When people talk about “building a business,” they often use cute analogies about the “foundation” and the “blueprints,” as if the business were a house being built on a tract of land. But the truth is much less clear; every business is unique, so conventional plans don’t apply. Today’s challenges may be tomorrow’s opportunities, but tomorrow will surely bring challenges of its own.

One of those challenges lies in building the right team for your business.  The core of an IT company is the technical proficiency that it can offer customers.  While you’ll eventually need to address human resources, sales, accounting, marketing, and a dozen other different departments, the initial burden lies in finding the right technical know-how to deliver the solutions your clients or customers require.

IT Help Desk

Help desk staffed with engineers. Image Courtesy of Critigen

Whether you are an internal department servicing a large organization or a small business with clients of your own, building a technical team doesn’t have to feel impossible. Here are 5 tips to help you build an early technical team:

  1. Avoid Redundancy – As in any role for a new or small business, hiring more than one person with the exact same skill set is often a sunk cost.  If you have one experienced Windows Server engineer on staff, don’t hire another unless the first is painfully overextended!  Instead, look for someone with a different expertise who can help expand your offerings and abilities while presenting a new way to approach and solve problems. Having multiple people on staff capable of the same work is an expensive mistake to make.
  2. Avoid Vanity – Node.js is a hot language right now for applications programming.  And why not?  It’s the newest, coolest thing and it powers some of the most popular sites on the internet.  It’s also still maturing and far from essential for most organizations.  Hiring someone just so you can say, “We have a VCDX certified engineer on staff” makes absolutely no sense if all of your customers are using Citrix instead of VMWare.  Hire people that have skills that fill real business needs, not skills that you find impressive from a technical perspective.
  3. Hire for culture, not skill level – Skills can be learned. Engineers can be trained. Technicians can work together to solve problems, but you can’t force fit and comfort. When building your technical team, pay special attention to the candidate’s disposition and attitude. Invite other technicians to the interview and see if they get along easily. Look for candidates that have worked at companies similar to your own, if possible.  Yes, the individual has to have some technical ability.  But don’t discount the importance of having someone who works well and fits in great with your team and organization.
  4. Diversity Over Specificity at Lower Levels – For Level 1 and Level 2 technicians, it is vital that you hire team members with a broad base of experience.  Having worked on different platforms and in different environments is very useful and increases the chance that someone on the Level 1 or Level 2 team has seen the problem being encountered. At this level, it isn’t important that any one individual have mastery over a particular software package or hardware platform. What IS important, however, is that someone on the team can say “I am familiar with this issue. This is where we should start in getting it fixed.”  From there, the team can work together if needed to find the right solution.
  5. Specificity Over Diversity at Higher Levels – The opposite is true for high-level technical issues and solutions deployment.  You can’t buy a book at the bookstore on the way to a multi-location network security audit and hope to do even a passable job.  Some technical work can only be handled by well-trained engineers with specific, developed skill-sets. When given the choice between a high-level technician that claims to be good at everything or a high-level technician that displays mastery of one or two complex problem sets, opt for the latter.

Despite technical professionals valuing the intricate skills that make technology interesting to them, it is important to remember that these skills are largely hidden to your clients and customers.  Yes, you and your team may get to work on the front edge of innovation on a daily basis. But don’t forget that your customers or clients aren’t counting on you to use the newest, coolest application to solve their problem. Rather, all they care about is that the problem is solved quickly and won’t happen again anytime soon.  Being in the business of keeping clients and customers happy means having the right tools for the job and the right technical team to work with those tools.

The truth is there are a lot of skilled technicians and engineers available, so be diligent when it comes to building out your technical team. It may seem that your team is overtaxed at the moment, but hiring the wrong person out of desperation is an awful idea. Getting the right people with the right, complementary skill-sets isn’t an impossible challenge. Follow the tips above and you should be well on your way.