business Development articles

Staffing your startup

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Startup Staffing

When it comes to building your team, the thing to remember is that your business will move fast, and your staffing needs will change alongside it.

That makes it critical to learn how to bring the right people on at the right time, how to manage skill sets against company needs, and possibly how to let employees go.

In this class, David Mandell (Cofounder and CEO of PivotDesk), shares the techniques he uses to build and manage startup teams.

Pick the right co-founder. “A good co-founder is vital, especially since co-founder issues are the reason many early start-up crash and burn,” Fertik says. Partner up with someone whose strengths complement yours. If you’re an expert in one field, make sure their expertise differs.


Find a chief technology officer who won’t break. To survive the “make it or break it” stage of launching a start-up, find someone who will work through the tough times. “Without this person, there is no product. You need someone whose intelligence exceeds your own and whose hunger to be the driving force behind bringing a product from concept to creation is overwhelming,” says Fertik.


Hire a forecaster. Every start-up needs a specialist who understands the product/market fit. “You need that person to be a forecaster, both a realist and a dreamer, who can give you reasonable assurance about the right direction to take the product and company at different point in time,” says Fertik.


Be efficient. “Don’t hire people you don’t need,” warns Fertik. Instead of focusing on hiring PR, focus on the product and managing your finances instead.

Be realistic. Don’t focus on things you’re not ready to do yet, such as hiring IT and getting your product to scale. “Remember — the easiest money in the world comes at the end of this phone call: ‘I’m turning away 90 percent of my orders because my servers can’t keep up with demand,'” says Fertik.


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How to make a pitch deck

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What is a pitch deck?

The pitch deck is a presentation that entrepreneurs put together when seeking a round of financing from investors. On average pitch decks have no more than 19 slides.

As described in my book, The Art of Startup Fundraising, ultimately founders need two different sets of pitch decks. One version will be with a lot of text and information which will be shared with people via email. The other version will be the pitch deck that entrepreneurs present to investors in person with more visuals. Having more visuals will contribute to having investors focused on you.

A demo day presentation, for example, should be very visual and contain very little text. It’s going to be seen from afar and you’re going to do all the talking. On the other hand, a pitch presentation that you’re planning to email should be completely self explanatory. It’s going to be seen on a laptop monitor, so small font is not so bad.

In these cases it’s also very useful to track your investor’s activity on the presentation, to figure out if they actually read the 100% of the slides; this can be critical when determining the frequency for follow up emails. In our case, it was key to raising our most recent round of funding. A number of pitch deck platforms offer this as a feature.

Get the necessary tools

There are a lot of ways to create your pitch deck. You can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, which are both readily available. Keynote is free on Apple computers. If you’re using an iPad or just want a simple way to create a pitch deck online, Canva is an excellent tool. It has pre-designed templates that you can customize. Your pitch also gets saved to your online account so you can work on it anywhere. I’m a big fan of Canva, so I’ll be using it for this step-by-step tutorial. You can follow along and create your pitch deck in any program of your choice.

Putting together your deck

Slide 1: Logo/Mission/Positioning Line/Founders
  • This slide is your elevator pitch. In 15-20 seconds or less, you should convey a sense of excitement, while getting across to investors that you are “investment ready.” For best results, make this emotive, using images and logos where you can. Use your positioning line to convey your mission and vision.
  • If you’re an unknown quantity to these investors, describe your management team upfront, being honest about skill gaps (Keep in mind that it’s a lot riskier for investors to invest in a solo founder versus in a team of at least 2).
Slide 2: The Problem We Solve
  • Keep this one simple: zero in on the core problem and clearly state it.
Slide 3: The Solution
  • You want to “show rather than tell,” by focusing on how users interact with your solution and offering examples. Again, using images (for instance a screenshot of your software) or logos to take investors through a process flow will make you more effective and convey necessary information in the most efficient way.
Slide 4: The Market Size
  • This is the first slide where VCs can assess whether your team members are product people only or whether they also demonstrate business experience and savvy. You need to demonstrate an understanding/analysis of the true market size and not just paint a picture of a huge total addressable market. Hit it out of the park by helping investors quantify the investment potential of the market niche you plan to hone in on.
Slide 5: The Product/Technology Architecture
  • Show how your solution works from the user perspective and how everything (API, algorithms, etc.) ties together.
Slide 6: IP/Defensibility/Scalability Chart
  • Describe this as concisely as you can, but be sure to answer: Where’s the differentiator? What makes your IP defensible? What’s your strategy for protecting it (patents, trademarks, other)? How will it scale?
Slide 7: Go To Market/Distribution
  • Cover basic blocking and tackling here by explaining how you’ll go to market/distribute your product. You need to have a handle on cost and be prepared to answer questions re strategies for each stage as well as the relative cost-intensity of different options.
Slide 8: Competitor Matrix
  • Don’t dismiss competitors. The good thing about having them is that it validates the market for your product/solution!
  • The key thing to convey is that you’re informed and in touch with the market. Use a matrix to show competitors’ weaknesses and strengths and your distinctive advantage.
Slide 9: Revenue Projections
  • The best way to get behind the numbers is by creating a bottom-up forecast so that you clearly understand the operating expenses, customer acquisition costs, and people resources required to execute your plan.
  • Then, be sure you know your assumptions cold (these can go in an appendix) and are able to speak to them.
Slide 10: The Advisors
  • Advisors are important, especially if you don’t have much of a management team in place yet. Why? They give you confidence and, when the going gets tough, a supportive shoulder.
  • Look for advisors you personally like and can professionally benefit from. Give them a little equity (up to ¼ of 1%), lock them in for 12-24 months, and set clear objectives (for example, ½ day a month of their time or x number of introductions) and demonstrable quantitative results for their involvement.
Slide 11: Use of Funds
  • Have a realistic sense of the right amount of money to raise: enough to get you to the next critical inflection point. In other words, milestone funding. That means aiming for an amount that will give you 12-18 months of runway, including a cushion for pivots and delays. If you’re struggling with this, your advisors, including accountant or CFO, can help you size a round.
  • Put your ask upfront. Know that for A or B rounds with VCs, you will be giving up at least 20% of your equity. This could rise to 35-40% if you’re looking to get a meaningful round done.
Slide 12: Exit Strategy
  • Not every deck includes this, but presenting your strategy shows investors you’re thinking ahead to eventually monetizing the business and returning their money with a premium.


