If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, then the team is too large. – Jeff Bezos. Investors want to invest in people more than products, because people make products.
Of course, the product matters – if the product doesn’t sell then the company goes under – but a team of people that can produce multiple product lines and brands over time is far more valuable to an investor then just one product that sells well.
Investors look for the right team with a great product, knowing that the great product will never come to market if the team is not right. So the team needs to possess certain technical capacities, such as finance, marketing, engineering, design, and operations, but it also needs to possess the right personalities that mesh well with one another in a startup setting.
The Perfect Entrepreneurial Team
The personalities that thrive under the shared yoke of startup entrepreneurship fall under four categories:
- T – Transformer
- E – Examiner
- A – Architect
- M – Mover
If a company is going to be successful, it will need each of these personalities. As you are building your team, entrepreneur, keep these roles in mind.
The Transformer is the ideas person. He or she is the one with the vision, the one who sees a better reality than the current one we live in.
In their book, Blue Ocean Strategy, professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne describe the ability to transform as entering blue oceans, instead of competing with the other fish in the “red ocean” water where the water has turned red from the blood of fighting for survival.
Transformers are usually the CEOs, authors, or artists of the company. Steve Jobs, Lewis & Clark, and Thomas Edison were all Transformers – entrepreneurs who imagined life could be better than it was at the time.
Skill to practice: Communication. A great idea is nothing if it cannot be communicated to other people. A Transformer will accomplish nothing if he or she cannot get someone to follow them.
The Examiner is the researcher. He or she searches for knowledge and values accuracy and verification.
The Transformer may have the ideas, but it may be the silliest, most unrealistic idea ever. This is where the Examiner steps in. This person brings numbers, facts, and data to the table to ensure a foundation of truthful assumptions for the dream of the Transformer.
A great example of an Examiner is J.A.R.V.I.S., the advanced A.I. supercomputer built by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) in the Avengers. When Stark comes up with a far-fetching plan, J.A.R.V.I.S. chimes in with a digestible viewpoint, based on enormously deep databases of information, to align Starks plan to a path more likely to succeed.
The Examiner is the CFO, accountant, fund manager, and treasurer. The statement of cash flows, balance sheet, and income statement form the compass of a company, of any size. A good CFO will use these reports to know where the company is strong and where the company is underperforming. This is where the Examiner and Transformer work together – to make decisions based on the financial data of the startup.
Key skill to practice: Reporting. A company is dead in the water if it doesn’t know where it stands financially. The Examiner’s best skill will be to not only know the data, but also to be able to package it in standardized reports for the rest of the team to make decisions.
The Architect takes the vision of the Transformer and the data of the Examiner and makes a plan. The Architect determines timetables, action steps, and operational decisions.
He or she outlines the organization to accomplish the vision of the Transformer using the information of the Examiner.
The Architect is usually a COO, CMO, consultant, wedding planner, or photographer. She may not very creative (like the Transformer) or technical (like the Examiner), but she knows how to get it done. She knows who to hire, what they should do, and how it should be done to accomplish the goal.
In real estate, the client and the general contractor meet to flesh out the vision and the viability of a project. After establishing an understanding, they meet with the Architect. The Architect draws out the blueprint for the project, noting dimensions, materials, and the order of events. Once approved, this blue print is handed to the field supervisors on site to begin construction. Here’s the point: the Architect provides the detailed outline to build the project, without which there would have been chaos.
Key skill to practice: Organization. There are a ton of details involved in outlining a plan. An Architect needs to be able to organize the vast array of details into an orderly, logical document because a plan without details is as good as mud.
If the Transformer has the vision, the Examiner has the information, and the Architect has the plan, then there has to be someone to actually do it. The Mover is the person who lives by the Nike tagline “Just Do It.”
Dennis Crowley, co-founder of tech travel company FourSquare, said, “Stop sketching and start building.” The temptation for teams with ideas, information, and plans is to keep adding and talking about the possibilities of the future. In the end, discussions and notes are meaningless if you don’t take action, and this is what truly sets an entrepreneurial team apart from the rest.
James Cash Penney, better known as J.C. Penney, knew about the importance of a Mover when he said, “Theory is splendid but until put into practice, it is valueless.” The Mover is the one who says, “Let’s stop talking” and gets people moving, makes the phone calls, orders the products, and writes the code.
Key skill to practice: Time management. Because Movers have a bias towards action, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at the enormity of the plate before them. Especially when launching a startup, there is an endless list of to-dos every day. To become the best Mover, a person will want to read books and talk with other Movers about time management, the art of getting things done.
Together, these four personalities are powerful. When putting your team together, have a meeting to outline who is the Transformer, Examiner, Architect, and Mover. Knowing your place at the table will help make the daunting task of launching a startup a little smoother and more surmountable. And, who knows, you may be outlining the future C-suite of a booming company.