There is No Such Thing as a Great Team, Only Great Habits. Sometimes, an investor gets lucky. They invest in a company with an idea that doesn't go anywhere, the company pivots, and you wind up in the next big thing. In hindsight, an investor will tell you that they knew they had backed a great team and that was the key to the investment. It's never luck. I have a lot of trouble with the "great team" scenario, because it just doesn't seem to play out in real life.
What about when a company clearly makes a stupid acquisition? When they spend hundreds of millions to buy you only to turn off your product and shut it off later, were you a great team, but you wouldn't have been a great team if you ran out of money two weeks earlier? Is greatness innate? Why don't all the people who have "great" entrepreneurial qualities succeed? It feels like a lot of hocus pocus half the time--where we mistake agressiveness and ambition for qualities of good management in startups.
It's the same with culture. It's very similar to my own experience with running. Mark Pincus - Every Worker Should Be C.E.O. of Something. Q. What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned? A. If I was going all the way back, it would be playing on my school’s soccer team, because we were on the same team together, most of us for eight or nine years, and we were at a really little school in Chicago that had no chance of really fielding any great athletes. But we ended up doing really well as a team, and we made it to the state quarterfinals, and it was all because of teamwork. And the one thing I learned from that was that I actually could tell what someone would be like in business, based on how they played on the soccer field.
So even today when I play in Sunday-morning soccer games, I can literally spot the people who’d probably be good managers and good people to hire. Q. A. So I’d rather be on a team that has no bad people than a team with stars. And are you a playmaker? Q. A. And that, to me, is a huge amount of what it means to manage. Q. A. Q. A. Q. A. Q. A. Q. A. Q. A. Q. From 3 to 16: How to Hire and Build a Remote Team. Over the course of Zapier's 34-month existence, we've grown from three founders cramped in a small apartment to a team of 16 around the world.
While we're certainly not experts at hiring, we have picked up a few tricks (and things to avoid) to make building a remote team easier. This post covers: The photos in this post are from our most recent Zapier team retreat, which we hold every 6 months for in-person interaction. Defining Characteristics of a Top-Notch Remote Worker Not everyone is cut out for remote work, so before you begin hiring people for a remote position you'll need to consider the skills it takes to be successful in this type of environment.
Great remote workers have a few traits that make them successful: Propensity towards action: This is the type of person that devoid of a task list given to them, they'll find something meaningful to do.Able to prioritize: Often times, important tasks can be unclear when working remotely (especially at a startup). Finding Remote Candidates. Employee Equity. Longtime readers will know this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I did a whole MBA Mondays series on this topic and I followed that up with a Skillshare class on the topic. So I was excited to see that First Round Capital featured a blog post by Andy Rachleff on this topic yesterday.
Andy was a founding partner at Benchmark and knows his way around a startup cap table. Andy included this slide deck in his post and I will reblog it here. You will notice that Andy's plan differs a bit from my plan. Where Andy and I differ a bit is how to calculate how much equity should be granted. While I don't call out promotion and performance bonuses specifically in my Skillshare class, I am a big fan of both.
It is so great that folks like Andy are taking the time to lay out an approach and model to this issue. Open Equity: Buffer's Equity Formula And Full Individual Breakdown. Ever since we established the Buffer values that are at the heart of our company culture, we’ve been continuously on the lookout for new ways to live those values every day – particularly our important value of defaulting to transparency. Last year, Buffer shared all of our salaries and the formulas behind them. We regularly share what we’re reading, how we’re working to improve ourselves – even the mistakes we make. Without this ongoing commitment, our value of transparency is little more than a word written on a piece of paper.
That’s why today we take one more step toward turning Buffer into a completely “open company” by sharing our equity structure and individual breakdown, too. What is Open Equity? I’ve always wanted to demystify equity. Leo and I had no idea how to approach equity at first. Right now, there are 11,256,468 Buffer shares issued and available. The formula Here’s a breakdown of each element in the formula and how we calculate it. Breakdown by individual. How to hire. After startups raise money, their next biggest problem becomes hiring. It turns out it’s both really hard and really important to hire good people; in fact, it’s probably the most important thing a founder does. If you don’t hire very well, you will not be successful—companies are a product of the team the founders build.
