Josh Melick has seen a lot in his time as a startup entrepreneur. He started his own company, raised over $30 million in venture capital investment, and saw numerous companies acquired. Most recently, he was the founder and CEO of Broadly.com, a small business CRM built for mobile users.
Josh is currently winding down his career as an entrepreneur, but he still regularly consults with new startups. One of the topics he talks about is what makes a great startup team.
Josh Melick: It’s really hard to get out of the building and start your venture if it’s just you. Having a team with complementary skill sets generates the kind of momentum that you need to create a company.
It’s hard to have a great startup without people who can work together well, so I think anyone with a different set of complementary skills is value-added. When you start getting more than three people, you also want to have a UX person, someone who understands the market research you need to do at that point. You don’t really know what your market wants or needs until you test it with them, so having someone good at talking to potential customers is important too. When you’re trying to raise capital, you need someone who can really communicate well with the team. You need a good marketer who’s good at coming up with messaging and branding.
Although it might sound easy to find someone with all those skills, it’s actually quite hard. It takes some time to learn how to be a great product manager, for example. A lot of people come from engineering backgrounds and aren’t strong on the business side. You don’t want to hire someone who is just good at one of those things; you want them to be equally skilled.
It’s really about being able to communicate all the time with your team. There are so many times when I’ve had to step in and speak up because someone didn’t understand what another person was saying. Then the whole thing falls apart! You need clarity on your team to make sure everyone understands their role and how it relates to the others.
Once you get an idea, you want to start thinking about the key team members you need to get in place right away. But those people don’t just fall from the sky. You have to build those skills within your team. You can’t just hand them a job description and expect them to be great; they need some time to come up to speed on their roles.
For example, as CEO, I had to learn how markets work myself! When I started Broadly, I didn’t know anything about what went into these things. Luckily, I had two great people on our team to help me understand all that. It’s like you’re building a jigsaw puzzle and putting the pieces together while you go along.
The best way to build your startup team is to make sure everyone’s in sync with their roles and understands what you’re trying to achieve. I know it sounds straightforward, but a big part of what will make your company either successful or not is how well everyone gets on.