Team Building Lessons from Start-ups
The greatest asset any company can have is its people. In fact, a Gallup study reveals that engaged employees result in better earnings per share. Vinit Nayar of HCL famously said, “employees first, customers second.” The power of your workforce cannot be overstated. So, how do start-ups build their teams? Read on to know how some of our members did it:
Chetan Rawal – Founder, BioGenics Labs
Well, the way we went about building our team was a bit different from the usual. Since we are a B2C company we needed a good customer support team. And we thought why not look at women who were managing homes and because of familial responsibilities or the Indian mindset had given up their jobs and were now full-time housewives. Strangely, even a country like Bangladesh has more working women than India. So, we decided that we would not pick our team from the typical job seekers but from women who had some earlier experience with customer support and were now not working because of familial issues. We did a two-week training program to get their technical skills ready and offered them a hybrid model where they come to the office for a few hours and do the rest of the work from home. This has worked well for us because one, they are still working for us and are happy with our hybrid model, and two, we now have a great team without spending a fortune on them.
Ganesh Suryawanshi – Founder, Combat Robotics India
Ganesh started Combat Robotics in 2015 and he says, “hiring people in those days was rather tricky because robotics education itself in our country was very poor. The syllabus was half-baked and it was hard to find people who were qualified enough.
“Apart from that, we had to be very careful with who we hire because we are in the business of Defence Robotics. So, I laid out two parameters against which I would judge a candidate – productivity and integrity. Early on I knew that I would give preference to integrity not just because I was in the business of Defence but because I feel it is something all start-ups must focus on. You may hire a highly qualified person but if he lacks integrity then chances are that he will leave the company or worse end up becoming your competitor! I have seen so many people do that.”
While at college Ganesh started a small Robotics R&D lab and would screen about 50 students who wanted to work in the lab. “On account of this experience, I developed the skill to judge a person’s integrity and capability. I ran that place for seven years before starting Combat.”
Ganesh often took the applicants for lunch or dinner at college and feels that that is when they open up. “A person very fixated on materialistic goals generally lacks integrity. But if a candidate says he wants to make a difference in the way things work, or build better products you know that this man will be true no matter what the circumstances.”
He was lucky to have four of the lab colleagues join Combat. He hired six more people but integrity has been the rule. “You can train a person who is low on productivity but you can’t ingrain integrity.”
Ayush Mishra – Founder, Tattvan E Clinics
“It is indeed true that finding the right people for a start-up founder is tough. You have a money crunch (I started with just Rs. 20,000) and employees are hesitant to join you since their career path is not clear. And of course, you need people. What I think worked for me is how you communicate what you are doing? How do you sell them not just your dream but also build credibility around yourself? No one buys into just a dream, right? So, I laid down the path my start-up would take in one year, five years, and so on. From the very beginning, I have always believed in backing up my words with action. For example, in the early days, I had an engineer who was in a very junior role and he was keen on doing more. I told him that we were then doing business of Rs. 2 Cr p.a. and if you took that to & Rs. 7.5 Cr, then I would make you a partner. I didn’t just tell him, I gave it on my letterhead, signed! And guess what, he did make it grow to $1 Million and he is now my partner!”
Yogesh Thore – Founder, Friyey Space
I firmly believe that people don’t join a start-up only because of the vision the founder has, but they join because of the person behind it. Because many a time, a start-up may pivot, and change course so the vision may seem redundant then. So first off, if the founder is good, he connects with the candidate then he will be happy to join you. Next comes your vision and what you want to change. In the early days, I did everything on my own. But soon you need more hands on the deck. I noticed that outside the nightclub (Friyey uses restos, and nightclubs as co-working spaces in the daytime to help remote workers with affordable spaces) there was Sunil who had a stall selling eggs. I asked him what he did during the day and he said nothing. I offered him a job and he took it. Today Sunil manages my operations totally and still runs his egg stall at night. My second employee was Balaji, an IIT Madras graduate, earning Rs. 30 Lakhs p.a. We met at one of our meet-ups and he was fired by our idea to provide remote workers an affordable workspace. Despite my telling him that I could not afford to pay him a fancy salary he joined. Because he was fired by our idea. I have offered all my early employees ESOPs so they can think of a long-term relationship with us. I think as start-up founders, you should look for people with an entrepreneurial mindset and not a corporate mindset. It will be difficult to execute your plans with employees who have such a mindset.”