Getting the Band Together: 3 Keys for Building a Successful Startup Team


If a fine tuned company is like an orchestra with niche roles and well defined qualities, then a new business is like you and a friend playing Guitar Hero for the first time 8 years ago. It’s complete chaos, not knowing what to do when, or for how long. In that regard, scratch the Guitar Hero, it might even be closer to  a bunch of kids banging on the drums in a garage somewhere.  So how can you start learning how to bring your business together?

1. Play as many instruments as you can

The instruments in a business are the different functions in your team or business  (Sales, Marketing, Development, Product, Finance ). When you start a team or company, you’ll need to know a little bit of everything. This gives you context and more importantly as the team grows it gives you empathy to understand what your team members are going through . When you hear your sales reps on the phone you can give them pointers because you know what makes that instrument tough to play. When you see your developers diving in on a problem you can work with them to set up a high-level solution.  Treat every opportunity to dabble in a new part of the business as a chance to learn the skills to help you hire and lead others in that area later on.

2. Find people that can play better than you

If you’re the smartest person in the room, then it’s time to find a new room. You want to hire people that will ultimately replace part of what you do in a day. They will come in and ideally after 3 months be doing it better than you ever were. This is a good thing.

You can’t stop here. To keep your team engaged and growing you must work with them. See where your employees want to be in one year or two and develop a plan with them to get there. What if someone wants to move into a new role in a year? Help them. Even if you don’t have a role like that at your company, you need to challenge and develop your people. What good is it in bringing a great band together if you never actually take the time to practice?

3. Get advice, but be wary of expert musicians

There are many people that will undoubtedly have walked a similar path, starting a new team, or a new agency. Seek them out. Ask them what habits they had that made their practice successful. Ask what they would do differently this time around.

Be careful here. Do not treat what they tell you as gospel. A lot of people found success by playing one instrument very well. They will often push you to play that instrument. If someone “made it” by using conferences to develop business they will want you to go to every conference, everywhere. Here is where knowing the different parts of your business comes in handy. It gives the context to take pieces of advice and leave others behind.

As a leader in a new company remember- there is no one more knowledgeable about your business than you.

-Sean Higgins 

ilos team individual photos_2016_6 Sean.jpg

Sean is the Founder of ilos, a video platform that lets you record videos and instantly share them on the cloud, where he sold the first $750k in subscriptions.

He'll probably tell you that you don't need to be first: Microsoft didn't make the first OS or word processor, Apple didn't make the first mobile device. You need to be better, 10x better, to help the customer in a way that matters.

Twitter: @higg1921