CHAPTER :
Up with People.
With entries from:
Steve Guengerich   —   6 years ago

The people in a venture make all of the difference. A strong team, working together, can overcome many obstacles. But, with the popularity of entrepreneurship, it's not unusual to have more and more people joining their first startups, after having worked in more traditional, established company settings...not quite knowing exactly what to expect or how to act.

How do you choose the right team members? When do you use contractors versus make permanent hires? When do you, as a founder, "make the leap" to begin working in the venture full-time? How do you provide each other feedback that is constructive and not destructive? In the worst case scenario, what is the right way to "fire" a co-founder?

Add stories, tips, and techniques for cultivating the perfect mix of PEOPLE in an entrepreneurial venture, giving it the best hope for success.

Lynette Reed   —   6 years ago

There is a television show called "Ace of Cakes" that you can watch on Netflix. This collection of shows chronicles the weekly operations of a cake making venture where Duff, the "boss", and his team of talent work together to create unique and highly technical displays of cake for customers, ranging anywhere from individual birthdays to major corporate events.

Sometimes the individuals working within this organization complete the cakes solo and sometimes they work in teams. The goal is to try and combine the best talents of individuals into a variety of groupings in order to complete any given cake order at the highest quality. To me, this is a perfect example of someone (Duff) who has started a business and then added individuals who have, not only the skills needed to make the business successful, but also are committed to working together and keeping the focus on exemplary product.

My work has given me the opportunity to see firsthand the value that human capital can add to any organization. Here are some key points I have found consistent with strong talent capital and a cohesive work culture:

1. Define, hire and maintain employees based from three aspects of the job including "what you do," which are skills (job description), "how you will do the job" (teamwork, organizational structure- some call this desired outcomes and behaviors), and a third area, which I describe as "who you are while you do it"- these are behaviors that define who individuals want to be in order to define personal life style (kind, friendly, helpful, etc...).
If these three areas are cohesive with the "feel" you want to give the organization, then there is a better chance that your human foundation is stronger and more able to bring quality to the customer.

2. Make sure words and actions match- to include job activities, desired outcomes, and defined life style.

3. Keep the focus on the goals- Don't pull energy away from making your venture something stronger or more cohesive (i.e. energy spent complaining , being upset, or harboring negative feelings is energy taken away from creating imagination, product, and cohesive culture) Well-being plays a important role in success. (See Gallup studies on disengaged employees and the New York Times article on the value of happiness in the workplace).

If you would like to learn more about these points please feel free to follow my blog on Feedly (http://www.expectations-reality.com/?feed=rss2). I am also offering a free download of the book, "Fixing the Problem, making changes in how you deal with challenges" to anyone who would like to learn more about these elements for yourself, your people, and the planet. Send your request to expectations2reality@gmail.com. Hope this helps "share the story" so that entrepreneurs can continue to build stronger ventures!

Nancy Schreiber   —   6 years ago

Let people know they matter.
When leading new ventures it's critical to show your investment in others. Focus on your organization’s intellectual capital by supporting professional development that supports your strategic objectives. Set clear expectations on performance and influence your superiors to get people the resources they need to do their jobs more effectively.
Being transparent and direct with people is critical and sometimes that requires unpleasant conversations. It is possible to have an unpleasant conversation and still show people they matter.
In my four months as dean at The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University, “My number one priority is you.” Do I think they believed me? Not initially, not completely. And that's normal. In the beginning, everyone experiences trust issues. Can employees trust you? Can you trust them? Gaining and earning trust is an important part of effective leadership. I consider every day an opportunity for me to earn that trust by showing competence and commitment— and an opportunity to see those qualities in others.

Steve Golab   —   6 years ago

I used to say to young people who came to me for advice about embarking on an entrepreneurial career: “I don't care what you do, just do something. Take the first step and get started.”

I would often follow this advice up with the assurance that there is “no better time to start than when you are young. You have less to risk and much more to gain, than when you are older.”

