Regardless of whether you are bootstrapping or funded, there comes a time when you need to start hiring people. But the company is often in a delicate situation at this stage. With limited cash flow and little customers, any sort of turbulence may spell the death of the startup. And humans being the most unpredictable resource, bringing in the wrong people can sink your ship faster than you can jump out of it unscathed.

You’ll need to be strategic when it comes to assembling your first team. These people must be the best that you can afford because they will be the ones that will determine the company’s trajectory.

The Visionary

The first person you need is you. As the Visionary, you live and breathe the business, know where the company will be in time to come and is ideally creative about the means to get there. You set the direction, pace and culture while motivating your team members to follow. You believe in the team as much as the company’s potential and would take the time and effort to invest in people. Though the decision-making process of a company with multiple founders is often democratic in nature, someone needs to make tough decisions. You will be the one to make the final call when a consensus cannot be reached.

The Visionary is ideally

  • Ambitious: A strong desire to create an impact.
  • Innovative: Constantly thinking of new approaches to grow the company and solve problems.
  • A risk-taker: Not afraid to try new things.
  • Charismatic: Able to convince employees, partners and investors to come on board.
  • Articulate: Able to break down and simplify complex visions and concepts.

The Realist

When the Visionary veers off course, the Realist brings you back. This is someone who tries to materialise the Visionary’s wildest dreams while keeping you grounded and on track. The Realist dishes out reality checks, sometimes goes against the Visionary and pops your lofty bubbles. He or she manages internal affairs and is responsible for matters such as creating processes, developing strategies, setting targets, manages finances and monitors progress. Basically, this person is the company’s problem-solver.

The Realist is ideally

  • Pragmatic: Considers the Visionary’s idea’s practicality in the real world.
  • Organised: Keeps things in order while juggling multiple responsibilities and projects.
  • Task-oriented: Focuses on getting things done.
  • Meticulous: Checks the blind spots of the team.
  • Cool-headed: Remains calm when everybody (including you) loses their head.

The Builder

man wearing red hard hat hanged on brown rebar bar

Every company sells a product or service and requires someone to work on it. The Builder is the one with the technical know-how and the passion to develop and enhance the company’s offering. This person should also have the industry knowledge on what’s available out there and an intuitive understanding of the customers’ needs. Most importantly, the Builder hustles to bring the best version of the product or service that the startup can offer to the market.

The Builder is ideally

  • Passionate: Enjoys working on the product or service.
  • Technical: Knows how to build the startup’s product or service well.
  • Inquisitive: Always learning how to do things better.
  • Articulate: Able to explain how the product or service was built simply.
  • An insider: Understands competitors, industry practices and gaps.

The Growth Hacker

To get customers, the first step is getting the world to know what the Builder built. The Growth Hacker understands marketing best practices and promotes the product or service to an audience. This individual has a knack for understanding customers’ thoughts, desires and how the company should communicate with them. Ideally, the Growth Hacker should have a deep understanding of the target segment and knows how to get to them.

The Growth Hacker is ideally

  • Strategic: Aligns the marketing plan of action with the bigger picture.
  • Inquisitive: Constantly wondering what consumers are thinking.
  • Creative: Engages customers in a variety of unexpected ways.
  • Analytical: Uses data to gain insights and plan future marketing campaigns.
  • Engaging: Loves to connect and share ideas with customers on platforms.

The Connector

selective focus photograph of gray metal chains

At the early stage of the startup, the Visionary is likely to fill this role. But as the company grows, the Visionary needs to focus on growth and future plans. You may have to maintain a growing number of business relationships with other business leaders, report to investors and handle public relations, leaving little time to nurture new relationships.

This is where the Connector comes in. He or she fosters relationships that the Visionary can’t or won’t handle, often with customers, partners, investors and advisors. This person is naturally the company’s advocate, often pushing for sales or collaborations that can benefit the startup. The ideal Connector tends to be extroverted, eloquent and enjoys conversing with people, especially with the intention of helping the company grow. However, it’s crucial to have a Connector who has integrity. You don’t want customers coming after your company for misrepresentation. When your company is ready to grow to the next stage, the Connector may also be bringing in new blood.

The Connector is ideally

  • Persistent: Willing to try and try again.
  • Competitive: Always trying to do better.
  • Eloquent: Able to converse and connect well with anyone at any time.
  • Charismatic: Able to win the hearts of customers, partners, investors and advisors.
  • Pragmatic: Understands that conversations need to lead to some form of benefit for the company.

Final note

The list above applies to general businesses, but depending on your business, the people you need qualities that you should look out for may vary. A simple principle is to make sure that your hire is filling up a critical role that no existing member can fulfill. Always ask yourself why you need this person and if this person has what it takes to do the role well.

This article first appeared on under the title “The First Five People You Need In Your Startup