Growing a startup in today’s competitive industries isn’t easy — especially for a bootstrapped solo founder building and managing a small team.
Your team is not disposable. In fact, its makeup is one of the most important things to get right. If you assemble a motivated team full of the right people doing the right things, you drastically increase your chance of success.
I know because it worked for me. In less than three years, I grew my startup more than 2,300 percent using these management hacks.
1. Don’t look at resumes.
Whether I’m hiring an employee, advisor or freelancer, I strictly follow my no-resume rule. I find resumes to be bloated and exaggerated. I don’t want to read how great applicants say they are. I want to interact with them and decide for myself if it’s true.
Instead of asking for a resume, I ask applicants to tell me about themselves. I ask follow-up questions and stress I’m not asking for a list of their accomplishments. I want to know about them. Yes, personally.
Then, like an FBI behavioral analyst, I make a judgment based on less-traditional facts. It’s not as hard as you might think. One very easy test: Ask an applicant to complete a task designed to showcase the important problem-solving skills needed for the position at hand.
I’ve been a Rubik’s Cube freak my entire life. My fastest time isn’t record-breaking, but 30 seconds isn’t too shabby, either. I love handing an applicant a Rubik’s Cube and telling him or her to “do whatever it takes to solve it.” My directions are just vague enough to encourage interpretation. I hope candidates hunt down a solution online or do something other than just sit there and struggle with it. The moment they take out a smartphone to search for a resource, I’m won over.
2. Always share the pie.
Paying people what they’re worth is the baseline. Combined with consistent incentives to do more, sharing the pie has dramatically improved my company’s bottom line.
Regular incentives go a long way. If all team members are getting some percentage of the upside, they’ll be driven to keep working toward increased revenue. Extra performance pay is a solid start, but realize that yearly bonuses don’t have the same impact as a more timely reward.
Sharing equity is another strong move. You don’t have to give away the farm — just a few points here and there gets the job done. Avoid offering equity-only compensation to employees who are used to getting a fixed salary. Even if you can convince them to try the new model, you put them in an uncomfortable position if they need to return to a regular paycheck. They might opt to leave the company rather than initiate an awkward conversation.
Most startups love to blame team members for failures big and small. It’s easier on a founder’s ego than the reality: The leader always is accountable. If you picked the wrong team members to do the wrong job or chose the wrong people to manage them, then it’s still your fault.
Assuming you made reasonably good hires to start, poor employee performance typically lies with an ineffective leader, lackluster motivation tools or both.
3. Treat everyone like gold.
Is it really that hard to spend a few minutes a day with the people on your team? It shouldn’t be. If you want motivated, dedicated people who will seriously go to bat for you, you must value and respect them as individuals.
I treat every person as if she or he is pure gold. If I did a good job hiring and managing them in the first place, that’s exactly what they are.
I never lie to my team members. Management should never, ever make false promises to try to motivate teams. I’ve been on the receiving end of similar messages, and it’s infuriating to know you’ve been lied to or deliberately misled by a client or employer.
4. Support remote workers.
A company once turned me down for a marketing-advisor role in the final hour simply because I wasn’t local. Instead, I took a position with its top competitor — for double the pay.
The company that turned me down flopped, and the one I worked with succeeded. Remote employees offer many advantages, particularly for online businesses. I hire people all over the world. Different areas bring different cultures, each with its own insights and challenges.
It’s a bit old-school for companies to hire only locally. If you can get one of the best employees or talents in the world to sign on, do it. A person’s geographic coordinates don’t have to be a negative factor.
Additionally, my team members have the freedom to work remotely pretty much whenever they wish. In fact, I just got rid of my local office in favor of an all-remote workforce. We meet up locally as needed, but it’s not a top priority for my online businesses.
Securing the right people and motivating them to work hard for you positions your company for massive success.