Most new entrepreneurs work alone in developing their idea or a solution to a problem, but ultimately realize that starting and growing a business requires more. Not many people have the bandwidth to simultaneously cover all the required bases in finance, marketing, manufacturing, and operations, as well as solution development. It takes a working team to build a business.
What many don’t realize is that building that team is as critical and as difficult as building the solution. If you have the wrong people on your team, or the team can’t work together, you have no chance of making an epic business, no matter how great your solution. Witness the many memorable failure examples, including Friendster, Pets.com, and Webvan.
I see plenty of guidance of developing ideas, but very little on how to build the right team. Thus I was particularly pleased to see the new book, “Do Big Things,” by Ross, Paccione, and Roberts, that highlights the team building process specifically, based on their years of experience facilitating leadership teams around the world.
The authors detail seven steps, which I adapt here to new businesses, for mobilizing the hearts of minds of your team, in order to make the epic impact that you envision:
- Define your desired business culture and find people who fit. The first step is to assemble people who are willing and able to work together as a team. Getting subject matter experts is necessary but not sufficient. Finding interns or family members to save money won’t work. You need team members who are aligned in their thinking and action.
- Make sure the team embodies a common definition of success. Find people who share your vision of success and have confidence in you and what you are setting out to do. Teams that do big things do not team casually or randomly. They are willing and able to leverage failure, without losing confidence, since every business has many unknowns
- Everyone must choose to contribute, activate, and connect. Each team member must be determined to bring their best to the role, bring out the best in others, and choose to partner across their areas of expertise to deliver on the shared objective of a successful new business. Make it clear how you will measure each person’s results.
- Assure each team member has barrier breaking authority. Because every new venture has limited resources, the team will have to deal with real barriers, perceived barriers, and symptomatic barriers. The toughest barriers are competing priorities caused by business leadership not being aligned on a common purpose, strategy, or plan.
- Foster solid relationships to keep focus on what matters. It’s impossible for a team to effectively focus its energy on executing a plan when team members are distracted by poor relationships with one another. If you want epic team results, equip team members to have epic relationships, and clearly communicate purpose and milestones expected.
- Energize the team around a shared purpose and reality. A team can only build a successful business when the members of that team have an open mind that is receptive to your vision of changing the world. Energy that is being used to protect yourself cannot simultaneously be used to build the connections necessary for the team to succeed.
- Convert your vision to milestones to mobilize hearts and minds. Empower the team to create action plans for delivering a new and innovative business. Every team member must be equipped to ask the types of questions that lead to positive results, not boilerplate questions that aren’t intended to solicit answers or forward movement.
Every new business team has a big job to do – against swirling priorities, rapid change, and seemingly impossible deadlines. Too many teams are formed as groups of people thrown together with outdated and naïve ways of working with others. With scarce resources, this means that the average team is destined to flatline and fail. Don’t let your new business be the casualty.