Building your team

January 20, 2011 | By More


No man (or woman) is an island. No entrepreneur can do it alone either.

You will initially need a small team to develop your idea into a version with sufficient features to illustrate and demonstrate your concept. This is an early prototype. For software products this is relatively easy but for hardware products you will need to get access to other support services and sources to put your prototype together.

Later, as the concept develops, the prototype grows and eventually becomes a full featured product. Your team similarly needs to grow. New members with different skills need to be added. Besides more technical people, you may need to add personnel who focus on testing, or maintenance, and even documentation and support. Marketing people will also be needed. And eventually an HR and accounting functions. You are now a fully functioning company.

Team Rowing

How do you build your team? How do you motivate and encourage creativity and responsibility? As a start-up you are unlikely to be able to pay the high salaries that these people are able to command if they go there instead.

Share the vision.

Select the right people. Focus on ability and capability.

Then set clear goals and engender responsibility. Make people accountable for results.

Motivate. Create a learning environment. People want to learn as they work. As a founder of the company, you want to help your people grow. Yes, there is a risk that they may leave for a better job. There is also a risk that they will be better people and be your best engineers or managers later. This will be key as you become successful and grow.

Make work fun. As a start-up, you and your staff will probably be putting in long hours. Create an environment that it is OK to have a break and have fun too. Some start-ups even a ‘chill out’ section of the office with games, drinks, piano or just a quiet place. Celebrate small successes by going to the movies together, or a ‘makan’ night at the office.

At the same time, set clear expectations that people are responsible for their own results. Make them accountable. If you had recruited the right kind of people, they will excel if these expectations are clear and measurable.

As your development progresses, and you learn more about what the market needs, your plans will inevitably change and evolve. Share these learnings with your staff. Get them to share what they have learnt. When you have a strategy, then explain that. Solicit their ideas and inputs on how to improve and refine it. Then agree the new action plan. This continual process makes it worthwhile to continue to work in your company and reinforces the team spirit – ‘we are all in this together’.

Keep an eye out for those with stronger potential to be leaders. Develop them and give them more responsibilities. This can be very motivating and fulfilling. You will need them to share your load and manage different areas as you grow. It also makes your company stronger and more likely to be successful.

The way you put all this together and make it work as you grow as a company becomes your company culture. In successful companies, this culture become their strength. It takes time to develop your own company culture, and starts from the first day you bring in your first employee.

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Category: Managing your business, What's Next?

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

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