While there is no single definition of a winning team, based on the target that needs to be achieved in the near future, a few broad factors can act as good indicators for the chances of the success of a team. If one researches why start-ups fail, the wrong team appears among the top reasons and it is widely believed that creating a winning team is 90 per cent of the job done. Here is a list of the top eight factors:

1. Alignment to vision

Many start-ups fail because their leaders do not have a shared roadmap for success. Each one tries to drive the boat in the direction they feel the organisation should move towards. Hence, developing a common vision so that all team members know what is expected of them and how their role fits into the team’s larger purpose and priorities is essential. A common goal helps clearly set direction so that each member knows where to direct their efforts.

2. Finding a cultural fit

Building a team is tricky and fraught with uncertainties because all the parts need to fit together for the organisation to excel. The principles, methods for group engagement, and team’s ethos developed by the founders help make collective goals achievable and drive group behaviour. It becomes very important to hire people who believe in these principles thus be part of a high trust environment. While it is easy to hire for IQ, finding and retaining people who fit into the company culture becomes more important. While some culture fit will be innate, but the founders need to work to build rapport and comfort within the team through lunches, happy hours, or other activities like mini golf or a day trip.

3. Communication and collaboration

An open team culture that allows members to voice their concerns and pitch new ideas grows helps incorporate different perspectives, explore multiple solutions and getting buy-in for the final decision. A collaborative approach can also align individual ambitions and team-oriented goals. Hierarchical differences should be avoided to reduce chances of miscommunication among team members.

4. Being a coach and a leader

A leader should always look to create a psychologically safe environment where the other members can look up to the founders for guidance and approval. When the team members feel protected, they will feel valued and actively contribute to building a positive working environment. In such an environment, people are more willing to risk because they know they will have support to fall back on. When they fail, providing them constructive feedback and time to analyse, correct, recalibrate and try again work very well in the long term.

5. Flexible organisational structure

From the beginning, the organisational structure should be created with long term vision in mind, not just the start-up phase. Recruiting people who bring multiple skill sets on the table and can adapt with the organisation, from seed stage to growth stage helps ease the pangs of growth. 

6. Adding complementary skills

A winning start-up team should have at least two of the following three core skills—technological prowess, strong financial understanding with control capability, and excellent understanding of the business fundamentals, competition and the market. It is also imperative to plug the gaps which show up as the organisation grows. Having a perfect team that balances out all the necessary skills will synergise your collective efforts. 

7. Investing in a good recruiting team

Having a recruiting team which can understand the requirement of the business owner, scout and get good candidates interested in the start-up and close roles with people with the right attitude and skills becomes paramount in the initial stages of any start-up and is a critical factor for success.

8. Hire slow, fire fast

Running a start-up is all about extracting the most out of the available team. Therefore, rather than going on a hiring rampage, start-ups should take the time to build a team assiduously. Airbnb took about five months to hire their first employee. Shopify offers $2000 for new joinees to quit within the first week if they feel that they might not fit into the company culture. Such policies are essential to ensure that only the fittest candidates persist in team.

To take your start-up to stellar heights, you need to start by building a winning team that will take you far. And to identify the right mix, look for capability, camaraderie and intent within it.

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  • Nikhil Sikri

    Entrepreneur & Co-Founder


    With an MBBS from the prestigious AIIMS and a management degree from ISB, Hyderabad, Dr. Nikhil Sikri has over 10 years of diverse experience in startups, management consulting, establishing companies’ sales footprints, and medicine. Prior to embarking on his start-up journey, Nikhil worked as a resident doctor at AIIMS, Delhi followed by working as a Psychiatrist at Institute of Mental Health, Singapore. Post MBA, he then went on to work as a management consultant with Deloitte and Cerner Corporation.

    A visionary, who believes in breaking norms and setting benchmarks, Nikhil is the driving force behind Zolo. He has been actively involved in all aspects of building the business and in his role as a CEO is instrumental in setting strategies and providing invaluable entrepreneurial leadership.

    Humble, humorous, and articulate, Nikhil is a people's person. He has always been passionate about making a direct impact on people's lives, an ethos that was ingrained in him during his time in medicine. Nikhil also understands and appreciates the importance of technology – he’s played the role of product manager at Zolo for a long while now. He possesses the nuanced ability to identify problems that may seem innocuous and nip them in the bud before they turn insurmountable. He believes that unique ideas are developed and realised only when one is open to experimentation. With his current venture he aims to redefine the living experience for individuals.

    When he is not working, he likes to read non-fiction books, watch movies, and play badminton.