The Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Building a Winning Team

4 Critical Employee Traits Necessary for Success

“I want to keep people out, not let people in. I only want people who will be highly productive. The last thing I need is to pay someone $10,000 per month and get nothing for it,” said my brilliant entrepreneur friend Jim Grady.

Jim Just Got Funding

Jim closed his seed round at $1.4mm, which included a VC. He is aiming to solve a very big problem for a very big market, package delivery for multi-family homes. There are already other players in the space, and the market is starting to buy…a lot. His solution will prove to be more cost effective and scalable. Plus, it will transform a cost center into a profit center.

“I want the most bang for the buck. I’ve done five startups, and I learned there is no easier way to burn cash than to hire people. So I want to keep the payroll low to give me time to get to market lift-off,” he said.

“What is the profile an entrepreneur should be looking for at this critical stage?” he asked.

Startup Employees Are a Unique Breed

Startup employees have a very rare DNA. These are the people who join companies when there is an entrepreneur and a vision and not much else. There may be the beginnings of a product. But there are more ideas on how to improve the product than there is a product. The market is ill-defined and unproven, but prospective buyers are all interested.

Something about how the entrepreneur describes what they will do in the future grabs these people. That something won’t let go. They have to join. They love these types of environments.

Who Are These Startup Employees?

These employees adore the entrepreneur. They connect with the entrepreneur on a deep level and finish each other’s sentences. These are the people who grow the company to viability. When the company begins to need its first layer of management, these people sometimes explode. More times than not, there is an acrimonious divorce from the founder. However, without these gifted people, the startup is a nonstarter.

Four characteristics of the core early startup team:

1. They love the simple organizational structure

These employees are attracted to the simple organizational structure. There is the entrepreneur and everybody else. This structure makes for amazingly fast and effective communication. When a decision is made, everybody in the startup knows instantly. No meetings. They just know and execute. No wasted time.

The startup people love this environment. The attractiveness is simple. They know everything the entrepreneur is thinking the moment he thinks it. The entrepreneur hears ideas and learnings of the team quickly. This real-time insider transfer of knowledge creates a creative and addicting environment.

2. Jack of all trades and master of none

Generalists are incredibly important to the success of the startup. Everybody on the team has to do whatever is required at any time.

If it is sales, they sell.
If it is development, they develop.
If it is customer training, they train.
If it is customer install, they install.

The learning curve in this kind of environment is steep. And they can’t take a long time to learn; they just have to do. Everything is time-critical, and the critical path changes daily. Fires start unexpectedly.

3. Startup people can only get this kind of rush in a startup

The startup people love to learn. They love to be on the edge between success and failure. This razor edge keeps them at work for ridiculous hours. They know if they succeed, the company will leap ahead. That one sale, that one product change, that successful install, that one accounts receivable collection, it all matters big-time.

4. Startup people know creativity blossoms with constraints

The company does not have the resources normal employees require to do their jobs. The startup people understand this. In fact, they never even question it. They are creative. They match creativity with hard work to make up for little to no resources.

Startup people are only second to the entrepreneur in making something from nothing. Every bit of their creativity is necessary to accomplish what needs to get done. They don’t sit around planning. They are always doing. Execution is king. Delivering something the company can sell is all that counts. Personal to-do lists are company survival lists.

The Essence of a Startup Person

It takes someone who is a little nuts to do their job with few resources. But these startup people love it. They thrive on it. It’s part of the addiction. When they do what no one expected them to do, they feel like Superman. They made a difference they couldn’t make in any other environment.

If you embody these characteristics, then you just might be one of those startup people. You might be the core team member who makes visions into realities.

Startups Are Hot

There seems to be an incubator or accelerator on every corner. Because of this, there is a magnetic pull towards startups. This environment has many believing startups are fun. But they soon realize working in a startup is hard and the pressure is enormous.

What Jim Is Looking For

Jim does not want fun seekers. But if you embody these characteristics and believe in the entrepreneur and his vision, there is no way Jim can keep you out! He’s hiring for head of business development, head of product management, and head of development.

If this is you, email your resume to Jim.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “The Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Building a Winning Team

  1. I read this a week ago in the midst of our FEMA ramp up, but just now getting a chance to respond. This part stuck out to me the most:

    If it is sales, they sell.
    If it is development, they develop.
    If it is customer training, they train.
    If it is customer install, they install.

    I think that is what I love most about Startups. That and which the speed in which things can change when it needs to. Good stuff here.

    • You have always been a startup guy. You don’t wait for direction. You were always chaffing at the bit for more, more, more. And you always exceeded expectations. You are gifted. But you know I’m already a big fan!

  2. On the facet, the most victorious tycoons seem to be the same as everyone else. But, if we observe closely, then we find that in a few key ways they are non-identical and so is the way they build and run their empires. Thus, if anyone is going to lunch his business for the first time, first, he needs to identify his feasible business proposals, by which he can suitably allocate his hour to make the most out of every opportunity. Yes, he has to develop some unique personality traits that will help in building a dream day job that stand the test of time. Moreover, I can say that he must be willing to welcome non-success and must be ready to listen to other successful business people, by which he can grab success without consuming more time.

    • I agree. I especially like that I must be ready for “non-success.” Seeking experienced people’s wisdom is a great way to shortcut the learning for the entrepreneur.

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