16. Team


It takes a great team to create a great company.

In a consulting firm, it is possible to have just one person. But in a company that ships a product or operates a service, there is simply too much for one person to do alone.

How many people do I need in my company?

What is each person responsible for?

Someone needs to be responsible for:

  • Specifying what the product does. (Product Management)
  • Creating a shippable product. (Product Development)
  • Selling the product. (Sales)
  • Letting the customers know the product exists. (Marketing)
  • Keeping track of the revenues, and paying the bills, including the payroll. (Finance)
  • Ensuring everyone has a desk, a chair, a phone, that the government-required postings are on the wall, that the mail gets delivered, that the phone gets answers, etc. (Office Manager)
  • Managing the team and making the final decisions. (CEO)

At a minimum, there are seven roles. That does not mean a company requires a minimum of seven people, as one person can fill multiple roles. It does mean that all these roles need to be assigned (as well as any others specific to your business), so that none of these responsibilities are overlooked.

Who will develop my product? Who will do the marketing? Who will do the sales? Who will run the company?

Which roles will I fill, and which will I hire?

Bird Watch—[The team]: Bird Watch is not yet up and running, and it has not yet recruited a full team. The initial team will likely include three people: a CEO, who is also product manager, finance, and office manager; a technologist, who focuses solely on product development; and one salesperson, who is responsible for both sales and marketing.

Concrete Battery—[The team]: Concrete Battery is also not operational, nor does it have a full team. Its initial team will likely include seven to ten people: a CEO, an admin/office manager, a part-time finance person, one person to do both marketing and product management, two salespeople, and three to five people in product development.

Close to Home—[The team]: Close to Home is up and running, with a team of two. The founder and CEO manages the marketing and sales and finances. The business partner focuses on the creation of the marketplace, including the development of the website and business relationships with the housing vendors.

Ensibuuko—[The team]: Ensibuuko is up and running, with a team of eight. The co-founder and CEO manages the team while focusing on raising money and coordinating with the financial regulators. The other co-founder is the COO, managing the marketing, sales, and software development teams. The remaining staff are members of those teams.

Ensibuuko did not start with eight people; it grew from an initial team of four: the CEO, the COO, and two software developers. In the beginning, the CEO was responsible for all of the sales and marketing. It is normal in startups for the early employees to hand off roles to new hires then for those roles to expand into departments.

Planning your team

It is easy to create a plan that calls for a larger team, but such a plan requires more initial funding, more office space, and more time spent by the CEO in management tasks. It is better to pare down your plan to the minimum number of people, adding more only when necessary. Once your startup is up and running, making sales, and earning revenue, then growing a team will be easy.

Or at least far easier. Recruiting the first few people to join you in your startup is a very difficult process. These people need almost as much belief as you that the idea is sound and that the business will succeed. To join your team, these people need to give up their current job.

Nonetheless, despite the difficulties, you still need to be choosy, as these people make or break your company. Use all your resources to view as many candidates as possible. Do not settle on only people you know, nor the first person you find who says yes.

While you are trying to build your team, you often have to fill all the remaining roles yourself (or you and your partner, if you have a co-founder). When determining the order to fill the roles, think which role(s) fit your prior experience. Think about which role(s) you would qualify for if you were being hired, which get you excited, and which you do only because they must be done.

As you think through your hiring plan, write down those thoughts. They will be needed in your financial plan (Step 19). Plus, as you think through that multi-year plan, think again about what role or roles you best provide for this company. As your company grows, you will need to hire people to take some of these roles off your hands. In addition to the specific roles and organization of all those employees, think about what sized team you are capable of managing.

At some point in your plan, you may need to move aside and hire a management team that can be scaled up. Or, in some cases, it may be best for you to move on altogether and leave the company. Many first-time entrepreneurs believe their company cannot exist without them, only to find themselves being asked to leave. Be sure to plan for this possibility. The skills needed to begin and run a startup are very different from the skills needed to manage a larger company.

The recruitment effort is an early bellwether of the success of your company. If you have difficulty finding someone to join your team and follow along with your vision, then future sales may be more difficult than you imagine, and with that, your whole plan may be less viable than you believe.


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