When you step on the first rung of the entrepreneurial ladder, your team is often a team of one — and that’s you. You wear all of the hats and work all hours of the day as you strive to realize your dream. And, if you’re like me, you do it all from the bedroom of your parents' home. Or, maybe you’re lucky enough to have a separate room or some garage space to utilize.
But eventually, as your business begins to grow, you’ll discover that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything yourself and you’ll be stretched thinner and thinner. You can’t do the sales, the marketing, the bookkeeping and everything else involved, all by yourself.
Congratulations. You need help. You’re beginning to build a real business.
Now you actually have your first leadership challenge: You have to find people to lead — the correct people. Before long, if all goes well, you’ll need a team of people that can take your enterprise to the next level. Of course, as your business gets ever bigger, you’ll have to identify and recruit more talented, more experienced and more expensive executives.
But whether you’re a small company with a handful of employees or you’ve already enjoyed tremendous growth and have hundreds of employees, there are some factors to bear in mind.
From being a 16-year-old entrepreneur of a home-based start-up to creating RadiumOne, my third and biggest Internet advertising venture, which I’m determined will become my first billion-dollar company, I’ve made several discoveries.
Find people you can trust
Running the business is stressful enough without having to constantly look over your shoulder and wonder whether or not you can truly depend on the people around you. At 16, the first person I hired was my older brother. I knew I could trust him — he’d already been my confidante and helper, opening a bank account for me when I received my first check (for $30,000) because I was too young to sign checks.
He came on board as “head of human resources” and we began recruiting. Before long, we supported nearly a dozen employees; including someone else I knew I could totally trust — my sister.
Find people who share your passion
You don’t want people working for you who just want to punch in at 9 am and punch out at 5 pm. You want people who can appreciate your vision and who want more than a job — people who want a career. You want people who will walk through the door with a spring in their step, who want to make a truly positive contribution to the business.
You want people with whom you have chemistry to make for a positive professional environment. These must be people you trust, because more than likely, you will face hellish situations many times before you reach success.
Find people who are smarter than you
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but it’s important to identify them and ensure that we bring others — who can bring positive contributions to the table — on board. I learned this lesson the hard way. I suffered a major tech crisis right when my first business was beginning to explode, and tech is not my area of expertise.
I quickly recovered from it by hiring an experienced Chief Technology Officer and several engineers at generous salaries. The sensible business owner hires the smartest people he can find and rewards them accordingly.
Find people who will tell you what they think
You don’t want a bunch of “yes men” surrounding you! It might be your company and you always have the final say — but it would be most unwise to surround yourself with people who always agree with you. No one can be right 100 percent of the time.
So make an effort to recruit seasoned, independent thinkers who are smart enough to form their own opinions and are willing to voice them when necessary. This may mean having an open-door policy so that your personnel feel they have the freedom to speak up.
Find people who are team players
The dictionary definition of the word "team" is a group of people who work together. Together is key. It means with each other — not against each other, for self-glorification, or the advancement of one individual. All the players on any team — whether in the NFL, the NBA or the business conference room — must pull together to get a winning result.
They should want that result to come from shared effort and contributions. It also means being careful of not having an overly abrasive team member who rubs everyone else the wrong way, no matter how talented he or she might be. It will become obvious if someone has a personal agenda — and it should probably be your agenda not to keep this person around.
Find people who want to learn
I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning and learning from one’s mistakes. Having people on your team who can acknowledge their errors and then employ strategies based on learned lessons can be a tremendous asset. Seek out and promote those who have the confidence to grow as a result of past errors and who embrace the constant change of today’s fast-paced business world.
Find people who want to win
Make a point of looking for people who want your company to be the best in its field, who will have a sense of pride in your mutual accomplishments. You really don’t want people who are satisfied with the status quo. You want goal-setters, go-getters and kindred souls. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are willing to go the extra mile and who want to be as successful as badly as you do. I promise you that the energy will only multiply over time.
The process of building your team will take years. You will add new members to help handle your expansion and the challenges that accompany growth. But, the basic tenets outlined above will apply throughout the years and if followed, will enable you to build a team with a common goal -- to win.
Photo credit: Oceans