The Secret Behind Building an Excellent Startup Team

Last week, we talked about how every piece of your business ultimately comes down to your brand. In other words, the way that you present yourselves to the people outside your company is incredibly important. But what about the people inside? There’s no piece of a company more valuable than your team and they need to believe in your brand most of all.

Startups can’t afford an excess of employee turnover if they’re interested in building culture and consistency, and you can’t expect that kind of commitment simply by offering a great salary or better benefits. Especially for startups, who rarely have the luxury to offer the best deal on the market.

Instead, you need to get team members invested in your culture, in some kind of greater perhaps than checking boxes. That’s the kind of philosophy that attracts talented people and builds great businesses.

Joel Grossman recently shared the story of his company’s incredible employee retention with First Round. He is the COO of Location Labs which boasts a staggering 95% retention rate. He made it very clear with FirstRound that the reason for this had nothing to do with the kinds of compensation packages that they were offering.


Instead, it’s all about culture. “...taking the time to figure out your company’s personality, and communicate it candidly at every turn, is the single best investment you can make in your future” says Grossman.

But how is that done exactly? How do you build a culture that attracts and retains great employees if your culture is built up in part by the team you have? Well, for Grossman, it all begins with how you present yourself online.

Your website and your entire outward facing presence should practically bleed who you are as a company and what your values are.

When they recruit, they are very clear about the kind of people they are looking for. People with initiative that want to achieve and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. That’s the kind of employee they are after, and more often than not, that’s exactly what they get.

It’s not all smoke and mirrors. People do want to be respected. They want to truly believe in the work they are doing.


Jim Whitehurst of HBR shared his take on how to build a passionate company. He said many of the same things as Grossman. “People want to be passionate about what they do,” says Whitehurst, “and they want to be surrounded by people who are also passionate about what they do.”

To build this kind of passionate environment, Jim believes one of the most important pieces is to “share context”. That means letting your employees know just how their work factors into the greater whole.

This piece of the puzzle can’t be understated. If people know that their work matters, that they are connected to that ultimate purpose, then they will work harder than ever.

None of this is terribly complicated. It’s just a matter of creating a space, a community, where people want to work. That means a place with intention, a place with defined values, and above all, a place where people know that what they do counts.

Consistent and varied communication will help make that happen. Defining clear goals and metrics will help make that happen. Rewarding accomplishments will help make that happen.

These are the things that Location Labs does and they are the reasons why they have such an excellent team. Now it’s your turn.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment