5 Things You Can Do to Create the Perfect Startup Team

Are you doing the right things to make sure your company is continually able to innovate? Because the culture at your company can either make or break you.

Each company has a different culture. Teamwork depends on people matching that culture. I worked at a plethora of companies with varying management styles, ranging all the way from a militant dictator style to dealing with “yes men” and from where speaking up is appreciated to where innovation is condemned.

When looking for a cultural fit, you really have to understand what your company culture is. Once you figure that out, you are able to better equipped to find exactly what you are looking for.

Josh Kayser is the 29-year-old co-founder and CEO of SuretyBonds, a booming online surety insurance company that has helped modernize a tired, traditional industry through technology with the help of a little millennial savviness.

His company has experienced growth rates investors can only dream about and continues to maintain those numbers today.

How did he do it?


He values people above all in his busy life and has done quite the job in finding the right ones to do the tough job of building a business from the ground up.

These are Josh’s top 5 tips from the startup trenches on hiring for the long haul:

1. Create a standard in measuring cultural fit

There isn’t a magic formula here, since there is no tall order or hard rules for hiring startup talent. Plus, it doesn’t hold in most corporate systems. However, Josh knows something that has proven successful for him so far in growing his team over the past 5 years:

“I have to trust you and I have to like you.”

The trust is a no-brainer but the second part, Josh can see where some might think that’s not a fair or professional approach. It’s also maybe too simple, but that’s kind of how he operates. Josh tries to do more with less and he’s learned that more is not usually better when it comes to anything: processes, workflow, marketingcommunication.

Josh says, in business, being likeable is just as important to one’s success as being detail-oriented, if not more. Small organizations and startups are tribal because you have to be so scrappy and you go through such highs and lows alongside each other in those first years to get off the ground. Sometimes it’s just not that simple to disregard personality friction amongst teams.

If a supervisor just doesn’t get along with the employee, you develop tunnel vision in such an intimate group of people who are trying to get things done quickly and it can be a real holdup. Josh doesn’t suggest hiring for friendship, but hiring people who you can see yourself becoming friends with isn’t an approach that you should dismiss. Don’t overthink it. If it feels right, it probably is.

2. Find employees who are willing to learn

Josh says finding people that have an intrinsic desire to learn is critical no matter what industry you’re in. You need to seek out individuals who get authentically excited about expanding their skillset because it spills into their work and in turn, your business expands as people behind your business do.

Scalability is something Josh looks for in individuals, not just company strategy.

You have to be hungry. And that covers a lot of territory.

3. These red flags can ruin your workplace

Josh says there are the conventional red flags you can apply across most modern workplaces today, especially in emerging businesses and millennial-run operations. Apathy, narcissism and entitlement are profiles that simply won’t fare across Gen Y-heavy teams.

An immediate signal for assessing fit is how candidates feel and react to change. Excuses are something that Josh has a very low tolerance for. Delivery is really the goal, not the plan for achieving delivery.

4. Meet outside of the workplace

Josh meets with potential employees in informal, mutually familiar settings (think local coffee shop) vs. a stark conference room full of strangers (think your office headquarters). He says this can make the world of a difference.

If you think about it, the traditional hiring process is quite backwards. We’re bent on getting a solid gauge on applicants who we’ve never met before over a period of a couple half-hour sessions. An employee is an investment into your company and depending on what you do, that investment is just as risky and just as pricey as they come.

Conducting a 3-hour interview with a candidate and feeling confident you should commit a significant chunk of capital to that person for the long-term is equal to 3 hours worth of research for enterprise software or a brand new POS system.

5. Ask real questions

Rehearsed, disingenuous traditional interview questions are going to yield rehearsed, disingenuous traditional answers. Ask real questions as follow-ups from your actual conversation with the candidate.

There’s such an emphasis on staying on topic and sticking to the script during hiring processes and you don’t get much out of that approach because you cut applicants off before they start to feel comfortable within a dialogue.

It’s ok to let the conversation run its course for a bit because that’s the only way to get to know someone and ask your own organic questions to get a better gauge on fit. Syncing up company culture and interviewing applicants isn’t an area where you can apply hard rules of thumb.

Josh believes this can easily be taught because naturally, some are able to read people more effectively than others. He can’t remember a time when he interviewed someone that the room didn’t know within the first 5 minutes whether it was going to work or not. Oftentimes, it’s as simple as good vibes or bad vibes. And when you get really excited about someone, that’s usually a great guideline for growing your team.

Have you been able to create a formula for picking out people who are a right cultural fit? I’d love to hear more! Comment below.

Originally posted on Inc.

Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.

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