Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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6 Keys To Building an All Star Team for Your Startup

There comes a time in every startups life cycle where a team is necessary and talent must be recruited. Of course the time period will vary according to the startup, however, one thing remains consistent; you (and your co-founder) cannot do it all by yourself(s). Today we’re going to be giving you 6 keys to building an all star team of talent for your startup – two great ways to find talent, and four ways to foster high performance. 




1. Referrals

Good talent knows good talent.






Referrals are proven to be a faster, cheaper, and more effective way of finding talent than traditional recruitment methods (e.g. job-postings, job boards). Strong referral programs will turn each of your current employees into a recruiter. In doing so, each new recruit broadens your pool of talent to select from; an exponential model for finding talent.

Rather than having to generate and advertise a job posting, collect and sift through resumes, and then finally book an interview; referrals allow you to jump right into the interview stage. Time is valuable in a startup, and the additional savings in time from a referral program makes all the difference and can even be a competitive advantage; allowing you to recruit and implement talent faster and simply hit the ground running faster than your competitors.



Not only will referrals save you time and money, but they also tend to integrate within the culture and company much faster and smoother. In having a friend who has referred them to the company gives the new hire an additional person they can turn to and ask questions.

Now you may be wondering, what is the key to a great referral program? A great referral program will arise naturally from creating a company culture that is great to work for; in which your employees will naturally want to tell their friends and network about.


2. Universities/Colleges – Internships

They have a fresh perspective and they are hungry for experience. University and College students can be great hires for a startup. For what they lack in experience, they often make up for in offering you something that can be much more rewarding in an employee; a clean slate for molding. University/College students are often free of the stiff-necked/stubborn attitude often accompanied by more experienced recruits. Collaboration and coordination is essential in a startup, and the ability to shape and mold a recruit can be ever so valuable. Combine that with the hunger for a valuable experience and opportunity, and you already have two big intangibles covered for an effective employee – often at a significantly lower cost.   

One of the most popular methods for recruiting talent from Universities and Colleges is offering an internship program; serving as a ‘test-drive for talent’. An internship is a program offered by an employer in which undergraduate or graduate students are offered a placement at a company for a short period of time (often 4 to 8 months). This allows you to find future talent at a reduced price. Though it is for a short fixed period of time, this is actually a great long-run play for any startup. It allows you to learn and improve your on boarding process, get quality performance at a reduced price, and lay the groundwork for future employees.

Not only are interns are often hungry to be high-performing, but they also offer you that fresh perspective to mold (as you wish) according to the role you need filled in your company. Each new intern will offer a new and unique perspective; a great opportunity to learn more about the internal and external functions of your business. For those interns that seem to be a perfect fit within your startup, you have the opportunity to offer them a full-time position after graduation. An internship program is ongoing and can be extremely valuable. Highly recommended for any startup that can afford to do so.

Bonus Hiring tip; In your interview process, make sure you also consider how that particular individual would fit into the culture you are building/have. The greatest employee on paper could also be the worst person to bring in your office. Consider the candidate, your culture, and how the two will fit together.




1. Hire By Talent and Attitude, Not by Skills

Hybrid roles are a lot more common in a startup than specialized roles. Employees are often required to fill a variety of roles, be open to learning new things, and be proactive (a great attitude is absolutely a prerequisite).Therefore when hiring in a startup, more weighting should be given to pure talent and attitude, rather than by experience and specialty. Larger corporations tend to be the opposite; hiring solely by experience and speciality – but thats just because they have an established system in place, something that is ‘already working’.

In a venture that is defined by uncertainty like a startup, the much better move is to hire talent by their overall attitude, potential, and raw talent. Everyday you are going to be learning and adjusting, in turn it is very important that you bring on individuals who are flexible in their role and ability, while also being committed to the company on a deeper level (beyond the position). Ten times out of ten I will take passion and commitment over speciality and previous experience.

The rule of thumb when recruiting for a startup should be ‘hire for attitude, train for skill’. For example, if you hire a young and hungry SDR for your sales team, you can collaboratively mold him/her into the SDR as needed by your company. Whereas if you hire a highly experienced but stiff-necked SDR, you may learn a few things along the way but you will have trouble molding him/her into the role you need filled.

Key takeaway; Hire by attitude, rather than experience.


2. Create a Company Culture That Makes People Want to Come to Work

In order to foster high performance; it is essential you create and maintain a company culture that makes people want to come to work. The two go hand in hand. What does this look like? On a micro it will vary from startup to startup, but on a macro there are some key ingredients common across all well-cultured startups. This includes; an encouraging, supportive, and trusted environment, strong synergy, clearly defined goals and alignment, and a value system that reflects the goals and attitudes of the company.

