Multiethnic People with Startup Business Talking in a Cafe

Featuring Tony Simpson, an active member of Larta’s network of advisors and experts

Last month Larta Institute’s webinar series for entrepreneurs focused on “Expanding Your Executive Team as a Startup,” led by an expert from Larta’s network, Larta Principal Advisor Tony Simpson.

Tony brings more than 23 years of experience leading agribusiness organizations and his business expertise covers venture capital, corporate leadership, executive planning, business development, operations, and commercialization.

Tony shared his experience of growing a team, and gave tips for entrepreneurs to consider when taking their company’s team to the next level.

Startups have their own culture

Startups are, by nature, a time intensive effort. They create a specific culture that differs from a regular corporate environment, says Tony. Finding the right fit is essential.

Comparing the working relationships in a startup to a marriage, Tony said, “You are going to be spending a lot of time with your colleagues. Obviously your colleagues will have the right qualifications, but the chemistry has to be right, too.” When expanding your team and growing your company, he stressed, build a culture that positions the team to progress forward, challenge each other and take advantage of opportunities.

Seven things every startup should consider to successfully expand its team:

(Tony is an energetic speaker, so we’ve added exclamation marks to each of these to invoke his passion.)

  • Focus on fit! Team player vs super star. Not everyone is meant to work in a startup environment. Understand the impact a new hire has on a small team
  • Money isn’t everything – Build a culture! Build an environment that people want to be part of and feel good about their involvement. It will attract and retain strong people.
  • Hire people who challenge you!Determine your needs; hire people who are wiser than you in their area of expertise, bring knowledge to the table, and are not afraid to push back and ask questions.
  • Hiring is an art, not a science!Like a contact sport, it might not be straightforward to find the right people. Timing is everything. Understand that the path to the right people may be long, and winding.
  • Move on if it doesn’t work!Even if you do everything right, it might not work out. There will be wins and losses. When there are losses – move on.
  • Constantly reevaluate your plan! – Who do you have? Who do you need? Has your staffing plan changed based on where your company is going?
  • Be opportunistic! – Opportunities might arise that do not fit your timeline. Be open.

Tony also discussed compensation options for startups, shared tips on recruiting and interviewing the right candidates, and was available for questions from the audience. To listen to the full recording of this webinar, click here.

Tony is founder and President of AgTech Advisors LLC, a consulting company that works with investors entrepreneurs and institutions interested in developing commercializing and investing in agtech and animal health technologies. Before founding AgTech Advisors, he was a Managing Director for the Kansas Bioscience Authority where he led the organization’s investment efforts in agtech animal health and bioenergy. He led KBA’s investments in companies such as Aratana Therapeutics, Green Dot, SmartVet and Advanced Animal Diagnostics. Previously Tony spent 9 years with POET, where he started 2 major green-field ethanol plants and led equity drives refinancing and expansion efforts for these facilities. He has also held positions in business development and operations management with global grain and trading companies such as ED&F Man and ADM. Tony also serves on the board of directors of Green Dot Holdings, Advanced Animal Diagnostics, and the ATIP Foundation.  

Tony holds an Economics Degree from Millikin University, an MBA from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, and completed the Private Equity and Venture Capital Executive Education Program at Harvard.