Launching A New Business, Part 2: Employees or Partners?

There are so many things to think about when starting a new venture, it can be pretty overwhelming. That’s why it’s best to segment different aspects and tackle them one at a time. Last time we talked about startup funding. Today we’ll take a look at starting the process of creating a team that will take your new startup to greatness.

There are no easy shortcuts to building a great team, and no guarantees a partnership that starts out good will stay good. But there’s no denying that this is one of the most important steps in building your new venture. Human resources are your most valuable asset, and no other aspect of your business has as much potential to rocket your company to stardom or destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. So when you’re making these all-important decisions, start by asking yourself a couple of tough questions:

Do I want employees?

The fiscal realities of a new startup come knocking at your door the moment you consider having a staff. With employees comes payroll taxes, the upcoming health care mandates, office space and technology requirements, and a dump truck full of expenses you may or may not want to do deal with right out of the gate. And, if you’re planning a small, nimble software-based startup like mine, you may not want to throw away a tantalizingly low overhead by creating a small army of staff. 

The upside to having employees, though, will come as no surprise. Having a staff means the opportunity to delegate the tasks that take away from your creativity. As the head of a new startup, your job is to dream, invent and empower, three things that are less easily accomplished while balancing the books, answering the phones and managing the day-to-day. Your task is to decide if the money you’ll spend on a staff will truly come back to you in the form of better product development, more satisfied customers and a faster path to funding.

Do I want partners?

The answer is usually yes. Unless you’re the Han Solo type, having a team of hard working, like-minded, highly motivated, yet unpaid workers is the fastest way to get the ball rolling without all the expenses that come with hired guns. 

My favorite thing about having a well selected partner is not having to wonder if his/her motivation is pure. In the absence of any real money, it’s easy to see if someone cares deeply enough about a project to see it through the hard times, without the guarantee of a payoff. Don’t get me wrong, dreaming about the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow is a great motivator. But a good business partner is someone for whom the journey is just as important as the destination.

The downside? It’s a marriage, and they don’t all work. If things go badly and the parents can’t stand to be in a room together, the child is the one who suffers the most. A startup will rarely survive the peril of a partnership gone sour. So choose very carefully at the beginning and don’t cut corners, it will only come back to haunt you.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend more hours working than anything else.  If those hours are to be spent with people other than your family, the key to success must lie in picking those people very carefully, a task that will call on your heart, soul, experience and intellect in equal measures. Be careful, be smart and have fun.

KJ is a bass player and singer-songwriter (like Sting, only taller); co-founder of Sessionville; and all too fond of sushi and Doritos®.