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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

11 new hire traits to build a powerful team in the business

Every single person on your team—in the early days—needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

11 new hire traits to build a powerful team in the business
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

If you want to launch a growing business and be successful, it’s important to create a strong mission statement and surround yourself with folks who are willing to put in the work because they’re passionate about what they do. Business leaders should also look for people who can carry out core values and continue to foster a positive company culture that lives up to the brand that the founder envisions.

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It may be difficult to obtain the best talent in the market, so start with the peers in your network who respect what you’re already doing and are happy to support what you stand for. Below, 11 expert panelists from Fast Company Executive Board suggest other leading traits business owners and managers should think about when they are trying to match a job candidate within their company.

1. NO UNICORNS

Stop looking for unicorns and prioritize one or two critical skills, and more importantly a fit for the culture you want to build. The first employees will shape your team culture and can learn additional skills. – Holly Sydnor, AWL Strategies

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2. CHANGEMAKER

Find people who are accountable and comfortable with ambiguity. The only constant with early-stage companies is change. So, the roles and responsibilities of early team members will likely not fit into a defined box. People who are able to adapt and grow with you are crucial to building and developing teams. – Blake DeCola, Brado

3. ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET

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Every single person on your team—in the early days—needs an entrepreneurial spirit. At this stage, there will be more questions than answers. Every single day, every single thing each of these employees does makes the difference in the success and survival of your company. You need to find folks who seek the answers for themselves, who self-start, and who know how to make something out of nothing. – Shelley Osborne, Modal

4. JOB PASSION 

We have been hiring by using the methodology of passion-first. Experience can be gained from leaders or the group and being exposed to the task. This has proven to be extremely important during the “Great Resignation” during 2021 and 2022, as we haven’t experienced it as some other businesses did. For start-ups, it’s important to hire passionate people because that is the only way to grow the product. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

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5. FLEXIBLE TEAM PLAYER

Two critical criteria: people willing to put on many hats, and those who contribute to the culture the company aspires to be. A start-up environment isn’t for everyone. You need people who are willing and able to contribute proactively with a wide scope versus a narrow function. The first 15 employees will cement your culture. Be choosey and deliberate in these hires with that in mind. – Ed Beltran, Fierce, Inc.

6. COMPLEMENTARY SKILLS

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There are four pillars you should focus on when building your start-up team. The team members must have the expertise required for performing their roles now, and into the future. They should bring complementary skills that make the team better as a whole. Finally, they must be passionate about the mission with a strong drive for success. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage

7. TAKES DIRECTION

People need to really believe in you, not what you’re selling. You need to show them the road ahead because you’re the only one who sees the end result. Guiding potential team members all the way through your vision is a key to success. – Maurice Kelly, Windpact Inc.

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8. TRUSTWORTHINESS

Hire humans who are motivated and that you can trust. Start-ups can be very demanding and tiring and you need people by your side who can take action and are willing to learn. Skills can be taught, trust and loyalty cannot. Hire amazing humans that are hungry, and willing to talk the talk and walk the walk. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group

9. ADAPTABILITY

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Building a team is not easy. You need to find the right people for the job and manage them properly. The first step is finding people who are good at what they do. If you don’t have any background in what your business does, it’s difficult to find the right people because you won’t know who has experience in your field. The second step is finding people who adapt quickly to changes. – Kristin Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

10. MAIN ELEMENT

Don’t focus on over-hiring. Hire just what you need. Identify the main elements and tasks that need to be completed by someone who is not you. Each business differs, but if I had a dollar for every time I met a start-up owner who hired an assistant, office manager, and sales rep immediately and regretted it, I’d be a rich man. It is a terrible way to pull focus and funds away from success. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

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11. INNER CIRCLE FAMILIARITY

In the early days of my business, I built my team by connecting with people I already knew. I was part of the WordPress community and was frequently in touch with avid contributors from around the world. I simply reached out to some of them and they joined in. I think the key is to ask around and network in order to sign on the people with the right skills and who already know you. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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