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5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building your Team

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Perhaps the most critical success factor for your startup is building the right team that will support and build your business. Make sure to avoid these common pitfalls.


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Perhaps the most critical success factor for your startup is building the right team that will support and build your business. You want team members who are passionate, highly competent, and as hard-working as you are. However, team building, like almost everything in startups, is more an art than a science. When building your team, make sure to avoid these common pitfalls:

1. Hiring from the gut

Don´t fall to subjective personal preferences, or selecting a person on just having “what it takes” to do the job. Be as objective as possible when selecting your team members.

Before you even start looking at resumes, you need to clearly establish what you are looking for in the candidate. A robust methodology is “Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It advises to be specific at answering the following: What will the role´s mission be? What outcomes does he need to accomplish? What competencies does he require to succeed? By scoring candidates across these criteria, you can not only avoid any unconscious psychological biases we all have as humans, but can be certain to objectively select the best possible candidate to fill the job requirement you are looking for.

2. Incompatibility with the rest of the team and culture

People should be compatible with the rest of the team members, your own work style and the culture you want to build. How does the person interact with others? Is he open to different points of view and perspectives? Will he be able to contribute to the rest of the team in a unique and constructive way? With appropriate reference checks from previous employers and temporary trial periods you can find out more about their true compatibility.

Make sure to hire people who are motivated and understand the growing stage of your business. Is this person a team player that will put on the hours required by you and the rest of the team for the business to succeed? While you need to build a team with a variety of experiences, backgrounds and styles, make sure to consider the right fit for your business.

3. Not enough planningPitfall

Not only is planning important for future growth hiring needs, but also for replacing current members that inevitably leave to pursue other opportunities. Make sure to avoid hiring the wrong person due to time constraints.

You need to ask yourself: how many people will I be needing for our next stage of growth? For what roles? How long will it take me to hire them? Finding people can be difficult and time consuming for a small business. Therefore, the importance of building a wide network were you can tap into for potential candidates whenever needed. Your own and other team members´ professional and personal networks are key for this purpose. Internet, social media and specialized platforms for startup hiring (,, can be also very valuable for building your database and network. Don´t let time pressure get in the way of finding the right people for you.

4. Not reacting fast to hiring mistakes

It is important to let go of underperformers and incompatible members as soon as possible. You will only be harming them and your own business if you hesitate to take action. However, this should not be a surprise for them. Make sure to give adequate and timely feedback as regularly as possible, and ample time for them to find another job. Be fast to admit mistakes, learn and move on. Your business needs this in order to survive and prosper.

5. Keeping people for too long

Every business requires different sets of skills and abilities for different stages of growth. Those who were fundamental in helping through the early stage may not be the best suited going forward. In fact, they might even be preventing the business to reach the next stage. This might be one of the toughest decisions an entrepreneur must make, however successful founders should be able to identify such cases and act by replacing them, in order to avoid disruptions in your business progress.

In essence, by avoiding these common pitfalls, entrepreneurs will be much closer to finding the right people, with the right skills, at the right time for their businesses.

Do you know of any other common pitfalls startups should avoid? Feel free to share below.

1 thought on “5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building your Team

  1. Very nice post, Rodolfo. These pitfalls, particularly the ones around hiring / firing the right people based on the stage of the business are important. One question that I wrestle with related to this topic is around the balance between loyalty to employees and firing / hiring the right team. It seems like many potential employees that would be an ideal fit now, would be deterred from joining if they know that they will only be hired for the current stage and not as a long-term employee. Furthermore, I imagine firing those employees at each new stage of the business might hurt employee morale and ultimately weaken the culture if employees feel that they are expendable. I wonder what the right balance is to employing the right team and fostering a culture of employer / employee loyalty.
    Another question that arises related to these pitfalls and the class discussion is around the supply of adequate talent. Selecting the right team and hiring / firing when optimal for the stage of the company makes sense, but assumes there is an adequate supply of talent available. In many cases, the perfect talent is not available when it is needed by the business. In this case, what is priority / approach to hiring / firing if replacements are not readily available?

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