I am Apt

Building a team from scratch

Published on Sat Mar 12 2022 17:41:45 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Where do you start when building a new team? This was the question I asked myself a year ago. Having received the green-light to build a new team, I struggled to manage the many things which needed to be done. I needed to define a team identity, hire people, create processes, and ultimately achieve the business’ objectives.

While there is a lot of writing on managing existing teams, I could not find much on building teams from scratch. Building a new team is difficult, as you need to do a lot before it becomes operational. You need to define the team identity, hire people, create processes, and ultimately achieve your team’s objectives.

With so many things to do, what do you do when? While far from an expert, focusing on the three Ps has worked well for me: People, Purpose and Process. Let’s dive into that!


Hiring is your priority. While people often say this, what do you de-prioritise to achieve that? For a new team, close to everything can be de-prioritised to achieve their hiring goals. As former Amazon Director Dave Anderson mentions in their Filling your Headcount — Hiring at Amazon article “you’re only as successful as your ability to hire people onto your team.”

With that in mind, you need to spend a lot of time hiring. I underestimated how much time needs to go into this. If you want to hire quickly, at least 30% of your time should go into this. Things only started to move when we were doing 15+ interviews a month.

While you need to hire quickly, don’t lower your hiring bar. Know what qualities and skill-set the team needs. Rely on experienced interviewers, to keep yourself honest. As the person tasked with building a team, you will have a bias to hire quickly. Don’t fall for this bias. While some compromise is possible, consider if you want to work with this person, or just close your vacancy. Serial entrepreneur Suhail Doshi held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Twitter with some good interviewing insights.

Starting with great people seems to also be backed up in Jim Collins’ Good to Great book.


When hiring, you already had an idea what the team would do. I view that purpose as the initial purpose. No matter how much research you’ve done, its purpose will change as the team starts working. That initial work puts the team and its structure to the test.

You come to realize your team may not be working on the things you initially expected. That is okay. You can refine the team’s purpose.

Don’t believe me? Look at start-ups. Start-ups frequently go through pivots. They keep changing their purpose and business model, until something sticks. Famous pivots include Twitter (which started as Odeo, a podcasting platform) or Instagram (which focused on venue check-ins instead of photos).

The only risk is that people joined your team for its original purpose, not the latest one. Be honest about these purpose changes. Describe why the purpose is changing and make sure people understand the reason for these changes.


As your team and its purpose become real, you can standardize its process. Process does not have to be huge. Describing how work is completed is a process. Example processes you can create are:

You can use Agile processes, such as Kanban or Scrum, or you may need to create your own processes. Over time, I believe you cannot solve everything with Kanban or Scrum, so you will create your own processes in the end.

Ultimately, processes aim to increase the output (quality and/or quantity) of your team. One of the easiest processes to roll-out are checklists. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande is a great book on this. As your team grows, you can start to rely on roles and use tools like RACI tables.

What’s next?

I don’t know, but I’d love to hear from others who went through this experience. Get in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter.