I like to use the phrase “entrepreneurship is a team game” to represent my idea of entrepreneurship and I post it at the end of the blog articles to let you reflect on it.
It is not by chance, it so happens that I truly believe this is true. I didn’t always think so, but experience thought me this is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn as an entrepreneur.
There’s no “I” in “team”
During my first experience as an entrepreneur, younger and less knowledgeable, I thought that the whole thing was about me. I though my idea was the right idea, my knowledge, the right knowledge, my decisions, the right decision, and so on.
This is a very common mistake entrepreneurs make, so if you are there now, try to learn this fast, it will save you a lot of time and energy.
Back then, I also felt that if I am part of a team I will loose control. Actually, all the contrary happens when you work in a team. If you can focus on those things you are truly good at and enjoy, while empowering someone else to do the same, and coordinating the group effort towards achieving your vision, it puts you more in control than anything else you can do on your own.
Other advantages of working in a team are: faster output and a higher professionalization, because you utilize skills you do not, otherwise, posses.
I have recently started my second entrepreneurial experience, this time with a team, and the entire process is so much more enjoyable. We each have our own motivation for being part of the project, but we all share the values on which we are building the company on. This makes us work together towards the same goals, while enjoying building something with people that we have things in common with.
They made a really nice presentation about the changes in the way we work today, how we have many more employers in a life-time than our parents did, and how to successfully assemble a talented team in a startup.
They propose a core team of 3 to 5 people that have complementary skills. For project based work, or for a highly specialized task, they suggest to hire freelancers (of course, through their platform).
Promotion aside, I agree with this line of thought. Resources are always limited and even more so in startups. Sometimes you need someone specialized in a certain program or skill for a limited period of time. Hiring freelancers could be the solution if no one in the team has the skills or experience to complete a task.
Getting back to the core team, they suggested a series of questions you should ask yourself when assembling a team. I find them not only useful, but also a great point to start.
What are the skills your core team should have?
Here you should think what are the most important areas to cover for the daily operation of the business. (sales, admin, tech, marketing etc.)
You do not need a team member for each of the skills, one person can take care of more than one area of business, at least at the beginning.
Does your team have different backgrounds?
It is important that the team members are not all from the same university and circles. The diverse background could give you access to different networks, present you with different opportunities, expose you to different perspectives etc.
Does everyone have a minimum tech level?
As an entrepreneur you are quite busy building your company, so it is important that you do not waste too much time on workflow training.
If a team member is not used to using the systems you need for the daily operation, you and the rest of the team will see your working experience compromised.
Do your team members have diverse ways of thinking?
Here it is important that the team is not formed only by creative people with big ideas, or by people focused only on structure and processes. A good mix of people in the realm of detail-oriented/big-picture is advised.
Does everyone have a partner in crime?
A team’s job is to perform a task and achieve the set goals, but the team members are people who need to belong, with different personalities and traits.
It is your job as the leader of the team to make sure that people do not feel used for their skills and that there is a nice environment for everyone to perform in.
Do you all have shared dreams about success and expectations of sacrifice?
Now this is a tricky one. It is, of course, hard to establish these things even for yourself, let alone to find people who have the same understanding of them as you do.
It is, however, important to establish from the beginning how far is everyone willing to go to succeed and what they are willing to sacrifice.
In our team, for example, most of us have children and family life is important for us. This means that we understand the limitations this implies in terms of time dedication, and we respect it because we agreed on it as a team.
The personality factor
Skills, availability, a sense of belonging, the joint-will of building something are all important factors when assembling a team. There is another one that I think it takes the cake, and that is “personality“.
Now imagine having a highly talented developer (or other member relevant for your startup) that is aligned with your mission, but you just can’t work together because every time you interact, it ends in an uncomfortable situation.
Many books were written on the importance of personalities in different positions in the work place. I feel that this is even more important in a small team of 3 to 5 people that have to work closely together.
I found this Team roles test that can help you find out if you are in the right position according to your personality. The 123Test page offers other tests, including Work values and Personality ones.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article. Write to me with your comments, questions or if you want me to write about a specific topic.
Remember, entrepreneurship is a team game! (Now you know what it means)