These 5 Roles Should be Represented on Your Founding Team

As the owner of a new small business start-up you must change your mindset from follower to leader; from employee to employer. When you do start building your business advisory team, it’s important to also think about the specific needs of your company and the skills you need to maintain growth. After all, building this team is as much about the personalities involved as it is about having expertise in different areas. This change in roles will be a challenging switch since many won’t have experience in this realm. It becomes even more important to have advice from someone who has already seen what it takes to be successful.

Having a good mentor is an invaluable asset for a business newbie. I believe having such a person in your corner is more valuable than money. Why? This person will have knowledge of all the contacts, tools and resources a new business owner craves. Having direct access to this information greatly reduces the oftentimes painful learning curve that is part of starting a business. In addition, such a person will provide guidance and advice as it applies to business viability, formation and structure, funding and exit strategy if necessary.

It is extremely important that you trust your mentor completely since you will be trusting him/her with your invention and confidential business ideas. If you don’t have complete trust in your mentor, it is a good idea to have him/her sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). In fact, this a strategy you should employ with any professional with whom you share confidential information. What if you don’t have a mentor? You should ramp up your networking game. Network with Chambers of Commerce and professional organizations that mirror your business identity, needs and goals.

While a mentor is crucial before and after you start your business, he/she can provide direction but you need other members to execute the strategy. Therefore, there are other key founding roles that must be filled to get your new business moving in the right direction. They are:

  1. Supportive Spouse. Most entrepreneurs and owners of small business startups are inventors, innovators, thought leaders, dreamers. These people usually invest everything they have and everyone in their circle into realizing their dream. To ensure that both these resources will be utilized without objection and future conflict, it is important to ensure that your spouse, significant other or inner circle is on board with the investment of time and money and personal sacrifices that are needed to give the business a fighting chance at success.
  2. Accountant/Book Keeper. Many people rely heavily on their accountants when they first start out, so it’s important to include these experts, or someone with a similar background, in your founding team. Financial performance is one of the core areas of your business, so having advice on managing cash flow and keeping overheads in check is essential. More importantly, you’ll want someone who can look beyond the numbers and help you with a strategy to grow your business and improve your cash flow. If your unable to afford an accountant, utilize a book keeper to keep your records in order.
  3. Branding Specialist. This individual is crucial to establishing the core values and identity of your business. This role is also important in the growth and positioning of your product service with the targeted customer base.
  4. Staffing Support. During their first years, many small businesses won’t have a dedicated human resources manager. Often, owners will shoulder the responsibility for hiring and managing their staff themselves, relying on gut instinct to make important decisions about their employees. Just because a company hasn’t reached the size it needs to have a full-time HR manager doesn’t mean it isn’t important to have expert advice. If anything, managing your staff is even more important when you have only a few employees on the books. The solution is to have an HR specialist as part of your support team – someone who can advise you on the best way to manage your workers.
  5. Legal. Every business has to navigate a specific regulatory environment. From compliance efforts to drafting contracts and advising on workplace relations, this level of expertise is essential for helping your company grow. While it’s worth working with a dedicated law firm for specialized support, having this knowledge within your advisory team is also incredibly useful. Legal advice can help you address broader questions such as your business’s legal structure and the risks your organization is exposed to as it expands.

Having a founding team can be expensive. Take it one step at a time. As you navigate your way forward, use your local small business resources to help you with some of these services. There are many online services such as Fivver than provide basic administrative services for minimal cost.

In some cases, founding members will be people you know who may or may not own a piece of the business and are therefore willing and committed to fulfilling multiple roles. This helps with controlling startup costs and keeping the founding team small and manageable. These people are also more likely to be more honest feedback since its important to make sure that everyone you seek advice from is able to provide you with critical, constructive feedback that pushes you to succeed.