When starting up, the people you have around you will have a huge impact on whether or not your business succeeds. So who are the people you should surround yourself by right from the start?
Some entrepreneurs might argue that you don’t need anyone else, that you can run a business singlehandedly - you just need to get your head down and get stuck in, right? There's no doubt that the solo approach works for some. Take chocolatier Amelia Rope, who runs a flourishing one-woman-business, with her products being stocked and sold in some of the biggest retailers in the world, such as Selfridges.
So how does she do it? "Some people call it passion, others drive; I call it incredible amounts of energy which just flows through me," she says. "I look at everything that comes my way as an opportunity for growth; both personal and for the business."
But can you really do it all on your own? Many great businesspeople are supported by incredible individuals and teams – Steve Jobs would have been nothing without Tim Cook at his right hand, James Dyson’s talent wouldn’t have been discovered if it weren’t for Jeremy Fry. Entrepreneurs are arguably only as successful as the teams surrounding them.
Richard Branson certainly puts a big focus on making sure he has the right team around him at Virgin. "There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team," he says. "If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success."
But how do you find that perfect mix? "The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture," explains the Virgin Group founder. "Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner."
If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success.
So what roles do you need people to play to create the perfect team for your start-up?
According to Bernd Schoner, author of The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide, there are just six roles that you need to fulfil in your start-up team:
The Prima Donna Genius
Expertise is the one skill every founding team cannot do without, according to Schoner.
"Every start-up needs at least one genius to get off the ground," he says. The genius will challenge the team and ask for things that others aren’t sure how to achieve – they’ll probably also be a bit of a diva.
The superstar is the person who gets down to business and accomplishes tasks. This role is often performed by the Prima Donna Genius, Schoner says. It’s important that they’re part of the team right from the beginning, however, as it’s hard to add this person later on down the line.
"Every start-up needs a clear leader," Schoner says. "It doesn’t mean they’re paid more or have more equity, and they’re not necessarily the CEO. It just means that the others look up to this person and are willing to follow them – if there is conflict and controversial decisions need to be made."
If there isn’t a standout leader, you could later hire a CEO, but Schoner warns against doing this too early. "The company may benefit, but often it ends up as not the same company."
The Industry Veteran
It helps to have someone who knows how things are done in an industry – even if the idea that you’re working on is something completely new.
"It takes a long immersion in the marketplace to call yourself an insider, to understand the sublteties of the competitive landscape, to recognise people as true assets, and to look through the propaganda of technical collateral and PR campaigns," Schoner notes. "The industry veteran has seen it, and knows how everybody else does it."
The Sales Animal
Often sales are the one thing that start-ups forget about. Having a strong salesperson on the founding team helps minimise the risk, according to Schoner. "The combination of technical insight, founder authority, and sales experience is a hard-to-beat advantage in the competitive marketplace."
The Financial Suit
Suits might not be popular in start-ups, but they certainly need financial talent. This is the easiest role to add at a later date but professional controllers and chief risk officers often have their own agenda.
"Understandably, they are trying to build a career, make money quickly, or own as much stock as possible by the time the founding members of your venture are ready for an exit," Schoner says. "If you can put a skilled co-founder in charge of overseeing the finance function, you may enjoy a little bit of extra peace of mind."
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