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How to Put Together a Stellar Team for Your Startup

Here's what to consider when building a team that will allow you to set up a solid foundation for any startup to grow.

May El Habachi

Having the right team can make or break any startup. About 90% of startups fail in the first 10 years, according to data by Startup Genome. While it may be easy to pin the failure on not meeting market needs, lack of funding, or scaling too quickly, the common point of failure usually comes down to the people on the ground floor - whether they’re team members or co-founders.

Below are some factors to consider when building a team that will allow you to set up a solid foundation for any startup to grow.

Hiring the right people

Everyone knows that hiring the right people is key. But since startups tend to operate under a lot of pressure, and often in a fast-paced environment, founders may be eager to fill positions quickly, sometimes overlooking important hiring criteria.

Hossam Soliman, an HR professional with over 20 years’ international experience and founder of HR consultancy firm DEXPERT, believes that founders need to look beyond the basics when weighing their options.

“Skills and competencies are important, but they’re not enough,” Soliman tells StartupScene. “Doing the job well is what employees get paid for, but they also need other skills. For example, how are they able to handle challenges? Do they possess entrepreneurial skills? Do they have a growth mindset? These are all factors to consider when making a hiring decision.”

Sharing the startup’s long-term goals and vision is also important. Startups are constantly growing and evolving, and there will be times when the business will struggle. Having the right people on board who are willing to go the extra mile and realize the company’s goals is therefore crucial. “How can I do my job while also aligning with the startup’s growth plans?” Soliman says. “It’s important for employees to maintain an open, flexible mind and be collaborative and cooperative whether with founders or team members. This will help the startup move forward.”

Deciding between co-founders and team members

Some startups have one co-founder while others have several partners. Although there is nothing wrong in wanting to run a startup alone, Albert Malaty - Managing Director of Cairo Seed Program at Flat6Labs, the region’s leading seed and early venture capital firm - believes that having more than one founding team member is usually better for the business.

“First and foremost, it makes the journey a lot less lonely,” Malaty tells StartupScene. “It’s like having a partner, it comes with its pros and cons, but it also enables other people to have vested interest in this business from day one.”

“I advise most companies, especially the ones that don’t have co-founders, to make sure that you have co-founders with the bare minimum complementary skill sets so we can take this business off the ground without hiring a team,” he adds.

Having co-founders is key to attracting investors. According to data published by Small Business Trends, having two co-founders, as opposed to only one founder, increases the odds of a startup’s success with 30% more investment.

“Most investors put a lot of weight on companies with a strong founding team, as opposed to a solo founder with team members,” Malaty explains. However, he advises startups to refrain from approaching friends and family members. With startups usually under a lot of pressure to get things done quickly, some founders will look to friends and family to join the team, but this often results in unsuccessful ventures. “Sometimes it works, but the majority of the time it does not,” he cautions. “You need to take the time to find the correct fit for your business and take it slow.”

Hire for culture fit

Hiring for culture fit means that an organization focuses on hiring skilled talent that fit the company’s values and culture. Proponents of this method believe that it creates for a smoother and more coherent work experience among the team. According to a study by Cornell University, it found that employees with an aligned culture fit were more likely to feel attached and stay longer at the company.

“Hiring for culture fit is a must,” Mona Seleim, experienced culture advisor, tells StartupScene. “You have to attract the right talent in order for them to stay.”

Albert Malaty also agrees that hiring for culture fit is necessary for startups. However, he adds that sometimes founders make the mistake of hiring for personal rather than organizational culture fit. “Am I hiring someone who has a similar culture to mine, as in socio-economic background, or am I hiring someone who is a fit for the culture that I created for this organization? That is the important question,” he tells StartupScene. “A lot of hiring managers tend to look at similarities in personality and culture, whereas business culture and personal culture are two different things. Aligning company culture to the talent pool is actually very important.”

Founders today have a lot on their plates. From creating a product and market fit, to attracting investors, and scaling the company, they often have to wear many hats to lead the startup to success. But none of these things matter if they don’t have the right people on board. That’s why it’s important for founders to take their time when hiring, to ensure that team members are there for the long-term.

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