No matter how genius your startup idea might be, every entrepreneur needs a strong founding team to turn that vision into reality.
I cofounded HotJobs.com with a small team of dedicated entrepreneurs on a mission to transform the job-search industry. We were headhunters and had acutely developed abilities in recruiting and assessing the best talent. We had worked together in the trenches and we had trust. We built an absurdly talented tech team. We hand-selected and inspired a best-in-class sales force. We created an indomitable culture.
More importantly, we got the classified help-wanted ads from the newspapers to online and into the digital world to create massive efficiency. We helped millions of job seekers in the process. Our team power-built the fledgling startup to 650 employees, $125 million in revenues and a $1.2 billion market cap after its IPO. Although we might not have realized it at the time, we had a founding team with all of the right ingredients to make our startup dreams come true. The No. 1 Internet media company in the world at the time was Yahoo! and we managed to get a second exit when we sold to Yahoo!
How do you get the right people together so you can reach your own startup dreams? Start with awesome people you can trust. The foundation of every great team is trust — trust that each member is committed to the grand purpose, eager and capable of getting stuff done to the highest quality.
From my experience co-founding, recruiting and building all-star executive teams, I have come across a few essential players that make founding teams achieve the growth and scale they desire.
Every startup begins with a grand idea, vision and purpose. The visionary is the guardian of these powerful forces. This person often serves as both CEO and Chief Inspiration Officer. If your team is in the railroad business, the visionary is the one who discovers unchartered routes and decides that your trains should go to these new markets.
The analytical, detail-oriented operator is a necessary counterbalance to the visionary. This person is working behind the scenes, driving performance metrics and figuring out tactical execution to drive the unit economics of the business and achieve performance results. This person will ensure operational excellence and that the trains run on time.
Your engineer is a master craftsman building an outstanding product. This person’s skill set is in tech and product design — he or she is your Data from Star Trek, building the trains and the tracks.
Even the best and most innovative products don’t sell themselves. You need a master dealmaker to lead distribution. This person has a knack for creative relationship building, and can orchestrate the marketing and sales deals that fund your operation with the right pricing model. The Dealmaker makes sure the trains are full of passengers with sustainable profitability.
The Team Builder
Your team builder is your Chief People Officer. This role is becoming increasingly more important in the knowledge economy. The team builder ensures you have the right people in the right seats doing the right things in the right way and enjoying the journey.
The biggest reason why someone will succeed or fail as part of any organization has everything to do with whether their personal DNA matches the cultural DNA of the organization. This makes the role of the Chief People Officer the most important advisor and partner to the CEO.
An organization’s greatest assets all go home at night. A great team builder knows what gets their people to come back:
1. Performance excellence on an individual level — people feel they can achieve their best work.
2. Team affiliation, camaraderie and a sense of belonging.
A leader’s core values are made up of his or her unique life experiences, beliefs, motivations, biases and critical thinking. Once the CEO and Chief People Officer have a clear understanding and are in sync on the core values (the pillars of a company’s culture) make sure to learn the core values of each person, especially on your leadership team, before you hire them. This way you can continue to raise the bar and replicate the organization’s DNA with people who amplify your culture.
Image credit: CC by McMaster Office of the President