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Been there done that?

How to build the perfect team

Been There, Done That? is a series from award winning business journalist Rachel Bridge, exploring the most important things you may – or may not – have considered for your business. In this piece, Rachel whizzes us through some interesting insights for building the perfect team.

An idea is only potential

We founders often wait a long time to have the big idea. And at that instant, we know it’s our future. Success – following a period of very hard work – is the inevitable consequence.

 

But is that true? An idea can only speak of potential. It’s the execution where the rubber hits the road. And to get the rubber down, you need the right team.

 

So, perhaps, team is the most critical factor? It’s certainly a necessary condition. We know this from example – think Virgin, Google, Starbucks.


Which is why investors rate team above all else; above, even, that yawning chasm in the market that’s screaming for your fabulously-crafted solution.

Team, team, team

Ryan Kuder is a Managing Director of startup accelerators run by the market-leader Techstars. Part of his job is selecting applicants for accelerator programmes, who also receive investment.

 

On the subject of team, he says:

"When we evaluate early stage companies we have six key criteria. In order of importance: Team, Team, Team, Market, Progress and Idea."

 
 

"That’s because, as soon as a company launches a product,  as soon as it starts to get customers, it’s going to learn things it didn’t know before. And the idea itself is likely to change. The teams that are best able to adapt to those changes are the teams that are going to be most successful."

Fill three key roles

And Ryan does know what he’s talking about. Techstars has funded more than 750 companies. And the 90% that are still trading today have a stock market value of more than $5bn.

 

So what kind of team are we talking about? Wisdom has it that a typical startup needs to fill three roles. Each of these needs to be covered from day one, even if at the beginning, you’re doing them all yourself. Know where the boundaries are and when you do take on someone new, you’ll know exactly where they fit.

 

  • The visionary / hustler.
  • The one who builds the team, makes deals happen and does the sales and marketing, convincing others to part with case that fills the coffers.
  • The hacker / doer.
  • In a tech startup this is the person in charge of ‘hacking’ the technology together – from network to code. Everywhere else, it’s the one in charge of day-to-day operations, making it all happen.
  • The designer / chief experience officer.
  • Making the product great for the customer has to be an obsession. This is the one who makes it work as good as it looks on the tin.

Separating out these roles is important because it highlights the fact that each requires different yet complementary skills. Even small successful teams have all three.

A team that's good at, er, teamwork

But that’s just one part of the equation. You also need to make sure everyone you bring on board believes in what you’re trying to do. And you need to choose people who work well together. In the tough times, and you will inevitably experience some, you can’t rely on a bunch of folk who can’t stand the sight of each other.


Most writers on the subject emphasise three steps to good teamwork.

 

  • Communication
  • The ability to tell people what you expect of them, and let them know what’s happening.
  • Assessment
  • Reviewing the team and its performance, to ensure it remains fit for purpose. As your business evolves, so will the roles within your team.
  • Letting go
  • Relish relinquishing decision-making and giving control to other people.

The letting is probably the hardest part. But if you truly want to scale a business, it’s a step you have to take.

 

Andy Fishburn, Head of Investment at Virgin Startup, says: ‘As a founder, you probably want to be in control of everything.  But doing everything yourself isn’t necessarily in the best interests of your business.

 

‘Building a team that enjoys working together, that has a complementary skillset and shares a passion for the business is essential if you want to take the business to the next level’.

 

It ain’t easy. But there’s no substitute we know of.

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