What Positions Does Your Startup Need to Fill?

Group of business people in office

How to assemble the right team for your growing business

You’ve got the idea. You’ve got the vision. Maybe you even have some funding or a path to profitability. But now you need to get there, and it’s time to start thinking about how you want to structure your startup to give you the best chance of success. Who do you need surrounding you as your startup begins to grow?

Erin Rennich, client services manager and executive coach at the Ohio University Innovation Center, has advised plenty of young startups who are trying to answer that same question. She says it can be difficult to craft the right team, especially in a startup’s early days when funds are limited. Often, a do-it-all founder is the de facto fix to that problem. But then things begin to change.

“It’s rare that a startup has the resources to hire talent to fill every role, so they tend to start with a flat and fluid structure that leans on team members to fill a multitude of roles,” said Rennich. “The catalyst for a tech-based startup is generally a founder who is a passionate innovator, engineer or scientist with the next great idea.”

As a startup works to confirm the market need for their solution or product, the organization and its founders will need to be prepared and willing to put a structure in place. But setting that structure is often easier said than done.

“In my experience, first time entrepreneurs generally fall into one of two camps: those who are overwhelmed because they don’t have the resources to acquire the talent they need, and those who are not concerned because they have blind spots related to what it takes to build a functional team,” said Rennich. “A team can make or break a startup. In fact, one of the top reasons startups fail is due to poor hiring decisions.”

Many founders have too much on their plates to handle all the most important responsibilities of a startup. Early-stage companies sometimes forget they don’t have to go it alone, and there are numerous resources in Ohio from mentors, advisors and business-service providers like the Innovation Center, TechGROWTH, JumpStart, Rev1 Ventures or CincyTech. They are available to help entrepreneurs and startups through these early stages, into market entry and beyond.

Here are some key areas where Rennich suggests growing startups should consider putting a leader in place:

CEO

Naming a CEO isn’t necessary for every startup at every stage, but many will find it important to put someone in the CEO role sooner than later. Some startups appoint or hire a CEO early on, while others have a founder who serves in the role for a time. A CEO should be able to manage the startup’s cash flow, steer the company’s vision and fill out the remainder of the team, in addition to a variety of other duties. The CEO will often serve as the face of the company in both public and private situations, making this hire a critical one.


Finance

Finance and accounting may not be the first thing on the minds of most startup founders, but hiring someone to manage the books is essential to the success of the business. If your network of talent doesn’t include someone with a background in finance, there are plenty of outside resources to take advantage of. This position isn’t just about balancing the books — a good finance manager or accountant will also ensure that your business is complying with tax code and other important finance law while ensuring you’re spending wisely.


Operations

An operations manager is generally considered an important hire when the day-to-day business operational needs begin to ramp up. The roles and responsibilities of this position can vary depending on the needs of the company. Some operations managers may fill more of an office-manager role, handling paperwork and overseeing staff, while other operations managers may be more involved in the strategy and execution of early initiatives. No matter what their role in your company looks like, it’s important to have someone making sure things run smoothly.


Product Development

If your startup involves developing a product, especially a piece of tech, having someone talented to lead your product-development team is a must. The product development manager will direct your team of engineers and will be critical in refining your tech and planning your product’s path to market.


Human Resources

Securing a human resources manager often falls lower on the list of importance until a company has secured funding and is able to hire and support a robust team. While this role might be an afterthought during the formation of a company doesn’t mean it’s any less important than other positions. An HR manager can often come in the form of a subscription-based service or outside staffing agency who can handle staff issues and free up the founder or CEO.


Forming the structure of your startup may not be the first thing on your mind in the fluid days of a young company. But surrounding yourself with the right team can ensure that your business is prepared for the next steps in its evolution. For more tips, info and insight into the resources available to entrepreneurs, be sure to keep up to date with TechOhio on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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