A Startup’s Guide to Designing a Team

Posted by on February 15th, 2017

How you design your team will have a significant impact on the success, or lack thereof, of your product and business. As founders carefully consider how to build their MVP, plan their product roadmap and strategize their revenue model, they have to, at the beginning of it all, think about how to construct their teams.

“No leader can make a team perform well but all leaders can create conditions that increase the likelihood that it will.” – Richard Hackman (Social Psychologist), 2002

A team is a very complex setting that consists of people with different backgrounds, culture, attitudes, opinions, experiences and relationships between each other. How then, with all these attributes to consider, do we ensure we create a successful team? How do we get individuals to work as one to achieve the goals and implement the overall vision of the company?

At Melewi, our differences are more pronounced because we work and are from several parts of the world. With a closer look, however, we’ve found a way to use our differences to our advantage. However, this is not something we only think about when an issue arises. We’re intentional about how we want our team to be right from the hiring process.

Even a great team leader cannot touch every moment of interaction within a team. It’s impossible for them to be present for all conversations between the staff, so recruitment should be focused on finding people aligned with the culture and vision of the company. By doing this, it enables the team to stay on track even if the team leader is not present.

Here are six valuable lessons we’ve learned along the way on how to design your team:


1. Create your objectives.


Know what you want. Whether you’re looking for a co-founder or adding the 125th person to join your team, you have to lay out clear objectives for what you and the new member want to achieve. As with anything else, goals clarify which road to take when you’re at a crossroad. So if you can’t decide between the Ivy League candidate or the one with 15 years of experience, look at your objectives and think about which one can help you reach them better.

Hiring for attitude versus skills is another thing to consider. Skills can be easy to determine and even a lot easier to hone. Attitude, on the other hand, is tricky and has proven to be a feat to change.

For example,  look at the case of a husband and wife, who, if they want to stay together, have to change for each other – This solution to marital problems is not always successful and is probably a contributing factor to why divorce rates are so high. It’s no different when it comes to teams. What we do instead, together with our goals, is to identify what sort of attitude is right for the role.

With objectives and attitudes clearly identified, we don’t guarantee the outcome, but we increase the chance of success.


2. Communicate your vision.

a startup's guide to designing a team

We’ve had many ups and downs as a team, but what kept us going was having a laser focus on our goal. We make sure that everyone knows where the company is heading and that we stay aligned with regular catch ups so that we are always moving forward in the same direction together.

Letting your team members know that they all have the capacity to contribute to pushing the team forward brings about an organic initiative.

At any given moment, the vision is clear. When it’s not, we communicate.


3. Embrace diversity for complex tasks.

When creating a team, an important decision has to be made. Take a look at the tasks at hand and see if diversity will work for your team or not. More complex tasks require diverse insights. Simpler tasks, on the other hand, will only become complicated with diversity.

Also, similarity-attraction is very common in work teams because people are inclined to work with people similar to them. It also lessens communication difficulties and dipping productivity.

However, having similar people work on a complex project that requires a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills, will not produce the best outcome. Working and communication styles affect outcomes which can be a big advantage if tasks need to have a broader base of information and more creative solutions for problems.

Lastly, establishing company culture creates a common ground and mutual respect for a diverse set of people so make sure you have this sorted right from the start.


4. Clarify team boundaries.

For a team to succeed, you need to have a point person, especially one that knows how to lead people without ruling. A formal team leader has to be recognised to avoid confusion from within and outside the team. Click To Tweet

Responsibilities should be clear for every member of the team, and the team leader should always be able to promote ownership.


5. Promote collective effort.


Outperforming other team members is okay, but results are much more valuable if we outperform the outside world as a team. Doing this is especially beneficial for small teams.


6. Learn together.

As with anything else that relates to work, everyone gets better with experience. In a team setting, learning together proves to be one of the most important drivers of success.

Having regular team learning sessions promote team spirit along with valuable insights from different members of the team performing different roles. Collaboration becomes natural when the team moves on to work on client projects.

In teams, things don’t just happen. Intentional effort to make it work is needed. We highlight strengths and help each other overcome weaknesses and think that we can always do better.


A successful team is one that is carefully cultivated. It can’t just be thrown together. Click To Tweet The recipe for what works differs per company. But if you work to objectives and keep the lines of communication open and hire people who fit your culture and are aligned with your vision there is not much space to go wrong.

Here at Melewi, we’ve created an awesome team that enables us to successfully complete projects with our talents and methodology.



Want to find out more about how we work or find out about how to work with us? Drop us a line at hello@melewi.net or come and say hi on Twitter (@melewi).



Melewi is a travelling product, UX, and UI design studio working with passionate people from around the world. We work remotely and travel to be inspired, gain perspective, and build products and businesses that speak to everyone, everywhere.

Interested in collaborating with us? Get in touch; we promise we're friendly!

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