This is the second part of my article about startup teams. We managed to create a really nice one (it tooks us couple of years though) and these are just parts of my observations about people and startup teams. The original text is in Bulgarian, published on Entrepreneur.bg. The first one was about “Why is the team so important” at all.
The ideal way of creating your startup team is pretty natural: a nice idea connects several people and makes them want to build a company around it. In real life that happens a bit more rarely, but it’s still possible. However, people change and that fact has a strong impact on all of the decisions everyone in the team has to take.
There are more than 6 things we face when building a new team, but these are quite special to me: they remind us that we are people before being anything else.
It is not always great to work with friends
There is a popular Bulgarian expression: “You should never make business with friends” (actually, there are way too many wisdom quotes in Bulgaria which start with “no”, “never”, “not to” etc.). I am not sure about meeting that expression outside Bulgaria, but there is some truth in it. Only some.
I have worked so many times with friends: some of them were my bosses, some equal colleagues, some are now my co-founders. It worked well in all of the cases. I think the secret is to pick the right friends to work with. Some of them are great beer-buddies, but pain in the ass when it comes to work. The quickest test: think of those friends you would totally recommend to be hired on your behalf at a very important position. The guys who pass, are your guys.
If you keep saving your breath on things that bother you, sooner or later it will become ugly
Don’t keep anything from your partners, especially when you get mad at them. If they disappoint you anyhow, discuss that with them as soon as possible. It’s good to be close friends too, so sharing it over a drink would make it easier.
When the “talk” takes place, do not forget that you might be wrong, too. In real life both sides are to blame. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you’re meant to work together, you will figure it out.
Your co-founders’ bad habits may ruin or may not ruin your startup
Not being able to meet deadlines; drink till late too often; coming at work too late etc. – if your colleagues do those things and don’t want to change it in the time when you have to be 24/7 dedicated to your startup, it is less possible to be fixed later.
You should learn to calculate the risks and people’s strong qualities. It is really hard to find people who are a really great match to your team. If they have some bad habits, try to manage the daily schedule having those in mind. Don’t forget that it is now possible to be quite flexible about the working time and place.
Everyone should know a bit of everything
It’s rather important to work on those areas in the business where you are at your best. However, that doesn’t mean you should be blind to the other important stuff. Not at all!
If we think smaller, you should keep an eye (and understand) the financials of the company in order not to be f***ed up. When it comes to a startup, it’s even harder: you need to know a bit about business, law, marketing, coding, project management, design etc. If some of your co-founders are avoiding the other subjects besides their speciality, it’s no good. They might be not appreciating as much as needed the subject, or are so far from it that it scares them. Either way, you should help them get over the problem and learn (or try) a bit.
The more experienced you are the bigger is the chance to succeed
The past experience, the domain expertise, the personal qualities and contacts collected over the time: all of that helps your startup a lot. If your co-founders went through a lot, it would be easier for them to solve greater issues and cope with the startup life. When it comes to your employees, do not underrate the young and non-experienced ones. Why? Because it is awesome to teach someone many things, to become his/her mentor and work with him/her a long time (based on years of trust and mentorship). Not to mention the young, active and seeking ones’ enthusiasm and energy!
You will always have to work with people
Captain Obvious, right? Well, at the end it looks like many people forget that in their daily routine. People around you will come and go. All the time. You will spend so many efforts to work with people and they will leave you at some point… That’s what will always happen. All the time.
Try to learn not to take it personally. Have the guts to set someone free if you don’t need them anymore. Don’t try to change someone, who is impossible to be changed. Just let them go.
One thing I know for sure: the good leaders are not the people who keep everything under control using dictatorship, but the ones who inspire with their point of view on life, world and work. The ones who are real humans and people just follow them.