It’s often said that investors invest in people not products. The management team carries a lot of weight when startups are looking for early stage investments, but often entrepreneurs spend all their time and resources focused on building a great product with little focus on building a great team. I’m a strong believer in the power of a great team. If you put together a small, committed, positive team that believes in itself, it can do anything. When it comes to building successful startups, I believe entrepreneurs should focus on building great teams first — a great product and great company will follow.
Now I have to admit that the whole HR process for me has been something I’ve struggled with. Growing isn’t always easy and hiring the “right” people isn’t as simple as some other great companies make it look. However, we take great pride in the core team that we’ve put together at Quark and Tether. In the early days when we launched Quark, I can still remember pitching to seed investors that our team was going to develop a portfolio of intellectual property that we would commercialize and spin-off. One of the investors on the panel asked, “What products are you planning on?” – my only response at the time was “I don’t know yet, but I know this team will make it happen”. That wasn’t a lie, at the time we had no idea what we going to build or develop, we were starting out with a few service contracts, but overall our team was committed and we all believed in the potential. That’s it. For many startups, that IS all you have to start with – a belief that collectively, your small dedicated team can do anything.
It’s really pretty amazing – a team that believes in itself and that anything is possible is a powerful entity, for which the sum is greater than the parts. It doesn’t need to be large (adhering to lean practices) but every team member must have faith in one-another and the team, or it won’t fly. It doesn’t matter how good an idea or product is, if you fail to build a great team with the right attitude, it won’t succeed. Investors already know this – too often entrepreneurs learn this lesson the hard way.
As entrepreneurs, building your dream team is one of your most important roles. The goal is to attract great talent and sell them on your vision, goals, and corporate dreams. Those who “get it” become great team members. Once you begin to form this team, and it begins to gel, you also need to defend its integrity. This means firing anyone that disrupts or doesn’t fit with the team – quickly! One bad personality in your group can kill the dynamic, add animosity, and disrupt forward progress. Vet your new hires as much as possible and accept that you will make hiring mistakes – just make sure you correct them fast!
Entrepreneurs often overlook the value of their extended professional services team members. No different than our own core team, we seek out top-notch lawyers, accounts, investors, bankers, etc. – they are a very valuable part of our startup team. They, too, have to buy into your vision and goals for your company. If they don’t – fire them, too, and find someone else.
As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Focus first on building a great team and success will follow.
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