Think Like a Founder: How to Build Your Team
Many sellers dream of the moment their business outgrows the solo phase.
When you’re ready to scale your business beyond yourself, the next obvious step is to jump into hiring. This is an exciting and logical step to owning a growing business.
However, too many sellers take shortcuts — this leaves them with poorly trained virtual assistants who can’t own outcomes or employees that simply aren’t the right fit.
What's more powerful—several "VAs" told what to do or a cohesive team who owns outcomes?
The answer is the cohesive team.
Build a team for long-term success.
Unfortunately, most sellers don’t do this. The biggest mistakes sellers make that leave them with a mess of disconnected employees instead of a high-performing team are:
- Outsourcing tasks instead of building a team
- Failing to invest time into quality training
- Holding onto employees that aren’t a good fit
Eric Castellano, founder of Amazon Lit, stresses:
"As an Amazon business owner, one of the biggest investments you will make is in your employees."
The key for him was to invest in training and cut his losses with employees who didn’t align with the business’s vision. Instead, he went after “the keepers”, which he describes as “the employees who make your business money, providing a return on your investment from their training and the hours they put in. They are the employees worth investing in.”
Dillon Carter, co-founder of Aura, also harps on the importance of building a team over outsourcing.
"You can only get so far as a founder. Building a team is how you go infinitely further. The trick is to hire people for their brain, not for tasks."
To hear Dillon’s take on what it takes to scale a team and Castellano’s tips for hiring, keep reading. 👇
Step 1: Build a team
Startup founders are notorious for hiring people smarter than they are to solve problems. Amazon sellers tend to operate differently.
In the Amazon space, the go-to practice is to hire virtual assistants. It's affordable to hire VAs, but, there's a greater cost that is not as obvious—the opportunity cost.
By having a sub-par team, you're limiting how much you can grow. Your team (and you) become the bottleneck.
When you set out to build a team, don't stop at hiring virtual assistants — that's just scratching the surface.
An amazing team has less to do with size, and more to do with impact. Trading ten assistants for four impactful team members allows you to do more with less. It's not about head count. It's about driving impact.
By shifting your focus toward building a core team, you begin operating at a different level. You decide the what and why and let your team decide the how.
Each person owns the outcome — rather than you telling them what their tasks are, they tell you. It's the difference between assigning tasks and assigning outcomes. This is how you scale your business.
You should be hiring someone for their brain, not because they are affordable. Otherwise, you're still solving all of the problems in the business. That's a major missed opportunity.
To apply this, write down every task you complete on a weekly basis. Then, group them into potential roles—sourcing, growth, operations, etc.
Which role would have the highest impact on growth if someone else focused on solving that problem?
That's who you need to hire next.
While you may not be able to hire a specialist—someone who is an expert in that role—you can hire someone who has the qualities for that role.
The Buy Back Principle by Dan Martell is an excellent read if you’re looking to dive into building a team.
Step 2: Invest in training
No matter who you hire, you'll need to properly onboard them.
Onboarding and training include getting every new hire up-to-speed with how you operate. Where do you keep your company documentation? Where does your team track projects, tasks, and KPIs?
These questions should already have answers.
- Notion for documentation
- Todoist for task management
- Monday for project management
- Geckoboard for KPI tracking
- Slack for team communication
Besides the above, you need a foundation that enables your team to perform well.
We use what we call a "forest and tree" model for onboarding new team members.
Forest → The foundations: operating principles, measuring success, tool stack, etc.
Trees → The specific role; systems and processes, FAQs, etc.
By focusing on the Forest (foundations) first, you're teaching your team how to think and how to make decisions in their role. Only after that's happened should you begin training on the role itself.
Another way to think about this concept is that the Forest is about how we decide on and think about the work while the Trees are the work itself.
Yes, building a team means spending more time on these tasks. You're not freeing up your time to do nothing. You're redirecting your time toward higher leveraged work—hiring, growth, etc.
Rarely can you hire someone and never manage them. This brings up another key point for this section—learn to manage your team effectively.
For team management, we'd recommend reading High Output Management by Andrew Grove.
Training new hires requires time. However, this is one of the highest leveraged ways to spend your time as a business founder.
Step 3: Cut your losses with poor fits
One aspect of managing (and growing) a team is knowing when to let someone go. Firing someone can be one of the most painful experiences as a founder. But, one person can have a massive negative effect on your growth.
The startup saying is "hire slow and fire fast".
Take your time when vetting potential new hires—make it hard to get hired. Let someone go the moment you know they aren't right for your team.
Creating a hiring playbook and process can better your chances of hiring right the first time.
If you do have to let someone go, retro on what went wrong. Did you not do something you should have? Did you ignore red flags?
It's easy to assume fault in the person being let go, but many times it's your fault as the founder.
If you want to build something amazing, you'll need an amazing team. Hire A players only and let the rest find a better home.
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