“We got the tools; we got the talent.” – Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters
I am often asked what makes one company more successful than another. Many think it is the uniqueness of the product or the ability to obtain financing that results in success. I am going to draw upon three decades of comments and discussions with Venture Capitalists to help form my point of view.
It was the early 1980’s and I was at Arthur Young. We had started to focus on high technology startups and, in fact, our San Jose office had been formed to focus solely on this market (Apple and Genentech were early clients.) We had a national meeting of about 70 people – including a group that probably represented a majority the Venture Capitalists in the country. One of the partners from Welsh Carson was doing a presentation and we were all anxious to learn how this very successful firm selected the best technology prospects in the world. The Partner said that was easy. The first 5 things they looked at were management, management, management, management and management. Pretty clear message.
In the 1990’s I had a chance to attend some sessions with the brilliant strategist, Brian Quinn, from Dartmouth as part of the Tuck Executive Program. We were discussing successful strategies in what was (and always is) an ever-changing world. Brian consulted with many VC’s and, based upon his experience, had one key piece of advice; without a successful management team, most strategies were doomed to execution failure.
A few weeks ago, I was at one of our favorite spots, the ER Accelerator in New York. I was talking with the team there regarding their selection of participants for the upcoming session they sponsor. So, what was their focus? It was simple; a solid team and a fair product trumps a good product and a fair team every time.
Growing and maintaining a successful company requires a good team; that is obvious. As the leader, the burden is on you to recruit the right people and, more importantly, to not allow a true non-performer to remain because it is too difficult to part with a friend. So, a few ideas to consider:
- Never be afraid to hire someone onto the team who is smarter than you (or the other team members.) There is something to be said for having the best athlete on your side.
- Chemistry rules but conformity is destructive. Don’t avoid having someone on the team just because they may not be like the rest of you. I counsel with a number of very talented individuals who, at times, do not maximize their contribution because they feel they are left-handed people in a right-handed world.
- Get input from junior team members on selection. I have had the chance to be the one in charge and have rarely hired a person when my administrative assistant or a junior staff member felt it was not a good fit. That unfiltered view can be extremely valuable.
Recruiting the right team members is one of the most important contributions a leader makes. Keeping the team motivated and working as one unit (once they join) is probably a close second. Spend the time on these important tasks and have the patience to develop your team so you can help ensure your company will be a success.