Choose Wisely: How To Build A Healthy Startup Team

Xanthomonas axonopodis: a disease affecting citrus trees that can affect the vitality of the entire citrus grove, also known as citrus canker.

Poisonous startup team members - Barcinno

Have you ever picked up an orange and noticed some discoloration on the peel but decided to eat it anyways? So you eat this orange, but you know you looked at the piece of fruit beforehand and questioned it, even if it was ever so slightly. To question something even a little, you inherently know something is wrong. Well, in the case of an orange, the citrus canker is a serious condition that can kill the health of entire groves of fruit. And in the case of your startup, one questionable member of the team can destroy the health and momentum of the entire operation.

After a long period of time counseling startup companies and being involved in the whole ecosystem, the question I’ve been presented the most with is, “How do I pick my team?”  Although, that is not counting the ever important “how do I get money?” question, of course. My initial response is always the same. “I have no idea!” After all, how could I know someone’s personality or partner desires in this instant? After this moment of panic, I try to make the inquiring person think about his or her company like a relationship.

Just like picking a new friend or partner in everyday life, it’s important to question how long you have known each potential new company member, and if you have the same interests and goals. Especially goals. You need to consider how much of an asset someone can be to the company as a whole. The idea is to surround yourself with people who better both you and the startup itself. If the outcome suits both realities, then you might have a potential new partner.

So now you are completely ready to go find your team and start that Fortune 500 Company that will make you a billionaire, right?

HOPEFULLY! And now here comes the main part: what happens when you already have a team, you’ve planted the seeds, and started growing? This is when each new team member is a critical hire and must fit your culture.

As I previously mentioned, working with a great team outweighs everything else (the money, the position and the responsibility). Being in a team that strives for the same goal and in which you are comfortable makes all the difference. After a while, it doesn’t really matter how much money you have in the bank if it is impossible for you to be motivated enough to get out of bed in the morning. And that’s a big problem.

Here is one scenario: Your company starts growing, you hire a couple of interns to help out with admin work, and then you realize that you need new team members in order to sustain your growth. You do not have as much time as you did before starting the project to thoroughly peel back the layers of your possible partners, so you turn to recruiting agencies or word of mouth to find a developer, a marketing analyst, or whatever part of the company needs help. Be Careful! No matter how important or not you think the new team member is, its going to be heaps of hours at the office, shoulder to shoulder, jokes, fun, work, and fights. This means you must qualify each new hire as much as possible before bringing them onboard.

Allow me to tell you how many teams I’ve seen get destroyed because the due diligence of finding the right person wasn’t properly conducted. “Sure, yeah! Hire him!” Without giving thought to these words, the whole thing collapses. One bad team member can be the start of an ever-growing case of citrus canker to your grove of a company. At this point, you may have already given this partner equity, so it gets harder to buy him or her out, and more and more problems arise. If you were to buy a company, wouldn’t you want to know it inside and out? So why don’t you do it with our own?

People can be poisonous in the wrong environment. Some people work great alone, but cannot run a team. Some people are amazing technical rock stars but lack the basic social skills necessary to work well with others. The examples are innumerable, but they happen everywhere and you see friendships get torn apart, businesses closed, and great ideas squandered.

Remember that it’s not just choosing the right person for the right job.  It’s absolutely critical to consider the intangibles that a new team member brings to the company. Yes, we are all different, but we can get along and use that to our advantage when we have the same goals and believe in the values of the organization. We all have energies that attract or repel other people so make sure that you find the positives ones around you that make you better. No matter their level of talent, do not accept a questionable hire that may cause toxicity within the workplace.  It could poison your whole team.


Photo Credit: Poisoning the batch and bad orange via Shutter Stock

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