Over A Year As A Media CEO: Things To Pay Attention To While Building A Startup Team
Part 2. Team
In my previous article “Over A Year As A Media CEO: I got 5 years older and a little bit psycho” I gave you a few pieces of advice on what you should be prepared for once you’ve decided to start a startup in whatever field. Today I want to talk about building your a team.
There is no universal recipe on how to build a successful team. At some point, of course, you will catch yourself on a thought that you finally have the best combination of people with the needed skills and mindset. That might happen very long after you start the project. Today, I want to share my views on what features are essential to look for in people you want to hire for a startup.
1. DESIRE TO LEARN
Experience is vital, but the lust for a new knowledge is even better. My team is quite young. The oldest person isn't older than 30 (see, I don't even know the exact figure, cause age isn't my priority). My priority is a person's desire to learn. If I look at the resume and see that the person didn't work in the same sphere before, I dig deeper. I talk to a person. I ask questions about hobbies, interests, personal creative projects the person is engaged in. The passions of a person tell a lot about his/her maturity. One of my current colleagues joined the team as a volunteer. He volunteered for three months. When he finished the university he joined the team. His dedication proved that he should be on the team full-time, despite young age and lack of relevant experience. His market price grew a lot throughout the year he's been with us and now we have a great team member who can easily compete with older ones.
2. AGE DOESN'T MATTER
I became a CEO at 23. I was finishing Masters at the university at that time and had 3 years of work experience. Actually, I had more as I got the first serious full-time job when I was 20. Before that, I was involved in short freelance project-related jobs. In other words, I worked on my career and wanted to be self-sustained. I have gone through many jobs that taught great lessons. Everyone seemed to be shocked or at least surprised I was hired for such a high position in a startup. Such reaction is understood. Society is still quite conservative, not only in its perception of LGBT or feminists, etc. Young people and their abilities to reach high achievements are also underestimated. Both older and younger generations are wrongly perceived with a certain degree of caution. I advise not to set age limits for the candidates. When a candidate comes to an interview with me, I look at him/her as an ageless person. How a person thinks and acts defines the age of that person for me. Enthusiastic optimists and goal-getters are always young at heart.
3. "STARTUP MINDSET"
Not everyone makes a good fit for work in a startup. Mind flexibility is the key thing that defines an ability to work in a startup. Those used to working in large corporations for years in a row, get used to the payroll days too. Big scale changes happen rarely in such companies, and those who like to stick to a comfort zone for too long, will not be a good fit for a startup. In startups, investors might be changing, the product is changing all the time, new employees might come and go as they cannot adapt to the constant work overload and the lack of stability. You can never have a clear understanding and confidence in the nearest future if you are working in a startup. Some people can work under such conditions, and some cannot. There are no guarantees. Working in a startup often means late nights and delays in salaries. From my experience, I can say that the younger the person is, the easier he/she adapts to a "startup life". Although, again, this is just my observation.
4. LAZINESS AND DISHONESTY ARE UNACCEPTABLE
Once I fired a person after 4 days of work. That was the position of the SMM manager. The person didn't know where and how to upload a video on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. I was like "WTF?". I couldn't understand how I let this person get hired by me. I looked at the resume, again and again, I looked at the test assignment and was puzzled. I had a profile of an excellent promising candidate in front of me. Something wasn't right. It was my screw up though as I was the one who hired somebody who lied in a resume and didn't even have proper time management or self-organization skills.
I believe creative people need their moment of idleness. Sometimes, when I know I have finished the most urgent tasks, I let myself get out of the office for a breath of fresh air. I just go outside and walk down the street. I absorb everything around me and that gives me the inspiration to create. However, not getting your work done while spending the whole day writing and commenting posts on Facebook is different. This person is wasting time and money that could have been successfully invested into your company. I cannot tolerate dishonesty and laziness. I believe that if the person lies about some tasks being done when none of them are done, that's a bad sign. Avoid such employees. Let them go as soon as possible. In a startup, you need people who work not only for the money but for inspiration, career, new skills, and growth.
I enjoy working with passionate people. It's great if you have found employees for whom work on the product in your company has become on of their passions. I also enjoy working with people passionate about their hobbies, anything they like to do for themselves when they have free time. Passionate people are more emotional but they are also more concentrated. They are usually goal-driven and highly creative. Working side by side with passionate people means being inspired by them constantly. As a CEO, you cannot always be a source of inspiration for your team. Sometimes you get drained. That's when you need to draw inspiration from your employees. Your team members must become one of the major sources of inspiration for you. Passion means enthusiasm and enthusiasts are simply fun to be around.
The last but not the least is tolerance. I don't want to expand on this topic too much, but I have noticed that people who are tolerant, compassionate and empathetic are much better team players than others. I have absolutely no respect for those who act with zero tolerance towards diverse age groups, races, sexes, appearances, etc. If a person cannot accept being in a diverse team and somehow abuses others with offensive behavior or words, well, then throw this person out of your team. Jokes are okay. But offensive jokes are not okay. I think that kindness and dignity define the best employees. Not the number of entries on a resume.
Hope this list will help you to define who you need to have on your team. Even though you might not pick the best candidates from the start, you'll eventually get to the point when you have the best combination of teammates and then, you might as well become one happy CEO. I promise. Just be patient.
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