7 People You Cannot Afford NOT to Have on Your Startup Team

by Bushra Azhar, May 9, 2012

Investors are lined up, the website is done, glossy promotional material with smiling faces is all set, your core team is pumped, and you are ready to go live. Now is the time to worry about hiring the rest of your team. A social startup, unlike other businesses, is not just about “business”; it is also about passion and values, without which you cannot survive. Hiring the best team with all of the necessary ingredients is the key to your success.

That said, "best" can't be determined simply by a university transcript or a recommendation letter; best is what gels most effectively with your enterprise and its values. Define your own best and then hire, not just those with suitable expertise, but those with suitable personalities that contribute toward success of your start-up.

Below are the seven people you should consider hiring:

  1. Someone with Passion:  What else is there to look for if your chosen hire doesn’t have passion?  Social Enterprise is about changing existing behaviours and mind-sets, and only a person with passion and purpose can make it happen. An entrepreneur  once said, “Purpose may point you in the right direction, but it’s passion that propels you.” Enough said.
     
  2. Someone who is Social Media Savvy:  The current day and age is all about social media (until we find something more fun). If there is a potential hire who displays good social media skills (blogging, engaging, familiarity and presence on Social Media platforms and a Social Media following), do consider getting him or her on board. This person has a voice, and if used correctly, it can offer a tactical advantage to your enterprise. Of course it goes without saying that when I say SM savvy I don’t just mean updating Facebook status multiple times a day and posting YouTube videos of cats doing somersaults!
     
  3. A Problem Solver: Social enterprise is challenging. From getting community support to gauging measurable impact of your work, it poses many more challenges than a regular business. If you have a potential hire that can get to the root of a problem and suggest workable solutions ; he is the one you cannot miss. I can hear you saying, “But how do we find out?” Well, there are many pre-employment tests like Wonderlic Test that help gauge the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving. Have the applicant take these tests, but trust your gut feeling in the end.
     
  4. Someone with Compassion: Thomas Merton said, “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” Simply speaking, if a person does not have compassion, he won’t be able to appreciate this interdependence and has no place in a social enterprise.
     
  5. A Strategic Thinker: A person with foresight and vision is an asset for any business, but even more so for a social one. It is much easier for forward thinking, strategic people to look positively at what may seem like a short term decision because they know it can provide substantial societal and business benefits. The person who can see the bigger picture is the person you cannot afford to miss. 
     
  6. Someone from the Community: When you are working in a certain community, it is imperative that you have someone from thatcommunity as part of your team. This person should be familiar with local issues and should have a position of trust within the  community. If trained properly, he or she can prove to be invaluable in bridging the gap and managing expectations between the community and your enterprise.
     
  7. A Good listener: Companies usually look for charismatic speakers who can move audience to tears with a well-rehearsed, yet oddly spontaneous-sounding speech.  While it is great to have a few (very few) such people as part of your team, t a social enterprise benefits more from good listeners. Listening is an engagement tool that is highly underrated. As Dr. Covey in his timeless book stresses, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This approach is key to effective dialogue and results.

All of these traits are important for building a cohesive team, but I’m not suggesting that you need to hire seven people to find these seven traits. On the contrary, you may find them all in one, or make a point of being sure that anyone hired on your team has some of these traits (e.g. passion, listening skills, problem solving and strategic ability). The key is to define what you’re looking for in a holistic manner so that your social enterprise can maximize its effectiveness. Good luck!

Photo from gwen's photostream. 

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Bushra Azhar is the Founder of Good Business Sense (GBS), a CSR and Sustainability Knowledge Advisory based in the Middle East. A former corporate VP and academic, she has 14 years of experience under her belt with almost 5 years in CSR related areas. She is the author of a research study examining the growth of CSR in Saudi Arabia and is also responsible for developing 3 out of a total of 6 CSR reports released in the Kingdom. Her latest publication The Concise Dictionary of CSR: Simple, Practical, No-Nonsense Introduction to the Main Concepts” is available for free on her company website. You can follow her on Twitter @bushraazhar.

 
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Naveed Zaidi , Wed 09.05.2012
Very well written. Specially the last paragraph defines it all.