17 Experts Reveal How to Build a Successful Team from Scratch

Insights for Professionals

Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sure, anyone can achieve success independently, but you can accomplish a lot more if you have a strong team that are aligned with your vision. Discover how to build a successful team with these 17 tips.

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Expanding your business as a one-man band carries a lot of weight. Ignoring this won’t only impact your work-life balance, but also your productivity levels.

Sure, building a great team doesn’t happen overnight and can create various challenges – bringing together a variety of opinions, values and skills – which could lead to conflict and undo all your efforts. But once you have a team that gets along and collaborates well with one another, this will:

  • Stimulate creativity
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve problem-solving which could result in groundbreaking innovation and ideas

According to CBInsights, one of the main reasons for startup failure is not having the right team, which could cost a small business a five-figure sum. To build a successful team that hits the ground running, you need to pay close attention to everything right from the hiring stage.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners for their opinions when it comes to building a successful team from scratch. Here’s what they said:

1. Widen your hiring search

As an entrepreneur, hiring staff is the biggest challenge. Expanding your team with great talent is a constant necessity. Initially, we posted job descriptions on freelance sites and sat back, but eventually we adopted a proactive approach towards acquiring new talent through LinkedIn Recruiter. Given the structure of our online-based company, this allows us to look internationally for new employees, providing a far greater pool of talent to choose from. If you can, the best way to build an excellent team from scratch is to widen your search to include remote employees and freelancers.

Simon Slade, CEO of Doubledot Media and Co-Founder of Affilorama, SaleHoo and Smtp2Go

2. Don’t rush the hiring process

First, start by hiring for the position you need most, and once you have someone doing a great job there, move to the second most needed position and so on. It's important not to rush the process when building a great team so you can recruit and retain A-Players in all areas of your company.

Stacy Caprio – Founder at Growth Marketing

3. Hire a range of personalities

Find people with great personalities at the beginning of the hiring process and the rest will follow. Your first bunch of employees will train the next group and so on until you end up with a team of likeminded individuals who are not only hard workers, but also awesome to be around.

Bret Bonnet – Co-Founder / President of Quality Logo Products

4. Hiring is guessing, firing is knowing

You can ask all the questions you want, but you’ll never really know how the new team member will pan out. They may pass the technical test but fail the teamwork aspect. They may seem perfect on paper, but at the end of the day, hiring is guessing, firing is knowing.

Hire fast, fire quicker. You'll do the person, your team, and your company a favor. You'll do them all a disservice by holding on to a person too long. Demonstrate your commitment to the company culture and excellence by hiring, nurturing and firing when appropriate.

Trenton Erker – Senior SEO Specialist at Clarity Online SEO

5. Versatility is key

Building a team is all about recognizing what you need, and finding the right person for the job. But beyond that, look for versatility. It's exciting to hire an employee to write content, only to find out that they can also create designs or build websites. Constantly provide your employees with the opportunity to grow. Therefore, I recommend cross-training. If someone expresses an interest in learning more outside their job requirements, provide them with the support and tools to excel.

Tom Buchok – Founder at Mailcharts

6. Use LinkedIn to get more info about an applicant

I learned that it’s better to take time with new hires (I have many stories of hires that could have been disastrous). Ask people in your LinkedIn network about the applicant and require a trial period. Startups and SMEs require a level of commitment and engagement which isn’t for everyone. Clearly communicating expectations upfront helps the candidate understand the goals and mission of the company.

Geoffrey Michener – CEO and Founder of dataPlor

7. It’s not always about experience

The biggest things I look for is consistency and passion, more-so than experience. It is critical to have motivated people moving in the same direction at the beginning.

Terril Fields – CEO of Blerd

8. Build a winning nucleus

During the interview and hiring process, you need to accept that for every 10 that are hired:

  • 1-2 will be superstars
  • 3-4 will be average
  • 4-5 will be replaced within 15-45 days – due to new hires quitting

Overall, building a successful team requires a nucleus. These will be the go-getters that set the tone. For instance, building a winning nucleus requires building and adding on to the employees that share your vision. Eventually, you’ll have a team that’s humming the same tune and rowing in the same direction. This is how loyalty and corporate chemistry is built. I’ve used this model many times over in 25 years.

