What does it take to build a successful startup?

Alongside a simple proposition and a strong vision, the people you employ are a crucial factor in driving success.

It’s not always easy to find the right kind of talent, of course. 

We recently spoke with six executives from the Top 100 Disruptive Brands list – published in association with Marking Week – to get their advice on the topic.

You can see the full interviews in the video below, or read on for a summary of what they said.

A culture fit

Many of the executives we spoke to cited the value of finding talent that reflects the unique culture of their company.

For Justin Basini, Co-Founder and CEO of Clear Score, this is the most important factor – even above and beyond an impressive CV.

Our approach to recruiting involves lots of interviews and tests. Most people that we come across can do the job that we’re asking them to do - the key thing for me is if they are a cultural fit. 

People who are slightly quirky, who have similar interests to us. We bring them in and we spend a lot of time in those first 12 weeks making sure that they really settle into the culture brilliantly.

An alignment of brand values

During the early days of a startup, it is important to develop a strong brand vision – along with a set of characteristics or values that embody this.

These values extend to the people the company employs, too.

Kirsty Emery, Co-Founder of Unmade, emphasises how her company is built on this notion.

When we’re hiring, we look for people who are creative and innovative. They are two important pillars and values within our company, so it’s something we look for in everyone who joins our team. 

A willingness to experiment

Startups tend to have a very flat structure, which means there can often be little time or a lack of resources to hand-hold new employees. 

As a result, many companies rely on new people to be able to take the initiative. 

Andy Hobsbawm, Co-Founder and CEO of Evrythng, highlights how this characteristic is vital in his technology-driven industry.

Specifically, for us in terms of how aptitude and attitude fit with our culture, it’s to do with a pioneering spirit.

We work in a very emerging market space – so you have to have a sense of adventurousness and exploration. You have to get it right, but also know that to succeed, you have to experiment. 

Likewise, James Kirkham, Chief Strategy Officer at Copa90, suggests that 'entrepreneurialism' is not just a buzzword. 

Everyone here has an entrepreneurial spirit, which is probably an overused expression in something like marketing, but here I’ve never known anything like it, where people are continually creating their own ideas.

Risk-taking & a lack of ego

As well as a willingness to experiment, humility is also an important characteristic to seek out in new talent.

With many startups made up of small and close-knit teams, it is vital that employees are able to inspire passion in others and lead without ego.

Stephen Rapoport, Founder of Pact, suggests that this – combined with an intense belief in the product – is the key to success within a startup environment. 

Hiring is one of the most important things we do, and it’s something I stay heavily involved in even now. There are certain qualities that we need from people that join Pact.

One, of course, is understanding of, and passion about, our mission – that’s probably the most important thing.

We look for people who are bold, who are prepared to risk failure, who will put the company’s needs ahead of their own and ahead of their ego.

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 3 November, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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