Saturday, January 12, 2019

As a Founder, How do you Build your Startup Team?

We have been very strategic in assembling our startup team and it all starts with your cofounder. I have written an answer to previous question about what I was looking for in a cofounder, but in short I wanted someone that had complimentary set of skills and strengths but the same level of commitment that I did to the vision and our partnership. These two factors carry over to the rest of the team as well.
Additionally, we knew there were a few key functional roles (positions) that we would need to support clients and future clients through their entire lifecycle using our product, which included:
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Success
  • Product (engineering)
We spent some dedicated time thinking not just about what we needed in these roles at that early stage but also about how the roles would evolve. We needed to define the competencies and skills for day 1, but also for day 360 and year 3.
Understanding how the role was likely to evolve allowed us to not only find someone for today, but someone that was most likely able to evolve as the demands of the business dictated new approaches. We were also able to communicate this to candidates and get their commitment that it was something that would still interest them as the role evolved.
This also highlighted the cultural values that we needed from our employees. Curious people that had a growth mindset and were persistent at pushing through obstacles were a few of the factors that emerged for all the roles. I elaborate a little more on our approach to defining this in another answer I provided here.

To see the original question and answers on Quora click here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Are Remote Teams Less Effective Than Onsite Teams?

Remote teams are not necessarily less effective than onsite teams, but there are unique challenges to managing or being in a remote team.
Before we talk about those unique challenges, it is important to point out that most research on remote workers seem to indicate that they are much more productive than workers coming to an office everyday. Here are a couple links to studies that point to that evidence:
You can google more but an overwhelming amount of evidence points to greater levels of satisfaction and productivity of remote workers.
The downside or challenges of this stem from creating a common culture and creating a sense that you are part of a team. The isolation of working remote can be a challenge to building relationships that are critical to building team trust and establishing a commitment to the larger mission of the team / organization.
Communication technology (Slack, MS Teams, Skype and Zoom) can help keep the flow of communication working well but oftentimes establishing relationships with others occurs in the day to day interactions had around the proverbial water cooler. It is face to face or across the cube that you learn about the unique challenges that people are faced with on a day to day basis in their personal lives or the meaningful relationships they have outside of work. This helps build empathy and understanding that working remote doesn’t often afford.

To see the original Quora question and answer you can click here.

To see more about how Cloverleaf can help you build empathy, understanding and trust in remote teams click here.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

What is the Ideal Company Culture?

The ideal company culture is the one that allows you to execute your strategy in an effective way.
I know that is a bit of a cop out, but the reality is there is no one ideal company culture and each culture should be the right mix for the people that in your organization and is built to allow your people to do the best work they were hired to do.
This means each organization should have a different culture. After all, culture is created by people and every organization is made up of a different set of people. We founded Cloverleaf on the premise that culture is created by the collection of individuals that are a part of the organization. And at the most basic level a team has its own unique culture. This is why even in large, established organizations you will find many subcultures exist across the organization. IT and Sales often have completely different cultures inside the same organization.
Oftentimes I see teams or organizations try and emulate other cultures. This happens frequently with organizations in the midwest that try and create “startup culture” by adding beer kegs and ping pong tables. But the reality is it is the mix of day to day to motivators that influence decisions that often have the biggest influence on culture.
For example, a manager that says quality is most important but when confronted with production targets places efficiency over small decisions that contribute to a quality process / product. Employees notice these subtle shifts or incongruence and it will impact morale and ultimately culture.
Oftentimes organizational culture is heavily influenced by the founders and reinforced with hiring practices. When we started Cloverleaf we invested time early to identify values we wanted in the people we hired. After all, these values are key factors in creating the culture you want. We looked at ourselves and the characteristics that had been instrumental in getting us to key milestones as an early stage startup and identified the following values and embedded them in hiring practices to ensure we hired people that could reinforce this on a day to day basis:
  • Relationships Matter - We are interdependent.
  • Authenticity - the whole person matters.
  • Optimistic Persistence
  • Bring delight to work.
  • Curiosity for growth
  • Candor

You can read the original Quora post here

Friday, December 28, 2018

Are Your Coworkers Distracting or Helpful?

