A few weekends back, I was sat with friends, beer in hand, watching the Champion’s League final (soccer’s version of the Super Bowl, for my American friends). Through the match I noticed how much we all love to weigh in on how a manager runs their team. From new signings to a game’s starting line-up, there’s a million things we can agree with or complain about… and we do.

It got me thinking about the hallmarks of a successful manager, the Bill Belichicks, Ancelottis, Guardiolas and Klopps of the world. There are many components at play here, but the one that stands out to me is the way that successful leaders invest in their team. They take care to hire the right folk and surround themselves with great people who are on board with their mission. I feel privileged in my role to help founders in the gene therapy space do the same.

Particularly in big sports leagues, managers may have hundreds of millions to play with when it comes to building their team. But, without wise investment in the right team, a big budget may not translate into results.

In my experience, many of those start-ups who triumph are – just like in sports – those who get it right in this area. Those who take the time and invest wisely to pull together a set of professionals who not only embody the skills and values needed for success, but who are also excited about and invested in their mission in the long term. Having the right people is crucial to success.

So, where do some start-ups and sports managers go wrong?

1.     Rushing the process

Every founder knows that the process of raising capital can be lengthy and painful, so much so that receiving investment can feel like a long-awaited starting pistol. But, in the rush to get off the starting blocks – and under the pressure to turn funding into results – many firms make hasty hires, sometimes to key senior roles.

At this stage, with so much to be done, getting someone (anyone?!) in place ASAP is wildly appealing. And, with so much else on the ‘to do’ list, it’s understandable that many founders neglect to dedicate the necessary time and money into finding the best individuals. And so, hiring processes are hastened and standards inevitably lowered.

Countless a sports manager has been pulled up for making an impulsive signing, to keep the fans happy or raise the team’s profile, sometimes without considering how they fit into the team in the long run.

Whilst it certainly fills the need in the short-term, this can ultimately leave firms with leaders incapable of building or managing teams effectively. This is a sure-fire saboteur of productivity and progress in the long-run. It will also increase the likelihood that you’ll need to replace those hires further down the line, in itself a costly process.

It’s easier said than done when finding the ‘perfect’ fit can take weeks or months. However, we’d advise against rushing into making those fundamental first hires as it’ll almost certainly cost you in the long run.

2.   DIY-ing it

For many founders looking to build their team, managing a hiring process single-handedly is a new and alien experience. Where to start with finding candidates in the first place, let alone knowing how to vet them?! In the life sciences industry, the process is made even harder when looking to hire leaders outside their own (often technical) specialisms.

‘Hire a recruiter’ seems an obvious answer, but that’s, again, an entirely new process for many. However, attempting to manage the search in-house can often only prolong the process, without the expansive network and industry insight that recruiters can provide. Having a recruitment partner alleviates a lot of the administrative load of talent search, even more so in the current shortage of successful and experiences C-Suite talent, which only makes it harder to stumble across the transformative leaders that firms need.

In the sports world, managers are supported by a team of experts who know the market and its top players inside out. Whilst the management themselves will have excellent knowledge of the market, scouts and experts, even external data analytics companies, all lend their expertise to support with transfer decisions.

In the same way, our advice here would be to find a recruitment partner who will support you throughout the entire process of filling a position. We would always suggest searching out an industry-specific recruiter who operates within your sector. A specialist in your industry will be able to understand your requirements and industry positioning comprehensively. They will have an existing network full of potential talent with relevant experience and interest, and therefore be well placed to find exactly what you’re looking for. Opting for more general recruitment firms is a common pitfall which can, again, just prolong the process as you’re less likely to be presented with suitable candidates.

3.   Casting the net too wide

The final mistake we see a lot of start-ups make when it comes to hiring is casting the net too wide. Rather than investing in a single specialist recruiter who will deliver a smaller number of high-quality candidates, many firms hire numerous recruiters in the hope of bringing in a higher volume of potential candidates to improve the chances of finding the right one.

I’m wringing the sports analogy out here, but I would compare this to a manager distributing their budget to take on several mediocre players, rather than spending it all to hire a single amazing one.

Whilst ‘as many candidates as possible’ sounds like a good thing, this approach can leave you with quantity over quality and whittle down to very few actual contenders. Enlisting many firms on a contingent basis can pose other challenges too, a key one being less clarity around who you are and what you’re looking for. If you have several recruiters but none fully understand your industry, brand and mission or invest in communicating your needs effectively, you inevitably end up with candidates unclear as to the nature of your firm and the position in question.

I’ve heard of instances where a single candidate had heard about the same role from three separate recruiters and got an entirely different impression of it. Particularly for smaller firms where brand awareness will be low, a recruiter who will invest in clearly communicating who you are and what you need will result in the delivery of far more suitable candidates and greater success rates. This is key when hiring to your senior team as more experienced candidates will expect clarity and professionalism and be quickly put off if they’re unsure.

Success for your firm may not be found in a league final. However, there are certainly lessons to be learned from the pitch-side powerhouses. Take your time, enlist the help of experts and direct your time and resources carefully. It’ll pay off in the long run.