In my 6 years of entrepreneurship, I’ve learned that the team is the most important part of the equation. Therefore, a single founder shouldn’t spend the majority of his time looking for funding, or building a product; instead, the single founder should spend the majority of his time building the perfect team.
The anatomy of a perfect team
The type of team you’ll need depends on the type of startup you’re building. The following are common types of startups and the team best suited to lead it.
1. Internet technology startup: these are traditional silicon valley startups that are tech heavy. Mobile apps, SaaS products, and Social apps fall into this category. The team best suited to succeed in this type of startup consists of the following people:
- CEO: computer engineer that will build the product and raise funding, get clients, get press, etc…
- CTO: computer engineer that will focus on the product
- Designer: lead designer for both graphic design and UX/UI
2 engineers and 1 designer are best for an internet startup. Notice how there’s no need for a business guy in the equation.
2. Ecommerce startup: ecommerce startups such as Nasty Gal and Refinery 29 are becoming more and more popular. These are startups that focus on selling a product online. The type of team you need depends on the product you’re selling. If you’re selling a hardware product that needs to be manufactured, then you’ll of course need an engineer. But if you’re building a fashion startup, then you’ll need the following people:
- Stylist: the person that chooses the clothing and the overall brand of the company
- Online Marketer: the person in charge of everything to do with driving traffic and converting sales
Those are the only 2 essential pieces. Notice how the team doesn’t need a developer because platforms such as Shopify allow anyone to build a site from scratch and starting selling products in no time without any technical experience.
3. Affiliate startup: this is my favorite type of startup at the moment because it’s perfect for the business-minded entrepreneur. I classify an affiliate startup as a company that sells the product of another company and earns a commission for each sale. At the moment, I’m selling tours to Peru and North Korea online. The best team to build and launch an affiliate startup consists of the following:
- Online Marketer: the person in charge of everything to do with traffic and converting sales
And that’s it! You can easily build a site using WordPress and accept payments via PayPal — no technical skills required. Furthermore, all you need to do is establish a partnership with a company and get a signed agreement with your commission rate to start selling your product. Of course, it helps to have more people on the team, but you can start with one person alone quite easily.
How to inspire your team
The majority of startups can’t pay their team market-rate salaries. Actually, many can’t pay their team at all. This is why many startups give out equity or stock options to their first employees to incentivize them to join their company.
In the beginning it’s easy because your team is riding a high of joining a cool, exciting new startup. They work long hours to achieve a goal of becoming a big company some day and selling for millions. But then the dip comes and the startup will inevitably hit hardships and obstacles that test the commitment of it’s team members. During times like these, it’s important that a CEO keeps the team inspired and working hard towards a united goal.
Everyone must seem to be working hard: the word “seem” here is crucial. If the tech team has built the product and is waiting for the sales people to sell it, then the tech team can’t just leave the office early and come back once they have work to do. This will demotivate the sales team and other people because they’ll think the tech team isn’t working hard. All members of the team must stay late night and help each other accomplish what needs to be done. The CEO must make sure the team bonds and supports each other in this way.
Fire poisonous people IMMEDIATELY: a team member with bad morale is poisonous to your company. Their poor work ethic and complaining will quickly infect other team members, resulting in a quick death to the company. Keep your eye on anyone who is complaining — if they can’t change their attitude, then it’s time to fire them immediately before the damage can spread.
Throw lots of dinners and events to help your team relax: hold a pot luck at your house; hire a masseuse to stop by your office and give your team members a massage to help them relax and de-stress. It’s your job to make sure everyone is happy and able to work to the best of their abilities.
Keep a positive attitude at all times: the CEO must be an anchor. The CEO must hold the ship steady and never waiver. Even if your co-founder comes to you in private and explains how nervous he is about the company, you must never show panic or defeat. Acknowledge his worries, but ensure that the company will turn things around and become successful.
Jun Loayza is the Co-Founder of How to go to North Korea. In his startup experience, Jun has raised over $1 million in funding, successfully sold 2 companies, and lead social technology campaigns for LG, Levi’s, Sephora, and Whole Foods Market.