Over the past 3 years, I gained interest in small businesses and the idea of creating my own grew. Through a series of successes and failures, I have learned a few important lessons that could save you time and money if you are looking to create your own small business team. Let’s start with a brief backstory on how I got into startups, and the I will tell you my 7 Tips for Building An Atlanta Startup Team.
My Startup Backstory
For a little bit of backstory on my experience with small businesses, I launched my first startup in 2017 around an emerging market trend at the time. Here are some of the things I did:
- Built a team of 9 people. This included people with skills in full stack coding, design & marketing, hedge fund data analytics, derivative market structures, legal finance, traditional markets, Initial coin offerings, blockchain, token economics, and of course business development. To put it simply, I had a stacked team of talented individuals.
- Find initial investors. To start, we had anywhere between $300 to $500 thousand from investors looking to push into the market and manage for our hedge fund. We had structured the initial phase to allow for two more funding rounds.
- Wrote a whitepaper. This is basically a business assessment and outline of everything your company will do that was around 20 pages of detail for the investors. We made it professionally, and too many renditions to get correct.
- Set up branding. This was done with our design team which included marketing materials, color scheme, long-term purpose and company fundamentals. In short, this was very fun.
- Establish the entity. I did this with strong legal guidance due to the unregulated industry we were getting into. We settled on an LLC for simplicity although we would pursue incorporating as an S or C corp later on.
- Structure user accounts and investments. This entailed formulating aggressive and passive investment structures for the fund, tons of research, time delay release structures, exit strategies, and reserve partnerships with two companies in Singapore and Ohio to grow reserves to present value investments.
- Choose a Legal team. We had several calls with a legal team from New York that specialized in our specific industry. This was by far the hardest part of building our startup because of the enormous legal complexity of the industry.
- Run weekly meetings. These were used to discuss market strategies and get to know each other. Plus everything I did had to be voted on by the team and discussed to make sure all avenues were considered.
- Delegate tasks and manage the team. On a weekly basis I had to be in contact and touch base with all 8 people on the team while still finding time to run my busy life. Let’s just say I was on the phone a lot.
The First Startup Failure
While this may sound like a solid gig and tons of work, the entire operation still failed from a single cog.
My partner at the time was tasked solely with communicating and working with the investors. Ironically, he had become so close with the largest investors that he was sold on the idea of rebuilding his own company with the same idea and funding group.
At one point my partner disappeared for 4 weeks and gave away a lot of our work to another group, bounced a series of checks off of our personal company account I was linked to, and basically demoralized the team. Soon after this, I called off the project and the team disbanded.
In total, I was out several thousand dollars and months of preparation and time. On top of this, I had to face plenty of unhappy people, dissolve the entity, and basically feel like a failure for a few months. It was not the brightest moment in my life.
Fold and Move On
I want to start off with this personal story of failure to show how far you can get, yet still fail.
Honestly, failure is all apart of the process of starting a company. There will be many failures, but what matters is learning and not giving up on your dreams.
From this failure, I have gone on to create two more startups. The second startup had a strong team of 6 people which quickly became 3. This was due to lack of dedication and understanding. Lessons were learned, and I moved on quickly from this one.
The third startup has currently been in progress for 9 months and is going strong. The team is stable, consistent, and dedicated to the long-term goal. In addition, there are several things I am doing throughout this startup to ensure the same outcomes do not happen as the last two. These will be in my tips!
That is enough about me to give you an idea of where I am. Therefore, here are my top 7 tips for building a startup team so that you can succeed and achieve your goals!
7 Tips for Building an Atlanta Startup Team
Since there are so many dynamics to building a perfect startup team, keep in mind that these tips may or may not apply directly to your situation. Apply them where necessary, but I will try to weed out any doubts along the way with examples which should help you deduce if you need the tip or not.
Also, keep in mind I am still learning and adapting myself. There is always more to learn, but let’s dive into my 7 tips for building an Atlanta startup team.