Now that I’m older, I’m more apt to point out the downsides to each of these bits of advice. Regarding the imperative to “just do something,” I now add that the consequence to doing your own thing is that you can't be boxed by recruiters and other hiring authorities. They nearly always hire roles with specific associated skills and for specific titles; rarely is “Entrepreneur” one of these.

So, the downside to charting your own unique course is that it can be very hard to join an organization without having to spend substantial time and effort re-inventing yourself. If at some point, you desire to become part of a more conventional enterprise, it’s tough when the only box that exists for you is the one with your name on it.

Similarly, while you have less to lose when you are younger, you can risk accumulating debt that weighs you down substantially, for a long period of time. Just look at what college debt has done to the consumption habits of many young adults. So, the total dollars may be less, but the relative size of early entrepreneurship may be no less costly. Not everyone is built for entrepreneurship, so this is indeed something important to think about!

Hugh Forrest   —   6 years ago

Traditionally, SXSW has hired out of the large volunteer pool that work for the event. It’s a pool that is well over 2,000 people per year, for SXSW Interactive in Austin. They understood the event and could usually be counted on to be a good fit, because they had an affinity for SXSW.

Now, however, we have begun transitioning to a mix that includes more professional staff, many of whom are candidates coming to us from outside of our base of operations, Austin. That’s a good thing, because it provides a diversity and professionalism for certain roles that makes the operation stronger, as we continue to grow, improve, and scale, as an event.

I think this is a similar path that any entrepreneur must transition through, moving from an initial team in a new venture composed of trusted friends and allies who are very invested in the venture’s success to more skill-based, professional staff whose experiences and personal networks become more important assets.

David Rice   —   6 years ago

The first thing I suggest to new entrepreneurs who have a business idea that they want to pursue, but who lack prior experience, is for them to get one or more mentors. A mentor can provide objective advice, helping the entrepreneur determine if an idea is a good one, or if it has a lot of complications and barriers that probably make it a bad one.

As both a mentor and entrepreneur myself, I’ve concluded that it’s really hard to put your finger on exactly one attribute or handful of attributes that make for a very successful entrepreneur. Perhaps the closest thing to it is the ability to be open: the more successful entrepreneurs seem to be the ones who can really listen well, take and process feedback, and then pivot.

Kevin Koym   —   6 years ago

Another distinction of Tech Ranch is that we’re entrepreneur-focused, not startup-focused. We’re all about building capacity in the individual. Entrepreneurs should be successful, even if their startups fail.

We’re also big believers in community building – what some might call developing the ecosystem for a sector. Early on, I had an experience with an entrepreneurship program in Chile that had a big impact on me in this area.

The Chilean program had a much larger focus on building the capacity of the community, rather than the normal American-style program that focuses mainly on the capacity of the company. I brought this way of thinking back with me to the U.S. and our programs at Tech Ranch. In addition to supporting the individual entrepreneur to be successful, we emphasize building community around them as well, teaching them the skills and creating an environment where this is a natural, integrated part of the whole.

Hank Stringer   —   6 years ago

First-time founders should go into their start-up understanding and accepting that, more than likely, they are not a CEO. It doesn’t mean that they can’t become one or that they naturally lack the skills. But, initially, the key is to find a role where a founder can play to their strengths – in marketing, sales, technology, whatever – so that they can remain very excited and evangelistic about the company and its products or services.
So, to new founders, I say: “Be aware of who you are.” Ask other people you trust their opinion. As a result of those discussions, understand your deficiencies. Find ways to compensate for and overcome them. It may take a day or it make take ten years.
Finally, always be watching and listening for opportunities to grow, whether they are deliberately planned – like an executive development workshop – or they are completely spontaneous – like a chance encounter with someone you don’t know. I had such a chance encounter with a young man who walked up to me three separate times at a conference, politely insisting that I should hire him to intern in sales for my company. I finally relented and, two weeks later, I was introduced to the young man’s father, who became a consultant, an investor, and ultimately the CEO of my first tech company.

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