How to Build a Winning Team in your Startup

A company is the heart of an entrepreneur’s vision. Within an organisation, an individual or a small group of people cannot be the know-it-all gang !

As a matter of fact, a company is similar to a slab. This slab / company is supposed to be supported by people who are willing to take pressure onto themselves, the people who leaders / founders / management call their ‘winning team’. But as we know, building a team is not easy. While bringing together diverse people under one roof, a founder faces various kinds of inter-personal problems on a everyday basis. Solving such issues, amicably, is difficult. Seemingly mundane, this part of company building, perhaps, is the single most important aspect for successfully running a new venture.

The number one mistake founders / management make when building a team is mistakenly assume that formation of a team with complimentary skills is equivalent to building a club of friends who have similar skill-sets. Such assumption can’t be more wrong. Most successful businessmen / founders are prudent to know this secret-sauce of building winning teams.

A closer look into professional life of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, brings out that his selection of team was largely based an individual’s skills, abilities and commitment, the reason why McDonald has emerged as one of the most successful food chains in the history of food companies. Their unique DNA is on show in every part of the world where the chain operates, even today !

Contemporary startups: Homogeneity kills creativity

Many contemporary startups fail because their team ends up being a bunch of friends, who have similar ideas and thoughts. Homogeneity kills creativity. And, lack of creativity kills the company. While this can act well in a few cases, homogenous teams almost always fail. A superior team is supposed to fill knowledge gaps, act as complimentary binders, and be honest critique to each other. Imagine every member of a team as individual piece in a jigsaw puzzle that combines together to form THE BIG PICTURE.

As founder / senior management in a venture, selection of a team should be based on the following: what do I see in the prospective team member that I do not see in myself ?

Be on the same page

While conducting interviews / meetings with prospective team members, remember that the combined energies of interviewers and interviewees should have the potential to create positive doppler effect. As founders / management, the onus to channelize energies in the right measure at various crests and troughs of company’s life cycle is a must-to-have skill. The goals and aspirations of every team member should always be on the same page as yours and everyone else in the team. As has been the case in few recent startup failures, disbelief of the broader team in its leader’s vision became the kernel of such debacle.

It is the foremost responsibility of a founder / management to make every employee and partner buy into company’s vision. Positive attitude and the resultant vibes have the power to motivate everyone to work harder and smarter. It is surprising how many entrepreneurs hire or partner basis just the ‘fitment’ whereas the ‘fit’ employee appears to have little or no belief in the said company or the idea or the founders ! This is almost a sure-shot recipe of disaster. The employees’ s concentrated interest in the well-being of the company gives an entity the needed market-edge that it requires to flourish.

The Kodak guys ran out of business because of poor management skills and most importantly lack of its team’s vision / inability to see the future as a group. Kodak’s team was not high on its learning curve, and couldn’t pickup the impending havoc that smartphones with embedded cameras could have on Kodak. Perhaps, the management couldn’t act together as a team to ward off the infamous death-toll of the company in the last decade.

A team not in tandem is akin to mismatched distribution of load on pillars of a building. It eventually leads to a disastrous collapse of the entire building.

A friend in need is a partner indeed?

As already discussed, the most critical yet mostly ignored mistake committed by many ventures is inadvertently building a homogeneous team. Such ‘friendly’ teams often ignore outside opinions and valuable feed-back coming from third parties. One should build team with similar business outlook and with people who admire each other.

One also needs to closely check affordability versus getting-things-done matrix whilst building team. Graduates from ivy-league business schools could look great on paper will almost always cost more. However, the real value-for-money could be graduates who don’t have fancy degrees but the ones who get things done. This is not to say that ivy-league graduates are not great but only to make the limited point that affordability could be a major concern at an early-stage of a company. That said, we know that in real life degrees alone don’t matter much.

A team can evolve into a matured group that operates smoothly, responsibly and successfully to reach to shared goals. Senior management / founders can bring out true potential of their team by engaging with them more deeply. Looking within and beyond paper certificates can be difficult but, if done well, could yield fabulous results.

Value Each Role:

The founding team should know each other and value everyone’s role the way they do for theirs. A content writer and a production manager could be two different people with completely different skills and knowledge. However, for successful evolution of a company, both these employees should be valued. In other words, every team member is important for the company to succeed. In fact, winning teams comprise of people who acknowledge and appreciate this seminal fact.

In a winning company, every prospective and existing team member is aware of broader goal and vision of the company. This helps them make informed and correct decisions for themselves and for the company. It is empirically proven that an employer that motivates its team succeeds remarkably.

Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. and Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation are two great examples of successful leaders who valued every member of their team and created epic products and enduring companies.

Your team is your second family

A successful company responds with ‘we’ more than I’ in its conversation / engagement with the outside world. It almost becomes like a family in which each member looks up to and trusts the other, the way it is done in a close-knit family. Like in a family, closely-knit employees support each other in difficult circumstances / rough market conditions.

A ‘family team’ is one that can bend any which way without breaking. A winning team is one that can take up challenges in adversity and deliver as a cohesive unit. Its imperative for founders to challenge their team and encourage them to work as as family to find superlative success.

Remember: the difference between success and failure is a great team.

‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success’ -Henry Ford