When first starting your company or even if you just have an idea for a company, there are many things to consider when it comes to building your initial team. Do you need a co-founder? Do you need an engineer? Do you need a big team? Do you even need a team at all or can you do it all yourself?! How do you manage all the tasks by yourself? How much hustle is too much hustle for one person?
I recently set out to try and answer these questions because teamwork may make the dreamwork, however, team size affects the process before that dream comes true. Before even considering the perfect team size, we have to consider the primary factors that are important to a team’s ultimate efficiency, productivity, and health.
- Purpose: The motivation and drive has to be consistent across your team. People need to believe in the mission or purpose of the company. On a large scale, your team has to want to grow and challenge each other in order to reach and fulfill their purpose.
- Goal: Similar to above, the team needs to all be on the same page. Goals help measure growth, change, and goal setting has been proved to create a positive challenge for people.
- Individual contribution: Individuals in a team setting need to feel like they are heard and matter. Individual thought is important for discussion, internal perception, and overall health for the team. Individuals need to feel like they can contribute comfortably.
- Ability to communicate: A great team communicates constantly! Whether it is updates, questions, ideas, or discussion, in order to have a strong team cohesion, communication is imperative.
- Diversity of thoughts: Team members from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, locations, etc., help move the team forward. Diversity of thought is one way in which a company can grow due to the difference in perspectives and angles in order to create a more powerful offering.
With the above understanding, I interviewed three different founders all with different sized teams, different characteristics, different goals, and different way of managing communication to try and understand the dynamics of the best team size for startups.
You can have a very small team, but have diverse thoughts for different ideas.
A unique characteristic of Eyemail is that they have a very diverse team worldwide. Lisa has 12 people on her team, each with a different background. Not only is EyeMail in the United States, they have team members in Germany, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, all collectively coming together to efficiently serve the client. While it’s a small team, it’s a global team, which enables them to execute better as they are always intaking new and different worldly perspectives to improve the next evolution of the idea. While a large team can be beneficial, diversity creates a very powerful change rather than having a lot of people all from the same background. The best part of Lisa’s experience: “Two things: seeing EyeMail be brought to life and being so embraced, by the public, and enterprise, and seeing my dream come true.”
Next, I interviewed Diane Bloodworth. Diane was born and raised in Georgia but has lived everywhere, from California to DC. She has worked in many many fields in the tech industry but her love has always been sports. She was able to combine her skill and her love and create Competitive Sports Analysis! She believes you can achieve success as long as you hire the right people, not the most people...and as long as you cheer for the Dawgs! 😉
On average she tries to keep her tasks to about five or six a day in order to focus on what’s really important. Her team is made up of part-timers and interns including three interns, a software developer, a part-time marketer, and two part-time sales people. She delegates to her team by having consistent weekly meetings where they set metrics, goals, and priorities.
When it comes to managing her team, “I tell people, ‘This is our goal, this is what we want to do.’ But it depends on the person’s experience level. If it’s someone experienced, I just let them go. If it’s not someone experienced, I’m going to do some check-ins to see if they have questions. I’m not a micromanager and you really don’t belong on my team if you have a million questions and can’t make decisions on your own. You have to be a self starter.“
Diane does not believe that in order for a company to be successful they need to have a large team. She is very proud of what her productive and efficient team has accomplished with being so small. As she grows and scales she will determine if she needs more people to make sure she’s taking care of business!
I’ve never believed that more people or more money is the answer.
From Diane it’s clear that as long as you work hard (and love sports) you can be successful on any size team. Read more about Diane’s entrepreneurial journey in a recent interview with VP of Atlanta Tech Village, Karen Houghton.
The best part of Diane’s experience: “Oh it’s a win! It’s a win with the coach. The coach that says, ‘This is what I need, this is what I’ve been looking for, this is helping me find recruits.’ It’s our clients. That’s the biggest reward.”
Last up, Inman Porter, CEO and Founder of SupPorter. He and his brothers have worked to build a team of 12 members, plus employed five interns this past summer. SupPorter was founded by four Eagle Scout brothers who believed that having a clear set of values would help it grow into a successful company. Similar to the Boy Scout Law, “Friendly”, “Courteous”, and “Kind” are important to the team because they believe in the golden rule and that attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Treating others with respect, along with a positive attitude, gets people excited in their company and inspires confidence. The hope is this will lead to a commitment to the company and increase job performance and results from employees.
Inman thinks the best way to delegate to his team of 12 is based on three factors: the ability/skill of the individual to complete the task in the best way possible, the importance of the task, and the opportunity cost of the individual’s time. He tries to make sure that any task someone has is an appropriate and effective use of their time.
The best part of Inman’s experience:
The hustle gives me the opportunity to build the life I want to live.
From these three successful founders it’s clear that team size can vary depending on what works best for you and your company. Utilize different resources such as interns, part-time experts, and other’s diverse experiences. Success comes from having a great team that you can believe in, communicate with, and push forward to create innovative ideas to improve efficiency. Empower those on your team, regardless of its size, and scale as you need to.