Building and growing a startup team


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In this presentation we explore three transitions that a startup founder goes through as their startup grows and matures:
1) making their first hire
2) transitioning from a doer to a manager
3) transitioning from mostly managing to mostly leading

We explore common management traps and how to avoid them, and also provide practical tactics to help new managers to align, motivate and inspire people and to organize and coordinate work.

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Building and growing a startup team

  1. 1. © 2014 ConceptSpring Elaine Chen September 2014 Building and growing a startup team
  2. 2. Poll How many people have you managed to date? • I have never had direct reports • 1-10 – I have directly managed small teams • 11-50 – I have managed managers • 51+ - I have managed managers who manage managers
  3. 3. Today’s agenda • Transition 1: hiring your first employee • Transition 2: from doing to managing • Transition 3: balancing management and leadership
  4. 4. Dip Yoel Nick Shawn
  5. 5. First hire
  6. 6. First transition: hiring your first employee
  7. 7. Dip’s first job posting • Job function: full stack web developer, Linux stack • Responsibilities: lead development of the cloud based back end as well as the web and mobile front ends of the company’s home automation software platform • Experience: 3 years industry experience in software development for connected devices (server side, web front end as well as native mobile apps for iOS and Android) • Qualities: great communicator; excellent team player; self-starter; highly motivated; etc. How will Dip know whether a candidate will be a good fit?
  8. 8. Culture and values
  9. 9. Source: culture-code-creating-a-company-we-love
  10. 10. Source: book/digital-version
  11. 11. Image credit: Philip Kotler
  12. 12. Commonalities • Each company has a clearly stated culture code • Each culture code is unique for the company and represents a set of shared values and beliefs • In every case the culture code helps give the work meaning – it is far more than just $; employees are building something unique and meaningful together • This clarity helps enforce consistency in recruiting new talent and provides a framework to manage existing talent. • It sets the stage for a work environment compatible with the people hired to help build the company.
  13. 13. Before you interview your first candidate • Sit down with your cofounders and collectively define your core values and beliefs. Take as long as you need. • Write down these values and beliefs – these will form the basis of your company culture • Now you can screen candidates against your written values and beliefs to find a good fit
  14. 14. Determining fit
  15. 15. A great framework Cultural fit Performance
  16. 16. Cultural fit Performance Rock Stars High Potentials Training Find out if this is fixable Uh Oh Fix this immediately – do not procrastinat e Constant vigilance!
  17. 17. My personal philosophy Prima Donnas My main things: 1) Respect 2) Humble and awesome Your mileage may vary. Find your own main things, and stick to them. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  18. 18. Roles and Responsibilities
  19. 19. Co-Founder Co-Founder Co-Founder Co-Founder Principal
  20. 20. Co-Founder and CEO (business) Co-Founder and COO (business) Co-Founder and CTO (engineering) Co-Founder and CIO (engineering) Full stack web developer (reports to the CIO)
  21. 21. Example job spec • Title: Software Development Lead • Job function: full stack web developer, Linux stack • Reports to: CIO • Responsibilities: – Lead development of the cloud based back end as well as the web and mobile front ends of the company’s home automation software platform. – Serve as Scrum Master in the company’s Agile development process. – Works closely with the product management function to help define features and plan and execute releases. – Works closely with the Software Quality Assurance function to ensure releases are of high quality. – Actively participate in customer development activities to understand customer needs and wants. – Coordinate end-of-scrum demos for the company as needed.
  22. 22. Everyone should have a good job spec • If using titles, try to adhere to industry norms to avoid confusion. • If using titles, try to avoid title inflation (Easier said than done) • Make the reporting structure crystal clear • Write a good job spec that describes key responsibilities • Publish job specs for the whole company to eliminate ambiguity • Revisit the job spec at least once a year to allow for changing roles and growth Clarity from the start prevents ambiguity, confusion and conflict
  23. 23. Compensation Structure
  24. 24. Base SalaryIncentive Stock Options Discretiona ry Bonus Fringe benefits Non- Discretiona ry Bonus Awards
  25. 25. Coming up with a package • Cash component: depends on functional discipline, education history, seniority, etc. • Stock component: there are common industry norms in the US for typical % granted to non-founding senior staff members and for various levels of staff at various funding stages • Fringe benefits: basic coverage is appropriate for a startup • Do some research to find out what the industry norms are, and try to pay fair market value
