Building a Team

Building the Right Team

We’ve all heard the saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. This is never more true than when you’re starting to build and grow an business. Be it for profit or not for profit, your team is everything. Having started a number of organizations myself, I’ve done some research into the statistics of founding teams and how big they should be. Somewhat surprisingly, the vast majority of truly successful organizations have two founders. I found this interesting because it underlines the point that most of us really shouldn’t try to go it alone – but also makes apparent the dangers of having too many cooks in the kitchen.

At the end of the day, your organization needs solid leadership but it also needs to be well rounded. You’re not going to get all of the skills that you need to grow your organization with two people. So how do you fill in the gaps?

Building your team is something that requires more attention than most people give it. There’s an old adage – “hire slow, fire fast”. Choosing the right team members is hugely important to the success of your organization. Is it really something you want to rush into?

Here’s how I determine who I’m going to bring onto my team:

  1. Take stock of what roles I need filled. There’s always a “hard look in the mirror” in any aspect of growth and, when it comes to team building, this is just that. Be honest about yourself with what you and the other members of your current team bring to the table (whether it’s the founding team or the group that you’ve hired so far) and, more importantly, what your current team is missing. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Rank the gaps you need to fill. Which roles are most important to fill immediately? Which ones can wait? Do you need salespeople to help drive revenue? Engineers to finish your product? Figuring out who comes first will allow you to prioritize your hiring.
  3. Create a job description. It doesn’t matter if you’re posting the position or just using it internally, you need to know exactly what the expectations of each role you’re going to fill.
  4. Recruit for the position.We’ll have more on recruiting later. In the meantime, make sure that you’re pulling in the right candidates for the job.
  5. Make sure that they pass the airport test. The obvious questions to ask yourself during an interview process are threefold – Can they do the job? Will they do the job? Do they want to do the job? But there’s one more question that I’ve realized often goes overlooked. One that’s particularly important when it comes to smaller companies: Do

What’s the airport test? The airport test is a simple thought experiment that you can perform with anyone given enough time. Imagine coming home from a long business trip only to be trapped in an airport with this person for 12 hours – or even six hours – would you still want to spend time with this person or would you want to walk the rest of the way home? If you’d still be willing to spend time with that person then they’ve passed the airport test. If not then don’t put yourself into that position.

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Posted in Growth, Ian's Library, Nonprofits, Startups.

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