Danny Ray – Founder – PinnacleQuote Life Insurance Specialists

9. Sell your vision

New hires don't fail because they're lazy. They fail because they don't yet know how to succeed. Entrepreneurs are busy. Too often though we throw new hires into the fire and move on to the next challenge, but when you're building a team, you need to set the vision then share the steps required to get there. Once your employees understand what's needed to succeed, you can give them the autonomy to chase it down. There's no better example of this than the story of JFK visiting NASA and asking a custodian what he did. His answer: trying to put a man on the moon! Now that was an aligned organization!

Adam Coughlin – Managing Partner at York IE

10. Team members need to be on the same page

While building out teams for my businesses, the core members we start with should ideally be mission-driven and aligned with our goals for the future. One of the businesses we contract with is a Vegan company where all five core team members are passionate Vegan animal rights and health activists. This allows us to retain loyal teammates during unstable times, and many startup companies navigate through this in the first few years.

Andrew Alexander – Founder & CEO of LimitlessAcademy.com

11. Take time when assessing your needs

Create a list of things each team member needs to know and be able to do now and in the future. As a company grows, each team member will need to be able to do a variety of different things. When I began to hire team members, I looked for a good fit for my leadership style, mission and company values. I knew this type of candidate would be more successful and likely to stay through the cycles of small business growth. My first employee is now my Director of Operations. Take the time to analyze your needs and hire team members that are aligned with your vision.

Tammy Marino – Principal Consultant at Ask Phoenix Solutions, Inc.

12. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team

Building a team is like selecting all the right pieces to put together a puzzle. You'll need the edges, which represent the framing, and then all the inner working team members to fill in the big picture. When I realize I’m not the best person for a task, I hire someone who is. That way, my strengths can be applied elsewhere, while my new team member can provide work at an expert level.

This is also why I like to keep an eye on new team members. I like to see what strengths they have, as well as understand the tasks they don’t enjoy or aren’t necessarily part of their A game. Then, I can access the situation and make adjustments until they’re in a role where they can grow and thrive.

Andrea Loubier – CEO of Mailbird

13. Success depends on company culture

There’s no doubt in my mind that one of the driving factors to success is business culture. Imagine a culture that’s approachable and innovative, that inspires the team to grow together. That said, there are two key components to great culture:

  1. Alignment in business mission and purpose amongst the leadership, team, customers and product that is predicated on energy, intention and vibrations.
  2. Clear investment in the growth and success of its’ people for the long-term.

When these two components are met, the results lead to an increase in revenue and bottom line where success is inevitable.

Sonya Lee – Author & Public Speaker at Business Empathy

14. Look out for entrepreneurial traits

When building a team, the most important thing is to look for people who have an entrepreneurial skillset. This means that they aren't afraid to be innovative and are more than willing to step up and take charge when needed. Basically, they’ll function like an entrepreneur within your own company.

Ensure that your company has the culture set in place to help this type of employee grow. Have impromptu brainstorming sessions and offer incentives for great ideas.

Angela Ash – Content Manager at Flow SEO

15. Invest in professional development

Attracting top talent to an SME isn’t always easy, because you might not be able to offer the same pay or benefits compared with larger or more established competitors. To build a successful team, you have to be willing to take a chance on people who show potential and the right skillset, but might not have the experience and qualifications to back it up. You’ll have the odd misfire along the way, but by nurturing your formative talent, investing in their professional development, and encouraging them to grow with you over time, you can build a highly successful – and loyal – team from scratch.

John Moss, CEO, English Blinds

16. Utilize all available resources

Building a team can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of noise and several services offering to do the hard work for you. The best advice is to utilize all of them. Many freelance and career search sites will feature a host of great candidates. But don't hire straightaway. The best way to see if a potential candidate is a good fit is to bring them in as a contractor on a smaller project. Having actual experience working with them will show you whether you want to bring them on board full time.

Alexander M. Kehoe – Co-Founder & Operations Director at Caveni Digital Solutions

17. Be patient and transparent

Two things helped us get our team to where it is today: patience and transparency. It takes a long time to build a high-functioning team. One thing I realized early on was that proper office communication and personal accountability could only go so far. We needed to become more in tune with each others’ workflows and habits.

For a growing business, this needed to happen fast. We had to be as productive and efficient as possible. Developing our time tracking tool, Clockify, allowed for full transparency in who did what. It helped identify mistakes, make improvements, and we learned how each of us works. It took quite a bit of patience and adapting, but we succeeded, and keep improving still.

Nenad Milanovic – CEO of Clockify

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