Building the Right Founding Team

The founding team is the heartbeat of every company. Their decisions, attitudes, and dynamics can make or break the ultimate success of any business.

If you think you can do it all alone and still make it, you will be in for a rude awakening. Here are some important things to consider when building the right founding team:

The Power of A Great Team

As they say, two heads are always better than one. Building your founding team should be based on more than just applicable skills – it requires a deep-seated level of trust and a common mindset for the impact you want to have on your customers. While many founders may want to hold on tightly to their brainchild, the best founders understand the importance of transferring to a leadership role and hand over the reins to someone new. The level of growth and efficiency you can achieve by delegating is leaps and bounds higher than you will ever be able to achieve alone. 

Alignment of Goals

Every founding team needs to have a clear mission and goals that are clearly established and understood by the whole group. You may want to gather your round table by looking for certain skills, but the best founding teams are more cohesive and aligned on a deeper level than just skillset. You can ensure your team is on the same page by setting a great example and setting the tone yourself. As LinkedIn’s Jeff Wiener puts it, you should set the drumbeat for your company. His unique drumbeat was compassionate management that always kept a human touch on all of his leadership decisions. This translated to his founding team and crafted a trusting, compassionate, and powerful leadership dynamic that grew LinkedIn’s revenue by millions since he started his tenure. Investing in great talent is never wasted. 

Trust

Some great advice comes from Anand Prakesh, who advises founding teams to have a strong foundation of trust. “What will hurt them the most is if they do not completely trust each other. You’re going to be dealing with a lot of challenging external forces. If you are also doubting each other, it will be very toxic for your business. You will constantly second guess each other’s actions and doubt will seep in. This alone will handicap or just plain stop progress altogether. Either you will all part ways or run the business straight into the ground.”

Don’t Be Afraid of Great Talent

“When you hire amazing people who are better than you at what they do, you look like a genius.” – Aaron Patzer, CEO of Mint

This is great advice for startup founders who are stubborn and are afraid of bringing on more talented people than them. The key skill of a great CEO is to be a jack-of-all-trades and level-headed leader. Even the best leaders have specialists among their ranks who are all-stars in their own respective fields. This is not something you should shy away from, but something that you should embrace.  

One commonality you will find in every CEO is not that they are genius’ that single-handedly built a company with sheer willpower – but that they all had a knack for leadership and embraced delegation. Trusting your core team and the drumbeat that you set for them creates a powerful dynamic that allows your company to bring out the best in its employees down the road. So when you are building your founding team, remember to bring on people who can carry your unique drumbeat and that can potentially teach you new things you may never have come up with on your own.

If there is one skill that is important as a founder, it is being able to let go and trust in your team. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Rid of the Bad Apples

The founding team’s success is unfortunately more art than science and some trial and error should be expected. It is likely that the founding team will change overtime as the skills and capabilities of the team will (likely) not always match. As the saying goes ‘it’s never too early to fire’ and from my experience I have never fired anyone too early.

This is something we are committed to improving as over time these individuals typically become significant problems. Getting a handle on this early will ensure things stay on track and will allow to focus on the best talent without any interference.

Daren Trousdell is an early stage investor, advisor and founder focused in the Fintech and Digital Media space.

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