Choosing and shaping the right team for your startup
Having the right team in place is likely more important in a startup than an established firm. Why? Because established businesses have layers of management; written policies and procedures; and most startups do not. Startups are a work-in-progress.
Moreover, the CEO/founder of a startup is frequently out of the picture, securing funding rather than holding the reins of day-to-day business operations. This fact makes putting together an effective, cohesive team an early ‘must do’ for any startup. A team has to be assembled that is up to the task of moving the business forward in the vacuum left by a part-time, sometime CEO/founder.
You must think of the team as your proxy. Make certain they are well-schooled in your vision for the company. A great team knows what the founder likes and dislikes. They understand and embrace the founder’s vision for the enterprise.
Team members need to be problem solvers. People with the ability not only to recognize a problem, but possessed of the ability to achieve a solution. Avoid ‘finger-pointers.’ It is more important to resolve problems than to know at whose doorstep they should lie. Harmony is the stuff of great teams and the blame game only breeds discontent. You want to create a team that has a collective positive attitude and maintains a focus on how to achieve something rather than enumerate the reasons something cannot be achieved.
Each team member will bring his/her own strengths and weaknesses to the table. Use your understanding of these strengths and weaknesses to create a balanced team whose strengths as a whole are greater than those of any individual team member.
Don’t lose sight of the reason for building the team. You must give them the independence they need to gain not only your confidence, but their own. Let them know you have their back and this will assure they have yours.
Keep Your Promises
Nothing discourages a team more than broken promises and failed commitments. If you make a promise to your team, keep it, no matter what! You will not be able to rely on them if they perceive they cannot rely on you. Trust is a two-way street and a critical element for any successful team. Your job is to build that trust, not just between you and the team, but among team members as well.
Create opportunities for team members to get to know one another on a personal level. This helps foster trust, respect and harmony. Sponsor a bowling night, a basketball game—anything that will bring the team together in an informal setting. Rachel Zoe, CEO of Rachel Zoe, Inc. says, “[ ] treat your team like a family.”
Hiring a new employee should be a team effort. This is especially true for a hire that will ultimately work with the team. While a candidate’s skills, qualifications, and experience are important, they are trumped by his/her ability to integrate with the team. This is critical.
Even the best of teams will eventually find itself in conflict. When conflicts arise, you should avoid taking sides. Instead, encourage the conflicting parties to brainstorm a solution. Often ideas can arise that might have otherwise never received consideration. In short, conflicts can be a positive event if properly handled.
Team-up with a Competitor
Tough economic times demand that you explore options ordinarily avoided. Teaming with a competitor may be one option that you thought you would never consider. Approached judiciously, teaming with a rival can be good business.
You might consider subcontracting, trading leads or joining forces to land a contract that you might not have the weight to land on your own.
There are risks, to be sure, but developing a working relationship with a competitor can bring business in the door you may not have otherwise acquired.
Building trust with a competitor is accomplished much the same way you have built trust with your internal team: Keep your promises and meet your commitments. Additionally, you must accomplish this without disclosing too much inside information about your business.
Motivate Your Competitor
When approaching a competitor to team with you, it is imperative that you offer a strong motive. That motive can be future opportunities, volume discounts, lobbying efforts or a host of other mutually advantageous objectives.
Just as you established ground rules for your internal team, so it is with a competitor. Have a clear understanding of how compensation/expenses will be divided and who will lead.
Clear advantages and disadvantages emerge from teaming with a competitor. Your competitor gets some insights into your technique, technology, perhaps your clients and certainly your staff. However, you get the same look.
In the end, it is a judgment call, but one that deserves exploring.
In conclusion, remember the motivation for building your team and set the team up for success by giving the team ground rules, but at the same time, the level of independence required to function.
Foster team building by staging informal events that allow the team opportunities for informal discourse. Keep your promises and capitalize on conflicts. Make your team an integral part of the hiring process and finally, keep an open mind to the possibility of joining forces with a competitor.
Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC, which offers invoice factoring for small businesses. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and midsize businesses take control of their cash flow.