How to Create Startup Roles and Responsibilities

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If you want to build your startup past the 1 year mark, you need to make sure that you correctly delegate startup roles and responsibilities between you and your cofounding team.

Most businesses in the world start and shut down within the first year.

That can be due to not enough funding, poor leadership decisions by the founders, not enough market traction, poor marketing and sales, among many other things.

In order to become a part of that exclusive group of founders that make it past year 1 and go on to build million dollar companies, you need to get your startup roles and responsibilities set up as soon as possible.

If you’re reading this and starting to freak out, don’t worry…you have time!

And I’m going to explain how to break up your startup roles and responsibilities so that all areas of your startup business are covered.

Ready to get into it?

Let’s do it!

The Most Common Roles of the Startup Team in the First 6 Months

startup roles and responsibilities

All startups are different.

Different markets. Different products. Different timing. Different founders. Different industry movements. Different economies.

However, there’s one aspect of startups that tends to stay consistent…

The core roles within each founding team that is needed to create real impact and success.

Here’s a list of the most common startup roles and responsibilities that you and your cofounders will run into (if you haven’t already).

  1. Sales
  2. Product development – technology
  3. Financial management
  4. Marketing
  5. Operations – systems and processes
  6. Research and development

With that knowledge, it will be helpful to also know the most common startup roles that have made up the most successful startups.

The three roles outlined below are names utilized and introduced by Ross D. Blankenship, a startup angel investor and the author of The Investing King: How I started angel investing with $25,000, found the next billion-dollar startups, and you can too.

As Blankenship says in his book, these three startup roles are key to building a truly successful and lucrative startup business.

Let’s dive into it…

The Hacker

The hacker is typically your CTO. He or she is the techy/programmer/developer that can build the actual product for the business.

They can build the website, set up servers, develop software (if applicable), and automate aspects of the startup as it grows and matures.

Even if you’re not running a tech-specific startup, this startup role is still key.

Let’s be serious with ourselves…it’s 2019…even if you’re not selling software, technology is going to be a big aspect of your startup and you want someone in-house that is going to be responsible for it.

The Hustler

The hustler tends to be your CEO. They are the one that can attract new customers and get them as obsessed with the startup as they are themselves.

They are outstanding at networking. They tend to be ambiverts (a cross between extroverts and introverts). And they are the drivers of sales for the business.

You can’t scale a startup without this role and you’re going to want them on your team as you look to really test the market, get new customers, and scale the startup.

The Growth Marketer

Last, but certainly not least is the growth marketer. This tends to be your CMO. They are the one that knows social, SEO, content, and viral digital marketing tactics.

They will be the ones to brand your startup through storytelling, get customers addicted to the startup’s story, and pull them in from different channels online.

While the hustler is focused on getting new customers, the growth marketer is focused on getting the startup’s story out to as many people as possible and developing industry expert status.

When you bring these startup roles and responsibilities together, you greatly increase the chances of your startup succeeding and making it past the first year in business.

Look at some of the most successful companies in the past 40 years…

…Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, etc…

And you’ll see that their founding teams had these three core startup roles.

They drive each other and allow each person to stay in their own lane making real progress for the company.

Without clear startup roles and responsibilities, founders can get step on each other’s toes which creates less trust between one another.

When trust dips, execution and progress slows as well.

Take Action: Delegating your Startup Roles & Responsibilities

startup roles and responsibilities 2

In the first 6 months, your title matters much less than the areas of the business that you are able to contribute to.

For all new startups, there are more hours of work than there are hours in the day and the work load continues to get bigger and bigger. A good problem to have.

In order to operate your startup at optimal efficiency, you have to put people in charge of making progress in certain areas of the business. Trying to work on each aspect as a collective unit can lead to disorganization and slowed growth, as mentioned above.

I’m not saying that you can’t work on projects and tasks together.

Rather, teamwork should be encouraged.

The difference is that by assigning responsibility to one person for a specific area, they can better be held accountable for their actions. You can measure success, create strategic goals, and specialize in your expertise.

If you haven’t already, take the following steps and get to work setting up your startup roles and responsibilities with your founding team.

Take note that sometimes one person may take on two startup roles.

That’s completely fine, but make sure that the person can actually handle both roles.

The last thing you want is to fall behind in one area of the startup because you overestimated someone’s capabilities with one of the startup roles.

