Six Steps To Building Your Dream Team (With Almost Nothing)

Last week I was so excited I could barely sit still in my seat. On stage at NYU for the National Education Week, stood Ivan Shumkov, CEO and Founder of Open Online Academy, who I was mentoring at the EDGE Ed Tech Accelerator here in New York.

Ivan S. #1
Ivan Shumkov, CEO and Founder of Open Online Academy, pitching to hundreds at NYU last week.

And he was busy pitching to several hundred of the top investors, mentors, and experts in our industry.

Soon after, several investors approached Ivan who are now working to complete his $500,000 seed round.

But it didn’t start that way. Two years ago, Ivan had only his vision and passion for what he wanted to do: “Learn to Build a Better World.”

He knew that by leveraging this vision would build his team, which he sorely needed to accomplish his vision.

It would also be the first thing investors would look at.

His team quickly grew to 16 professors and 19 board members and advisors.

All of them now working together on global projects and courses to build resilient and sustainable cities across the globe.


Six Steps to Building Your Dream Team (With Almost Nothing)

  1. Get clear on your why—watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the important of having a why statement. We’ve used it hundreds of times while coaching entrepreneurs on how to build their teams, raise capital, and create a business that inspires.
  2. Build your vision—once you’re clear on why you are building your business, you need to create a way to say it to others. You then use this to create very strong teams. Visions are not meant to be accomplished. Just a focal point:
    1. Microsoft’s (used to be): a computer on every desk;
    2. Acupuncturist’s: healing humanity; and
    3. BEST Coaches’: entrepreneurs will save our planet and communities
  3. Design your playing field—pick team positions that complement your skills. Who will help build up your company. Typical team positions are: sales, finance, legal, accounting, administration, etc. List which you need, and when.
  4. Identify really smart playersyou are only as effective as the team you build around yourself. Preferably smarter than you.
  5. Attract them to your team—you will to approach them while keeping their guard down. Sharing your Why and/or vision will help you attract those who believe what you believe. Approach several people for each position. Trust that you will attract the right people.
  6. Be generous—each person is different in what they want/need from you. It’s a negotiation. Some may only be interested in a title, a role, or office space, and some may be interested in recurring income, or equity. Find out what they want and package it generously.


  • Have a powerful vision/why—from this you build.
  • Have clear milestones—they must know exactly what is expected from them, and when.
  • Trust the process—depending on the person, their experience, and your needs, plan on 1-6 months to get your team together.
  • Have mutual respect—make sure you like and trust each other. Otherwise, keep looking.
  • Don’t give away equity—for the 1st year (exceptions: if you already know the person well). You need to know you play well in the sandbox together.

BTW, how do I know this works? Because I use it too.

My new company, the Shift Group, built an incredible team of 10, and board of 9 that has helped us raise capital, find customers, and build our entrepreneur education platform.

And we paid almost no money so far!

Our why statement:

“We believe the fastest way to not just stop destroying our planet and communities, but start restoring them, is by showing people how to make money doing it.”


Action Steps for the Week

Are you clear on why you do what you do? Can you say it in one sentence? Did you make sure it is not about you. (Hint: it is far greater than you / your business)?

Next, leverage it. Not there yet? Watch the Simon Sinek video until you get it right.

Next, determine what positions you need to fill on your team. Remember, try for big or successful people. This adds credibility to what you do.

Then identify who would be good fits to join your team. Find ways to approach them, and start the courting process.

Lastly, reach out to me if you’re stuck on whom you should have on your team, or how to go about recruiting them.