Build a successful startup team with these 5 tips

Jo-ann Huang
Jo-ann Huang
August 2, 2021

Expert advice from Glints on how to bring out your team’s A-game

Assembling a successful startup team is an important part of a founder’s journey.

Unfortunately, this is something that many founders struggle with.

Many of them are first-time employers and lack the experience in managing their team effectively.

And as hiring locally can get expensive, many startups have turned to overseas talents from more affordable markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

But one downside is that as early-stage startups, they are in the midst of establishing a work culture or an effective management style.

Without that, they may find it difficult to manage remote teams, whose physical distance is a barrier to engagement.

Global cloud solution provider OVHcloud hosted a webinar titled Build your Startup All-star Team.

The webinar discusses the challenges and potential solutions in managing a startup’s employees.

Hosted by Yian Ling Tan, OVHcloud Asia Pacific’s Startup Program Leader, the webinar featured Yeo Puay Lim, Commercial Director of Glints as the guest speaker.

Puay Lim shared some insights that founders could use to have a successful startup team of their own.

Here are 5 tips for founders to bring their team to greater heights.

1. Get your rituals right

Puay Lim believes that early-stage startups should establish and enforce a routine for their teams, whether they are in-person or remote.

For instance, daily standups with team members to ensure that they are on the same page.

Or weekly check-ins to see how they are coping with work, or if they require additional help.

Puay Lim adds that management should make such syncs compulsory as they act as a communication touchpoint with staff.

Routine check-ins are not just about exchanging information or knowledge, but a way to engage your team.

He underlines the importance of team-building events, particularly in a pandemic where distance is an obstacle to staff engagement.

Puay Lim cites the example of Ninja Van, one of Glints’ clients. 

The last-mile delivery company, who has teams in various locations, created virtual games for their staff to indulge in regularly regardless of where they are.

“They play these games not just for fun, but to foster a sense of community or belonging,” he says.

Related: 4 lessons from Glints’ startup journey

2. Set clear boundaries between work and personal life

New startups often lack the resources for dedicated people management or human resource (HR) roles.

As such, founders often fill the post of unofficial HR manager.

Amid the pandemic, the lines between work and home are inadvertently blurred.

Puay Lim advises founders to, at the very least, set some boundaries separating the two.

He notes that pre-Covid, workers were based in-office, with a much clearer separation of work and home.

Employers should be mindful of their employees’ well-being in a fully remote scenario.

“It is contingent on us as employers or founders to set some guidelines and rules. That is important for sustainability as the pandemic drags on,” says Puay Lim.

3. Promote your vision to potential candidates

A founder needs to articulate his vision to potential hires, says Puay Lim.

This is especially important in an early stage startup that is building its core team. 

Core members are integral to strategic growth, and are required to interact with founders and senior members continuously.

Puay Lim recounts how he was screened by Glints’ founders in a lengthy interview process. 

Founders Seah Ying Cong and Oswald Yeo sold their vision of Glints to Puay Lim through a series of coffee and lunch meetings.

Such a process is best done on a one-to-one basis, even if it’s over Zoom. 

“You could be spending 50 percent of your time putting a team together and it is a worthwhile investment of your time,” he says.

When it comes to hiring leads or executive-level employees, Puay Lim recommends hiring “for fit and for potential”.

He recommends employees who are early in their careers, with a willingness to grow into their full potential with the startup.

They need to have like-minded values with the startup, as a team spirit is one that will bind the team together in difficult times. 

He also recommends stock options or equity for employees.

“It is the best way to align with their interests. People join startups because they want to be part of the growth story,” he says.

Related: Offshore talent to the rescue

4. Look into the startup ecosystem for potential core hires

The startup community is a closely-knit one that prides itself on sharing knowledge and resources.

As such, Puay Lim recommends looking within the startup ecosystem when it comes to hiring core or senior members of the startup.

They could be found through accelerators, investors, personal referrals or in your own professional network.

“These are the guys who are the backbone of your startup, who will be with you for years to come”, says Puay Lim.

“The personal touch is important. I wouldn’t recommend putting out a job ad to find a founding CTO,”

“You really need to find someone you connect with on a personal level,” he says.

When it comes to hiring the mid-level or executive level employees, or the next 5 to 10 employees, that’s when you can look towards external channels.

This next layer comprises your engineering, product management and business development teams.

Puay Lim recommends social media, as there is an opportunity to do some form of employer branding.

“Social media is a low cost but important effort to get some employer branding done. That helps you bolster your chances of landing candidates when you hire the next layer of employees,” he says.

5. Keep an open mind when joining a startup

If you are looking to join a startup, you will need the stomach for a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty.

The media often portrays startups as glamorous and exciting companies to work for.

That is only one side of the coin, says Puay Lim.

“There are lots of things that are not as rosy or shiny. For example, you have to be prepared to have a high degree of uncertainty – and we are not just talking about stability of the job,” he says.

“Job scopes creep into other areas. And it can be unstructured, messy and confusing,” he continues.

Referring to the previous point about fitting into workplace culture and values, Puay Lim advises candidates to ask themselves why they want to work for a startup.

Are they looking to grow with it? Do they fit into their values and culture? Do they share the same vision as the founders?

Candidates need to reflect on their intentions, too, to become part of a successful startup team.

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