A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.
– Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company
… Or non-existent, if you’re a start-up. Conventionally, it takes two to three years for start-ups to reach profitability. What’s more, the path to financial prosperity isn’t a smooth road lined with trees growing money from their branches; it more closely resembles a potholed avenue under constant repair by road workers – your employees.
Founders have to realize that a flourishing team is critical to the continued success of a company. As a very young start-up ourselves (6 months!), below are some key lessons that we’ve absorbed in the process of building our team.
Team goals are achieved through individual strength
Without falling into the trap of micro-managing, constantly assess and keep yourself aware of the strengths and weaknesses of every member of your team. Each member brings a different skill to the table. Embrace the challenge of figuring out how these individual skills can blend in the best way possible. Manage their workload so that their strengths can be magnified. This will help keep team members motivated, perhaps even give them the confidence to work on their weaknesses and convert them into strengths. Also, make sure that the goals set for the team are communicated clearly to each member – for the team to achieve its goals, they need to know what the goals are in the first place.
Build cohesion by breaking down barriers
While leveraging on technology to ease communication and project management, be mindful that you’re not creating even more barriers to productivity. Email? WhatsApp? Workplace? Agree upon and utilize one channel that allows for efficient and effective communication within the team. In fact, use electronic forms of indirect communication only when necessary. The content of a message and its tone can be the cause of crossed signals when not conveyed through direct verbal conversation, and you should look to avoid miscommunication as far as possible.
When it comes to workflow, get your entire team to sync up – having half of your team working on PowerPoint and the other half using Keynote will result in the loss of valuable time spent matching up incompatible versions. When deciding on the best workflow, be sensitive to the comfort level and literacy of each team member. Invest time in training – boosting an individual’s confidence will be hugely beneficial to the team’s overall function.
Let creativity flourish
Daring, disruptive ideas are the rocket fuel for start-ups. Cultivate an open, non-judgemental environment and framework for productive brainstorming. Encourage risk-taking so that team members don’t shy away from sharing audacious ideas. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts in whatever shape or stage, whether it’s a rough sketch or a full visual presentation – give yourself the chance to identify a good one early and propagate its growth. Some of these ideas might fail at various points of their incubation. Remember to acknowledge these failures, and perhaps even celebrate them, for failure is crucial for growth.
Nothing kills motivation more than watching a great idea dissolve into the ether if inaction. Show team members that you care about their ideas by pushing for progress – this will promote the generation of more great ones.
Being as young as we are, there’s still so much more to learn and put into words. Be sure to keep checking this space for more updates and learning points on our journey!