we here at MECH are experts at pitch deck design let us know how far along your company is maybe we can help

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The 5 Project management phases

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Project Initiation

PI® increases team efficiency, improves processes and makes collaboration easy through every stage of the project life cycle. Formalize your process for internal project requests or introduce project proposals for clients with personalized forms.

An idea for a project will be carefully examined to determine whether or not it benefits the organization. During this phase, a decision making team will identify if the project can realistically be completed.

  • Project Requests
  • Project Prioritization Scorecard
  • Approval Flows

Project Planning

Strategize the scope of your project PI® templates. Our intelligent scheduling and resource management features help you to visualize and develop a plan for successful project delivery. Baselines ensure you always know when the plan changes.

A project plan, project charter and/or project scope may be put in writing, outlining the work to be performed. During this phase, a team should prioritize the project, calculate a budget and schedule, and determine what resources are needed.

  • Scope & Budget
  • Project Schedule
  • Resource Planning

Project Launch

When your team is ready to launch, PI® helps you manage and control every project. Use project statuses to keep your workflow organized. Efficiently delegate tasks and be proactive in addressing issues or risks within your team.

Resources’ tasks are distributed and teams are informed of responsibilities. This is a good time to bring up important project related information.

  • Status & Tracking
  • Issue & Risk Tracking

Project Performance

Easily evaluate project performance & milestones with PI®. Get real-time insights about plans versus actuals to make sure all objectives and deliverables are met. All users get instant visibility with our dynamic reporting and robust permissions.

Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.

  • Objectives
  • Quality Deliverables
  • Performance

Project Closing

After project tasks are completed and the client has approved the outcome, an evaluation is necessary to highlight project success and/or learn from project history.

Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.

  • Objectives
  • Quality Deliverables
  • Performance

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Building a Successful Service Level Agreement

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SLAs capture the business objectives and define how success will be measured, and are ideally structured to evolve with the customer’s foreseeable needs. The right approach to an SLA results in agreements that are distinguished by clear, simple language, a tight focus on business objectives, and ones that consider the dynamic nature of the business to ensure evolving needs will be met.

1. Both the Client and Vendor Must Structure the SLA

Structuring an SLA is an important, multiple-step process involving both the client and the vendor. In order to successfully meet business objectives, SLA best practices dictate that the vendor and client collaborate to conduct a detailed assessment of the client’s existing applications suite, new IT initiatives, internal processes, and currently delivered baseline service levels.

2. Analyze Technical Goals & Constraints

The best way to start analyzing technical goals and constraints is to brainstorm or research technical goals and requirements. Technical goals include availability levels, throughput, jitter, delay, response time, scalability requirements, new feature introductions, new application introductions, security, manageability, and even cost. Start prioritizing the goals or lowering expectations that can still meet business requirements.

For example, you might have an availability level of 99.999% or 5 minutes of downtime per year. There are numerous constraints to achieving this goal, such as single points of failure in hardware, mean time to repair (MTTR), broken hardware in remote locations, carrier reliability, proactive fault detection capabilities, high change rates, and current network capacity limitations. As a result, you may adjust the goal to a more achievable level.

3. Determine the Availability Budget

An availability budget is the expected theoretical availability of the network between two defined points. Accurate theoretical information is useful in several ways, including:

  • The organization can use this as a goal for internal availability and deviations can be quickly defined and remedied.
  • The information can be used by network planners in determining the availability of the system to help ensure the design will meet business requirements.

