As you built your start up team, I am sure you picked folks that are going to join you in the journey for the rough and long haul and turn your idea into reality. Of course, they had to be sold on the idea you were working on and were passionate about it. At any point there was no doubt about their work ethic that needed double guessing if they are giving their best or not. These were probably enough cause for parting ways the first time the signs emerged.
The idea is now proven, you found both customers and investors but for the enterprise to make sense, it needs to be scaled now. What does it now take to build the right team for the ‘scale up’ phase?
In addition to the ‘passion’ and ‘work ethic’ traits here are certain other traits for you to consider as you build that first core ‘scale up’ team.
1. Bias for motivation over skills. If one is sufficiently motivated to achieve something, the required skills can be acquired. Of course, I am assuming you won’t ask a monkey to drive your car, irrespective of how motivated it is!
2. Look for folks that are trying to prove themselves without the presence of a support ecosystem. Successful ecosystems have a way of taking away a part of the credit of success of individuals in every role in the organization. I believe they have a right to a share of the credit since they provide layers of safety nets to enable the success of each role.
Each of these individuals that you are considering could have been successful inside such ecosystems, but choose to get out if it to really prove themselves outside the cocoon of the ecosystem. I used to work with a founder who had this famous quip ‘flying a kite from the 34th floor is not really the same as flying a kite from the ground. Don’t measure your success by how high your kite is flying but by how much you have been able to take it from where you are standing’.
3. Get folks that DO NOT have a sense of entitlement to the role they are being given. These roles necessarily have to exceed their ‘current capability’ but must fit what you assess as their ‘ future potential’. Anyone that gets hired should necessarily exhibit a sense of gratitude at being given the opportunity to work in the role since the organization now believes in their ‘future potential’ and has now deposed their faith by providing this responsibility ahead of time.
4. Now this is controversial but in my opinion it is absolutely critical that folks that get hired into a ‘scale up’ team must have NO prior experience of the business that you are in. Think of it this way, if there is another business that is already doing what you are now aiming to scale and you hire folks from that team to help you scale, isn’t your differentiation lost in the process? Will these folks not end up scaling what they know from the past than what you are trying to build as a differentiation from whatever exists in the market today? Of course, if you are building a ‘me too’ product go ahead and hire competition 🙂
5. It, of course, goes without saying that these folks must believe in the idea of ‘long term value creation’ and willing to postpone their own benefits till that value accrues to the enterprise and when it does they rightfully should be claiming their share in the prize.
When I coach my students at Sunstone Business School about their careers, one theme that is always right middle and center is around the idea of always be willing to take up more responsibility without necessarily being ready for it and learning as they shoulder that responsibility but most importantly be willing to sacrifice short term gratification in exchange for gratitude for the long range opportunity provided by the organization.
Tapan has over 20 years of professional experience in the IT industry. He has been in multiple functions like delivery, implementation, account management, pre-sales, business development and as Business Unit Head responsible for P&L. His last role in the corporate world was with Mu Sigma as a Sr VP responsible for all of India delivery. He has also worked with companies like CMC, Ramco Systems and Infosys in the US.
Tapan is a graduate from IIT Kharagpur and MBA from IIM Calcutta.
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