Three Tips For Building Your Lean Startup Dream Team

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CEO and Founder of dataPlor, human verified small business data in LATAM. 

In the first quarter of 2020, my company, which specializes in human-verified small-business data in emerging markets, pivoted to begin offering a database product to the market at large. Achieving this took deep internal analysis to determine if we had the best team in place to propel us forward.

When we began our team assessment, we realized we lacked the needed skill sets in a specific programming language known as structured query language, or SQL. What we did have, however, was a strong group of operations and product team members who were loyal and eager to learn.

We needed to make a choice: Either replace and rehire, or invest in our workforce. We saw the potential to shape our current employees into the talent we needed. Although a gamble, we ultimately chose the latter, which turned out to be a huge success.

This month, we promoted one operations team member who has been with the company since 2019. He now co-leads a team of 30-plus people, which I believe reflects the mantra to invest in individuals to build your core talent base. 

Throughout this process, I learned a few valuable lessons on how to build your dream team without breaking your budget:

1. Start with your internal talent pool.

As my company has learned, hiring someone from outside of your company isn’t a necessity in order to fill a gap in your team. In fact, tapping into your internal talent pool can have many benefits. For example, I’ve found that finding an outside hire can be challenging because it’s not always easy to determine the type of employee you will ultimately end up with. Even with multiple screening processes and assignments, this is simply difficult to know. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the cost of making a bad hire can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But with an existing employee-employer relationship, you already know how an individual fits into your organization’s culture, their work ethic and their degree of loyalty. In a startup environment, for example, your employees are used to wearing many hats. A high level of trust has already developed because your team has been called upon to complete tasks that would have fallen outside of their scope at larger organizations.

This is why I recommend investing in developing employee skill sets. Doing this demonstrates your loyalty to your team, and you can also reap additional organizational benefits. For instance, you can bypass the beginning phase of employment, often saddled with indirect, nonmonetary expenses like team disruption and onboarding distractions. Considering this, the cost to train each employee is minimal compared to outside hiring.

2. Assess available tools.

Almost any of the resources you need to boost your team’s skills can be found online (and staying at home due to Covid-19 provides more opportunities for many to leverage these resources). Consider in-house training and various online education options. As you’re choosing your solution, ensure it fits your needs and budget. 

In my company, for example, we settled on a remote program that would help educate more employees on coding. To support these efforts, we designated one of our engineers already proficient in SQL as a team leader who helped oversee the program. He held remote office hours twice a week for employee trainee questions and to check in with the group’s progress. At the end of the training, four operations team members became proficient in SQL. 

While completing the course took four weeks, it saved time and headaches in the long run. Our team did not need to spend weeks or months interviewing, onboarding and training a newcomer.

3. Create a culture of support for lasting team growth.

Through investing in our own talent, we secured a team of hard workers versed in the skills necessary to propel the organization into a new era of growth. By demonstrating loyalty and support of your employees’ career trajectories, you can also bolster morale.

By embracing your internal talent, helping them further develop their skills and creating a culture of support, you can create tangible growth opportunities with your company and care for your team’s future. There is nothing more rewarding.


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