Figure Out What You Need
This may seem like commonsense, but it really is not. It is very important to know what you need versus what you want.
For instance, when I started my first first company, I wanted someone who could build a website, and code. Although, I did not need someone who could do that because I could have quickly learned and done it myself.
What this did was add to the stress of managing the team, limit my overall control of the process, and lead to complications down the line. When you are thinking about what you need for your startup, only go for the absolute necessities. The things you absolutely can not do on your own or learn how to do over a weekend. Then you will know who you need to target and get on your team with you.
In addition, the larger your team is the more problems that can occur. Keep it simple.
Work With People You Trust
This is by far one of the most important points. If you do not trust your team, nothing will get done. From my example of the first startup, there was clearly a lack of trust that lead to the project failing. Trust is key in a startup, and there is no exception.
Choose your team wisely, and always go for trust over talent. There was plenty of people in the past three years that have reached out to have my help on a project or startup that I refused due to the lack of trust, transparency or communication.
Communicate With Your Team
Speaking of communication, this is another obvious tip, but many people overlook. Make sure there is some sort of natural interest or friendship with these people you are working with. If there is no level of friendship or natural communication, then things will quickly become dry, unappealing, and difficult.
During a startup there are plenty of weeks where the work seems daunting, unappealing, or just simply too much. Without this level of friendship and communication, your team will never survive these phases.
Make sure to establish a strong personal relationship with your team though organic communication and interest.
Keep the Team Small
A huge mistake I made starting off on my startup journey was building teams there were frankly too big. This sounds great to have 9 or or 7 people working with you or pushing a project forward when in reality, it makes it harder.
This time around we have a team of 3 people which was plenty for this idea. Slowly, we added two more part time people to the team. Although, they are not fully needed and we do not rely on them to complete the project.
Rather we appreciate the support and work they give while understanding the brunt of the project relies on us 3 to complete and push the company.
Stay Focused On One Goal
Another simple tip, but rather effective. With my first two startups, I tried to have an array of people with different skills all focusing or specializing on different things. While this sounds great, it really lead to a lot of incomplete work and a huge lack of focus. With everyone working on one united goal of finishing a specific project, we have had much higher success in pushing the current project to further stages.
Make sure not to divide your team into different areas or onto different ideas. Keep everyone focused on one idea, and you will have a much higher chance of success.
While the long-term goal is to launch the project, keep in mind that the short-term goals for startups are much more important. Companies are not built in a day and neither will your startup.
Any reasonable timeline should be between 6 to 12 months for any startup. The larger the market you are looking to enter into, the longer the timeline should be. Make sure to set up short-term goals for your team to accomplish, but do not be surprised if things take longer than expected or there are hiccups along the way.
Instead learn to adapt and push past these obstacles because they will come. Short-term goals will help keep the team focused and driven though the months of work and focus.
Macro vs Micro Decisions
This is a little more in depth and leads into some of the team psychology. While I try to make sure everything was getting done and properly, as the leader of the project I have to allow my team the ability to be creative.
For instance, I have a vision in mind of how the project should look and operate. At the same time, I have to let my designer put his ideas and spin on the project. This can be hard at first. Over time you have to allow your team’s vision and input to take shape as much as your own.
In essence, allow your team members to make a lot of the micro decisions. These can include small things like color scheme, font choices, design ascetics, some functionality, and even marketing. While they do this, realize your job is to make more macro decisions like timelines, launch dates, partnerships, legal structuring, and things like this.
Do not micro manage your team. Instead, show them trust in their abilities and watch what they deliver.
Startup Tips and Tricks
These are my 7 tips for building an Atlanta startup team that you can use! I am constantly learning more tips, but over time I have learned that simple is better. Keeping things simple saves time and increases productivity. In addition, make sure to invest in your team. They will more than likely make it worth your time and effort and thank you later.