- A lot of founding teams don't have a lot of business experience on the team. A lot of times it's a couple of co-founders who really care about the product that they're building, have experience in a particular domain, but don't necessarily have experience building and scaling a business. As co-founders, finding people that have some business acumen is really useful early on. Now, these may not have to be full-time participants in your team.
They might be mentors. They might be board members if you decide to put together a board early on. But you're looking for people who are able to guide you through the creation and development of the business versus just the product. In addition, one of the things that benefits founders from having people that have more experience around them is there's a lot of things you're going to run into that it's not necessarily that's somebody's going to give you the magic decoder ring of how to do it, but they're going to be able to talk to you from their own experience in a way that you'll be able to navigate the new situations that you're encountering as you start to grow your business in a way that's really helpful to you.
One thing to be careful of if you're a founding team is the opposite problem, which is if on your founding team you have a bunch of people that have a lot of business experience but you have no one focusing on the product, you're going to have the same kind of imbalance, but just the other direction. So think of a founding team of four where there's one person working on the product and three people working on the business. The problem with that configuration is the person working on the product, there's not enough of that. The three people working on the business, there's not going to be enough for them to do.
They're mostly going to spend their time torturing the person who's working on the product, which causes the person who's working on the product to have even less time to work on the product, so she's going to be submerged under that much more time pressure. So getting that right initial team configuration is really important. Generally speaking, having at least half the people on the team working on product is really powerful, but having at least one person on the team that is focused on the business is key. One of the things that that person, especially at the early stages, can be focused on is making sure that the people working on the product can maximally focus on working on the product.
Last thing to really focus on here, especially as you're looking for scaling up your business, is this idea to some degree of collecting people. As a founder, what you're trying to do is attract people to your business that are going to help you. And the mentor dynamic of attracting active mentors who will engage with you and help you in the context of your business is an important one. But it's not as easy as just saying, hey, I'm looking for some mentors, would you be a mentor? Recognize that the most valuable mentor-mentee relationships are ones where the mentee gets as much from it as the mentor does and vice versa.
So the mentor over time becomes a peer with the mentee. So it's not that you're looking to outsource the business acumen to somebody else, but as a co-founder you're trying to learn from that person. And while you're trying go learn from that person and incorporate in to what you're doing, you're also trying to help that person learn from your own experience historically and with this business and build a feedback loop so that there's more and more business acumen that gets developed and integrated into your company.
If you look at successful founder CEOs of companies that have grown very large and you think about how much business acumen they had at the very beginning of their journey, they might have had incredible business instincts, but they had no business acumen. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak would be good examples. And if you look Steve Jobs at the end of his tenure at Apple and his end of his life, he had an immense amount of business acumen that he grew and developed over time through that experience.
You look at somebody like Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. Same thing, in the very early days of Facebook, very little business acumen. Lots of instincts, but a huge thirst for knowledge and understanding about that, and today with an extremely large and extremely valuable company. A huge amount of not just instincts, but grown and developed business acumen over the years. And if you look at both that were hired as well as the mentors of those entrepreneurs, it's a very long list of people who over time not just helped those entrepreneurs on the entrepreneur's journey, but learned and benefited from their interaction as a mentor with those entrepreneurs in their own lives.
- Define “shiny object syndrome.”
- Identify your customer’s pain.
- Determine the scalability of a product.
- Recall the best time to initiate customer acquisition.
- Review the differences between a passionate employee and an obsessed employee.
- Recognize the benefits of domain experience when building a founding team.