11 Ideas on How to Build a Startup Dream Team

Top investors in start-ups often value the quality of the management team as the single most important nonfinancial factor when evaluating a business. It’s why there is an increased likelihood of above-average financial performance when the top team is working together toward a common vision.  Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn cofounder sums it up well when he said, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a great team.”

I’ve been blessed to have had the privilege of leading incredible teams at the companies I’ve worked for. Doug Erwin, CEO, and mentor of mine summed it up best when he said, “pound for pound you have the best marketing team in the business”. What he meant was that although I never had the largest team or the biggest budget, my team delivered results that enabled our company to beat bigger, better funded competitors in brutally competitive markets.

Over the years, I’ve been told by executive management that the people I’m inheriting are not very good and that I have the green light to clean house – only to quickly learn that the people I inherited were superstars and the problem likely was their previous manager never tapped into their collective talents and created a high performing team. Many of these superstars went on to achieve great success and are now leading marketing at several highly successful technology companies around the globe. In other businesses I needed to hire from scratch or totally change strategy. Every situation was different. What remained the same was the need to get a group of people from different backgrounds, geographies, and experience levels to operate as a cohesive unit, delivering results that most businesses dream about achieving.

If I was only able to build one high performing team, perhaps it could have been attributed to luck. But I’ve been a part of several high performing teams that have helped 7 startups create over $5 Billion in shareholder value. Because of this, I’m often asked to teach others how to they can avoid the trial-and-error approach to building a “ Startup Dream Team” capable of changing the world. Here is my view of how to do it.

    1. Hire A+ talent: Surround yourself with people better and smarter than you. Nothing matters more to winning than A+ stars – the right people in the right roles operating as a cohesive unit. Reward team members that deserve it most.
    2. Don’t protect underperformers: They will suck the life out of you and hurt the team.
    3. Clear purpose: Team members proudly share a sense of why the team exists and are invested in accomplishing its mission and goals. Make sure people not only see the vision, but they also live and breathe it.
    4. Priorities are understood: Team members know what needs to be done next by whom and by when to achieve the goals. Everything can’t be a top priority.
    5. Defined roles: Team members know their roles in getting tasks done and when to get a more skillful member to help with a certain task.
    6. Everyone is accountable: Accountable to objectives: individual, the team’s and the company’s. Make sure everyone’s brain is in the game for the objectives they are accountable for achieving.
    7. Defined decision-making process: Authority and decision-making lines are understood.
    8. Clarity of success measurements: Everyone on the team knows precisely how success is measured.
    9. Define how the team will operate: We will outwork our competitors. Inspire risk taking. Factual data will drive most decisions. Were all executors who work our tails off. We will bring positive energy, passion and relish challenge and change. We won’t beat ourselves up if we make a mistake – so long as we learn from it. We will establish trust, give credit, and share knowledge. No chain of command – were all in this together. We will be in the nitty-gritty details. Meetings will start on time, with an agenda and be efficient/productive. Get bad news out early. Smile, be respectful and be a good listener.
    10. Know your customers: We will frequently get out of our ivory towers and meet with internal and external customers. We will always make interdependencies and expectations known.
    11. Celebrate success: Make a big deal about achievement. Achievers have earned the right to be recognized and rewarded.