Even if you’re a solo founder, you will assemble a team to achieve your start-up’s mission. How do you find the right people for the job? What do you need to know about team building?

As part of the EWOR Academy, Alexander Grots gave a lecture on the importance of team building. The founder of ProGlove and co-founder and CCO of EWOR, Alexander has spent the past 20 years as an entrepreneur and investor. His experiences have proven one thing: don’t underestimate the power of good team culture.

This article teaches you to rethink your role as an entrepreneur. We’ll show you useful tools to build the perfect team for your company.

For more insights from experienced entrepreneurs, sign up to our EWOR Platform to gain access to over 17 courses and a plethora of resources.

Your Role as an Entrepreneur

Let’s rethink your role in entrepreneurship and within your company. As the founder or co-founder, it’s your job to set the tone and lead your team.

Entrepreneur Misconceptions

“I’m My Own Boss.”

People get into entrepreneurship because they don’t want to work as normal employees. They want to be their own boss. If you fit this description, you shouldn’t be a boss yourself. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you don’t want anyone to be your boss, chances are you aren’t a great fit for that leadership position.

“People Work For Me.”

The reasoning for that first misconception is the importance of working with people. Don’t adopt the mindset of being an entitled boss and having people work for you. Only as a team can you master the challenges at hand. Your start-up is your initiative that’s supposed to grow into a successful business. Think of your employees as team members rather than inferior workers. 

“I Lead by Definition.”

Instead of leading by definition, lead by example. Just because you have the title of employer doesn’t mean you should abuse that position. Work just as hard as you expect your employees to. Show them with your own actions how motivated you are and inspire them. They will match your energy and inspire you in turn. Treat the start-up as a collective project instead of your personal effort.

“I’ll Make Tons of Money.”

Money can be one of the main roadblocks in start-up development. Don’t expect to make tons of money right away. Instead, understand its power. Both too little and too much money can cause issues. If you don’t understand the power of money in the beginning, you won’t make a lot of money in the end.

What do we mean by “the power of money”?

Instead of focusing on how you can use money, understand what money can do with you. Responsibilities to investors and stakeholders’ input can hurt your business. Find a balance and be aware of how you regard your financial resources. Don’t let money change the way you run your organisation.

“I Want a Good Work-Life Balance.”

As a founder, forget the popular idea of having a work-life balance. Life is work and work is life. There is no separation between the two at the beginning of your start-up’s journey. Only once the company has grown, it’s healthy to separate the two again.

“I’ll Do Only What I’m Good At.”

It’s a common misconception to only do what you’re good at. Accept that you’ll do everything in the beginning. Maybe you have a skilled team member or co-founder who can do tasks you’re bad at, but you still have to understand why they’re important.

Qualities of an Entrepreneur

“To design is to devise courses of action with the aim to change existing conditions into preferred ones.” – Herbert Simon

Entrepreneurs see a problem and try to find a solution for it. They aim to change, improve, or get rid of something. Simon’s word choice is not accidental. Entrepreneurs work towards a preferred new outcome, not the perfect solution.

There are six main characteristics that every entrepreneur has. Consider these qualities when building your team.

Generalist

Entrepreneurs are generalists. As an entrepreneur, you’re interested in many topics and have a natural curiosity. Keep that open-mindedness close to your heart and let it guide your entrepreneurial journey.

People Person

One of the most important qualities for entrepreneurs is to be a people person. It’s possible to be an introverted entrepreneur, but you still have to engage with a lot of people. Finding partners, hiring a team, interacting with customers and investors – the job requires people skills on every level.

Know Your Weaknesses

It’s crucial for entrepreneurs to know their weaknesses and balance them with their strengths. Don’t look for business partners and team members who are similar to you. Look for people with different strengths and weaknesses to find the perfect balance within your company.

Lead With Questions

You have a natural curiosity that extends to every aspect of your start-ups. Lead with questions both on an internal and external level. Question every step of production, but also ask yourself questions about your leadership.

In Love With the Problem

To solve a problem means being obsessed with it. Successful entrepreneurs are in love with the problem they’re solving. The solution follows. This passion for the problem is key to gaining investors as well. Make them fall in love with it, too.

Money plays an important role in business. Don’t let it get in the way of solving the problem. You’ll make money with the solution, after all.

See the Big Picture

As an entrepreneur, you see the big picture. By caring about all the little details of your company, you never lose sight of the main goal. 

Good Founding Team Qualities

Every founding team is unique.  No matter if you have only one co-founder or a whole group, it’s important to keep the following three qualities close to the core of your organisation.

Radical Honesty

It’s painful at times, but radical honesty will benefit your project. It’s a powerful tool that eliminates bad communication. It serves to reduce misunderstandings and mistakes. The company should share your honest opinion instead of keeping ideas or criticism to yourself. Make radical honesty a priority within your founding team and practice it with respect for yourself and your co-founders.

