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Building the right team: Recruiting to run your start-up

How to indentify the talent you need to succeed

Being a jack of all trades is a phrase often associated with starting up and then running a small business. This works so far as being the decision maker, creative input and tea maker but what happens when you come up against an area you can’t handle – we’re not all salesmen, for example.

This is the point where you are forced to acknowledge that although it’s entirely your business, you can’t do everything. That’s the hard part. The easy (or easier) bit is then building up the expertise you need around you without having to employ leagues of people you can’t afford.

You need an extended, partly virtual, team.

Company and marketplace

The first thing is to identify what skills and experience your company needs to grow and make it a success. Only once you know this can you start to work out where your team is strong, where it is lacking and how to rectify this.

  • If you haven’t already done so in you business plan, define the exact nature of your product or service and its marketplace and how to recognise the problems of that market. This doesn’t have to be complicated, simply testing at a local level to see how your company fits in can be your first step:

Sophie Brown runs Marmalade Cards in Cambridge, “I started by trying different designs in different local outlets – testing what sells in the post office, the pub or the shop. This helped me build up a basic range.” She basically got to grips with what her market would accept and what it wouldn’t.

Brian Steel at Business Link Berkshire and Wiltshire has four key questions, which can help in identifying areas for improvement:

  • What does the company do well?
  • What does it do badly?
  • What it needs to start doing?
  • What it needs to stop doing?

All this might seem rather theoretical but if you put it in context of customer service, advertising, growth, product range and so on you’ll build up a picture of areas to address.

What are your strengths?

This is the part where you identify where you can reasonably manage without the expertise of others by relying on your own resources. In some ways this is the most important stage.

“The areas that the business plan shys away from are often the areas where the problems are,” says Jon Howes of chip design company NEuW. “For example, there might not be a proper marketing plan or the financial side might be weak.”

It’s a variation on facing your fears but the whole point is that you don’t have to face them on your own, these are the areas to seek help. It will also equally show you where your strengths are.

“It’s vital to be strictly honest about your strengths and weaknesses,” agrees Brian Steel. “And it should be an ongoing process, continuous improvement comes through continuous monitoring.”

Practically speaking, you can learn to market your own product – after all you are the expert on it – you can run the office and develop new custom. But if for example on top of this you are spending far too much time struggling to balance the books when you don’t have a head for figures, it’s time to pay someone else to do this. It won’t be a full time job and the time saved will be worth the money.

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