There is no way you can build an important company by yourself. It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that you can manage a mediocre hire into doing good work. Here is some advice about hiring: *Spend more time on it. The vast majority of founders don’t spend nearly enough time hiring. You can’t outsource this—you need to be spending time identifying people, getting potential candidates to want to work at your company, and meeting every person that comes to interview. *In the beginning, get your hands dirty. Speaking of spending time, you should spend the time to learn a role before you hire for it. *Look for smart, effective people. *Hire people you like. *Fire fast. Mechanize Your Hiring Process to Make Better Decisions. Why Recruiting Isn’t Over When an Employee Accepts Your Offer.
Recruiting. It is the bane of every startups existence because it takes up so much time, it is so competitive to sign people and it feels like unproductive time because it’s not moving the ball forward on product, engineering, sales, marketing, biz dev, fund raising. It consumes time and energy and the payoff doesn’t come for a long time. But of course great teams build great companies and great startup leaders know that they must always be recruiting. Yet most startup companies I’ve ever worked with or observed make one crucial mistake: They assume that their recruitment process for a candidate is over when that person accepts his or her offer. In fact, it’s worse than that. Recruitment is war and the enemy (people competing for talent) won’t accept defeat easily. Here’s specifically what happens: So what to do? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Summary Recruiting is brutal.
You’re never done til you’re done. And follow on reading. What tactics do you use to make sure employees don’t bail after the offer? Employee Onboarding at Startups Is Broken – Here’s How to Fix It. What Salary Means. When I was coming out of college, working in finance, I used to think a lot about my salary. I wanted the best offer out of my classmates. I wanted the biggest signing bonus. I liked maxing out on raises and I liked the feeling I got getting to a six figure salary. The funny thing was that I didn't even particularly care about the money itself. It was, in my mind, what the salary meant. It was a way of measuring performance. It was score keeping. I missed the bigger picture of the other things that should go into career score keeping--autonomy, growth paths, equity/revenue sharing, the ability to gain public visibility, opportunities for learning, network building, etc.
As an investor, I get very involved in the hiring process of some of my earliest stage companies. Nearly every time a company I've seen has had to stretch to accomodate someone's base salary, the person hasn't worked out. At the end of the day, we could all make a lot more money at hedge funds and banks anyway, right? The Right Kind of Ambition. Some say that I’m they favouriteBut I aint hearing none of thatI’m about my team hoYoung money running back—Drake, 4 My Town Birdman - 4 My Town (Play Ball) | Listen for free at bop.fm In my last post, I mentioned that you should strive to hire people with the right kind of ambition. Surprisingly to me, I received a large number of responses from readers questioning whether or not this was good advice. Here’s how one commenter phrased it: I agree with much of this post but I disagree with the following:"As defined by Andy Grove, the right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory.
" In addition to comments like the one above, my business partner Marc Andreessen suggested that I write a post on how to screen for the right kind of ambition. Why should senior managers have the right kind of ambition? Screening for the right kind of ambition Final Thought. When Smart People are Bad Employees. And I always find, yeah, I always find somethin' wrongYou been puttin' up with my sh#t just way too longI'm so gifted at findin' what I don't like the mostSo I think it's time for us to have a toastLet's have a toast for the douchebags,Let's have a toast for the a@%holes,Let's have a toast for the scumbags,Every one of them that I knowLet's have a toast for the jerkoffsThat'll never take work offBaby, I got a planRun away fast as you can—Kanye West, Runaway Kanye West - Runaway | Listen for free at bop.fm In hi-tech, intelligence is always a critical element in any employee, because what we do is difficult and complex and the competitors are filled with extremely smart people.
