Startups are disrupting the way the world works in amazing ways. They are driven by passion, hard work, and a desire to change the world in a positive way. Building something, anything, from scratch is not easy! Ultimately, factors within and outside your control will end up deciding your company’s fate and whether or not it will be a successful startup.
When I started my first company, I had a ‘revolutionary’ idea that would change how bands would book their live shows. Three years later, after rotating through three teams, I had a realization. No matter how good my idea was, it wouldn’t go anywhere if I couldn’t execute as a team.
I spent the next two years helping startups with sales, product, operations, and marketing. My process was this: find an accelerator, read up on their companies, do some background research on the ones I found interesting, and message the founders with what I felt was their next best step. With this approach I was able to meet hundreds of different founders across my city. Each one had key attributes that defined them as successful. Thanks to being exposed to these teams, I discovered there are three traits every successful founder mutually possesses.
This was the biggest shock to me. The founders who were the most vulnerable, willing to share their own failings, were always the ones who had the most driven teams and ended up being successful.
Vulnerability is your ability to share with others what you would normally keep to yourself. In recent studies it has been recognized as a core characteristic in your ability to develop deep relationships. When a founder is vulnerable, the team becomes more open.
Startups need to move quickly to compete against bigger companies with more money and employees, so it’s essential that a team stay constantly aligned. The most vulnerable teams I worked with were always able to keep their company culture positive, and have the most ideas about its future.
It’s critical that everyone is on the same page when a startup first gets off the ground. Transparency is the base for building trust with your team.
Trust matters because running a startup means working on a thousand different things at the same time. You have to wear a lot of hats and feel like those wearing the hats, aside from you, are capable. If you’re unable to trust others to do good work, you’ll waste time reviewing and criticizing their output.
The founders I worked with who exuded transparency always had diverse and skilled teams. Transparency gives individuals the opportunity to develop mastery of their own skills within the company and trust in their work.
It’s all about achieving your dreams. Most individuals in the startup space are very passionate because they have the opportunity to bring their dreams to life.
What you should look for is passion for the space, not passion for the money. Although financial passion money can still lead to success, startups typically take two to five years to reach their peak growth. If your team is only driven by money, no investments might mean giving up right before the breakthrough. This is because the business itself doesn’t motivate them.
Teams that are driven by passion for their value focus on the people they are already helping, and the potential of helping more people in the future. When times are tough, passion for your customers means doing everything you can to make sure you can continue helping them.
The teams that I enjoyed working for the most, and the ones that have shown success, all had founding teams with these successful characteristics. In the end, a successful start with a dysfunctional team will still lead to many problems with company culture in the future. That’s why you should focus on the who of your team, before you focus on the what.
Rourke Lowe has worked at six early stage companies, founding three businesses. He brings each to different phases of product market fit. Currently, Rourke works at peersight.com with a dream team. Peersight helps companies, employees, and job seekers by building stronger employment brands.