The most important task for every founder is building the right team. These are the shipmates that will either guide you to successful harbors—or steer you into an iceberg. How exactly to build this team and what qualities are most important may depend on your company, its stage of development, and the overall plan.
But it may also depend largely on what works best for your personal style. We interviewed dozens of successful founders on how they went about building their teams and identified four distinct personality types—we call them the four C’s: The Cultivator, the Coach, the Custodian, and the Collector.
There are potential benefits and risks to each approach. Naturally, most people may embody certain traits from each type, though some may lean more toward one type than another. Read on and see which types most resemble you.
To cultivators, employees are seeds they nurture into budding beauties. These founders tend to pick employees who are a little younger, but eager to learn and grow. From there, it’s a matter of creating just the right atmosphere to ensure the healthiest development.
A bonded team, heavily invested in the success of the company, and an enjoyable workplace culture. You may also save some money on salaries.
Your team may be less experienced.
Some founders we know with cultivator traits:
Hemanth Puttaswamy from Malbek
“Culture is the heart of the company. The culture is a lot of things… it’s the way you set an example as a leader. For example, we do test best across the company. So that’s a culture where quality is not just the QA team’s responsibility, quality is everyone’s responsibility. And, we do some of the things which are funny and nice—music is an intricate part…. Every Thursday, we spend about one hour with different team members, doing poems, singing, playing musical instruments. It’s a fun hour where it’s open for anyone who wants to join.”
Check out our interviews with Hemanth:
Garin Hess from Consensus
“I really can’t work with chest thumping, bro culture, kind of people. That’s just me. Some people love that kind of culture. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I like to do real work with real people and I love the authenticity. I also kind of look for humility… people who are always learning, they’re passionate about growing. Every person I bring on a team, I hope has a passion outside of work for something, because I know if they’re super obsessed about something, they’re going to bring that same kind of obsessive passion to work.
Check out our interviews with Garin:
Caren Maio from Funnel Leasing
“Having a core group, just being very clear about who you are, the culture you want to build, the values that are important to you—that’s so important. Because that sets that foundation as you grow where you’re able to really understand, okay, are these the right folks we’re bringing on board, and really making sure that culture stays strong. It’s important to have a strong culture, whatever you’re building.”
Check out our interviews with Caren:
Coaches assemble teams with an eye toward the potential for personal achievement. They highly value cooperation and trust, but the emphasis is on what individuals can accomplish. These founders like to encourage their employees to reach further, work harder, develop new skills, and achieve something great.
You’re likely to end up with a workforce of go-getters who will drive your company to high places.
Employees may be more tempted to achieve greatness at other companies, should opportunities arise.
Some founders we know with coach traits:
Hetal Pandya from Edison
“In the early days, the people that joined our team were all kind of mini entrepreneurial. That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for people who will say I am scrappy, I am hardworking, I will learn new things…. That’s our team. And that team actually changes everything.”
Check out our interviews with Hetal:
Peter Mahoney from Plannuh
“You need people who are open to learn, who embrace change, who look at it as something that’s exciting…. Finding those people and getting people excited about the ride that you’re going to take and excited about the vision, that’s the most important thing. If you can do that, almost everything else works itself out.”
Check out our interviews with Peter:
JB Kellogg from Madwire
“What we always say here is championship leaders build championship teams that drive championship performance… And a championship team is two things. It’s culture and execution. You have to just focus on the culture of the team and the execution of the team that’s needed to drive championship performance. If you can just take care of building a championship team, the championship performance piece at the end, that just takes care of itself.”
Check out our interviews with JB:
Custodians are first and foremost concerned with the preservation and maintenance of the company’s vision and values. When hiring, the primary question they ask is how well the candidate will understand and uphold those qualities. The theory is that once you’ve assembled a team that understands and is devoted to the mission, the right decisions are more likely to follow.
Custodians are likely to assemble a team that is committed to the integrity of your organization.
Some highly skilled talent may end up getting passed over.
Some founders we know with custodian traits:
Sean McCreanor from Assignar
“We really put an effort into the recruitment process, making sure there’s real clarity on what we stand for as a company, as people, as team members…. even if you’re a team of 10, going to 15, or 20, you’ve doubled and that can dilute your culture by 50%. And culture is values. It’s how you respond to customers.”
Check out our interviews with Sean:
Jordan Husney from Parabol
“We do a part-time project that we call a batting practice. What we say to the candidate is we want you to de-risk us as much as we’re re de-risking you. It would be terrible if you’re going to start with us and all of a sudden realize, ‘Oh my goodness, these are not the people that I want to be working with.’ We’ll give you that opportunity. We pay an incredibly generous rate for 20 hours of people’s time.”
Check out our interviews with Jordan:
Collectors have been around a while and have forged many trusted relationships along the way. Some of these relationships may involve partnerships that actually reduce the need to hire, thus saving some money on payroll. Other times, talent may come from previous endeavors and former workplaces. Collectors place great value on trust and pre-established bonds.
You can’t beat a tried-and-true relationship to come through for you.
You may be severely limiting the talent pool by only sticking with what you know.
Some founders we know with collector traits:
Matthew Hudelson from Inertia Systems
“I’ve established a relationship with different overseas developers that we’ve had for years, and we’ve had different teams in different regions and zones, and we’ve had US-based and you name it, we’ve done it all. And what’s neat about this is we actually formed before, like a bond with your team, and your team stays committed to the problems. And like, you could go into some really challenging scenarios with some really complex problems, and everyone’s just like committed to getting it done.”
Check out our interviews with Matthew:
Jeremy Levy from Indicative
“A lot of the people who I work with today are based on relationships from businesses that I’ve started in the past. For example, our VP of engineering is someone who I’ve worked with for many years. On that note, he was someone who we had hired out of effectively out of college. He has grown incredibly, with our company.”
Check out our interviews with Jeremy:
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