5 Traits in the Ideal Startup Employee

08/01/2013 08:32 am ET | Updated Oct 01, 2013

You've got your business going, and it's time to build your team. What now? Below is a list of five traits you'll want to look for in your potential candidates:

1. Experts who are more prepared than you. In a technology-driven environment, each person on your team needs to bring expertise in one area of specialization. This individual needs to be better, quicker, and more informed than you or anyone else on your team about how to navigate their particular area of focus. The candidate also needs to be meticulous. Look for someone who dots their i's and crosses their t's fanatically.

This expert should be able to educate you and the rest of your team about their skill set, which means they'll also need to be a successful communicator (more on that in point five, below). When it comes to implementation, this person is going to be your go-to, but their access to knowledge is only as valuable as their ability to relay that knowledge successfully.

Don't let an unskilled driver behind the wheel. A successful field expert is not only knowledgeable about the ins and outs of a product, service, or skill, they're also prepared for failure, big changes, and a variety of cause and effect reactions. Look for the individual who artfully balances planning for chaos with a desire to move ahead.

2. Team players who are grounded. Dreams are for founders. You are the one with the theories and dreams; after all, this is your startup. Of course this doesn't mean you should avoid people who bring big ideas to the table or who have their own goals and aspirations, but it does mean you should find suitable counterparts to temper your enthusiasm with a healthy dose of reality.

The key is to build a team that allows you to achieve balance. You're looking to work with people who have the ability to efficiently execute the tasks you delegate while still retaining open-mindedness and a gift for thinking outside the box when needed. Additionally, you don't want to go too far in the opposite direction and bring on board someone who can't think for themselves without your guidance -- that doesn't encourage the cooperation, creativity, and teamwork that helps small startups thrive.

3. Resourceful workers and creative thinkers. There's definitely a difference between someone with their head stuck in the clouds and someone who is able to creatively problem solve and keep an open mind around the meeting table. Seek out individuals who come ready with an arsenal of tools for working through the types of issues and challenges you anticipate (plus some you don't) or the capacity for acquiring those tools quickly.

You're responsible for being a solid resource, advocate for, and ally of your team. But this doesn't mean that setting up your employees for success needs to come in the form of step-by-step directives. The people you hire should be able to think for themselves and think on their feet. Look for someone who will come to you with a response like this when they find a problem, "I found two ways to work around this, and I suggest we use the first. Here's why."

4. Curious, eager learners who can walk the walk. Experience is not always necessary, and a balance of seasoned industry veterans coupled with fresh, innovative thinkers can often open the door to a real powerhouse team. But talk is cheap. It doesn't matter how impressive someone's résumé is or how brightly their new, post-graduate enthusiasm shines, look for someone who you feel is truly willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Drive and a willingness to learn, when paired with a curious nature, makes a winning combination. Most importantly, look for someone who can qualify their goals, accomplishments, and talents with specificity. Honestly, what someone was doing five or ten years ago is not always all that relevant to what they'll be able to do for you and your company now. Someone's big-picture suggestions are only as valuable as the action plan they can develop to implement it. What new skills are being learned? What questions is a person asking? Focus on what a candidate is actually going to do for you and your team, not just what they say they can do.

5. A strong communicator. Above everything else on this list, this trait is the most important. Without clear, capable communicators to utilize the rest of these qualities, it would be tough for any startup to break through. Look for individuals who are clear, direct, thoughtful, and articulate. This also means that they can listen well, synthesize information, and are capable of knowing their audience and adapting accordingly. And don't forget that communication isn't just about how well someone can share their ideas in a meeting or in a briefing with the boss -- it's how successfully they can engage in written and non-verbal communication as well.

There are a lot of things working against any new business, and be sure that no matter which industry you're in, you'll face your fair share of challenges. But building a balanced, productive, and talented team is a great way to set yourself up for success and hit the ground running, ready to face head-on what's to come.