How to Build an Amazing Software Development Team for Your ISV Startup

High-performing teams take more than talented individuals — they take vision, planning, and management that helps them excel.

Your ISV startup is ready to scale. You need more people to manage your growing customer base and more hands to do the work. But hiring and building a high-performing software development team can be stressful — according to research by CB Insights, about a quarter of startups fail because they don’t have the right team in place.

The challenge isn’t only related to the available talent pool — building an effective team also takes setting goals, finding the right people to help you reach them, and maintaining a work environment that helps your team achieve excellence. Here are some tips that can help you build a team that will put your growing business on the path to success:

Look for Experienced Employees with Valuable Skills

It may be tempting to head to college placement offices to find entry-level employees — who will accept entry-level salaries — but your ISV startup will benefit more from hiring developers that bring experience and skill to the table. Collaborating with seasoned developers may also result in a better application. Remember, you aren’t hiring for a startup that’s beginning to scale. You’re hiring for what your company will become.

Build the Right Company Culture

Define the type of work environment that will allow your team to excel, and then look for employees who share your vision. If you plan to empower employees with Agile methods to take ownership of projects and make decisions, don’t expect a manager with a top-down style to be a good fit. Hire and assign roles that will help you create an atmosphere that allows your team to thrive.

Establish a Work Schedule Everyone Can Live With

There are times when deadlines are looming and the pressure is on, but to ensure a quality product — and a happy team — make sure you keep to a schedule that gives your team enough hours to finish their work but also time for rest and rejuvenation. Also, it may be advantageous to allow your coders to work at times beyond the traditional 8 to 5 — studies show that some people are wired to do their best work at different times of the day. You may also be dealing with balancing schedules of remote workers in different time zones. Find the optimal balance for your unique situation.

Equip Your Team with the Right Tools

Automating routine tasks can give your team the ability to focus on complex problems. Make sure you work with your team to identify their needs and to select the tools for internal communication and collaboration, customer relationship management, security, release management and testing.

Invest in Your Team’s Development

Support your employee’s continued education and professional development by funding courses, industry conference passes, or association memberships. The investment you make in your team will ultimately show through in the work they produce.

Build Trust and Emotional Safety

The most effective teams have members who feel free to speak their minds. If they see a problem or a shortcoming, they know they are welcome to bring it to light, without fear of ridicule or retribution. Emotional safety increases your team’s confidence level, strengthens relationships, and improves productivity. Give all of your employees opportunities to share their input, understand that you respect their views and know that you take them seriously.

Get Smart about What to Manage

You know data will help you make smarter decisions about pricing, marketing, software features, and other aspects of your business. Are you using data to manage your team? Savvy managers are using data about team members’ personality traits and statistical models to help teams excel in the quality of their work and productivity.

A Final Thought: “Hire Slow, Fire Fast”

So, you evaluated job candidates as thoroughly as you could, weighed options carefully, checked references — did everything you could to ensure a good hire that would work well with your team. But unfortunately, once your new employee started work, you realized he or she wasn’t going to work out. Once you’ve done all you can to help your new hire improve, but the situation didn’t improve, it’s probably best to take action as soon as possible.

As this Cost of a Bad Hire Calculator from Parker+Lynch can demonstrate, keeping an unproductive employee can hurt your business, costing, on average, 30 percent of their annual earnings. It may also cost you the loss of trust and productivity of other team members who must pick up the slack. Address problems quickly and continue to build the team that will take your company into the future. 

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Mike Monocello
The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.