Finance & Operations

Building an All-Star Expansion-Stage Team

July 10, 2012

For one night every season, professional baseball’s All-Star Game gives fans the chance to see the best and brightest from each league take the field as a single, star-studded team. Imagine if you were able to build your own all-star lineup when it came to recruiting members for your startup or expansion-stage team?

While that may sound like a pipe dream, it’s actually precisely the approach you should be taking. In fact, if you aren’t actively seeking out the best talent when putting together your startup roster the odds are strong that your company won’t be built for long-term success.

Mark Zuckerberg once famously commented that a single great engineer is worth 100 average engineers. Along those same lines, co-founder Paul English has suggested that while nearly every company compares its product to competitors’ offerings to assess its viability and success, it might be even more important to look at how your startup team stacks up against the competition. In other words, you need to be confident that your team and can go toe-to-toe with the roster of any other company in your industry.

Over time, your idea will change. It’s likely that you may have to pivot and reposition yourself in the marketplace. As long as you have an incredibly strong team, you will be able to make those changes to adapt, survive and thrive. That’s why it is critical to fill your expansion-stage team with All-Stars.

With that in mind, here are the key roles that you absolutely need to fill with the best talent you can find:

Chief Executive Officer

As the bench manager of any startup/expansion-stage company, the chief executive officer needs to have a clear vision for the company, including its mission, values and short- and long-term goals. In many cases, the CEO has also helped develop the economic model and needs to ensure that the company follows it through various development strategies. Responsible for the overall team’s performance, the CEO is also tasked with ensuring that the rest of the staff is as potent and competitive as possible.

Chief Marketer

The marketing head of any expansion-stage company is tasked with facilitating the growth of the business through various strategies that identify and create competitive advantages. Like a great catcher, the chief marketer has to know both the company’s messaging and its customers well enough to know what pitch will be most effective when. It’s crucial for him or her to identify the best target markets, as that’s key to generating demand.

Sales Head

Working closely with the marketing side of the business, the sales head plays a huge role in generating business. While the marketing arm handles demand generation, the sales head is your company’s all-star closer. This team member needs to be able to bring the deal-closing heat, but must be an effective leader in the bullpen, as well, developing successful sales methodologies and launching highly effective sales teams.

Development Head

This position is all about organization and reliability. Like a good leadoff hitter, you have to be able to count on your development head to get things going. Simply put, he or she is the key to igniting and ensuring your high-efficiency working model is running smoothly and on all cylinders. On-base percentage aside, any individual hired to this position should be able to score high on the Nokia test, which gauges fluency in the Scrum methodology.

Product Manager

Expansion-stage companies need the capability to ensure their products and services are being marketed to the right customer segments and that they’re meeting those customers’ expectations and fulfilling their needs. Enter the product manager, who’s charged with gathering unique insights from the target consumer base and using them to guide product designs and service changes. This position collaborates heavily with the sales and marketing teams to turn double plays – signing up new customers while retaining and keeping current customers happy.

Customer Service Head

Any successful baseball team needs a strong defense to handle infield grounders and outfield pop-ups. In a similar way, every expansion-stage team needs a customer service head to target customer satisfaction and encourage positive feedback from customers. The customer service head should have a high net promoter score and work with other aspects of the company’s operations to minimize the risk of customer service issues.

Chief Financial Officer

Think of this position as the general manager of any baseball team, managing player contracts and other expenses to maximize on-field performance within the constraints of the team’s budget. Your startup/expansion-stage CFO needs to develop a basic financial process for managing assets and liabilities and will often play an instrumental role in getting the rest of the management team up to speed and on board with the company’s economic model, as well.

How does your current lineup compare to the all-star team of your dreams?

If there isn’t heavy overlap then you’ve got your work cut out for you, with little time to waste. Because, unlike the midsummer classic, business opportunities aren’t guaranteed to come around again next year.


Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.