However, intelligence is not the only important quality. Being effective in a company also means working hard, being reliable, and being an excellent member of the team. When I was a CEO, this was one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn. Example 1: The Heretic Example 2: The Flake Then Roger changed. Staying Great. I move onward, the only directionCan't be scared to fail in the search of perfection—Jay-Z, On to the Next One JAY Z - On To The Next One (Feat. Swizz Beatz) | Listen for free at bop.fm As CEO, you know that you cannot build a world-class company unless you maintain a world-class team. But how do you know if an executive is world-class? Beyond that, if she was world-class when you hired her, will she stay world-class? These are complex questions and are made more complex by the courting process. So we begin with a strong bias that whomever we hired must be world-class even before performing one day of work. The Standard The first thing to understand is that just because somebody interviewed well and referenced checked great does not mean she will perform superbly in your company.
You must hold your people to a high standard, but what is that standard? You did not know everything when you hired her. It is possible to take the standard setting too far. On Expectations and Loyalty. Whom Should you Hire at a Startup? Only Hire A+ People Who Punch Above Their Weight Class This is part of my ongoing posts on Startup Advice. There are people who tell startups that they should hire the most senior people that they can find. I’m not one of those. I believe that you should always hire people are are looking to “punch above their weight class,” which means to hire people who want to be one league above where they are today.
Don’t confuse this with the quality of the individual. I’m talking about what most of you are tempted to do. Your solution? Weight Class: Let’s take sales. Why? More likely this person who wants to work at your fledgling company is a decent performer but not a superstar. Ing and enforcing a sales policy) are not consistent with the skills you need in your company at this stage. You’re far more likely to find success from an individual contributor. So what if you’re already a mid-stage startup. Let me tell you my story. In my first company we had achieved a small bit of scale. WTF!! This is Why People Leave Your Company. How to Retain Your Startup's Best Employees. One of the most important changes is the workplace in the last 20 years is the notion that most employees are free agents. We are hired and fired and resign at will. It’s a markedly different era than the career salarymen of IBM’s heyday who remained with the company for decades from college graduation through retirement.
In this highly-competitive talent market, where every employee is a free agent, hiring and retaining talent has become a key strategic advantage. So, which are the best tools to create a vibrant and attractive working environment? I’m sure this is a question on every founder and CEO’s mind. A Tour of Duty has a defined mission, clear objectives, and a bounded time frame.
Rotational Tours: rotational tours cycle an employee through a few different departments over the course of several years. Achieving success in a of Tours of Duty demands a similar process to most well designed projects.
Tech team. Designing the Hiring Process — Design Playbooks. Jonathan and I are members of a wonderful dim sum group, hosted by John Maeda of KPCB. Over time, this group of design leaders began migrating their meaningful conversations from Sunday dim sum to stimulating discussions over Slack. While having a conversation in person cannot be replicated virtually, the transition enabled us to open the conversation up to a much larger design community. As the group has developed, we have had some wonderful organized seminars to help drive discussions around design as a career. Each week, a pair of designers co-host a discussion.
The discussion was amazing, and we wanted to share the feedback from this seminar with you. On Hiring Criteria Evaluating a design candidate, like evaluating design work, has its own unique set of criteria. For Everyone: Communicating Presentation skills were a recurring theme for individual contributors, but Dave Young reminded us that “presentation skills are great, but sometimes misleading.” For Everyone: Problem-Solving. The ideal product manager - StartupCFO. It took me several years in the Startup World to fully appreciate the importance of a good product manager. In the Web World especially, product and user experience drive distribution. It’s not about marketing a crap product that no one uses (that was the old PC, desktop software era). Today, if you build an amazing product it does the marketing for you. At the earliest stages, product should be led by the founder and CEO.
As CEO however, as soon as you’re beyond say 10 people, you should not be in the critical path of any deliverable anymore (that’s a post for another time). I’ve been involved in a few PM hires over the years. The idea product manager candidate is one that you know some day will start her own company. Why? My friends at GoInstant (which provides co-browsing technology) offer a great and recent example of this. When you’re ready to hand over the reigns of your baby and hire a PM don’t settle for anything less than a future founder and CEO.