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This article was published on October 2, 2015

5 things to look for in your startup team

5 things to look for in your startup team
George Deeb
Story by

George Deeb

George Deeb is the Managing Partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a growth consulting, advisory and executive staffing firm based in George Deeb is the Managing Partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a growth consulting, advisory and executive staffing firm based in Chicago. You can follow George on Twitter at @georgedeeb and @RedRocketVC.

Once you determine if you have a good business idea or not, the first step in building your business is putting the right team in place.  There are five key drivers to consider when setting up your management team:

(1) the required skill sets for the job

(2) prior experience with startups

(3) a personality fit with the rest of the team

(4) shared vision with the rest of the team

(5) fire in the belly

The Right Skillsets; and 2. Prior Startup Experience

Let’s talk about the first two together, as they go hand in hand.  You’d think it would be pretty self-explanatory that for a Chief Marketing Officer hire, as an example, you should find a candidate with strong marketing skills. 

But, the tactics differ for different types of marketing vehicles (e.g., digital, print, TV, direct mail), different industries require different expertise (e.g., e-commerce business vs. catalog business) and B2C companies require different skillsets vs. B2B companies (e.g., marketing vs. sales skills). 


So, it is important prior to hiring, to make sure you find someone that has deep knowledge of your specific industry and has successfully scaled up businesses within your desired budget range.  

For example, don’t put a $1BN budget Proctor & Gamble CMO, in charge of your $1MM start-up budget. The P&G guy most likely only knows how to build brands with big teams and big budgets, not how to organically and virally grow your business on the cheap in new kinds of ways (e.g., social media, mobile, SEO), rolling up his sleeves and doing it himself on a shoestring.  So, past start-up experience is a definite plus.

2. The Right Personality Fit

As we all know, startups are a 24/7 type of job. So, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your co-workers.  It is critical there is a good personality fit between the team, as in those late night hours, the last thing you need is someone getting on your nerves. 

Or, having one member of your inner circle the pariah within the company that nobody wants to work with.  You don’t have time for these types of issues while you are trying to win the start-up race.

4.  Shared Vision

Equally important, it is critical that each member of your team share a consistent vision on exactly what you are building.  As an example, let’s say we want to build a car, which seems clear enough at the 30,000 foot view. 

Startup Stock Photos

But, when you drill down to the specifics, it is important the team know we are all specifically building a mini-van for families, not an SUV, or a pickup truck or a luxury sedan, which appeal to different user markets, have different costs to build and require different marketing tactics.

5. Fire in the Belly

And, most importantly, it is critical that all involved have a deep passion for the product and fire in the belly in order to move at light speed and quickly own your market.  This is not a 9 to 5 job. This is a passion you are living and breathing in real time. 

Going back to our Chief Marketing Officer example, somebody that has come from a cushy role, managing a big team of employees with private secretaries and big budgets, most likely is going to have a really tough time going back into the trenches, rolling up their sleeves, and putting in the required long hours.

So, in the words of Bo Schembechler, the former Michigan football coach at my alma mater: it is all about “The Team! The Team! The Team!” that will ultimately win you your championship.

Read Next: 14 ways to bootstrap finance your startup

Image credit: Shutterstock

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