This post by Blackstone Content Correspondent Summer Suleiman originally appeared on ideavillage.org.
This month, On The Inside, we’re talking startup teams. So many entrepreneurs say that building a successful company requires a great team. So, we asked Idea Village alumChapterSpot, a web platform that helps fraternities and sororities organize their members’ information, and who recently hired twelve full-time employees, what it takes to build a solid startup team. ChapterSpot co-founder, Joe McMenemon, offered up some advice.
Q: What is a great team to you?
A great team is group of people that, when working together, is able to perform greater collectively than the sum of the output of each member individually. Traits of a great team are a range of skills including, the ability to communicate efficiently, focus on achieving a shared goal and, most of the time, a group of people that really enjoy working together. Success is a lot more fun when you respect the people that worked hard with you to achieve it.
Q: The startup phase is such a critical time for a business. So much hinges on the people you have in the trenches with you. What do you look for in your team?
With our team we always talk about “care and capability”. We need everyone to care about their work and the company’s overall success. We also need to make sure we have people on the team that have the skill set be successful in their responsibilities.
Q: What are the most important qualities you look for in people you bring on your team?
First, and most importantly, we look for people that we can trust. This is tricky to screen for in the hiring process, which is why personal references are really valued.
Next, we look for people who have a skill set that can help the team move forward.
Lastly, we look for people that other members of our team would enjoy working with. For this, we look for people that have diverse interests, are flexible (low maintenance), and bring passion to their day-day lives.
Q: How important is the team to a successful startup?
The whole goal of a startup is to not be one anymore. You really can’t succeed without growing and to do that you need a great team that can take an initial idea and bring out its full potential. You have such a small margin of error when you are growing a company that you can’t waste resources, like time and money. The ability to attract talented people and make sure they are working together really is the difference between a good idea and a successful venture.
Q: Let’s be honest. What are some of the red flags founders should beware of when building a team?
There are a few non-starters, such as integrity issues. You want to move fast in making a change if you see anything that would make you lose trust in a team member.
Performance issues are a bit more complicated. If someone on the team is not performing, then you need to make sure the issue is really due to poor performance instead of something more systematic. Before making a performance based change you want to make sure the team member understands their responsibility and has the right tools and guidelines to be successful in their job.
If they are not, then this is not the right fit for them and you need to make a change. If this is the case, then either the responsibilities of the position changed, which means you didn’t understand your needs before hiring, or there was a breakdown in the hiring process that needs to be addressed to prevent the same mistake from happening again.
Q: What’s the hardest part about leading a team when you’re the founder of a company?
You want to give everyone clear runways each day to be productive. To do that you need to be sure everyone knows their responsibilities and what they need to do to be successful. Making sure no ones’ runways intersect can be challenging.
Q: Your business is your baby. You birthed it and watched it grow. Is it hard to step back and let your team do their job? If so, how do you learn to do that?
I think this is more exciting than it is hard. If you have a great team of talented people that you trust, then handing off responsibilities means they are going to get it done better, and with more attention. The hard part is not turning over responsibilities, it is finding the right people to turn them over to.