What Entrepreneurs Need to Learn About Team Work
If you have been consumed by a business problem, if you have cared deeply for a solution, believed in an idea, taken a risk and struck out on your own to build a company from the ground up, you have done well!
It is likely that in coming this far, you have had yourself to rely on. You have had to rely on your skills, your convictions and often, your own money. You are an independent thinker, a proactive doer. You spend little time in discussion and consensus building. You lose no time in making decisions. With a small team or none at all, you are the company and the company is you. Your work ethic is the ‘culture’ of your company. You value your autonomy, your self-reliance.
And now, after tasting success as an entrepreneur, it is time to sell, scale and fine tune your solution. It is time to widen your reach in the market. It is time to draw investors and mentors to rest their faith in your proposition. It is time to move towards sustainable, profitable operations. It is time to build a team, induct a second line of leadership to see the company into its next phase. And as you find the right mix of people to be on your team, you must distribute the one thing you hold very dear – your independence.
Take heart because this is a good for you! And this is what you must remember about team work.
1. You needn’t drive. You can focus on navigation. – Sure, the people on your team may not know as much about your product or service as you do. They weren’t there from the start after all. But if they are proficient in their area of work – whether it be programming, accounting or housekeeping – they are your biggest strength. They drive your car and set you free to focus on navigating it in the best direction.
2. You needn’t always tell. You need also to listen. Precisely because they haven’t been consumed by your business idea like you, your team members are capable of bringing in fresh perspectives from their own unique experiences. You may think you have come to know everything about e-commerce because you started an e-commerce business. But allow your sales manager from experience in automotive retail to tell you a thing or two and you may hit a Eureka! moment when you least expect it.
3. If you let go, you’ll go faster. Even if your team members don’t always make relevant suggestions for your business, discourage them at your peril. If you want your team to be open to feedback at every step, you must also be generous with praise when it is due. A team that doesn’t feel invested in the big picture company and disempowered in charting its own success may not stick together in tough times. Just as you value your autonomy, your team members will stay motivated if they have a measure of autonomy in their work.
4. Unite in your strengths. Thrive in your differences. You could recruit a like-minded set of people on your team but there will be differences. Each one will have his/her style of approaching work, flagging up issues, dealing with stress and delivering results. Your team will not work like you and you will have to give them the leeway to falter, learn and adapt. This will cost time and effort but it will be worth it in the long run. As long as the common vision that binds your team takes it forward to its goals, the rest is insignificant.
5. Your company must be larger than you. When you have a team, a board, investors and mentors to explain your decisions to and take opinions from, planning and decision making will take time and you won’t always have ‘your way’. Your company won’t take shape exactly as you had wanted it perhaps. But if you have a good team, together you could prosper in ways that you could never have done all by yourself.
Picking the right mix of people to be on your team is critical. But remember that for any team to succeed, the leader must be the best team player of all.