Choosing the correct team members at the appropriate time is the most important set of tasks you will ever take on with your startup. We can tell you from experience that over 80% of the issues that we have seen with early-stage companies have to do with expectation problems between team members. When your startup is operating on limited resources and time is against you, you cannot afford to run into too many personnel and staffing issues (although you can never fully avoid people problems).
Unfortunately, this is probably the hardest thing to get right in a startup.
We recommend adding team members slowly. What we mean by this is you need to really know your team members or partners so that there is no doubt as to how they will perform and react under pressure. Many of the problems we see occur because team members are hired to quickly and the appropriate time is not taken to understand cultural fit and performance capabilities. We suggest that you interview all team members multiple times under different circumstances to really get to know them. For senior members, you should spend time with them in the office, at lunch or dinner, and even in a 3rd scenario. We have had personal experiences in hiring team members to quickly and have had everything from unmitigated disasters to slight problems that could’ve been avoided.
Strengthen your weaknesses – The best advice we can give you is to bolster your own capabilities when hiring other team members. In other words, if you are weak at finance, hire somebody that understands finance, raising capital, accounting and more. If your’e weak in technology, be sure to bring on a good chief technology officer. We think you get the idea.
What will you do? – First decide what role you are going to play in the organization. Generally, you will take on a roll of “founder”, and in most cases CEO. We suggest that you run your company until it is determined that you need to bring on somebody with more talent across the organization. In some cases you may want your company with a partner and you will each have to take on C-level roles.
Team members you will need in order to successfully launch and initially run your startup:
CEO – has complete operational responsibility for the organization
CFO – your chief financial officer plays a critical role not only in finance but sometimes also running other administrative tasks possibly including human resources
CTO – the chief technology officer deals with both outward facing technology and internal systems. This would include your website and apps, hosting infrastructure and enterprise software and cloud-based systems.
CMO – the chief marketing officer has responsibility for all marketing mechanisms, communications, and in some cases sales and revenue. Additionally, the CMO usually handles product marketing and is integrally involved with product development.
CRO – a relatively new title, the chief revenue officer as complete responsibility for all revenue from customers, partners and affiliates. You’ll need to contrast this with the CMO position above to optimally execute your strategy
Product or service development – this position is critical to developing and delivering the best product or service. Generally most businesses fall into other products or services, although some can be categorized as knowledge. No matter what, you’re going to need somebody who heads up a very focused and driven team. In many cases the founders start out with this role because it was their idea to begin with
Board of Directors – your board should be a combination of C- level members, people familiar with you in your organization, and outsiders. You can see more on our thoughts about Boards here.
Advisory boards – advisory boards are very interesting ways of bringing more people into your organization to support any and all aspects. You can create multiple advisory boards which give you the ability to tap into greater resources. See our advisory board article here.
When should I hire or bring on the above staff members? There is no standard way to determine when staff members should be added. Generally you add based on need, and capability to pay. In other words, you may want a chief marketing officer but if you are not yet funded, you may have a hard time finding the ideal candidate. However some cases you can trade equity in the company for dollars and thereby hire more quickly. You will have to prioritize what you need 1st and figure out a way to bring that person on.