Yes. They are both helpful and distracting.
The idea of building relationships is that there has to be a balance between what I get from someone and what I give to someone and that middle ground is where trust and shared experiences lie. The cost of relationships is a loss of personal time and sometimes choice, but we often agree it is worth it in the long run.
In a work context this balance is also important. You want to accomplish great things but you need others to do so. What comes with that is distraction is an opportunity to leverage your coworkers experience, skill, knowledge and capabilities to create something better than you can do on your own.
If you were to plot each of these interactions along an axis (see chart below) each of them would lie somewhere along a line where some interactions were more distracting than productive and vice versa but more often than not a good work relationship allows each of you to be more productive than distracting and finding this balance is key.
Also, what can masquerade as distraction can also be the creative process. Who knows how many of those conversations become the next product or process breakthrough? I find that oftentimes what starts out as a disruptive conversation can lead to tips on how to be more productive with my own time. Small ways to use the technology or tools that I use each day a bit more productively.
Bottom line, learn to embrace a little of the distracting for the hope of being more productive and more satisfied with your work. Most research indicates that strong relationships at work are a key to being engaged in your work.

To see the original post on Quora click here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What factors are most likely to change when a company grows very rapidly?

One of the biggest changes that happens with companies that grow rapidly is a sense of loss of control of the company culture. This happens because of a few key areas:
  1. New people are added to the team frequently. For those employees that were there in the early days they feel a sense of loss of control. They may ask themselves questions about these new employees such as ‘what is their role?’ These people also don’t typically have the history and the context on why some things are the way they are at the company, which is why onboarding new employees effectively and accumulating organizational knowledge in a way that tells a story for new employees is increasingly important.
  2. New strategies aren’t as widely known. In the early days any shift in strategy or new process / approach is often widely known because it is a small team that can be involved in that process. However, as the team grows larger and you add layers of management early hires lose proximity to decision making and an understanding of new strategies.
  3. New locations or remote workers. As the company grows larger geographic proximity can start to become a barrier. New locations or remote workers mean there are more people who may not be connected to day to day decision making or have opportunities to build relationships with each other. This can cause the levels of camaraderie or trust to erode.
  4. More process and control. Bigger organizations also need more process and control to make sure that information moves up and down and throughout the organization and that decisions are aligned with organizational strategy. Also, as organizations get larger there is more to lose and risk management becomes more important. This can cause less autonomy and more people that need to be involved with decision making.
These are just a few of the ways that fast growing companies can change, and not always for the better in the eyes of employees that feel a sense of loss for the changing culture.

See the original question & answer on Quora

How can a small business compete with a much larger one?

In short, be nimble and faster.
As a small business you have something the big co’s don’t have - Nothing to Lose. This makes you dangerous.
The bigger a company gets the more it has to lose and the more their decision making is based on protecting what they have and less about capturing new ground. Often, these companies lose track of what is even happening in the larger environment because they build their sales processes, operational control functions, marketing approaches, etc around keeping others from taking what they have and completely lose track of or unable to go after other opportunities.
But this isn’t your problem. You can be focused and try things the others would never be able to try.
One of my favorite examples of this is the early days of AirBNB. As a two-sided marketplace they needed supply of great homes / apartments to rent. They got so desperate to build their supply that they literally walked around NYC knocking on doors with a professional photographer to enlist people to rent some part of their home to complete strangers. And it worked. Before long they were growing fast, reached $1B in market valuation (unicorn status) and in just a few short years had passed Marriott in market valuation.
This fearless nature allowed them to try things they never could have done on their own and it paid off handsomely.
You can read more about how to fully capture this spirit in my book Corporate Bravery