What are the positions in a startup company? By their very nature, startups are often unique and pose their own particular challenges. While this can make the organization behind them difficult, most startups benefit from having similar managerial needs.

Who you hire as employees are vital – especially at the beginning of a startup’s life. The first few employees often become the foundation of the company and define the direction of the workforce as the startup grows. They become the building blocks for the company culture.

What are the positions in a startup company that should be filled first? We’ve put together a list of the seven key roles that must be filled in the early stages of a startup. We’ve also broken down exactly what is involved in each, and why they are key to the success of your startup.

1) The CEO

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO

The CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is the head of the company. In the case of startups, which run on vision, they are the ones with the big ideas and the drive the pursue them.

Tech startups, in particular, run on the idea of the “dream”. The CEO is the one that provides this dream and makes sure everyone is on board. They are the visionary leader who can harness the talent of a team while simultaneously inspiring everyone the bring their best work.

This important position does not mean that they are better or more important than the rest, however. It also does not mean that they are paid more, as the actual power they hold is not much more than the rest of the team.

The role of a CEO is usually the public face of the company. They are vital in inspiring investors as much as they do employees. They drum up excitement in the vision, and hopefully, funding from investors at the same time!

In startups, the CEO and President are typically the same people. In traditional companies, the President is a more internal role, dealing with employees and day-to-day management than investors or shareholders. As this role is taken by the same person in startups, they must do both jobs at once.

While the CEO is normally the founder of the startup, this is not always the case. A good founder recognizes when they lack certain skills, so hires from outside the company.

2) The CTO

Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO at Airbnb

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is the person in charge of all technical aspects of the startup.

If the company is a ship, then the CTO can often be thought of as the engine room. They are sometimes known as “innovation architects”. They have all the technical know-how to be able to get the project up and running and make plans for the future. For this reason, they are also often involved in hiring.

The CTO is often the right hand to the CEO, and the two are usually the first employees in a company. They work together to plan for the future and make sure the startup is on the right track.

3) The Product Person

Julie Zhuo, former VP, Product Design at Facebook

The Product Manager is solely focused on the product itself.

They are responsible for fine-tuning exactly who the target market is, and how the product will be positioned to find those people. They act as the bridge between the customer and the product. They develop all the aspects surrounding that idea,, such as product positioning, creating personality behind the company, and the pricing of the product.

People drawn to this position are often great at analyzing statistics and customer traffic. They are often versed in the basics of coding and are skilled at using those technical abilities to connect with an audience.

Other useful skills to have as a product manager are Photoshop, working with engineers, analyzing metrics and stats, and customer development. While none of these are absolutely necessary, they can help.

4) The Salesperson

Chris Gardner, whose story you might have seen in The Pursuit of Happyness

The CSO (Chief Sales Officer) will be responsible for creating and managing leads and converting those leads into sales.

This will be a vital role in your fledgling startup team. It’s important to think hard about what you will need from someone in this role.

Remember: ideally, your sales will start out small and grow steadily. Due to this, it’s important to hire a salesperson that can keep up with this growth. They will need to be able to hustle and get sales no matter what.

This hustle will involve huge amounts of work – especially at the beginning. This means 100 phone calls a day, non-stop emailing, meetings, and more. Interestingly, ex-athletes are often particularly skilled in this role. The hard work and thrill of success is similar to that of training for years and winning big in a sport.

A good CSO will innovate ways to increase sales, such as automation and hiring more staff as your startup grows.

5) The Operations Officer

Operations are all about keeping the team on track. This is particularly important at the beginning of a startup’s life.

This can be a job with a wide range of roles. From keeping employees on track with tasks to optimizing productivity – everything the operations officer does is focused on making the product and dream a reality as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This person will also be responsible for the accounts, finances, and day-to-day goings-on. In a more traditional company, this job would be shared between several employees, such as a CFO, office manager, business analyst, and more. But in a startup, these will often be handled by one person – particularly at the beginning.

6) The Business Development Officer

Sujan Patel, Growth Marketer and Entrepreneur

Business development is often categorized under the job of the salesperson. This can be a mistake.

People in business development should be skilled at networking. They are able to meet with anyone, at any time, and build a relationship with them.

Often known as “growth hackers”, business developers are great at promoting the startup and its product and building a name for it out in the marketplace. They drum up enthusiasm and hype and make sure the company has a life before it’s even launched.

This a not a job that is easy for beginners to enter in to. Having pre-made relationships within the industry is beneficial.

Unfortunately, it is also often a neglected role, being forgotten in favor of others. But a great development officer can mean the difference between failure and success for a startup!

7) Account Management and Customer Service

This person should be a pro at customer communications. They are responsible for dealing with customer questions and issues. If the product is not working properly or fails a customer, it’s the job of this person to help and deal with the customer.

For this reason, it is vital that this person has the qualities necessary to deal with these situations. Qualities such as patience, clear communications, conflict resolution, and a detailed understanding of the product.

These are qualities that should come naturally to the person, as many of these cannot be taught.

Final Thoughts – These Roles are Vital to Any Startup

As we have seen, these seven positions should be among the first things you organize when you begin your startup. Not only will they help motivate you and your fledgling team, but they will also set the company up for success later on down the line.

When hiring the right people, it’s important to not just hire the person who seems the best on paper. Consider how they will fit into the team dynamic. Relationships among employees are important in developing a great company culture, which in turn is vital to success. This is particularly true in startups.

The roles we have covered above are a good place to start. They are important, no matter the size of your startup. Even the biggest companies have these roles at the heart of their operations. Remember that, and you will be well on your way to creating the next successful startup.

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.