, developing a healthy culture with core values and clear purpose is more important than your product will ever be. So, how do you start building a meaningful culture at your startup? Tie it to specific business outcomes and make it measurable with employee happiness surveys and projects tied to remedying the challenges they surface.

Realize You’ll Need to Change Your Strategy in the Future

As your company is growing, you’ll need different types of employees at different stages of growth. These employees aren’t lesser than their early-stage counterparts, rather, they’re the solution to the ever-changing landscape of your business needs. Leverage the culture you’ve built to bring new people into the fold and use your core values to maintain consistency across all types of employees you hire.


Sonja writes on company culture, employee engagement, and growth. With an M.A. in sociology and a background in business, she's fascinated by people, art, and social movements.

Category: Entrepreneurship

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