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5 Key Positions in Your Start Up and Some Things to Avoid

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Blog, here and here, reposted with kind permission.

 

I’ve consulted with a lot of business startups – usually after they’ve stalled or run into trouble. The problem in almost every case I have seen is not funding. It’s people.

Not having the right people around you from Day One is Problem One.

This post will address some of the key things to think about when it comes to your team.

Team Composition

Exactly what you need in term of skills depends largely on the type of business you are starting and the particular impact strategy you’ve chosen. Nevertheless, here are some basic positions you need to have filled – even if you have the same person filling two boxes on the organisational chart or if you outsource.

1. Finance and Accounting
It’s not just about reports. It’s about regulations, tax compliance, and information. Here’s a tip: businesses don’t fail for lack of profit; they fail for lack of cash. Think about that. A finance guy knows what I’m saying. If you don’t, then you need to hire one.

2. Operations 
Whatever your product or service someone has to run the day-to-day operations. Planning. Making. Stocking. Shipping. Delivering. Inspecting. Improving. Supply chain. Transportation. A lot goes into running a business.

3. IT 
Even if you’re not a technology company (and the odds are you will be) there’s a ton of technology you have to be on top of. Networks. Systems. Hardware. Software. Websites. Lions, tigers and bears…oh my!

4. Business Development
Know sales or have no sales! Products and services don’t sell themselves. The market doesn’t just wake up one day and go to your site. Someone needs to wake up every day thinking about how to let people know what you’ve got, why it’s better than whatever your competition is offering, how to convince them to buy from you and how to keep them buying. Call it sales or marketing or business development or whatever. Just do it!

5. Human Resources The legal environment when it comes to employing people is thornier than ever. It’s toxic with government over-regulation, lawsuits, and more. In some countries you can even wind up in jail for violating some obscure “human resource” regulation. Get someone who can keep up with the laws and the trends and who is forceful enough to keep you out of trouble.

Outsourcing

For any startup I would say that you should outsource everything and every role you possibly can. Period. Hold to the qualifications outlined above. And use a staffing company, your CPA, a consulting firm, a freelancer, an intern, a payroll service. The fewer people you hire on the less fixed cost you have and the more flexibility you gain. Besides, you may be able to get all the accounting or IT expertise you need in about 12 hours a month – a lot cheaper than a full time financial or technology guy.

But can you do this for a Kingdom Company in another country? Sure. It’s no different. Maybe more difficult and maybe more complicated but still a good move.

Qualifications and Character

The greatest business idea in the world with sub-standard employees will probably fail. This is at least equally true if not more so for a Kingdom Business. The two temptations I’ve seen entrepreneurs fall into are investing way to much in the trappings of business –nice office, great computers, etc. – and hiring less than qualified employees too soon.

Just because you are launching your business to glorify God does not mean that you can take someone who knows nothing about finance and make him your Controller or a novice in the sales process and declare him to be Chief Marketing Officer. And, if you’re one of those magical thinkers that will point out how God calls and uses the weak then we are not going to like each other very much. With only an extremely small number of notable exceptions, having the basics to actually do the job are a prerequisite for joining my team.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that your candidates have the technical qualifications to do their jobs – they know accounting, they’re experienced in technology, they’ve actually operated something prior to this venture, etc. But there are other qualifications that matter as much as technical ability. Character. Spiritual maturity. Flexibility. Humility. Passion for the lost. Deep honesty. Cross-cultural giftings. Supporting spouse.

Some of the qualifications depend on your staff strategy–will you hire only Christians or will you hire unbelievers? Are you international? In a least reached area? Major western city?

Here’s the point: if you compromise on technical ability then important technical things like tax compliance will likely suffer; if you compromise on character (even if you are hiring unbelievers) your entire company culture will suffer.

“Wow!” you say. “This is hard!” Yep.

Follow the advice of this post  increase your chances of success!

4 Hiring Warnings

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but there are some simple warnings I want to share that may save you some heartache down the road:

1. Never Settle
There is something about Christians that compels us to settle for less than excellence. Not only is this counter to Scripture, but it’s also counter to your success. A substandard employee is just that–substandard. And their work will be substandard as well.

2. Beware of the “Buds”
The most common thing I’ve seen in new businesses, Kingdom or otherwise, is what I call “the Frat boys.” Hiring friends, family, and church colleagues is easy. However, if you don’t apply a rigorous selection process and somehow give them a “pass” it is you who will pay the price. Friendship is great, but it won’t sell anything or produce a clean financial report.

3. Don’t be Cheap
Since this business is for the Lord your employees shouldn’t expect a market-competitive income should they? Right? WRONG! Sooner or later the underpaid employee will end up quitting or “quitting and staying.” If profit is a worthy motive for business (and it is) then so is the desire on the part of your team to make a good living.

4. Avoid the Hurry
“Hire in haste; repent in leisure.” It is a lot easier to hire someone than it is to get rid of them. Whether you’re dealing with the highly litigious North American HR context or the problem of letting an expat go in a foreign country or the cultural issues of firing a national, it’s all bad. Take your time. Know what you want and need. Then find it.

Your team is your future. It’s that simple. Build a good one.

 

mike profile

Mike Baer was one of the early leaders in the modern Business as Mission movement. He started his career as a pastor and church planter. After 15 years in the pastorate Mike was led into business where he gradually began to discover the potential for believers in business to bless their communities, evangelize the lost and spread the Kingdom of God, especially among the unreached. Today, Mike is the Chief People Officer of EmployBridge, a $3.2 billion employment company based in the US. He has written 3 books on BAM: Business as Mission, Kingdom Worker, and Gospel Entrepreneur. Mike is a regular contributor to the Third Path Blog. Today Mike and his wife reside in the mountains of North Carolina where they enjoy their 5 grandchildren.