The start of the NFL season is just days away, and for most teams, hopes are high. But the first week is when the preparation rubber hits the performance road; when every franchise starts to find out whether or not they've managed to put together a winning team.

The same is true for your small business, except the "scoreboard" shows your results a lot more frequently than once a week. Especially early on -- and especially if you're bootstrapping and using every dollar of revenue generated to fuel your operations -- startup success is measured in days, not weeks or months.

But still, putting together a great startup team is a lot like putting together a great football team. Skills matter. So does experience, attitude, leadership ability, passion, drive and persistence.

As you build your own startup team, try taking a few pages from the NFL's playbook:

Hire passionate people who are ready to adapt roles.

Skills and experience matter. That's why every team would love to have a franchise player like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Saquon Barkley. But those kinds of players -- and those kinds of employees -- are few and far between.

What you can find are people with great attitudes, and the ability to learn quickly.

After all, every startup evolves and pivots to some degree. When that happens, what you originally hired an employee to do may no longer be valuable. So look for people who quickly can learn new skills, especially if they possess outstanding motivation, work ethic, and dedication.

You want someone who is willing to put new skills -- or, really, any skills -- to work in order to help the team.

Look hard enough and you might find your own Julian Edelman-- a college quarterback who happily switched to wide receiver -- and in the process see that employee became an All-Pro, Super Bowl-winning player.

Hire team players.

Everyone says culture is critical. Fewer people talk about how you need to be intentional about the culture you create. And how the culture you build is a direct result of the people you hire.

Take New England Patriots special team captain Matthew Slater as an example. Slater embodies the "Patriot Way": avoiding the limelight, putting the team's needs first, and doing his job. Other players credit him as the heart and soul of the team and a role model for new players who need to learn how to fit in.

Slater isn't the best player on the team. He's not the fastest, strongest, most talented, but he is the perfect player for the culture. He's the ultimate team player.

The premise also extends to attitude. Say your business has a do-it-yourself culture. In this case, if you hire people who don't love to dive in and get things done -- regardless of role or job description -- your overall execution speed will decrease while your business will suffer.

Every small business needs at least a few people who help take its culture to the next level. People who set the tone. Who set expectations. Who motivate and inspire and praise and develop the people around them. Who help make other people better -- and, in the process, make your business better.

Don't only fill a need, but instead hire the best player available.

NFL teams typically select players based on need: to fill an open position, to upgrade the talent at a certain position, to bring in players whose talent is better suited to a new system, etc.

But occasionally, even if they don't "need" a specific athlete, a team will bring in a great player simply because he's available. (If DeAndre Hopkins is available, I'm taking him -- even if I already have Julio Jones.)

Once again, that's because superstars are few and far between.

At LogoMix, we hired a few outstanding employees before we actually had the "need." One, they were too talented to let get away, and two, superstars find a way to fill that "need" gap. A great leader will inspire and develop an existing team to such a degree that the results pay off the salary investment. A great salesperson will generate new sales to such a degree that the results pay off the salary investment.

In most cases it makes sense to find the best person to accomplish the tasks you need to be accomplished; in short, to meet a genuine need. But sometimes it makes even better sense to hire a superstar you don't actually need.

When you hire superstars, your business tends to grow to such an extent that you truly do need them.

Published on: Aug 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.