There are many ways to do this, here are a few pointers.

  • Avoid Micromanaging.

Micromanaging can often foster a high stress environment with an undertone that signifies a lack of trust. If you do your due diligence in the hiring and onboarding process, micromanaging won’t be necessary. In place of micromanaging, you should be having semi-frequent meetings and round-tables throughout the organization where goals are aligned, tasks are assigned, and progress is communicated.


  • Foster Encouragement.

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” You should be encouraging everything from innovation and new ideas, to the personal development of your colleagues. Not only will encouraging new ideas and innovation evolve your business into a more advanced form, but it will better engage your employees. One of the worst things an employee can feel is feeling like their voice isn’t heard or doesn’t hold weight in an organization. An environment that lacks encouragement of new ideas is often correlated to a higher turnover rate (especially in a startup). Encouragement of personal development and genuinely caring for those you work alongside of will produce fantastic synergy. Keep in mind, the attitudes of an organization trickle down from the top. Employees will look to leadership for the norms of a company culture.Therefore, you as the leader of your startup must be setting these norms. More on that in #4.  


  • Care For Your Employees

Consider the Hawthorne effect; people’s productivity tends to increase whenever they feel they are cared about. Therefore, make a significant effort to get to know your employees beyond work, build healthy relationships with them, and ultimately care for them. This will have a ripple effect throughout the organization and will prove to foster an environment similar to a second family. With the amount of time you will be spending together at work, there is no other way it should be. This is a great way to increase both, employee morale and productivity.

Key takeaway; Avoid micromanaging, foster encouragement, and care for your employees


3. Lead by Example; Set Norms and Expectations Through Your Actions

As humans we have been raised to take after our leaders. Even before we learned how to communicate verbally, it has long been ingrained in us to follow and ‘mimic’ the actions of our leader. This rings ever so true in a startup; you as the leader of the group must set the norms and expectations not through your words, but by your actions. Attempting to simply dictate responsibilities and never demonstrating or showing that you yourself, are also willing to do the dirty work, is a recipe for failure. Your employees simply won’t be able to respect you.

By this logic, you must consider the type of employees you want to have and what should be expected of them. Once you decide that, you must lead by example and never stray away from rolling your sleeves up and being hands on with a task they are working on. Not saying this is necessary for each and every task (which would be a sacrifice to efficiency), but always working hard in your own tasks while also being there for your employees will prove to be an extremely effective strategy in fostering high performance. Whatever mentality you have will permeate throughout the entire organization; so if you want a high performing, collaborative, and closely-knit team – you as the leader of the organization must be high performing, collaborative, and make an effort to build healthy relationships (beyond work).


Key Takeaway: Your actions will permeate throughout the entire organization, employees will follow suit. – Set the norms through your own actions.


4. Keep Everyone in the Loop and Sell The Vision (Frequently)

In a startup, the ‘vision’ is often the light at the end of the tunnel. It is what keeps someone going, what makes one work hard, and is what drives the advancement of a startup into a successful venture.

Meetings, meetings, meetings. Do them one on one, do them together by division/department, and do them together as an organization. Depending on the size of the startup, the frequency of these will differ. All startups must have frequent meetings on both the micro and macro scale. Including one on ones, division meetings, and organization meetings. 

Let’s say you’re a startup in the 5 to 10 range of employees; in these circumstances you should be ensuring

  • One on one meetings are happening with each of your employees once a week (if you have a co-founder, you can divide this with them depending on who oversees who)
  • Leadership meetings with your co-founders or managers at least once a week.
  • Division/department meetings once a week at the beginning of each week.
  • Organization-wide meetings bi-weekly.


This is going to do two things;

1. Ensure coordination, direction, and progression towards the micro and macro goals of your organization.

2. Provide you with the opportunity to ‘re-spark’ your employees’ motivation

  • The ability to ‘re-spark’ your employees’ motivation and belief in the companies vision can only come from a genuine place. Only those with the vision, the belief in attainability, and the commitment to seeing things through, are able to do this. Consider it a super power. Often it is the founder (co-founder), CEO, or other C-level individuals who are able to do this in an organization. It is absolutely essential if you want to foster high performance for a sustained period of time, or, if you need to stimulate motivation amongst an employee or group.

Key Takeaway: Use group meetings and one on ones as a tool for both, coordination and sparking motivation throughout your organization.


Thank you for reading!

“Human capital is the most important investment you can make in your startup.”