The Art And Science of Building A Startup Dream Team

We hear it practically every day in the startup world. Building a great team is your single best chance of winning. Despite its importance, the science and the art of building great startup teams is still largely a mystery, even in 2015.

The challenge is, building the perfect startup team is hard. Occasionally it can be brutally difficult.

The Challenges of Building the Right Team

Let’s consider the facts. According to the Startup Genome Report, 92% of all startups fail. We certainly believe that companies in Colorado have better success rates than the national average, that said, the ones that succeed will often point to their team’s talent and drive as the reason they were able to defy the odds. Why then, when your company’s very survival is at stake, would you risk the future of your company on a coin flip? Or worse, hire someone on a hunch or an online code test?

Team Building Best Practices

At Technical Integrity, we have spent years building startup teams in Boulder and Denver. While there are no shortcuts to building the perfect startup team, here are some things to consider.

1) Culture Matters Most

While this seems self-explanatory, you’d be surprised at how many startups get sucked into the trap of the perfect hire who just doesn’t fit the culture. The candidate may have the perfect experience from the perfect school, with the perfect skill set. None of those things matter if you if there is not a cultural fit. Without a cultural match, the hire is doomed to fail costing your company dearly in terms of money, but perhaps more importantly- in terms of lost time. We use several ways to gauge fit, including using tools like the ones that our friends at RoundPegg in Boulder have created.

2) Hire Team Members That Enjoy Teaching and Mentoring

As Tim Howes, former VP Engineering at Yahoo, points out, being able to scale your teams with members that excel and (and ideally enjoy) spreading best practices will help you grow faster. You certainly need to re-evaluate your team’s needs regularly, but Tim puts it best in saying “(these types of folks) actively teach others, their techniques spread, and your organization is actually better off for it, especially at scale. When you see someone with this type of influence, reward them and give them a platform to do even more.”

3) Embrace Diversity

Great startup teams rarely are made up of a bunch of people who think alike. Founders that seek out people that will agree with their perspective rarely win. The most profitable teams are often the most diverse teams. Not only in age, race, sex, and other ways that traditionally define diversity but also in the diversity of thought, education, and experience. In short, surrounding yourself with people that do not see the world through your lens can be incredibly valuable.

4) The Right Person At The Right Time Is Critical

I heard a story recently of a high-profile Denver startup that hired a VP of Sales away from a large multinational software company. On the surface, the hire seemed perfect. The company needed to grow sales, and their new executive had a talent and track record for taking products from concept to millions in sales.

The problem?

Timing.

The product wasn’t ready to ship. Within weeks the “perfect hire” was bored and frustrated while the product went through another necessary iteration. It ended predictably in an early separation less than three months in. The perfect hire at the wrong time can be as bad as hiring the wrong person at the right time.

Technical Integrity’s Approach to Team Building

We believe that the traditional approach to recruiting is broken.. We’ve seen organizations live and die by the speed in which they can build teams, and of course – products. We have embraced the idea of Managed Team Building based purely on attaining a client’s goals.

Managed Team Building addresses the misalignment of traditional contingency recruiting and the model affords us the ability to truly get to know our partner companies, and work with them as an extension of their brand. We ensure that our partners treat recruits as they would their most valued customers. Would you just not respond to a prospective customer that expressed interest in your product? Probably not…but that happens all the time with candidates and, as you can imagine, they are not exactly raving fans after that negative interaction.

We emphasize very candid discussions about priorities, departed executives and founders, product failures that perhaps have you behind schedule, PR gaffes, past layoffs, and management styles across divisions- to name a few.

Then, and only then, do we set out to find the right team to help you meet your pre-determined goals. We help you use best practices in onboarding to ensure a smooth transition. We act as a truly dedicated partner to our clients. From the creation of the detailed job description to the new team member’s first day- acting on behalf of the company, while remaining true to the dreams of each candidate- we are there with you. We’ve become experts in remaining faithful to both parties, and our dedication to both enables our partner companies to focus on their business while we focus on building your team.

In the end- the cost of making the wrong team hires can be staggering. Having the right partner to help steer clear of the common and costly pitfalls can be truly invaluable to scaling a successful startup.