Silicon Valley startups may make it seem like your new venture needs a full C-suite — CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, CTO, etc. While it's important to have a well-rounded startup team, a standardized position list like this is actually counterproductive for a business still in its development phase.
"At a startup, there are no formal roles. The company often pivots and the skill set changes," said Jodi Goldstein, serial entrepreneur and managing director of Harvard Innovation Lab.
Rather than pouring money into the salary of an upper-management-titled employee you don't need yet, you should determine the best positions to not only get the jobs done now, but adapt and grow with your company to grow the business. Regardless of their titles, here are three types of key players you'll want on your team when you're just starting out.
The jack of all trades
During the starting phase, you want employees and partners who are flexible and qualified for multiple tasks.
"Those first key hires need to be mission-aligned and utility players. You want people who are nimble enough to jump into different roles rather than the specialist you'll need later on as you grow," Goldstein said.
When it comes to determining those initial positions, Goldstein suggests hiring people in your business's core competencies who support your value proposition and understand how your business is unique.
"What business are we in and what are we doing that is compelling and different? That's what we need to hire in," she said.
What's the one essential position a startup should fill? Mentor.
"In early-stage ventures, it's important to surround yourself with advisers and mentors that support what you are doing," Goldstein said.
She noted that often mentors can also act as your C-level partners, providing advice on that level and pointing you to potential partners and support companies to help you accomplish the tasks you need to get your business off the ground.
The administrative supporter
Once you have your mentor and small cadre of utility players, look for employees to take over the more mundane and routine tasks of running a business.
Sylvie Peltier, president of Red Letter Films, has founded two businesses in the entertainment industry. She suggested finding a part-time accountant and virtual assistant to handle the nitty-gritty.
"You are the expert. You know the product, and you know sales. You should relieve yourself of the administrative duties. You can get it part time," Peltier said.
She added that you should also ask yourself what tasks you hate or waste time at, even if you enjoy doing those tasks: "To me, (administrative work) was a way to procrastinate. You need to work on your business."
Will Guillaume Foussier, CEO and founder of coaching marketplace Ace-Up Inc., cautioned that even with the best startup team, you may change your staff later.
"Understand that this is an ongoing process," he said. "Your product itself may evolve as you challenge your assumptions, and you may not fall into the perfect team. Building the right team is essential to succeed, but at the same time, you might meet different people at different times."