“You’ve come to fight as free men!”: The power of loyalty and purpose when building a startup team

By Rachel Crawford, VillageCapital

Launching a startup is like going to war.

I am Scottish, and therefore will shamelessly use the Scottish revolutionary hero William Wallace as my champion in this analogy about the role of people when launching a startup.

William Wallace’s largest competitor and ecosystem gatekeeper was the English Crown. The Crown held all the power, and commanded the economy, policy and trade partners. For all extensive purposes, the crown ruled.

The story of William Wallace is powerful, and has resonated for centuries, in large part because Wallace was not a member of the elite-class. He was a peasant who, with the support of his family, managed to receive an education. An educated man, but not a rich man. A man who understood the problems facing his people, and who had an innovative perspective on how to improve their lives. He rallied a following of committed people to fight against insurmountable odds. Sound familiar?

What Wallace really did was demand change in the market for the benefit of the masses. This dynamic is familiar enough to many startup founders, who have the perspective, education and drive — but perhaps not the resources — to change the status quo.

So how did Wallace do it? The answer: he didn’t do it alone.

William Wallace did not win his many battles by himself. He won them with an army of his countrymen: loyal volunteers. They fought for him because they believed in a greater purpose. They would have received more money and comfort if they had joined The Crown, but they wanted to be a part of something bigger.

We know that companies that prioritize human capital (people) scale faster and more sustainably than those who don’t. We know that for many startups in emerging markets, it is difficult to find talented people at the price point you can afford. However, we also know that if you bring people into your vision, if you make them feel a part of the story, a part of the revolution, they will fight with you for a better, fairer reality.

As a startup, you can win with limited resources, but only if you realise that your greatest resource is your people. And if you want talent to run into battle with you, you’re going to have to ensure that the people you bring in share your vision, and that their personal values align with the greater purpose of your business.

So how do you find the right people?

Over the next several months, Village Capital and our partners are creating an open-source playbook for early-stage businesses on human capital strategy. The areas we will cover are (1) developing a strategic hiring plan (2) organisational design and role mapping (3) job design, screening and recruitment strategy (4) culture and onboarding (4) employee engagement (5) team effectiveness and much more.The playbook will be available, open-source, in September 2017, and we’ll be sharing pieces of it here on Village Capital’s blog over the next several months.

Our main goal is to provide entrepreneurs: the tactical and strategic resources — in a user friendly format — that they need to define the right people, find them, hire them and create an environment where they can succeed.

In the meantime, you can find us at Sankalp in Nairobi next week where we are hosting a panel and talent showcase. Get in touch if you want to be involved, rachel.crawford@vilcap.com

The article first appeared on Medium.com

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