image image 25th February 2022

How to Build & Lead Your Future Team

Building and leading a team, especially as a start-up, is no easy feat. Early teams can grow fast and often out of the blue. Taking some time at the start to get the right processes in place can prove invaluable in the long term.

In this blog, we set out some of the guiding principles followed by us here at The Shed that got us through the early phase and really helped us build and manage the incredible team we have today. Whether you’re a new business, or simply looking to refocus your recruitment strategy, we hope our experience proves useful!


 Be clear on your vision

Your vision should be something people can truly get behind.

Not only should it be clear, but it should also be believable and realistic – wanting to change the world sounds great on paper, but it’s not going to happen and there’s no point pretending it can.

Ask yourself some initial questions to determine what you stand for, and what could become a motivational pillar for both you and your team. If you’re struggling to synthesise your vision, think back to the beginning of your journey as a company, why you started the business and what was your unique proposition? Get your team involved and canvas their thoughts – it’s their vision as well as yours.

Some of the biggest companies in the world can be recognised from their vision alone – it’s so deeply embedded in their company identity, they become synonymous. (“To create the most compelling electric car company of the 21st century”… no points for guessing Tesla).

Having a strong vision that you, and the wider team, are genuinely passionate about filters through the business and guides everything that you do; from client management to recruitment processes, will help you to both attract and retain talent in the long term.


 Culture is King

Build a place where people actually want to work (including you).

Ask yourself, what is important to your business to deliver your vision? Involving your team in the development process allows you to continually evolve your values as you grow as an organisation. Don’t feel you have to tie yourselves to them, they might change as you grow!

Ensure you have compelling values and refer to them regularly.

Having compelling values as an organisation can be a useful tool in both hiring and shaping your team, and differentiating you from your competitors. It’s important to go beyond this and ensure they are lived and breathed in the day to day – not just something that sits on the wall in the office to catch the eye of any potential new recruits.

Make sure you define what good looks like for each value so everyone is clear about what you mean. A great way of ensuring that they are always referred back to is to embed them into your benchmarking and feedback procedures internally. Consider including them in employee appraisals, and rewarding your team for actively following the values set out, this will help to firmly embed them into your company culture. Not only do we do this at the Shed, but we also have our yearly shedder awards where we have categories for every value. It’s a great way to celebrate our team and highlight why our values are so important by focusing on the great outcomes that happen when the team follow them well.

These are the values that we live by here at The Data Shed:

Always Seek Value

Why am I doing this? What value am I driving? Simple questions that are easy to forget when you’re busy. If what you’re doing doesn’t drive value for a client, the Shed or yourself it’s probably fair to say there’s a better use of your time!

Know Your Audience

We’ve all been bamboozled by over complicated nonsense in meetings before. This is not the Shed way. We seek to understand our audience and pitch our content at the right level so we all understand what’s being said. This is the way to consensus and assurance!

Share Knowledge

Sharing knowledge helps everyone; if you’re in a silo you can’t help anyone or be helped. We get to play and work with some amazing tech (and if you’re not technical, you get to learn why it’s amazing); when we share that knowledge, we all improve.

Treat People Right

It’s more than just ‘treat people as you want to be treated’, how do they want to be treated? Know your fellow Shedders; collaborate with and support them and The Shed to continuously improve. Make the Shed a great place to be!

Take Care of the Fundamentals

Get the basics right & check your work. Test it, proof-read it; help each other to get it right. When the foundations are rock solid you can build anything. Remember: make it right; then make it fast. And take care of the coffee machine.

 The importance of getting it right

Simply put, you can’t afford to carry passengers.

Any major mismatch in values across the team can have a detrimental impact on the whole company culture and disrupt the atmosphere you have worked hard to create. Being clear on your organisation’s values can really help you identify your people. A note of caution here, however – placing values focus on your recruitment process shouldn’t and mustn’t be a blocker on diverse hiring.

Hiring as diversely as you possibly can ultimately become a big part of a company’s success.

Often employers can place so many “culture rules” on the hiring process that they end up hiring a homogenised workforce, which can clearly limit diversity. Combining different skillsets and being open to alternative thinking is key to fuelling a more innovative culture. Values should be a guide, not a filter.

It’s not just about hiring the right people, it’s about hiring the right way.

Leave your ego at the door, hire people who are better than you and learn from them, especially in areas that aren’t your core skill set. A brilliant team member has the ability to change your world and bring real value into the business.


 How to get it right (our guiding principles)

The hiring process can be tricky to navigate, especially when you’re a business experiencing fast growth periods and need to expand the team quickly.

Here are a few of our guiding principles when it comes to successful recruitment practice:

  • Don’t be dazzled by an amazing CV
  • Be clear on what you are REALLY looking for and what key behaviours do you need to see?
  • Outline how they would demonstrate your values and other key behaviours then write interview questions to surface these, score the answers to keep your process fair and transparent.
  • ALWAYS see more than one person and get references
  • Make sure you explore the reasons behind them wanting to work for a start-up or smaller organisation
  • Be forthright on the opportunity and your expectations of them lay it out clearly and early on in the interview process
  • If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I can’t stress this enough – it’s better to wait than to hire the wrong person.


 What to do if you get it wrong

It’s likely that you’ll know early on if you have made a mistake with a new hire, but don’t panic. There are a number of steps you can take to minimise the impact for both parties involved.

Get your employment contract in place, along with clear objectives.

Firstly, make sure you have a sensible employment contract and that obligations are clear and have been understood, setting clear and measurable objectives in the first month is key. If these objectives aren’t met, probation isn’t passed; making a difficult conversation far easier if you’ve been benchmarking progress against expectations.

Take action quickly.

Avoid waiting for things to change without actively getting involved, clear feedback and communication may help improve the situation, but if it doesn’t? Take action, quickly. Don’t be afraid to seek external HR advice, there are many services out there offering it and, especially if you are a start-up, it’s not necessary to hire dedicated HR support.

Reflect and improve.

Most importantly, when things go wrong remember to dust yourself off and take a critical look at your recruitment processes and establish what lessons can be learnt going forward – when people leave quickly, this is often a reflection of where we’ve gone wrong.


 Find your folk

Make yourself visible.

Tell your story and reach as many people as you possibly can; you can’t hire people who don’t know your company exists.

Network and make sure you’re an active part of your community.

Search for local events, meetups and networking groups to get involved in and make sure you are an active part of your community, these are all great places to find talent and connect with people who could be future members of your team. Shared working spaces also offer a great environment for meeting new people and the opportunity to showcase what working with you could be like. Just be prepared to drink a LOT of coffee!

 Be yourself

Everyone worries about messing up, or appearing to not know what they’re doing. Imposter syndrome is real, and the majority of people experience it at some point in their lives.

You will inevitably make mistakes (several, and often more than one in a day), but remember that no one knows your business as you do. Authenticity is key here, and generally, people can forgive mistakes if your response is genuine and thoughtful.

Likewise, if you are authentic, you’ll meet people you naturally spark off – this CANNOT be replaced in terms of a good team relationship.

Work out what you’re good at, and accept you can’t be an expert at everything. Sometimes your difference is your superpower…


 A business is only as strong as the people who make it

It’s important to remember for any business starting out on their journey that a business is only as strong as the group of people who make it – so hiring smartly, staying grounded and having a clear structure to your recruitment processes will ultimately be the first steps to building and leading a brilliant team in the long-term.

We’ve worked hard to build a culture we are proud of here at The Data Shed and we’re always on the lookout for like-minded individuals to join our growing team! If you think you’d make a great Shedder and would like to find out more about the roles we have available, head over to our careers page by clicking the button below.

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