One of the most difficult challenges I've encountered in starting a new business is building an amazing team. I am lucky to have some amazing advisers, mentors and friends who have coached me through issues and answered questions, but you can never get too many perspectives!
I spoke with two-time successful startup CEO John Goscha about what he has identified as top tips for hiring a dream team. In 2009, as a result of John's first company, Idea Paint, he was named one of "America's Best Young Entrepreneurs" by BusinessWeek and "30 Under 30" by Inc.
Today, he is working on building a consumer lighting company that generates warm, high-quality lighting that is both energy-efficient and affordable called Finally Light Bulbs. Starting a second company that so much different than his first, John surrounded himself with some of the greatest minds in the lighting industry to help, including the former heads of research at General Electric.
If there is anything I've learned from starting a company, it's to ask people who know more than you to be a part of your dream as early as you can. You can learn from them, their mistakes and have access to their contacts.
The following are John's top tips for building your A-Team:
1. Advisers, advisers, advisers!
There are so many smart experienced people out there that you can't afford to hire but would be more than happy to help you for free - well, kind of. Ask a rock star in your space to join your Advisory board. That means you can call them and ask "what would you do?" when you really need their insight. You'll receive amazing advice, support and access to their network!
2. Build credibility
Retired executives are the best place to do this. They have already "made it" in their careers and are now looking to help...especially a young entrepreneur with ambition in their eyes. Plus, when you add them to your team roster, investors feel more comfortable knowing someone with a track record is a part of the company.
3. Get stuff done
Now that you have advisers to bounce ideas off of, and enough credibility around you to attract investors, you need team members to help you get stuff done. In the beginning, hire smart people who are willing to work as hard as you are - typically this means offering pieces of equity (aka Sweat Equity).
There are a thousand things you need to get done, and grit will go a long way. Find people willing to knock down doors and stay up late to get it done. You need to get to proof of concept to prove that your idea can work. Find quickly what is not working, stop doing it, find what is working and do more of it. This takes a lot of crazy ideas and hard work.
One thing to note, is you must make sure that you are clear about the startup environment early. Joining a startup is not for the faint of heart or those who like stability and rules. This is a game of hustle and quite honestly, very stressful. Don't be upset when someone you thought was the right fit turns out to be the wrong one. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
4. Bring in people who can build a great team
Once you have something that is working, your next step is to bring on folks who know how to build a junior team. I find that typically, people who can take a single step up or skip a few steps in their career are most interested and have the drive to prove what they can do. You need people who are more experienced than you who will tell YOU what to do. You need to be careful not to only bring on "yes men" and focus on people who can simply get it done.
All of that said, never be afraid to let people go. In the beginning especially, its important to get a group of people who would put the company ahead of everything else. If they'd follow the company to the edge of the world, that's when you know you've built a team you can be proud of.