Starting a business? Build your team first.

You can do it. It's just like kickball.

You need a team. No one succeeds alone. Behind every successful entrepreneur, there’s a group of people who helped make those dreams a reality. There are no exceptions. Even creators who look like they’re flying solo — authors, songwriters, designers, painters — they’re supported by agents, studio musicians, friends and lovers. Everything we do (that matters) is a collaboration.

It’s like starting a band. You need drums, you need bass, you might need a tambourine or two. And even if it’s you and an acoustic guitar up there, you need an agent, you need a sound crew, you might need a driver. Hell, you’re gonna need someone to make your guitar and that really cool denim jacket you wear on stage.

So why is it so many of us feel like we’re going it alone when we start something important?

We romanticize our journey. We’re like arctic explorers trekking alone across frozen glaciers searching for our success. Bundled up in animal skins; sustaining ourselves on dried meat and beans; melting our water in the mornings; dealing with frost bite in the evenings. We’re tough. We’re visionaries. We keep our eyes on the prize. We’re gonna make it, despite the naysayers. We’re gonna make it — all by ourselves.

Or die trying.

Pardon me for being blunt, but that’s a pathetic way to think about our journey.

Even solopreneurs need a team

Because even that solo arctic explorer hidden in each of us gets a lot of help along the way. Someone makes our coats. Someone grows and prepares our beans. Someone binds our notebooks together. And someone taught us how to write and draw pictures of glaciers and polar bears and dried fish.

It’s important that we don’t forget this: If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to need a team of people to make it happen. The sooner you identify who’s on your team and the roles that they play, the better.

The easiest way to build your team? Make a list. You’re just getting started, but let’s say you did have the money to hire your team full-time. You could pay your crew and hand out holiday bonuses. Who would you tap on the shoulder? If you had a full-time position for each of the roles you need at your startup, what would the positions be and who would fill them?

Because even if they’re not employees, there are people who contribute to your success everyday. They’re your friends and your family. They’re emotional investors. They’re your biggest fans. They’re people who care about what you do and would love to see you succeed.

And making a list of the type of talent you need will help you identify your gaps. Where do you need support? Maybe you’ve got an open position — something that you’re not very good at — that no one in your current network can fill. Maybe you need to do some recruiting, so to speak.

Who should you look for?

What roles do you need? That depends on your company and on what your strengths are. But there are some general positions that can help most big ideas get off the ground. Here’s something to help get you started.

Which roles can you play? Which ones do you need help with?

The CEO (aka The Lead Singer)

This one is easy enough. It’s the person in charge, the one who ultimately steers the car. They’ll be the face of the company. Someone who’s not afraid to represent your ideas and they look and sound amazing when they do it. You might think this is you by default, but you might be wrong. Think carefully about this. Maybe you’re the idea person. Maybe you’re the marketeer or the engineer. Find someone you trust who can advise you on direction and big picture thinking. That’s your CEO.

The Marketeer (aka The Drummer)

When you’re first getting started, you might call this person The Networker or The Connector. They know people. This isn’t necessarily someone who knows advertising, although that doesn’t hurt. This is someone who knows exactly what you’re doing, loves it, and loves to tell people about it. They’re your biggest cheerleader. And, even more important, they’re consistent. They’ve got rhythm. They understand that you need a marketing cadence to keep the music playing. Like any good drummer, they’re the one who connects you to the rest of your band.

The Creative (aka The Lead Guitarist)

It’s possible to launch a business without a logo or business cards or a website or social media. It’s possible, but it’s not a good idea. Find someone who can help you make this kind of stuff happen. We all know some artists and some free-spirit types who love to make stuff beautiful. People who can stand to the side and just make your business (and your lead singer) look good. If you’re bootstrapping this sort of thing and know your way around Photoshop, you can always ask for their feedback and advice. A talented and confident creative loves to share what they know.

The Salesperson (aka The Agent)

Your idea goes nowhere without someone who can sell it. Many people who start a business are naturally talented at selling it. They’re comfortable talking to people and discovering their needs and whether or not what they’re doing can solve a particular problem. The rest of us need guidance. Lots of bands worry about selling out and worry about what they’re agent will be like. That’s fair. You want someone legit. But, don’t get caught without one. You need to sell to survive. Look for someone who believes in what you’re doing and listen to how they position it with others. Look for someone who can take your passion for your business to the next level.

The Manager (aka The Manager)

A lot of entrepreneurs are idea people. They like to talk big and experiment and get their hands dirty. They like to work with creatives and app designers and makers. Sometimes they need someone who can help them stay organized. Sometimes they need a voice of reason to remind them that there are only so many hours in the day so it might be better to stay focused on one thing instead of 15. Sometimes it’s better to take a night off after playing Denver, Boise, Spokane, Seattle, and Walla Walla — back to back to back to back. Look for someone level-headed and pragmatic. Someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses. This might also be the “naysayer” of your network. The person who keeps your wild ideas in check. Don’t write them off completely. They probably know you better than you think they do.

The Developer (aka The Crew)

Doesn’t matter what you’re doing — making cupcakes, writing a book, or building enterprise software solutions. You’re going to need someone who knows tech and can keep you in the know on the latest trends and tools available. Every band needs a crew. Every band needs someone who knows how the lights and amps and mics work. Find someone who’s excited to show you what’s out there now and what’s coming up: web development, social media, tablets, phones, wearables, the Internet of things. Find someone who talks to you like a human being. Find someone who loves working behind the scenes and making remarkable stuff happen.

Who else do you need?

Do you need more people in your band? Maybe. Do you need less? It’s possible. Only you know you and your idea well enough to be the judge. But, you will need a team. Someone who thinks that they’re good at everything is likely mediocre at most things. Find the one or two things you’re fantastic at and then build your team to help you pick up the slack.

If you’re going to get your idea of the ground, it’s going to be with the help of other people. You might as well pick your team. You’re likely to get there faster, and you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more.

Shawn Pfunder
Shawn's been working with freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners for more than 20 years. He's consulted companies large and small on communication, social media, and marketing strategies. At heart he's a small-business superfan. He believes that working for yourself is one of the most courageous and creative moves anyone can make. Currently, he's the Editor in Chief for The Garage. When he's not hanging out with solopreneurs, Shawn loves to write, run, and travel. He's passionate about teaching and he's convinced that a good story is the best way to do it — especially if it involves El Caminos, potato fields, and really loud music.