Need some advice on how to build a team, and determining what kind of talent I need?

I'm a single man non-technical founder. Its a lean startup, and we're doing some killer customer development.


A great team looks like this

- 2 full stack engineers. They can manage servers, security, build features and code front end JS/interactions.
- 1 visual designer focused on product, information architecture, UX and flows.
- 1 front end developer who can take designs and built out killer interactions and can wireup any back end code to the UI

The CEO can manage product + customer development and everyone on the team does support.

That's 5 people and can accomplish a lot!

Answered 7 years ago

Give a Google of "talent triangle". I have found that the majority of successful start ups have people with: Business acumen, domain knowledge and operational experience. E.g. (reverse order) someone who understands how to build it, someone who understands what customers want and someone who can help execute. A hacker, a designer and a hustler.

Of those three corners in the talent triangle what are you weakest on? Let that guide you.

Answered 6 years ago

First, congratulations on giving this important topic some consideration before you find out that your team of 20 don't get along or work productively together!

Building a strong team and determining your talent requirements share one thing in common: clear objectives.

Before you post your first job ad or interview your first candidate, it's imperative to be clear on your company's vision and values. This is as critical a metric for team building as determining what skills you need. You may be successful in hiring skilled and experienced people, but if they don't work well as a team, if they don't respect one another, if they don't challenge each other to grow and get better or support each other when times get tough, then the business doesn't move forward (or worse). Be clear about what you see the company becoming, what core values & guiding principles you expect from yourself and your team, and hire those who demonstrate the greatest passion and humility. This will create a solid environment for amazing teamwork to thrive.

To determine what kind of talent you need, start from the 'top down', not 'bottom up'. Focus on your business goals and objectives first. Creating an org chart and cobbling together individual job descriptions based on your current needs may meet your immediate requirements to get work done, but it may not be scalable, or your resources may not be properly allocated. Think ahead as best you can to ensure that everything that everyone does is working toward achieving your goals and objectives.

I would welcome a call if you would like to talk further, but in the meantime here's a link to a recent eBook I wrote on team building. I hope all of this has been of some help!

Answered 7 years ago

+1 to Dan Martell's answer. Ideally, get yourself a tech cofounder ASAP. Finding the right one is incredibly difficult and frustrating, but critical to your success. You may also need to pre-sell or pay some odeskers to build the MVP in order to convince a tech cofounder to join.

After that, the next person should either be a second engineer (if you're b2b and/or have a complex product) or a designer (if you're b2c). You get more chances to convert a b2b customer if the functionality is there, not so b2c.

As CEO, you should be the one selling it. Don't even think about hiring salespeople or marketers until you have product market fit.

Answered 7 years ago

There are several valuable, practical, and actionable viewpoints offered already. I'll bring a bit more of a long view to the broader question of team building, and suggest some references / best practices that have been incredibly helpful to me repeatedly over several decades.

Startups have a lot of unknowns and a lot of raw talent that is learning along the way. There is a predisposition toward trial and error, when often, in the end, it's easier and less risky to invest your time in understanding best practices and adopt what fits, leaving out what does not fit.

On this thread, Glenn Nishimura posted: "… it's imperative to be clear on your company's vision and values." Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said, "I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn't just one aspect of the game – it is the game." Defining the Culture explicitly, which includes Vision and Values, is the next step after having a great idea. To learn enough about this to do it well, check out:

1. 15 minute TEDtalk by Simon Sinek essentially on Vision and Values - WHY, How, What.
If this resonates with you, drill into his body of work, including his book "Start with Why" or his website

2. Book - Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge (1990 & revised 2006). I read it when it came out and have re-read it about 5 times. It's a great handbook for "programming" a culture that can learn and adapt well because it looks at the context, problems and challenges, from a system theory viewpoint, to invite reflection and response, rather than reaction.

The people and talent you'll need will depend of course on your situation, but there are some guidelines or generalizations based on studies from the lifecycle of a business. The thought leader in this area is UCLA's Anderson School professor Ichak Adizes.
I first read his book in the 1982 and have used it since to figure out what roles are needed and how they evolve at the various very early stages. The website is geared more toward large companies, but if you just study his introductory points, you'll see how applicable it is to startups. Indeed, Dan Martell's post suggesting a certain "great team" is supported by the Adizes' thinking.

To gain a preview of coming attractions of the startup journey and some great practices along the way, I recommend the story of in the book "ReWork" by its founder, Seth Godin.

To get into the head of an entrepreneur and the emotions, vision, and delusions, as well as to see a great example of "prototyping" I suggest the enjoyable film "Tucker, the Man and His Dream".

I hope you find this helpful.

Answered 7 years ago

I have backed many startups. A successful lean team usually has a visionary, a practical person, a sales person and a money person-complementary skills. Decide which of those you are and work from there. If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to keep in touch.

Answered 5 years ago

My experience is based on my industry (retail/restaurant), but many of the principles are the same.
1. It may sound overly obvious, but it cannot be overstated - hiring is critical. You need to determine the role the person(s) will fulfill and then be very systematic in hiring. An accurate application process, interview, second and third interview and follow up must be done.
2. To attract the person(s) you want is more than who they are, it is also who you are. If you don't have a strong and positive image (it may be small at this point, but you still deal with people), create systems, benchmarks and followup on insuring that hires meet their goals, all your work is in vain.
3. Be a company that connects with your community and is a positive influence in your sphere.
4. You should make your need known. Not needy, but if you don't tell people, you'll never know who might have connected with you.
5. Finally, other factors.
a. Pay – not necessarily the most important item, but if the amount of pay and the employee’s needs don’t come close, the relationship will be short-lived.
b. Benefits – many small businesses cannot afford major benefits (health insurance, paid vacation, etc.) but even small benefits are valued.
c. Lifestyle – scheduling, job function and atmosphere should mesh with an employee’s personality.
d. Advancement – responsibilities will enable people to grow in their job.
e. Passion – find and connect with people passionate about your product.
I hope that helps!

Answered 7 years ago

I see very long ansers bu here the the solution is simple, really: hire somebody with a HR background, probably with a degree in philosophy, social scineces or psychology and an extensive network of professionals in the required field.

Answered 5 years ago

You want a Technical Advisor first, and a CTO second.

The rest is really none of your business as a CEO.

In my opinion, you find a capable CTO, make him responsible of product development and leave it at that.

In many cases where technology is shallow you might not even need a CTO.

But hiring people before you have a Tech Advisor, who can answer your question in detail with understanding of your specifics, is likely going to create problems.

Last but not least, I believe the recipe in the first answer is far off the mark: two full stack engineers, one UX and one front end is way too much for most startups - if not all -, you'd be bleeding equity or money for no good reason.

Answered 5 years ago

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