  26. 26. BufferApp example • Salary = job type X seniority X experience + location (+ $10K if salary choice) Source: our-transparent-formula-and-all-individual-salaries/
  27. 27. Hiring do’s and don’ts Do • Take time to know the candidate as a human – not just as a resource • Ask open ended questions to see how the candidate deals with stress, flux, lack of structure – all qualities unique to a startup • Have existing team members imagine working with them, anticipate compatibilities / friction points, flag issues and concerns • Consider test driving them in a trial project to gauge work style compatibility Don’t • Hire by checklist of skills and experience and forget to check for culture fit • Allow technical brilliance to trump culture fit. “I only hire rock stars” will quickly turn into “I have a collection of prima donnas who can’t work together on the same thing”. • Allow random interview technique introduced artifacts to screen out great candidates who may not do well in an artificial interview setting (e.g. White board coding, 5-minute speed dating) • Hire for lack of weaknesses, not superior strength
  28. 28. By May 2014, the team had good momentum on both the product and the business. They moved out to a new facility and started hiring more people. There are more transitions coming up that they will be
  29. 29. Second transition: from doing to managing
  30. 30. How is Dip’s job changing? • What does his job look like before he started hiring employees? • What does his job look like after he has hired a few employees?
  31. 31. Your old job • You personally did everything: wrote all the code, did all the design, opened the bank account, did all the biz dev, personally tweeted with the company twitter handle. Everything is in harmony because you coordinate it in your head. • You never wrote anything down. Documentation is for big companies. • No M&M’s in the office (Meetings and Managers), everybody does real work. • If a deadline looms, you’ll pull 3 all nighters in a row. No worries. • Running low on cash? You’ll go without pay for a few months. Your new job • The new people are still generalists but are more aligned with functional disciplines – developers, marketers, biz dev, finance people will need help with project management, coordination and alignment with company goals. • The oral tradition alone is insufficient – more writeups are needed for coordination. • Some meetings are needed (e.g. daily scrums for software developers) and some managers are needed (who will do the salary reviews?) • Your new hires may have personal constraints – you need to let them go home sometimes. • Your new hires cannot go without pay.
  32. 32. This is now your job Hiring and firing Mentoring and coaching Providing direction Managing and coordinating work
  33. 33. You really shouldn’t be doing this too much anymore
  34. 34. Management Do’s and don’ts Do • Delegate • Trust your staff • Stay highly engaged and provide direction • Celebrate individual and team level successes publicly • Hold people accountable for performance problems • Manage the professional development process of your staff • Facilitate conflict resolution to build a well functioning, cohesive team Don’t • Hold on to everything for dear life • Micromanage • Be completely hands off and absent • Give only negative feedback but no positive reinforcement • Give no feedback until it’s time to fire someone • Assume your staff will be doing the same job forever • Avoid dealing with conflict – resulting in a dysfunctional team dynamic
  35. 35. Back to Ecovent
  36. 36. Growing pains Before: < 5 employees • Fast • Spontaneous • Collaborative • Simple After: > 50 employees • Slow • Process driven • Lost in translation • Very complex
  37. 37. Third transition: balancing management and leadership
  38. 38. Leadership and Management
  39. 39. Your leaders are the key to the puzzle
  40. 40. Develop strong relationships You You You You You
  41. 41. Help them develop strong relationships
  42. 42. Encourage 1x1’s with staff
  43. 43. Keep communication linese open Pushinformationalongsub-teams Enforce communications across sub-teams Encourage and reward organic cross functional communications and coordination
  44. 44. Leadership Do’s and Don’ts Do • MTWA (Manage by Wandering Around) – invest in building relationships with each person • Lean on your staff to be the domain experts • Share business context updates to staff at least once a week • Keep your listening ears on – solicit feedback, notice issues and concerns • Be authentic and transparent • Repeat yourself. Repetition is the key to retention. Don’t • Hide in your office Thinking Big Thoughts • Make all key decisions by yourself without involvement from your staff • Be the smartest person in the room every time you meet with your staff • Communicate critical messages via email or memos without a face to face meeting • Talk more than you listen when interacting with staff • Overpackage your messages into glossy nuggets • Hide bad news and overplay good news
  45. 45. These are very different jobs
  46. 46. Continue to grow and learn to remain effective
  47. 47. @chenelaine Thank you