Being an entrepreneur comes with many ups and downs and a whole lot of hustle. My first year going it alone I was working in the business and spending nearly all of my free time on it. The thought of bringing other people in to run aspects of my company felt like cheating. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. My health and relationships suffered, and I felt like I was never doing enough.
One day a client commented he wished I could offer his company complementary services to support our work together. The light bulb went off. What if I could offer clients more of me through a team? That defining moment changed everything. Having the right team in order to build, grow and scale your company is a big key to your success.
No Man Is An Island
In the beginning there is an understanding that going it alone and developing your vision as a Founder is necessary. Resources are typically scarce and there is a certain harmony in working solo. But what happens when you start to have questions about your business model, or need ways to validate the market opportunity in an objective fashion? These are critical steps to ensuring your success.
You may have a great company and be building an incredible product, but the reality is that no man is an island. When John Donne said this in a sermon back in the 17th century, he meant that no one is completely self-sufficient; we rely on each other. Every person has questions he or she needs answers to.
The natural next step as you grow is to begin looking for team members.
“I need a Co-Founder.”
In my experience working with Founders, this is where things sometimes go awry. Often Founders think they need a Co-Founder and can’t move forward unless this person is in place. The most common statements we hear with regularity are: “I’m not technical. I need a technical Co-Founder.” “This will be easier with a partner.” Maybe so but finding the right business partner takes time, patience and a lot of communication. In our experience, Founders spend so much time looking for the right person and focusing on their perceived need, they miss their market opportunity and fatigue sets in early.
“I need Developers.”
Some Founders look for a technical team to develop their idea right away, spending time outreaching, reviewing proposals, and then end up managing the day-to-day work and overall delivery. This takes them away from other aspects of building the company, and they tend to lose sight of other priorities. Often times Founders become so wedded to their idea and the implementation of it, they forget about market validation and customer development. They don’t build the organization, they hire bodies to do jobs.
Neither of these approaches are wrong per se, they just happen to be limited in maximizing your time. Our recommendation is that once you realize you need a team, be flexible. Understand that designing your organization is one of the single best activities you can do up front, before hiring a flurry of people. In the beginning, Founders would be much better off finding a team that can function as an extension of themselves in key areas of the company.
Partnership Is A Path
When I speak about partnership, I’m not talking about a direct business partnership as in the Co-Founder example. I’m talking about creating and maintaining trusted relationships with others in a mutually beneficial way.
Take ON ITS AXIS for example. We are a company of a few with partner teams who execute under our direction in very specific and strategic ways. This model enables us to cover the entire business lifecycle, and bring value creation to each step. We keep the vision and strategy we designed with our clients top of mind for our partner teams. Founders interact with us directly, and we manage the execution on their behalf. This helps Founders focus on building and growing their company, and we have the opportunity to help them change course when needed.
Rather than spending time cobbling together various teams at each step in the lifecycle, and being steeped in day-to-day management, Founders bring us on to build the team and execute on their behalf with their vision and strategy.
As a Founder, it’s important to look outside of yourself at the start and begin to lay the foundation for how you will start, grow and scale your company. Partnering with a consulting firm who understands how to support you and empowers you to grow your company without taking your equity, is one path you can take.
Recipes For Success
How you compete in the marketplace is not the only factor in a Founder’s success. Every Founder at some point needs product, engineering, marketing, sales and business development in order to build a sustainable, competitive company.
The challenge lies in growth itself. As the company grows, accountability can become diluted. Those initial first hires that solve all the problems are no longer operating on the front lines. As a Founder you may have recruited like mad in order to get bodies to execute on key projects to hit important milestones. This is where harmony can be lost. So what do you do?
One recipe for success is to stay focused on sustainable growth by keeping organization design and discipline a key objective. The people you bring on at certain stages will ultimately make or break your company. As you scale, it’s a matter of not only leveraging teams who can put answers into practice, it’s about finding culture fit and developing the organization to support the kinds of growth needed. Creating your company playbook and managing to it is one recipe for success. Having a talent acquisition arm that knows you and your organization so well they can assess if candidates are the right cultural fit before they start their first day is another recipe guaranteed to put you on the success path.
Founders need to be more than passionate about their idea. They need to own it and drive it and stay very confident in decision making. The difficulty lies in finding the right people and building the right culture. By employing an open mindset and partnering with experts, your idea can go from concept to sales with the least amount of struggle. It can go from profitability to consistently hitting revenue targets set by the executive team and the board members.
Building a company isn’t easy but staying focused, leveraging team and infusing the organization with more of you through culture creation makes the path clear and more enjoyable.
We’d love to share more recipes for success with you. Schedule a free Discovery Call to learn more.
About The Author
Shelley Iocona is a product strategist helping startups and enterprises innovate. Her approach to building great products is based on the belief that ideas should be validated using a lean approach before development begins, and that having the right team is pivotal to a company’s success.
Before founding ON ITS AXIS, Shelley held leadership roles at companies such as Outcast Media (now Verifone Media), Yahoo, Connexity (formerly Shopzilla/Bizrate), DIRECTV, and led product strategy and lean product development for numerous start-ups and incubators.
ON ITS AXIS is a full-service consultancy consisting of technical, business, marketing and product experts with a talent acquisition and staffing arm to help accelerate your biggest opportunities. Get in touch with us to learn more.