The 3 C's of Team Building

In startups, it's all about the team. Ideas change, business models change and even roles can change, but the hope is that you can build a core team that is lasting. From the first step of finding a good co-founder to adding key members to your early team, it's a good idea to have a framework for what you're looking for.  What I look for are the 3 C's: Chemistry, Competence and Customer Focus.

The 3 C's of Team Building:


1) Chemistry

Do you get along with this person? Do you feel like you'd enjoy spending 8-20 hours a day with this person for the next few years? Do your other team members feel the same way?

The smartest person in the world is worthless to your team if they're a net energy loss on it; they'll affect the attitude of others and cause more harm overall than the good of their productivity. The best companies with the best cultures are ones that aren't afraid to tell someone, "You're very skilled, but you're not the right fit."  The chemistry between you and other members of your company dictate the culture of the company. Protect it accordingly and most importantly, filter for it.

2) Competence

This may seem like common sense, but it's important to remember, especially in the early days: If you're hiring for a role that it's hard for you to judge the skills of, then you absolutely MUST solicit help from friends/advisors/mentors who can properly vette them. Many a mistakes have been made at startups, especially by non-technical people hiring technical cofounders who are not suited to be tech leads. Even later on, as your company creates new roles, the same challenge can arise. Jason Jacobs wrote an awesome post about this just this week (click here to read it). 

Of course the other side of this coin is recognizing talent that has room to grow in a role. Talented people want to be challenged and learn new things. You should ensure that it's reasonable to believe that a person can succeed in their role you're offering, while not getting bored by a lack of growth. Mark Suster writes about this under the concept of hiring people who can "punch above their weight class.

3) Customer focus

The quest for product-market fit is a long and arduous journey. Building your company as a lean startup helps, but means you need even greater discipline as a company.  Being customer focused across the board is the best way to move as quickly as possible. Whether you're the marketer, ops or a developer, you need to understand your company's customer.

A great filter to consider is whether any potential new team member buys into this concept. If they have understanding already, great, but it's good to test for it too. Does a developer bristle at the concept of sitting in on a sales call? Does a marketer mind listening as well as blasting out messaging? 

"The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development" is the savior to this concept. It's the kind of book anyone can read in single flight or night, but can quickly bring someone up to speed on the key concepts of being a customer-focused, lean startup. I have every intention of asking *every* employee to read the book as soon as they start (if not sooner, so we can discuss concepts in interviews).


Startups have to constantly adapt to changes, but one thing to never comprimise on are a company's values and beliefs.

What framework do you use to build your teams?