Lesson 4: Build a Dream Team

Assembling the Dream Team

The CEO of one of the United States’ top microbreweries, Stone Brewing Co., famously stated that he would rather leave a key position unfilled than bring in someone who didn’t align 100 percent with the organisation’s values and mission.

As we’ve said, human labour is the most important resource in any business. To succeed, you need dedicated, driven, and extraordinary staff. Once you have set a clear, compelling direction for the business, the right team can take that and run with it. Ask yourself:

  • How will responsibilities and tasks be divided into job descriptions so that you can trust your team to make things happen?
  • How many people do you need and what should their skills, experience and personal qualities be?
  • How do you hire the people who are going to strengthen your business?

As a small business, it’s important to focus on hiring someone you can afford – and be sure to give them guidelines and set clear measurable goals.

Consider hiring interns to support your team so that you will have extra hands on board and can provide work experience for people who are eager to learn.

Interviewing a potential employee can sometimes be as daunting an experience as being interviewed. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you are interviewing and think about what you would like their perception of the process to be. When making hiring decisions, include team players who are able to think differently, and trust your intuition about people.

Hiring the right people can be difficult, so once you have found them, do your best to keep them.

What’s important to employees is not necessarily what you might think. Sure, a good salary is important, but people also value a good work/life balance, opportunities to advance their careers and be leaders, flexibility in terms of working hours or working remotely, and a sense of meaning from the work that they do. Any advertising you do for job posts should make this clear.

How do you spot a great resume/CV in just a few seconds?

  • A covering page should show a personal statement that explains why the candidate is the best person for the job. It should also include an email address.
  • Usually, a CV should be no more than two pages, so on average it takes just eight seconds to look at one. It should include only the most relevant information. Bullet points and short sentences make it easy to read, with plenty of white space around the text and between categories to make the layout easy on the eye. Consistent spacing, margins, and font size are important.
  • At least 80% of the candidate’s experience should be relevant to the job you’ve posted. Typos quickly show when a candidate doesn’t have the best attention to detail. Scan for the keywords that match the job description and ensure that the resume aligns with the company’s goals and needs.

While we use the terms “resume” and “cv” more or less interchangeably, they are actually different. Here’s an explanation of the difference, if you’re interested.

Here’s a video on what a good resume should look like:

However, be alert to the idea that a perfect CV or resume isn’t everything:

Conducting a job interview

This isn’t something you should do without preparation. Hiring the wrong person for your startup can be an expensive mistake, so you need to use the interview effectively to separate the good candidates from the bad. Do research on the candidate, ask the right questions, and establish a friendly rapport. This will help you gain a clear idea of whether the person is right for the job. Study their CV before the interview.


Explain how the interview process is going to work. The more comfortable your candidates are, the better rapport you can build, and the more information you will get out of them.


While you will almost certainly ask many questions, aim for at least three. Here are three that you should try to work in for every interview:

1. Ask the candidate to speak about something he or she did well. For example: what has been your greatest accomplishment up to this point?

2. Ask the candidate to think about a time when they made a mistake and how they dealt with it.

3. The last question should serve as a backup in case the candidate draws a blank on one of the other questions. It should be focused on what’s important for the role – for example: describe a time you faced a difficult deadline.

During the interview

  • Make sure you write down your observations.
  • Guide your candidate’s conversation to specific information you are looking for, but let them do most of the talking.
  • After several interviews, it’s easy to get candidates’ experiences mixed up. Write down your observations to avoid forgetting who is who.
  • If possible, more than one person should interview each candidate.


Give the candidate the opportunity to ask you questions. Describe what the next steps are in the process and when you plan to follow up.

Consider adding a test

You could improve your selection process if you supplement the interview with other selection methods. This could include a personality inventory like the Myers Briggs personality test (though note that the usefulness of this test has been the subject of some controversy) or an aptitude test (Gallop Strength Finder is a good one).

Once you have narrowed your candidates down to the top three, get one of your staff members to take them to coffee and see how they get on. Ask yourself: would I work for them? Do they have integrity? Do they have the necessary skills that will add value to my business?

Show appreciation

Let’s recap what we’ve covered so far. As a leader building an effective team to support and grow your business, you don’t need to be an exceptional talent. You need a good work ethic, a positive attitude, loads of energy, and passion. Your aim should be to create a happy work environment that provides opportunities for socialising and nurture your staff to thrive, professionally and personally. You can do this by showing appreciation, making your expectations clear, and rewarding achievements, however small they may be. Make your team feel valued.

Each member of your team may value different things for their personal growth and development, such as:

  • Interesting work
  • High salary
  • Job security
  • Appreciation of work done
  • Promotion within the company
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Good working conditions
  • Pleasant co-workers
  • Financial bonuses

Address any issues in the office diplomatically by framing criticism in positive terms. Comment on the issue, rather than the person, for example: “I’m not sure that could work because…” or “I see some difficulties with…”

As a leader, you earn respect by listening to what your employees say, treating others with courtesy, and never committing to a promise that you can’t keep.

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