In the early days of most startups, you are your business. You wear every hat, fill every role... your motto is, "If it is to be, it's up to me."
If you want to grow, though, eventually you can't do it all. You want people on that wall with you. You need people on that wall. (Hi, Jack.)
But how do you choose the right people? What are the attributes and characteristics new employees need to create an ideal A-team?
A smart business owner knows the importance of building a strong leadership team -- one that can bring your vision to life and effectively run the various areas of your business. It's particularly important as your company makes the transition from a small startup, where founders take calls from customers and can shout to each other across the garage, to a mid-size business employing hundreds.
As most companies grow, they hit an inflection point when they require a totally different type of leadership style and need to adjust their hiring criteria. Obviously, you want to continue to hire smart people with a passion for your business. But what are the other things you need to look for?
Keep these qualities in mind as you go about hiring your own small business A-team.
1. Deep functional knowledge.
When your business is small, you need people who can wear many different hats and step in to fight fires, wherever they might pop up. But as your company grows, it's no longer feasible to bring the executive team in on every decision.
And it's not as important to have people who can work well cross-functionally. You need leaders with deep functional knowledge so you can delegate to them and then step away.
Let them worry about their areas, so you don't have to.
2. Managerial skills.
Young startups are often filled by highly-creative, superstar individual contributors. The kind of people who are motivated by praise and will work at warp-speed to deliver their projects.
And while I don't mean to imply that you don't need creative, energetic people as your company grows, other skills become important too. As your staff grows, managerial experience becomes critical. You don't just need people who can deliver; you need people who can help others deliver.
Look for new hires with experience in growing and developing teams of their own.
3. Customer-first mentality.
Every business starts out with an idea that addresses a customer need. When you're small, almost everyone on your team is in contact with customers, but as your business grows, it's easy to get out of touch. And let's face it, growing businesses can't afford to lose any customers.
That's why it's particularly important to hire people with a customer-first mentality. Even if they are not on the front lines, they need to be thinking about customers in absolutely everything they do.
4. Communications skills.
As a company grows, the potential for both lost information or duplicated efforts increases. Communication becomes more difficult and information can become siloed.
Technology can help you address information silos, and connecting all of your apps can give every department greater visibility into customer needs -- but you need to use that information effectively.
Having leaders that are strong communicators is necessary to bridge the gaps between departments, keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.
5. Middle-term view.
Most startups start with a strong guiding vision that keeps employees focused and motivated during the lean early days.
But as your company grows, you'll need to add more tools and processes to keep everyone on track and moving in the same direction. That's why having a middle-term view becomes important. You need employees that can envision the finish line, but also understand all the steps you need to take to get there.
Picturing where you'll be a year or two out may be more important to your success than being able to picture where you'll be in five years or ten.
Look for employees that understand the building blocks that need to be in place to take you where you want to go.
There are so many important qualities to look for as you build your team that it's hard to narrow down to just these.
But as you build your team, accept no imposters; these Shangri-La hires are out there, and will help your business scale and grow more smoothly.