How To Split Up your Startup Roles and Responsibilities

Below are action steps that you can take with your founding team to establish your startup roles and responsibilities.

  1. Start by setting a meeting with your cofounders solely focused on roles and responsibilities
  2. Using a whiteboard, write down every area of the business then group each into the three roles of hacker, hustler, and growth marketer.
  3. Perform a strengths and weaknesses activity to best understand where people on your team will perform best. Identify who ideally should fill each role: hacker, hustler, and growth marketer.
  4. Working with your team, place responsibilities into each other’s buckets based off of your strengths and weaknesses. Finalize who will assume each role and make sure they have a set list of responsibilities associated with their role.
  5. Publish the roles for everyone to see so that it can be constantly referred to. This can be easily done in a Google doc or on paper to hang on the wall in your office.

By the end of this quick activity, you should know if you have the team that you need or if you’re lacking anyone from the team.

In the case that you are missing someone, be real with yourself and the founding team…if you need someone else for the team, go out and find them. Don’t try to go on without the right team put together.

If you do this activity and see that all of your startup roles and responsibilities are covered, it’s time to get back to work.

What to Do Once You Know Your Roles

With your startup roles in place, it’s time for each person to get down to work within that new role.

Here’s some action steps that you can take to get the ball rolling:

  • Create 3 major goals for each aspect of each person’s role that they should achieve in the next quarter.
  • Schedule another meeting 1 month out to review the goals that each team member creates to give feedback and make changes.
  • Prioritize which goals are most important and work on achieving those first as a team.

With your startup roles and responsibilities clearly outlined, you no longer need to worry about stepping on each other’s toes.

Let the hacker build the product.

Let the hustler get out into the market and get your first customers.

Let the growth marketer build your brand presence online.

When you all trust each other, provide constructive feedback and ideas, and work together towards common quarterly goals, you’ll be in a position to really scale your startup business.

Trust in one another. Don’t doubt the roles. And push forward as fast as you possibly can in your given role.

My Experience Starting Up FreeeUp

I started building FreeeUp.com in mid 2015 after spending 5 years building my first online startup in the eCommerce industry.

I was fortunate enough to know who I was going to be starting the business with…one of my co-founders on our first business and a developer we had hired to work with us on our first eCommerce business.

We spent a couple of months talking about the idea of FreeeUp and conceptualizing the vision for the platform then we got into the startup roles and responsibilities.

We knew that the three of us wanted to work together and we knew that we needed three different personalities/skill sets, but that understood how to work together.

Like I said, I was in a fortunate situation to know the two people that would make up the perfect hacker, hustler, growth marketer founding team.

Nathan would be the hustler and FreeeUp’s CEO. He would be focused on getting our first customers, setting up internal processes, and being the face of the company.

Russell would be the hacker. He would build FreeeUp our first MVP (minimum viable product) of the platform we were envisioning.

I would be the growth marketer focused on setting up our digital brand, growing our presence through social media, building our website, and creating brand defining content.

From the get go, we established those roles and we allowed each other to stay in our lanes.

Of course, we met regularly to understand what each person was working on and we set goals with each other, but for the most part, we just trusted that everything would get done as needed within each aspect of the business.

It’s 4 years into running FreeeUp and the three of us continue to operate within the same startup roles that we set up when we founded the company.

I’m a strong believer that had we not had the right people, FreeeUp may not have grown into the platform and brand that it is today. And we grew super fast year over year…I think because of this initial startup team makeup.

As you consider your startup roles and responsibilities, really make sure that you have all of the right skill sets that you need to build a sustainable and successful startup.

It’s better to realize that you need to make changes on Day 1 than on Day 365 as you’re struggling in one of the areas of the startup.

If you’re raising money: 

Also, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re going to raise funding from friends and family, angel investors, or a venture capitalist, having your core team of hacker, hustler, and growth marketer will be something that they’re looking for.

Time to Get to Work

What do you think?

Do you have the hacker, hustler, and growth marketer set up for your startup?

Can you see a clear path to establishing your startup roles and responsibilities?

How can I help?

Leave any questions that you have in the comments or shoot me a message at Connor@ConnorGillivan.com.


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About Connor Gillivan

In the past 10 years, I’ve started 7 businesses & built two to $10M+ in annual revenue, teams of 30+ & an exit in 2019. Today, I run SEO & growth for my 4 B2B companies while teaching millions how to make SEO simple.

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