4 Things Every Ugandan Startup founder Assembling a Team Should Know!

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There’s no worse nightmare for a startup as hiring the wrong talent. If qualified and experienced human resource professionals blunder during recruitment, how about inexperienced startup founders like you and me?

There are good practices recommended by several top recruitment professionals and firms that will enable one spot the right talent. Yet, to a certain degree the entire process seems to embed some bit of luck. A startup and it’s idea are only as strong as the people working on it.

From my experience assembling a team for SDA as well as working for Jumia in Uganda, these are the things i have identified that i believe anyone thinking of assembling a solid startup team in Uganda should watch out for!

  • Part-time labor

Unless you have deep pockets – a startup like Jumia has, be prepared for half attention. Most of the people you’ll get to work for you will give you only a portion of their time per day or during the week. Yet you can not blame these people.

Let’s face it, most startups in Uganda can not even afford to pay off internet for their “employees”, but these people have to survive. It is therefore just logical that they’ll have to part-time, freelance or actually take up a full-time job somewhere. Your only prayer should be that at the end of the day they spare sometime and dedicate it to your startup.

My advice is that, in case these people are valuable to your startup, don’t try to push them so hard because while as you’re fighting for your life (running your startup), they do have a fall back position and can easily quit.

  • Varying passion

I got to learn this while working on my very first startup in 2015. We were a team of 5 friends and ventured into making paperbags. However, just mobilizing for a meeting was hard – you could never get a “full house”. Later, i realised that some of the members were not as passionate as i was about the idea.

Similarly, when i worked on an idea that translated into SDA, i had several members whose passion – anyone could tell – wasn’t even 50% of mine. My quick reaction was always to fire there and then. However, overtime, i have come to realize that i am in the real world and try to handle someone according to their level of passion. This also helps me align my expectations as well as iterate the way i handle them to ensure i get the best i can get out of them.

Say, a startup founder can easily do something outside their area of expertise. This is not the case for a person who just joined as an employee at a later stage. My advise; get to understand things from that person’s point of view.

  • Very Green talent

One thing you should expect is totally green talent. By this, i mean people who barely know what to do. This has two sides to explain it;

Number one is because the highly skilled and experienced people are not willing to (or can’t) work for a typical Ugandan startup (look around you for one). This is because you can not afford their services, plus we all know how risky it is to work for a startup.

Secondly, Uganda has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Africa (something i hate to repeat because it has been cliched a lot). This means there’s quite a good number of desperate souls looking for something to do (even nothing) so that they can fill their empty stomachs. So, it shouldn’t surprise you when you receive an application from only people with little or no knowledge.

My advise; Be ready to train these people. Establish a critiria of how things are done and take them through a rigorous training that’ll polish them into something you need. However, this doesn’t mean that you take on every Tom, Dick and Peter. You should be sure to be spot those that are worthy your time and training.

  • High turnover rate

This is sad but true. As a startup, expect people to walk in and out of your startup at the fastest rate. Even those you baby sit and train – YES!

Some leave because they actually think they can now “steal” your idea and put up a similar or better startup. While others leave  because they have got better opportunities. The truth is that as a startup, you shouldn’t be surprised when you start feeding the more  established companies.

My advice; This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train people. In fact, do the best you can do to equip them. After that, do the best you can do to ensure they are motivated, appreciated and challenged. Not everyone desires to work for the “big” companies or start a company. Some just like to experience the benefits that come with working with a startup.

So, as you prepare to hire for your startup, have these four at the back of your mind. In case you have hired and are running a successful startup team, share your what other startup founders should expect in the comments.

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