Factors that contribute to non-availability or outage time include hardware failure, software failure, power and environmental issues, link or carrier failure, network design, human error, or lack of process. You should closely evaluate each of these parameters when evaluating the overall availability budget for the network.

4. Application Profiles

contractApplication profiles help the networking organization understand and define network service level requirements for individual applications. This helps to ensure that the network supports individual application requirements and network services overall.

Business applications may include e-mail, file transfer, Web browsing, medical imaging, or manufacturing. System applications may include software distribution, user authentication, network backup, and network management.

The goal of the application profile is to understand business requirements for the application, business criticality, and network requirements such as bandwidth, delay, and jitter. In addition, the networking organization should understand the impact of network downtime.

5. Availability and Performance Standards

Availability and performance standards set the service expectations for the organization. These may be defined for different areas of the network or specific applications. Performance may also be defined in terms of round-trip delay, jitter, maximum throughput, bandwidth commitments, and overall scalability. In addition to setting the service expectations, the organization should also take care to define each of the service standards so that user and IT groups working with networking fully understand the service standard and how it relates to their application or server administration requirements.

6. Metrics and Monitoring

Service level definitions by themselves are worthless unless the organization collects metrics and monitors success. Measuring the service level determines whether the organization is meeting objectives, and also identifies the root cause of availability or performance issues.

7. Customer Business Needs and Goals

Try to understand the cost of downtime for the customer’s service. Estimate in terms of lost productivity, revenue, and customer goodwill. The SLA developer should also understand the business goals and growth of the organization in order to accommodate network upgrades, workload, and budgeting.

8. Performance Indicator Metrics

Metrics are simply tools that allow network managers to manage service level consistency and to make improvements according to business requirements. Unfortunately, many organizations do not collect availability, performance, and other metrics. Organizations attribute this to the inability to provide complete accuracy, cost, network overhead, and available resources. These factors can impact the ability to measure service levels, but the organization should focus on the overall goals to manage and improve service levels.

In summary, service level management allows an organization to move from a reactive support model to a proactive support model where network availability and performance levels are determined by business requirements, not by the latest set of problems. The process helps create an environment of continuous service level improvement and increased business competitiveness.

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5 steps to staffing right

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1. Look at the big picture
Make sure you’re tuned in to your company’s overall business plans. Is your company planning to expand or change any competitive strategies? Even activities that don’t involve your team now may require your support further down the road. When in doubt, ask plenty of questions so you aren’t caught off-guard later.

2. Look at the small picture
What are the priorities for the department or its subgroups? Take a good look at what’s ahead and compare those projects with your personnel resources. Can your team realistically complete everything on the to-do list?

While you may need to ask your staff to work some overtime, this shouldn’t be your long-term plan for handling growing workloads. If people work extra hours with no relief in sight, you not only risk burnout but also the resignations of valued employees. Skilled professionals always have employment options, and they won’t wait around for you to hire appropriately.

3. Be honest about your employees
Next, write down the individual strengths of your team members. Do they have the necessary expertise for upcoming projects? If not, can they be brought up to speed through training in time to address new initiatives?

Recognize, too, that just because you have the right skills in your group, it doesn’t necessarily mean those skills are accessible. For instance, you may have an excellent technical writer on staff, but if that person is already booked with projects for the foreseeable future, he may not be able to help with documentation for a new product.

4. Mix it up correctly
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to figure out the right balance of full-time and temporary staff that you’ll require to tackle them. List initiatives that will increase the need for personnel resources for a short time and those you expect to be long-term.

For example, you might note that your team will be particularly busy over the next three months while preparing for the introduction of a new software application. However, once the application is in place and they are comfortable using it, those demands should decline.

In situations where there are peaks and valleys in the workload, it may be best to consider the use of temporary employees. They can provide the flexibility and extra support needed only during busy times. However, if demands appear consistent throughout the year and you don’t have sufficient staff on hand, that’s a good indicator it’s time to hire full-time employees.

5. Make a list of what’s essential
Before you begin recruiting, establish clear hiring criteria. What skills are critical to performing the job successfully?

Be careful not to blur your “wish” and “must-have” lists. You may prefer to add a person who has an advanced degree, but would you be willing to overlook this requirement for the right experience? If you narrow your expectations too far, you may overlook candidates who are the best fit for your openings. In fact, when hiring conditions are competitive, you may not find anyone who fits all of your dream qualifications.

Staffing appropriately can be critical to giving your company a competitive edge. If you hire too many employees, you’ll cut into profit margins. Assemble the right mix of full-time and temporary staff, and you’ll be in a good position to help with changing business plans and demands. Taking the time now to assess your upcoming needs and get ready will help ensure you’re leading a group that’s well-prepared for whatever may come your way.

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