How the right team can get you investment ready

When you're looking to get the attention of an investor, having the right team around you is crucial. Building up a great team of supporters and advocates is really important for impressing investors, as it is essentially the lifeblood of your business. If investors don’t believe in a team, the chances of getting them to part with their cash is practically zero. So a great team, goes hand in hand with landing a great investment.

Unfortunately, hiring the right people can be one of the most difficult aspects of business to get right, especially for early stage start-ups. Yes, they have the idea, but that idea needs the right people behind it, working to put it into motion. An idea is just the beginning; it’s the implementation that's the real hard work.

So, as having the right team is so important, here are some of our best tips for hiring the best possible candidates.

Do I need a co-founder?

So much start-up chat demonises solo founders. Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham puts being a solo founder as the number one factor that will kill a start-up. Most accelerators and incubators only accept teams with 2 or more co-founders and many VCs list it as a prerequisite. Whilst the benefits are clear, don’t feel you have to start scrabbling around for a partner. It may be hard work, but there are many entrepreneurs who have been successful that started out flying solo. Some funds such as Forward Partners even actively welcome solo founders.

If you can’t find a co-founder, don’t panic! It can work without one, but you do have to be prepared to focus on building a really strong team to work alongside you..

Who should I be hiring?

Before jumping into bed with the first person who expresses even the slightest interest in what you are doing, you need to do two things:

1. Clearly articulate your vision

Jumping ship and joining an early-stage business is a risk. If you are going to convince someone to come and join you, you will have to sell them the dream. Not through a rambling soliloquy detailing how you are going to take over the world, but a concise and clearly articulated statement of what your bigger picture is. You need to believe in the product you have created, in order for others to believe in it, too. If you can’t do this, maybe you aren’t ready to launch your idea. If this is the case, re-evaluate your vision, remind yourself why you are passionate about your idea and set out some clear goals you want to achieve.

2. Outline what you are looking for

You want to make sure that any early hires add real value to your business, complementing your own skill set and plugging any gaps there may be in your knowledge. Now is not the time for duplication, so don’t go hiring ‘mini-mes’. Investors will look closely at who is in your team and what they bring to the table. For example, if you’re a tech-led business but your core team are ‘business guys’, then this will raise questions.

Outlining the key duties and responsibilities this person will have will help to define your search. You could even go as far as creating a specific persona of the ideal profile to help you stay focused on your hunt.

Where to find them

The dream team isn’t just going to fall into your lap, you will need to be proactive. With early hires, it is best to start with referrals and introductions. Formulate a hit list of potential referrers and start asking around. Be systematic and target ex-colleagues, friends, university pals and any advisors you have met along the way to track down the best people. If you need to widen the search, target specific sub-groups and meetups. If you don’t get a response the first time, make sure you follow up and be persistent.

I’ve found someone, now what?

Once you’ve been introduced to someone, it is important you move quickly. First impressions are everything. Try and meet them as soon as possible and give prompt feedback. If you are hiring someone outside of your own remit, try and find someone who can sit in on interviews so you can assess technically whether they will be a good fit for your team.
When building your team, don’t take too much notice of who looks good on paper. Whilst this might pique the interest of potential investors, they aren’t the ones spending 50+ hours a week with them. Hire people you like and get on with. Investors will pick up on the team dynamic, so if there isn’t any chemistry then it probably won’t work in the long-term.

How to incentivise your new team

Hiring can be a huge drain on time and money. You want to make sure you are hiring people who are going to stick around for the long-haul. Investors will also want some comfort that the core team won’t all jump ship when the going gets tough. Creating an options pool will ensure the team is rewarded, should you eventually sell the business. You can offer options upfront, but make sure there is a vesting period. If a hire doesn’t work out, you might want those options back.

The team isn’t the single thing that will make your business investment ready, there are multiple factors that must be worked on. However, the team can often be the tipping point for investors, as these are the people they will be buying into. Make a good impression with your team, and investors will instantly feel more at ease, so getting it right will make a huge difference.

If you found these tips on hiring a great team useful and want some more advice, check out our full guide to uping your hiring game, here!