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Published On: Tue, Nov 5th, 2019

Entrepreneur‘s Guide To Startup Roles

Which job roles do you need covered to launch a successful startup?

There are many hats to be worn when it comes to launching a startup that really has the capability of succeeding. None of these areas can be ignored if your company is going to survive or even get off the ground.

If you are just going to open and operate a small local business then you might try to juggle several of these jobs yourself. It will be hectic. And, you may do none of them as well as you could if you were focused. But some entrepreneurs manage to stumble along this way. 

Just know that you’ll always be limited by your expertise in each of these areas. There are only so many hours in a day, and the fact remains that you’ll only be able to spend part of your time on the product or service you are passionate about providing.

Are your aspirations larger? Do you hope to launch a fast growth startup with the capability of being worth hundreds of millions or tens of billions of dollars? Then, you are going to have to begin filing these roles from the start. Probably before you even really launch your business.

Man writing something on whiteboard

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Customer Service Specialist

Nothing else is going to matter if you are not delighting customers from the first moment. It doesn’t matter how much money you can raise, how smart you are, where you got your degree, or how much this product is needed or how well polished it is. 

This is really the most important position in your business. It should be filled before you ever press the button to go live with your website or publish an ad. 

Prospective customers need a wow experience from their first attempt at contacting you. That’s important even if your real product is months away from actual production and delivery. If you are a great engineer and operations person, this role is probably not for you. It’s important to talk to your customers and hear what they say, but you just might not be the best sales person or receptionist. 

Without nailing this from the start, you are also going to find it more challenging to raise money. You’ll have less customer data and feedback, and you’ll lack the experience needed to get your idea to catch on.

Advisors

Advisors serve two main roles in the early days of a startup. The first is celebrity advisors or those with domain experience that can add credibility to your venture, and aid in getting funding and attracting other great talent. They are going to probably cost you equity and complicate your cap table, so be selective and make sure they are providing real value and a good return.

Then, there are the advisors you’ll really lean on for advice and help. These personnel definitely include a fundraising coach. You need someone from the get go to help you position yourself to get funded. There’s a lot more to it than you think. The best will certainly more than pay for themselves. They may even save you tens of thousands and prevent you from making the most common mistakes that startup entrepreneurs make.

Don’t wait to secure a great M&A advisor too. You might not think you’ll be at that stage for years, but everything you do now will impact your outcome. If your startup is really a big success, then you could be acquiring other companies in a year from now, or even attract inbound acquisition offers. Don’t rob yourself of millions of dollars in value by putting this off.

Product Person

Since you are really passionate about this product or service, your initial inclination is probably to be involved in product creation and management. Pause for a moment. You’re not going to be able to build a fast-growth company, with thousands of customers and hundreds of employees if you are bogged down with your head in product. There are too many other more important parts of running a real business. You might dabble in it, but you really need a product manager who can execute and handle this virtually autonomously. That’s right! You might have thought starting a business would let you do more of product creation or provide an amazing service. But, it’s not going to be you doing it.

HR – Human Resources

Aside from fundraising for your startup, the most important role in your venture is going to be recruiting and hiring. That means finding the best possible hires, bringing them in, and making sure they are a fit. You’ll also need to ensure that they stay on task. Everything else will be built on this.

Few founders are experts in recruiting. It is an incredibly time demanding task too. If you can afford it, and HR manager and executive recruiter can be one of your best assets. 

COO

Even as a small business owner you need a COO. Your Chief Operating Officer is going to handle all of the operational side of the business. If you hope to be involved in product or service at all, then you can’t afford to have all of the COO’s tasks on your plate. 

Think of this role as your general manager. It’s their job to handle all the logistics and basic business aspects. 

CFO

The CFO’s job is essentially to handle the money. Money is what makes this a business. It needs to be coming in, and managed extremely well going out so that you can afford to stay in business. You also need impeccable records in order to raise money, get investors, and get through an exit. Unless you come from an accounting background, this is the last role you should be considering doing.

If the budget is too tight for now, you can opt for a CFOO, who will handle the COO and CFO responsibilities. Though you may find it hard to get the right talent, who is a master of both of these roles. This role can also cover HR. at the very beginning. 

CMO

Nothing is going to progress without marketing. It doesn’t matter how great your product or idea is. It’s all about the branding and marketing. There are plenty of huge business successes that have horrific products and services. You shouldn’t strive to be one of them, but do understand the importance of this role. 

Understanding and being a master of modern marketing is a full time role. It’s really a whole group of roles. If you try to learn about SEO, online advertising, and website design, your startup isn’t going to go far fast. You’ll probably have a disastrous DIY trial and error thing on your hands. Chances are you’ll run out of money before you champion it. 

However, in the reverse, one of the top mistakes that startups make is hiring too many different people and agencies. Some hire PR agencies, SEO agencies, copywriters, marketing managers, and ad managers. That’s expensive. That is going to soak up precious budget money that could be used on actual ads and putting these materials into action. In most cases, it will soak up at least 50% of that budget. 

Especially as most agencies are just outsourcing this work down the line today. In the best case scenario, you’ll find a CMO with industry experience, who can handle all your PR, content creation, SEO, and ad needs. 

They might even help with sales at the beginning if you can make the compensation attractive enough. They can start part time, and on demand, and can continue to operate in a remote CMO position, as they hire people under them to fill out the team as money comes in. 

CEO 

As a founder you may or may not take on the CEO role. Fewer do, or maintain it than you may realize. The CEO has two main responsibilities. Firstly, not to run out of money. Secondly, to help build out and lead the team. Then, comes the high level strategy and partnerships, and M&A activity coming from companies being acquired.

Summary

Startup roles will vary from stage to stage. However, during the early stages the founders will be required to wear multiple hats. Specific roles are typically assigned as the company matures past the Series A financing round.

Author: Saroj Aggarwal

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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