These days, It’s all about the tech. Apps are sexy. The cloud is a Godsend. The Internet rolls out the red carpet of access to making a fortune.
But business always has been, and always will be, about people. Here are three people crucial to your startup, and how you can make those people build your company.
Your partner: Most people don’t launch startups alone. It might just be that it’s lonely and scary to embark on any major adventure alone. Or it might be that most people recognize that they have strengths and weaknesses, and that a partner can offset the weaknesses.
On the one hand, it helps if you have complementary skill sets. Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger explains how he and Kevin Systrom, with different strengths, took on the engineering and business aspects respectively, getting together for product development. This is a typical pairing: tech and finance.
If one of you is inclined to jump in with both feet, it’s good to have a partner to restrain you, and vice versa. If you are a big-picture thinker, get a partner who focuses on the details. You need both to be successful. As Pluto TV co-founder Ilya Pozin says, “It’s great to have a partnership where one of you is the gas and the other is the brakes.
On the other hand, you should share the same values and vision, because those values will guide you to the same destination. With different values, vision and long-term goals, you’ll be steering your new business in a zig zag across the Internet.
There are other important factors in choosing and working with your partner, such as trust and chemistry. Don’t ignore these.
“The number one thing was timing. Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure. Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third”.
Hence the huge industry built up around recruiting. Decide what qualities you need in your staff. You probably want passionate people who can go the extra mile, creative people who will come up with new ideas and conscientious people who will work hard.
But whom you pick is nowhere near as important as how you nurture them. I spend a lot of time at the offices of one of my clients, and I watch how they work. They support each other. They work as a team. They catch each other’s dropped balls before they hit the ground. You might think the managers there do a bang-up job of hiring.
In fact, they do not even conduct interviews.
Management sets the tone in the office. They have their employees’ backs. There is no blame, only support. Management listens and gives staff ownership over what they do. Staff are invested, even the temps who know they are being paid less than regular staff.
If you can recruit the most skilled, innovative and passionate staff possible, more power to you. But your startup will have an even greater chance of success if you drive your staff to new heights of teamwork, innovation and passion.
Google’s strategy is to bring out the creativity and innovation in employees. It is their ideas that are more valuable than their work. But a funny thing happens when a company values your ideas: employees get engaged and passionate and productive. They make a company money in both the short- and long-terms.
Your contractors. Not everybody who works for you works for you. Chances are, especially as a startup with limited resources, that you’ll call on various contractors with specific skills, such as writing, translation or design.
If contractors work onsite, as with my client, treat them with as much respect and trust and involvement as your employees. Make them part of the team. Make them invested emotionally as much as if they were financially invested.
This is harder to do if they are located around the world, working in their silos. It can be done. However, you might consider hiring locally. Even if they work offsite, you can invite them to company events – picnics, parties and even big-picture meetings. Whatever it takes, make them feel like they are part of your team.
Don’t be shy to offer a bonus for work well done. This might be self-serving advice, given that I am often a contractor, but it is also my experience. If a company pays me extra for a job well done, that company will have my undivided attention when it needs me to prioritize its urgent work. Money talks.
I had a client who never responded to my emails. It lost my attention. I just did not stay motivated when I was being ignored. I did the minimum, but my attention was elsewhere. In the end, the company did not get the results it wanted.
Contractors want to be proud of what they do. They will respond to the same motivation tactics as employees do. And if they excel with you, they will want to showcase your company in their portfolio. Even if you can’t afford to hire staff for every skill you need, you can afford to treat contractors like part of your team. Because they are.
Every business is only as good as its people. How good are the people you choose? And how good will you make them?