Why do you need a team?
Entrepreneurship is hard and while it is possible to be a solopreneur your chances of success are far greater if you are working as a team. It is no different to trying to win a football game by yourself, you can't be good at everything. Even if you could do everything on your own, research has shown that doing things with friends actually makes things seem easier.
How do you build the right team?
You can't. Simple as that, you will build the wrong team. Even if you could choose from the entrepreneurship all-stars it would still be the wrong team. By definition entrepreneurship involves going into the unknown so how can you know who should be on the team? What is far more important is that the people on the team know what they are getting into and agree to join anyway. This is how Ernst Shackleton recruited people for his South Pole expedition and it shares a lot in common with what you are embarking on
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
How to get people to want to join you?
Ideally you start by explaining why you are setting out on this journey. People need to understand your reasoning and the context for doing everything. This goes beyond just the business relevance but also why it is meaningful to you on a personal level. Next you want to inspire their commitment, it is easy to get people to be excited about a future hope but it isn't until they understand their role in bringing that future into reality that they will they be committed to work on it. Lastly you will be to establish and maintain an agreed upon balance between support and accountability. How much guidance does everyone expect from each other? and what happens if people don't do what they say they will do?
Creating a Team Charter/Founders Agreement
It is recommended to make a team charter/founders agreement. It doesn't need to be long or detailed but going through these questions and discussing the ones you feel are relevant at this stage is a good plan. This agreement should be reviewed every six months to make sure everyone is still on the same page.
An example of a founders agreement from the US
Some good questions to discuss first
- How valuable is each founder to the startup (time, skills, contacts, money) and how will that value be remunerated (in pay or equity)? and when?
- How committed is each founder to the startup?
- What milestones does the startup need to reach by when in order for the founders not to disband?
- How are critical decisions made and how do disagreements get settled?
- What would be a deal breaking situation for each founder?
- What are the limits on each founders decision making autonomy?
- Does all equity have decision making rights?
- How many hours are founders expected to work?
- Under what circumstances are founders allowed to pursue external opportunities?
- Under what circumstances are the founders allowed to compete with the company?
- Are shares going to be vested over time?
- Under what circumstances would a founder be expected to step down?
Team charter/founders agreement structure ready for customisation
- Define the team mission (what you intend to achieve)
- Define the length of this agreement
- Identify commitment levels for team members (how much time are people willing to invest?)
- Identify the biggest potential risks
- Describe how to address those risks
Hazards to avoid or mitigate
There are always challenges when working in a team but a great way to be ready for them is to think through what might happen before it does.
5 dysfunctions of a team
- Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
- Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
- Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
- Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards
- Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable: Lencioni, Patrick M.: Amazon.com.au: Books
Cognitive distortions of founders
Some cognitive distortions to be aware of as a founder
- Personal exceptionalism - thinking you are great when you're not
- Black & White thinking - just seeing extremes without any grey
- Schumpeterianism - only seeing the good side of creative disruption
- Correct overgeneralisation - Being able to extrapolate accurately
- Blank canvas thinking - Seeing the world as virgin ground
Keeping a team on track
There are some best practices that you can use to keep everyone on track and working efficiently
Daily stand-ups are great to keep all the work moving along and resolve any barriers as quickly as possible
1. Create daily goals that align with the larger goals your team has set
2. Identify the tasks that need to be done to achieve the daily goal
3. Identify any challenges that could stop the goal from being achieved and address them
Have a weekly reflection meeting covering what you have done in that week and what needs to be changed. It is best to have your overall goals in mind to ensure that they are the focus.
1. Bring together all of the work completed during the week
2. Look for patterns and insights from the work completed
3. Revisit your overall goals and make any updates needed