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How to Build a Team That Will Raise the Startup. Personal Experience of Serpstat

(This article is written on behalf of Eugene Lata – VP of Marketing at Serpstat).
For 4 years of Serpstat existence, there was only one dismissal. More three employees left the IT sphere. During this time we raised the product from scratch, and today we are close to the goal of $ 1 million ARR (annual recurring revenue). We achieved this result thanks to our steep teamwork. How to assemble a successful team, we will clarify in this article.

How does the startup team differ from the team in the business and are there any differences?

The starting point is the correct interpretation of the startup team. You can't follow agencies, hiring people into a startup according to their rules. People in startups are fundamentally different, and I'll explain why.

The team of the startup can grow unpredictably and chaotically. Yesterday there were no vacancies, today there are 10 of them. In startups, unlike in large established businesses, there is a lack of a clear corporate culture. In such conditions, almost everything depends on the team. And the further development of the company depends entirely on whether you have gathered the right backbone of the startup.

The startup is flexibility, an opportunity to be heard, to realize your ideas, an absence of bureaucracy and a total welcoming of initiatives of the employees.

At the same time, business is a clear and streamlined process, a payback product, a hiring and firing plan. And no randomness.

How it was when we're just launching the product? Everyone did everything: selling, supporting, and conducting marketing activities.

Hiring people to the startup. What personal qualities to pay attention to.

They are courageous, flexible, initiative and quickly trained people. Those who see the path of developing the startup, want to improve themselves and know how to achieve their goals.I, as the head of the marketing department, do not care what kind of education my employees have and whether they have it at all. For me, the most important thing is his ability to achieve goals and easily learn. When I interview the potential employee, it looks something like this:

"- What are you keen on?
- I do sports, athletics.
- Oh, cool, tell me, what success have you made in this?
- I have a medal in the marathon. My personal record is 42 km for 4 hours.
- Wow, he can come up to us, - flashes in mind. "

Among personal goals can be anything, even embroidery with a personal time record. It is important that a person knows how to achieve what he wants in everyday life. Then he can easily cope with the tasks at work.One more thing: it should be comfortable with a person. If you don't feel this comfort, it's better to refuse this job seeker. Honestly, I've never said that yet, fortunately, our HR manager is responsible for this. :) It turns out that the Serpstat team has everyone in their place. Everybody understands what needs to be done to develop the product.

Should people in the startup be similar to each other?

photo_2017-05-17_11-14-59 (2).jpg
Just a small part of Serpstat team :)

Definitely yes. In addition to the above, new people need to approach the "family values" of the startup. Be like-minded. Determine this at the interview stage. Do not evaluate the candidate only for technical skills – this is a fatal mistake for the startup. The team should be excited by the same idea. Such people are cool, while you can always tighten them to the level of a specialist.

If you start to assemble a team only on the skills of candidates, you will not have the necessary microclimate for development.

The startup implies "united by the idea," but it's a good idea to motivate the team with a good salary. If you have a limited budget, how to get out of the native market and close the vacancies?

A good salary is always a motivation. But not always the most prioritized for a person. Many people leave big business and move into small start-ups with less financial motivation. Why? Because a startup is an unlimited opportunity for growth, and this growth is rapid. In a large company, you need years to grow to the head of the department/project. In a startup, this can happen in a few months, as it happened with us.

As an option, divide the company's shares among the first five employees. This is an excellent motivation for the work since with the growth of the product their earnings will grow. But most importantly, they must love the product. If people are interested only in money, this person does not fit into the team.

How to filter out people who need only money at the interview stage?

For this, it is enough to understand the real motivation of a particular person, loyalty to the idea of the project. Often the candidate not only doesn't read anything about the startup but also does not read the short description of the vacancy. Simply submitted for a job, the name of which was considered suitable. It is clear that such a person will not catch fire with an idea at all, which means that many processes will drag on, which is deadly for a startup. As I wrote above, new people should approach the "family values" of the startup. Be like-minded. It is noticeable already in the first conversation.

How to rally the assembled team?

Remove the relationship like "director-subordinate," this is the remnants of the past. In Serpstat the average age of the team is 24 years, and the directors are about the same age. That's why we turn to each other with a nickname, this is another feature that unites the collective.

Become a family. Hang out together after work, arrange team building on the weekends, attend conferences, sports competitions and so on. In Serpstat every day at lunch we play UNO, it's fun and brings us together.

Chief Editor of Serpstat Blog Mipsy (Helen) and Administrative Coordinator Melkaya (Irina) before the 100km bike rally

Make it clear to the team that each person plays a key role in product development, and without one of them, everything will go awry. We have 45 employees from programmers to an administrative coordinator, and each one is significant for the startup and affects the development of the product.

How to inspire the team for maximum performance?

Provide your team with free access to financial statistics. This is extremely important for a startup because employees see how their work affects the development of the product. Each person in Serpstat can see the daily earnings and costs of the company, how many new users have come.
This kind of motivation was introduced by our new CEO in 2016 - Artem Borodatyuk, founder of Netpeak Agency and Netpeak Group. As soon as he joined the team, he immediately put the development course - $ 1 million ARR. Then he opened the admin area access to all the staff and said: "You know our goal and see our growth, let's work and earn even more."

The second important point: a well-thought-out system of motivation, on which depends the salary. Run from the concept of "employee at the rate" - this is another relic of the past. Introduce a motivation system and pay out money depending on the key indicator of the result of activity at the end of the month (KPI).

In Serpstat, the rate is below the market rate, but we don't have a single employee at the bare rate. Everyone gets bonuses for KPI according to the motivation system and gets an appropriate salary to efforts. This approach sets the pace for the formation of a developing startup since the company's revenues are completely dependent on each employee in the team.

Thanks to such things, we have constant growth. This supports the morale of the team.

The first people in the team - who are they?

The first to enter the team are the development team and the support team, then the marketing team. At the same time, the first 5-7 employees should be universalists: be able and sell, and support, and do marketing. In Serpstat, everything was just like this :) Subsequently, these people headed the departments.


Do not look for workers, look for people in the family. As our HR Sawyer (Lena) says: "The team in the startup needs to be recruited in exactly the same way as to look for the husband/wife - to realize your needs and find the one who can best correspond to them." In Serpstat we are not just a team, but a real family. And this is the main guarantee of success.

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