Business Management

Alexander Egorov (Russia) - Assembling a startup team - mission impossible? Part I

In this opening post, Alexander looks at three key points on how to put together a successful project team.

Though I've had success with half a dozen startups, I don't have an unequivocal answer to this question. Just as there is no single right answer to the question: how can I find a soul mate?
It is my deep conviction that the team for startups, as well as marriages, are made in heaven. But if you want to achieve success, you should better help the heavens, for they have other things to think of.

People are the soul of any enterprise, particularly in the early stages of business development, when it is not possible to distribute functions clearly and every employee has a vast sphere of responsibilities. The success or failure of the new company depends on how well the team is selected. An idea is only worth the cost of patenting it. But the idea fulfillment can bring in millions. And here it all depends on the project team.

Today, when young people come to me with their ideas, asking for consultation or investments, I draw attention to several factors.

Firstly, there should be a project team. One entrepreneur is fine, but in difficult moments he or she should have someone to rely upon and consult, argue, and exchange ideas with. Two or three or even four people constitute a reliable, weather-resistant combat unit.

Secondly, I do not believe in teams where there is complete agreement. I'm much happier when, presenting a new idea, partners discuss it or argue, or even compose a new proposal. I believe that partners who see all things alike are much more likely to make a fundamental error or overlook market opportunities, while those with different mindsets will create for each other a more complete picture of what is happening. To summarize the above, partners should not be similar. They should complement each other.

The third point on which I draw attention to is the distribution of roles within the team. The perfect tandem is a "revolutionary", the fountain of ideas; and a complete-finisher who can implement them.

Without the first, there can be no startup; without the second, the enterprise cannot function. The revolutionary comes out with new ideas and projects constantly. Such people are the engine that pulls forward the enterprise. But they are usually unable to engage in systematic, routine work, and tend not to follow projects through. So then you need someone who is able to pick up the idea and cast it into a finished form. This is the task for the finisher.
In addition, the team should define the spheres of influence: there should be a leader, a man who can put an end to the dispute; a "geek", who is responsible for the operation of the system or service; a marketer and a financier. Initially, of course, the same man may combine several roles.

And, ideally, all arrangements must be recorded in writing. Not necessarily in a contract; sending an email is enough. In this way you can describe your expectations and present your idea of your project's future. So you will have the chance to identify and resolve any differences of opinion at once, rather than at a critical time for the business, where any disputes will take time and effort that should be directed towards fire fighting.
Of course, the psychological compatibility of the partners is crucial. You will spend a lot of time together, and in the early stages, you will see your family less often than your partners.

In the concluding part, Alexander looks at the multi-layered structure of a competent startup team.

28st of September: Assembling a startup team - mission impossible? Part 2

By Alexander Egorov, Co-Founder and CEO of Reksoft



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