How to Build and Manage a Team As a New Entrepreneur

  • In the early days of a business, entrepreneurs are often a one-person show.
  • But they must eventually move from the business opening phase to the hiring and leadership phase.
  • Here, experts and Grubhub founder Mike Evans share how founders can overcome the challenge.
  • This article is part of Talent Insider, a series of expert advice designed to help small business owners overcome a range of hiring challenges.

In the early days of a business, entrepreneurs and small business owners are a one-person show. You’re the company’s senior salesman, marketer, finance director, and product director—not to mention the bosses who get coffee and take lunch breaks.

But once the company gets off the ground, there comes a point when founders have to move from founding the company to hiring people and leading the team. According to Caroline Daniels, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, transition may not come naturally and is often one of the most difficult for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“You have to go from a single perspective to multiple perspectives and from actor to teacher,” she said. “And you need to realize that your future direction — and the ultimate success of your business — depends on how well you manage this change.”

Insider spoke to three experts, including Grubhub founder Mike Evans, about how founders and small business owners could make the transition smoother.

Be strategic about your first hires

Evans founded Grubhub, an online grocery delivery platform, in a Chicago apartment in 2002 at the age of 26. He did everything himself for the first few years, but as the business grew he realized he needed help.

Mike Evans, founder of Grubhub

Mike Evans, the founder of Grubhub.

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His first jobs fell into two categories. “First, I wanted to hire people who were good at things that I was clearly not good at,” said Evans, whose memoir Hangry: A Startup Journey will be released later this year. “For me, that was sales. I needed expertise and someone who could do it better.”

The second category was people who could do the chores and chores he hated. “The problem with these things is that you either avoid them and they don’t get done, or you do them and they demotivate you so you end up spending less time on the business.”

Before Grubhub ventured into online ordering, it was a takeaway menu platform. Evans had to physically collect, scan and crop the menus and then upload them to the internet. It was a long process.

So he hired Jack Kent, a young graphic designer who was then scooping ice cream, to do the job. Kent was untested but Evans saw potential. “With startups, you don’t have the resources to hire very experienced people,” he said. “You have to learn on the job, and some people really surprise you.”

A few years later, Kent was promoted to head creative for the company’s first Super Bowl ad. “It’s gratifying to see people learn and grow,” said Evans. “It’s good for them and it’s good for business.”

learning to let go

About eight years into running Grubhub, Evans learned a hard lesson about the importance of trusting your employees. One day at 2am, Evans, who has a background in software, made the decision to change key lines of Grubhub’s code in relation to suggested tips – much to the chagrin of his development team.

The next day, the company’s chief developer Evans promptly removed access to code writing. Evans notes in hindsight that his actions undermined the team’s ability to get the job done. “The company was growing and at a point where having the founder write software for the company wasn’t what was best for the company,” he said. “I realized I needed to take a step away from tinkering with everything and let people do their jobs without my interference.”

Experts say relinquishing control can be a challenge for founders, who are often heavily invested in their businesses. “You have to give outsiders control of parts of your business — which you probably think of as your baby — and that’s hard,” said Laura Lemon, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama who studies employee engagement.

Laura L. Lemon is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama

Laura Lemon, assistant professor at the University of Alabama.

University of Alabama

But you have to understand that while it’s not easy, it’s important for your employees — and for your health, Lemon said. After all, nobody wants to work for a micromanager. And you don’t want to burn yourself out by insisting you’re involved in everything.

Delegate for the outcomes you want, but don’t dictate them, Lemon added. “You have to trust the people you hired and empower them to do the work you hired them to do,” she said.

Tell stories to inspire your new hires

Research shows that entrepreneurs and founders are a highly motivated and hardworking bunch. While her determination to build businesses can be beneficial, it can also come at a price, Babson’s Daniels said. “Most entrepreneurs have been told 50 times that what they’re doing isn’t going to work or be successful,” she added. “If they’re able to make it work, that builds confidence — but also a lot of dangerous hubris.”

Humility is the key. Don’t assume that others will be as focused and passionate as you are; Instead, tell them stories that convey your values ​​and beliefs, Daniels said. Talk about why you started the company and what you want to achieve – with their help, of course. “You know why you’re building the company but others don’t,” she said. “You have to give people a reason for being there.”

Explain the problem you’re hoping to solve, experts say. Encourage acceptance by using “we” pronouns and demonstrating the power of teamwork. Paint a compelling picture of the future.

Daniels said, “Your goal is to inspire others to share your vision and invest in the company’s success as you do.

“The message should be: We’re in this together.”

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