People have varying perceptions on the characteristics of a great founder. Additionally, there are different ways to formulate an effective team to start a business or other endeavours. Successful entrepreneur, Steve Blank, rightly indicates that while many pieces have been written on what makes a great founder, not many are written about what makes a great founding team. Blank also argues that there is a difference between the founder, the founding CEO, and the founding team; therefore, understanding their differences will help people build better teams for building successful businesses, organizations, or any other enterprise.
The founder is the person with the original idea, insight, problem, or whatever motivation that triggered the response to start a business. Later, in some cases, others who are recruited by the founder to join the cause and share the vision in the capacity as co-founders will formulate the founding team. The team’s main responsibility will be to build the company. However, even though someone may be a part of a team of founders, it is not a guarantee that this person will be the CEO of the company or be in any leadership role for that matter. The founders will select the CEO which in some cases may not be an original founder or any of the co-founders. The recommended number of people that should form the founders’ team varies. Many companies have been formed with two founders while others have had more than five. Generally, between three and four founders are normally advised; however, this number is not written in stone.
One of the major mistakes that founders make when selecting their team of founders is that they do not or insufficiently take the needs of the business they are building into consideration. Such an error can be calamitous and threaten the business’ existence if all the founders have similar profiles. As a rule of thumb, if a founder can build a company without certain individuals or the persons can be replaced at any time, they simply do not deserve to be co-founders. Persons in that mould may be hired later. However, in order to build their business, founders should seek people with complementary skills to their and persons who are strong in areas where they are weak. For example, if founder is a marketer and he/she wants to build a tech start-up, it will be wise to choose a co-founder with a tech background and not one of your colleagues who is also a marketer.
Steve Blank also identifies the founding CEO as the person who will run the company or the person in charge. A CEO is especially crucial at the start because having three or four people trying to run a company with equal authority is a recipe for sure disaster. Contrary to popular belief the founder or the one with the original idea may or may not be a part of the founding team simply because having an idea is not having a business. In some instances, persons have business ideas they share with others but do nothing to get their idea off the ground. While the founder may be recognized in some fashion, the listener may take the initiative to start the company with others and not include the originator of the idea in the founding team.
For a team of founders to be successful, there are a few basic qualities they should exhibit. Some of these include:
Shared Vision- These people need to be in one accord as it relates to the direction of the business. They should all be passionate about the business and very driven to build it.
Shared Values- This is important because as with having a shared vision, their values should be in sync. If one person has views that are contrary to other members of the team, friction and disagreements may result.
Resourceful- The founding team needs to be a capable, creative bunch to get things done themselves.
Strong Networking Skills- Networking is a critical aspect of building a business. Therefore, founding teams need to be able to network effectively to find investors and other people who can help them build the business.
Determined- Things may go wrong especially when a business is in the embryotic stages. Consequently, its founding team should have a sense of shared determination and resilience to overcome any the obstacles they will encounter.
Marketing and Sales Visionaries- The founding team may build a company that they might think offers the best product. However, if the business is not marketed properly, the necessary sales to keep it afloat will not occur and most likely lead to its closure. Therefore, an effective marketing strategy should be employed to ensure people continuously patronize the products on offer.
Open Minded- These people should be willing to do whatever it takes to build the company. Some of the “ground work” needed to be done can get tiresome and daunting, however with an open minded team of founders, they can get the work done.
Personal Credibility- This is of utmost importance, everyone on the team need to be credible and trustworthy. If you are building a team of individuals without any sort of credibility, investors will not take you seriously nor will your clients.
There are other skills and qualities that a team of founders will need to have to fully grow a business. However, as previously mentioned, they should have complementary skills. Therefore, one individual should be skilled in areas where others are not and vice versa. The founding team can be friends; however, it is not always necessary that they are. For a company’s success, what is crucial is that they have a shared desire and vision to build the business. Eventually, they may become friends while working together, and a friendship founded on business is always better than a business founded on friendship. Moreover, entrepreneurship is quickly becoming the lifestyle choice for many people, and their success will depend on their ability to build a fully functional and effective team of founders.