Building a great culture is a key to developing a successful startup.
You know the old cliche: A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
If you're starting a business, there's little – if nothing – more important than a strong team. Outside of running out of money and market need, the top startup killer is – you guessed it – not having the having the right team.
I'm currently the founder of a real estate development company that's grown from $850,000 in seed capital to a business with over $50 million in projects in the pipeline. In addition, my media company WealthLAB was conceptualized, founded, built and launched in just one week. In that time, we secured partnership deals, giving us 10 million-plus in readership reach, plus an additional 15 million millennial followers on Instagram through a partnership with various channels – ensuring we'd reach our intended audiences.
How did we do that?
One word: Team.
One of the WealthLAB co-founders is 25, has had a $1 million exit and raised another $1 million-plus. Ninety percent of the entire team is remote, but everyone is passionate. On the real estate side, it had nothing to do with us – simply the team around us, including our lawyers, architects and so on.
So how do you build the right team? Here are five tips to making sure you build the team you want.
1. Hire for culture
This is a concept I learned when I was at Bisnow, another rapidly growing media startup that eventually sold for $50 million. The culture there was adopted based on principles from companies like Google and Twitter.
To make a long story short, you HAVE to hire for mindset. If you're an entrepreneur or self-starter or whatever you want to call it, there are certain traits that surface every time. These include accountability, hard work, work ethic, passion and more. In one startup I'm invested in, the CEO consistently missed deadlines, which then instilled the culture – willingly or not – that blowing deadlines was accepted. That was a kiss of death for the company.
Hire for culture.
2. First AND last: Be the first one in and last to leave
Remember back in school when a teacher or a coach would ask you something you know they never would or could do? You never actually grow out of this feeling. There's little worse than a manager, leader or coach giving you orders that you know they'd never do. So what's the fix? Well, obviously, to not be that.
In other words, if you're the founder of your startup, be the first one in and the last one to leave. When they send an email; respond immediately. If someone sends you a text, no matter what time it is, respond. Not only do you establish yourself as a hard worker, you're setting the tone for the culture of your business. It can't help but rub off. And once that's there – and you protect that culture – your startup has an unshakeable foundation.
Conversely, if you're the type of manager just looking to delegate and automate without putting in work yourself, you better believe it'll reflect in your results.
3. Always keep your word
Again, this goes back to building a culture. Make sure you keep your appointments.
If you don't, you are single-handedly, as a "leader," injecting your own enterprise with a dose of toxic poison guaranteed to kill not just your business, but also any fantasy you had of it ever succeeding. It goes back to another cliche: under promise and over deliver. Once you do that, as the figurehead of the company, you again set the expectation and culture of dependability, reliability and punctuality. Those are traits all businesses want.
4. Set goals
What gets measured, gets done. Make sure your business has set goals and targets that each team member is focused on achieving. That's the key to making progress.
On the other hand, many startups and founders get distracted with new ideas, new projects and new opportunities. Forget all that. Stick to the plan – you owe it to your team, and yourself.
5. Be patient
Understand the process. And make sure your team does, too. There will be times where it feels like no progress is being made. And that's not even a bad thing. Building a startup is like going to the gym. The first few weeks, you see no results. Then, suddenly, you see tons of results. After which the progress becomes a slow and steady race.
Don't fall into the trap of feeling intoxicated by artificial "growth" like having a website and marketing materials and logos created or working 15-hour days. The real work comes from the grunt work, the grind, the cold calls, the cold emails and the outreach – and you'll be batting in the single-digits. And that's if you're doing well!
One of the few things separating the successful business owners from the unsuccessful business owners is being persistent enough to keep going when it feels like no progress is being made.