Working with different people and understanding their personalities and how to deal with them can make all the difference between success and failure at a startup. It takes a lot of time and effort to create a winning team, especially for young entrepreneurs. Things become even more challenging when you have to manage people who are older and have more experience than you. These people are more likely to test you as a boss and things might get a little uncomfortable if you don’t improve your people-management skills as a leader. In fact, your people-management skills play the most crucial role when it comes to creating a winning team.
It’s important to understand that a team isn’t a mere collection of employees. Rather, it must be something like that of the original Macintosh team: each had a different role to play, but they all shared the same purpose – fostering innovation and creativity.
A team doesn’t just share a purpose; it also shares leadership. Most importantly, it is interdependent when it comes to achieving a common goal. You will find all these characteristics in the original Macintosh team and all other great teams of our time. This is probably what you want to build as well. So here are three tips for young entrepreneurs to create and manage a winning team.
1. Find the right kind of entrepreneurial employees
The challenge typically begins when you start hiring people for your organization. While this is a level that many entrepreneurs will never achieve, the real challenge lies in finding the right employees. What you need is entrepreneurial employees, i.e., people who have characteristics and work habits of an entrepreneur. Why? Because these people are apt to fuel your growth under any situation.
In his book Planet Entrepreneur, published in September 2013, Steve Strauss points out that a lot of corporate giants such as Apple, Intel, Google and Toyota achieved growth through entrepreneurs within.
But since employees come in all shapes and sizes and have different set of skills and quirks, the challenge is how to identify entrepreneurial employees. They basically have a few characteristics in common.
- Risk. Entrepreneurial employees can deal with risk. When hiring for our organization, we look for people who can work under uncertainty and take risks to reach a goal even if there is a lack of resources and data. We usually ask candidates if they have previously worked in a situation where they had to make a decision that may have seemed a gamble for others and put them in similar hypothetical situations to scale their ability.
- Energy. Another thing we focus on is the person’s energy. Is he/she really enthusiastic about the position and opportunities? What kind of energy does he/she bring into the team? We look for result-oriented people who not only take ownership of the task but also strive to generate more than what is expected from them. It is the level of commitment we emphasize along with his/her experience, ability to make decisions and business judgment.
- Team player. Other characteristics of an entrepreneurial employee include being a true team player, accepts new duties, performs more than one role (if required), improvement oriented and is open to change. This person is not bothered by the status quo. Most importantly, an entrepreneurial employee must be able to accept higher levels of responsibility, whether or not it matches his/her position and salary.
The goal is to find a strong role model for your team members who can be an inspiration to others.
Once you find such entrepreneurial employees, the next challenge is to put them at work in such a way that it helps the continued growth of your company.
2. Set short-term themes and visions
Small businesses and young entrepreneurs often take business on a day-to-day basis, especially in the initial days. Even in our first year, what we really lacked was that we never went for a big goal. As a result, we were often stuck and doing the same thing over and over again.
We started Nutcache as a free time-tracking and invoicing solution. Although it gained considerable market attention, it wasn’t enough. We wanted something more and felt like we were stuck in a groove. Soon enough, we realized that we want to evolve as a collaborative project-management solution that also focus on time and financial aspects. We wanted to make Nutcache as flexible as anyone can imagine it to be.
It was a big goal and we understood that it would take time to materialize. So we started short-term themes and visions for the company. The approach worked; within two years’ time, we have become one of the award-winning, all-inclusive project-management solutions available in the market today. Collaboration between employees working on different tasks contributed to our success.
If you aren’t already doing something like this, we would recommend you start with a quarterly theme and vision, which should be applied to everything you do. Everyone in the team should work towards achieving that goal.
3. Have an open-door policy
You need to evolve as a leader if you want to foster a culture of continued growth. For this, you need to be accessible and available to your people so that they feel comfortable to visit you and ask a question or bounce an idea as and when they occur. It is therefore essential to have an open-door policy.
In addition, don’t have favorites among your team. You may like someone more than others, but don’t make it obvious.
Your team will most likely have highly diverse individuals. You need to identify how to use these differences to your company’s advantage. This will require you to be very honest with the team, especially when it comes to growth planning, decision making, financials and clients, to make them understand how the business is run and how they can contribute better for further growth.
By doing so, you also encourage honesty and openness in your employees.
When you are running a business, you are also a leader your employees look up to. Each of the above three team-management tips emphasizes that you take the lead to set an example for your people.
As an owner of the company, it is your responsibility to set the right tone to establish a consistent, supporting and highly motivated team. But this is difficult to achieve unless you get the basics right.
Sébastien Boyer is the product manager of Nutcache, a smart and simple project management tool for all sizes of businesses with time tracking, invoicing and expenses.