Humour

Finding co-founders with a similar sense of humour helps day-to-day operations to run smoothly. Humour is a coping tool in stressful situations and an energy to play with. Even when hiring employees, watch out for their sense of humour in interviews and make sure it will fit into your company.

Flexibility

Time and time again, we stress the importance of flexibility in entrepreneurship. A founding team has to be able to adapt and take risks. Be experimental and learn from failures. Practice flexibility and learn how to pivot quickly. It will help you navigate an ever-changing market and economy.

Effective Team Building

An idea alone won’t turn into a successful business without taking action. To achieve that, you need an effective team that maximises productivity and profit.

The following section teaches you how to find the right people for that mission.

The 4 C’s of the 21st Century

There are four C’s that function as guiding principles to team projects. Keep them in mind when building your team and make them a core quality of your organisation.

Critical Thinking: Go below the surface and critically engage with the problem you’re trying to solve. 

Creativity: To solve problems effectively, you need a creative mindset. Think outside the box and innovate.

Collaboration: The cornerstone of a company is a collaborative environment. We’re talking about team building because it’s critical to work together to achieve a common goal.

Communication: There is no effective teamwork without honest communication. Convey ideas to team members and prioritise communication.

Finding the Right Match for Your Founding Team

Anyone you want to hire or work with has to have individual depth. In other words, they’re good or trained at something. You need someone who shows that depth in productive ways, while being accepting of other people’s strengths.

All four C’s come together in this process. Communicate ideas, collaborate effectively, critically engage with others, and find creative solutions together.

Combine people who display their personal depths and interact well with other people’s strengths to build fast-moving teams.

We’ve created a list of specific qualities to look for in a potential co-founder:

  • Similar life stage to you is more relevant than age,
  • Smarter than you are in their field,
  • Humble towards status and money,
  • Under market value payment creates commitment,
  • Don’t care about a title, but about the task,
  • Eager to make a change,
  • Self-driven and organised, and
  • A sense of humour.

Ideal Employee Profile

Focus on a potential employee’s unique capabilities. Experience over grades is a guiding principle for that. Their school education is secondary to what they’re passionate about and what you want to hire them to do.

Trust their skill.

For a fast-paced start-up, look for young and inexperienced people right out of college. They tend to be more motivated and passionate. Make sure to see a spark of entrepreneurial spirit in them through poignant interview questions and activities.

Trust their character.

Guiding Principles for Hiring Team Members

There are three guiding ideas for hiring team members: purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Communicate your expectations and define clear roles for employees, but give them space to reach these goals. This strategy serves as a framework for team building and team culture.

Purpose: Through vision and empowerment, they will serve a purpose. Measure purpose by contributions to the project. 

Autonomy: Demand commitment and transparency from employees. Measure autonomy with regular check-ins and joint evaluation.

Mastery: You want employees who want to improve their skills and are humble. Through focus and constant challenges, they should aim for improvement. Measure mastery by how much they’re improving their skills.

The Importance of Team Culture

Responsibilities are more important than the process because it’s dynamic and can be flexible. The roles are the living elements of a process. That’s why they are so important for team building. How do you create a good team culture and why is it so important?

The culture that you set up in the beginning and how you bring that forward is the stronghold of your organisation. Investors are often more interested in the culture and the team than the topic itself. The common element is the people behind the product and how they set up their organisation.

Team building isn’t something that you focus on a few years into your start-up journey. By that point, a team culture will have developed and solidified without you having an influence on it. It’s harder to change the status quo than to set it right from the start.

To create a good team culture, the founding team has to ask themselves core questions. Who are you? What do you stand for? Can you define your goals and values? What are you like? Miro offers a digital blank workspace to create your own team canvas or full templates.

Use a team canvas to translate values and purpose into roles and rituals. In the early stages of team building, but also periodically as a founding team, it’s wise to use a team canvas to realign yourselves. Physical proof or reevaluation of your core culture will help with conflict resolution as well.

We have compiled a list of ideas and inspirations for approaches to team culture. Use these ideas to create rituals and habits that influence a productive workspace and a good team culture. 

Cultural Principles:

  • Work visually
  • Prototype everything
  • Every team member needs to interact with customers to understand their needs
  • Ask for forgiveness rather than permission – don’t be afraid to experiment and learn
  • Practice humour

Express Principles as Rituals:

  • Full team meetings
  • Cross-divisional workshops
  • Community spaces
  • Encouragement to self-expression – even when it’s unrelated to your company or product

Bottom Line

Team building is a cornerstone of entrepreneurship. With the right mindset about your own role, you’ll find good matches for your founding team or employees. Take team culture seriously and create a positive and productive work environment. Effective team building is the key to a successful business.

About the author
EWOR Team

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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