Startup? Start with talent

In our work with growing businesses, we estimate that at least 85% of the talent challenges they face could have been avoided from the beginning.

And when is the beginning? When we talk to startup founders, a common phrase is “we are still very young now, we need to figure out the business model and raise capital and then we will have time to deal with talent issues.”

This is influenced by beliefs such as:


  • The people factor is not as important as getting the model right and raising money.
  • Talent management advisory is expensive and doesn’t match start-up needs (this is the gap edge closes)
  • Talent strategy can be designed later on when the business has gained traction and is preparing to scale. Basically at the doorstep from childhood to adolescence.


Do you think these ideas hold water? From our experience there are more challenges waiting at the “preparing to scale” stage and you should focus on avoiding “childhood diseases”.

Common talent challenges among start-ups and fast growing businesses

Founders often find themselves in a difficult situation when their businesses start to grow and they realize that the key factor that will propel them to the next big phase is talent. These “sudden talent needs” may seem overwhelming especially because they often need to be addressed during critical business seasons.

  • These talent needs often may manifest themselves as the following challenges: ‘I don’t think I have the right team to drive sales’.
  • “We don’t have the right structures for our people to perform”.
  • “Everything is in my head; all I need is time to write it down”.
  • Suddenly there is need to balance between roles of manager (plan, organize, direct, monitor) and leader (inspire, motivate, influence). With little experience in both in the past this can be a daunting experience.
  • The initial thought that everyone can do everything is not working anymore. There is little productivity from the team.
  • Need to move from a ‘plug and play organization’ during on boarding of new team members to a more standardized on boarding process. Additionally, another common need. streamlining who, when and how acquire new talent which often leads to the realization that due to the past way of recruitment, a few changes may be needed.

How can you address them?

Keeping in mind the talent needs from initial stages as you model your business is therefore the key to ensure that when the time comes, the business is ready to scale smoothly.

A few things to consider or seek a professional talent advisor to guide you through are:

  • As founders: What are our strengths as workers, as managers, as leaders? Where are our gaps as a team? Which threats arise and how can we avoid falling into these traps?
  • How are my leadership skills? Where do I need to grow? What type of leader do I want to be? How comfortable will I be delegating and a growing team where I cannot control everything? How can I be more prepared for that stage?
  • What strengths do I currently have in the team (skills, knowledge, experiences, individual talent; do I have creatives, implementers, connectors, systems people etc.)
  • How will my business needs evolve in the next 6-1 year and beyond time? What will that demand in terms in terms of talent needs? What do I need to do / learn / test right now in order to be more prepared then?
  • How do I want my company culture to look like? (Think through working environments, decision making, conflict resolution mechanisms, how we talk with each other, which 4-5 values if displayed consistently will drive our purpose?)
  • What will success look like in my business for me to say that my team is highly productive? How do I as leader have to act to allow this to happen?
  • What criteria shall I use for my recruitment process?
  • How will we set new team members up for success as fast as possible? How much time will the founders have to invest per hire?

Going through these simple yet important questions will guide you in your decisions and actions at the startup stage and if you are already growing it is never too late to start. Start today. Commit to make time! Maybe you will pack your bag, go to the beach and sit with your co-founders for a few days talking these through. Or you book a fixed 90-minutes founders’ breakfast for the next months.

Finding a trusted talent partner to walk with you in this journey can make your life considerable easier as they can ask you the right questions and help you find the right answers.

To get more insights on building and managing your team in a growing business follow our stories here:


Article written by: Martha Karimi

Martha Karimi