The number of entrepreneurs is growing. Record numbers of people are starting businesses. In the UK, the under-35 age bracket saw the steepest increase in activity. In 2006 there were 145,104 companies founded by people under 35. By 2013 it had jumped to 247,049...
More and more of us want to take our destiny into our own hands. There are many reasons that young people want to start a business. One major reason mentioned is the desire to collaborate in small groups, 38 per cent of millennials feel that outdated collaboration processes hinder their company’s innovation, and 74 per cent prefer to collaborate in small groups.
This is important as collaboration is critical for an entrepreneur. The traditional idea of the entrepreneur as an independent visionary has changed. It’s increasingly about the team. Entrepreneurs bring an idea to life and resolve new unexpected challenges. This can be beyond the reach of one person.
Mark Zuckerberg recognised this. “The most important thing for you as an entrepreneur trying to build something is, you need to build a really good team. And that’s what I spend all my time on.”
I spoke to a coach for entrepreneurial teams the other day. I asked him, “What is the most common challenge you face?”
“Helping teams to work a problem with different perspectives but without conflict.”
The research of Noam Wasserman, a 42-year-old associate professor at Harvard Business School, supports this. Two-thirds of early stage failures stem from people problems. This is based on an analysis of 4,000 start-ups and over 10,000 founders. The desire to collaborate is one thing. Being able to achieve it is quite another.
There are three key ingredients to designing successful teams. First you need to attract the right skills. You need to be self-aware enough to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. You’re a brilliant technician but don’t know how to get a product to market? Find a marketeer. You’re a brilliant strategist but rubbish at operations? Do a deal with an operator and play to each other’s strengths. Finding the technical skills in a team is only a part of the challenge.
Second, high performing teams include individuals that think differently. This is sometimes called “cognitive diversity”. This may well be people of diverse ethnicity, gender and background, but not necessarily. Scott Page identified in his book, The Difference, diversity is about how we think in groups. How can we make our collective wisdom exceed the sum of its parts?
Third, you need to align the team around a common purpose. We’ve found out something intriguing about the factors that make this easier. If the team share fundamental preferences, they seem to find it easier to align around purpose. These fundamental preferences are sometimes called values.
Values are standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life. If people share values or at least tolerate other’s values, it makes agreeing a purpose easier. The difference between the way you think and frame a problem (the means) and the values you hold (the ends) is subtle but important.
Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Not everyone likes cats. Not everyone eats Marmite (amazing eh?!). Being an entrepreneur is a calling. It consumes more energy, more focus and more time than some people want to give. But in the 21st century being an entrepreneur also involves building a great team around you. It's too important for success to leave it to chance.