Two mission-critical tasks for any young startup


There’s an African proverb that says if you want to travel fast, travel alone; if you want to travel long distances, travel in packs. The same goes for startups—start with the right people, the right group of deeply invested leaders, otherwise you’re looking at an uphill battle. One main reason? Investors typically shy away from funding single-founder businesses. But a key reason is that the success of startups relies heavily on the energy within its leadership team. At some point (many points, really) you or your co-founder are going to hit a wall, and when that happens you’re going to need someone who’s as deeply invested in the company as you.

 If you want to go farther, travel in packs

I’ll give you an example: some friends of mine are working on a CRM for non-profits. The software has been completely funded by their first client through a feature sponsorship agreement. This client of theirs had been spending upwards of $30,000 per month on software development, but one day recently gave them three-weeks’ notice that their development budget was dropping to $4,000 per month.

My friends were blindsided, gutted, heartbroken. How could they possibly bring the product to market when all of their funding vanished overnight? As luck would have it, their senior product manager was coming to town the next morning to work on final UI design and onboarding preparations. She showed up (not knowing the bad news from the night before) and her enthusiasm was exactly what my friends needed.

Even after she learned of the client’s decision to slash their funding, she remained optimistic and immediately began sketching ideas for how to get to market on drastically lower funds. Before spending time with her, my friends felt their entire endeavor was essentially sunk. But that fresh air and energy and perspective was just what they needed to pick themselves up and keep going.

Grow your talent strategically

There’s another phase in every startup, about five or six years in, when a light bulb turns on for senior management: they realize they have a small, somewhat stable company, but aren’t sure if it’s really going anywhere. During this time, the needs of startups are pretty diverse. Most, however, have organizational pain points that need addressing, and they typically involve the people in their organization. It’s time to scale, to branch out beyond the core team, and with that could bring some cultural challenges.

Instead of having a modest team that would give anything for the company, you’re likely going to hire people who aren’t as invested. With the right hiring practices in place, there are ways to avoid shaking up a company’s culture. But the balance is a delicate one, and in order to grow your team and scale your services, you need to be able to rely on the power of your brand to balance out any internal strife along the way.

A resource for startup founders

Much of what inspires me about startups is the energy in them. When things are right—when the stars align, if you will—I almost always discover a founder who’s been prepared for the idea beyond the years he or she has been working on their product. If that sounds like you, I’d love to recommend a podcast called the Y Combinator. It’s run out of Stanford University and they have invested a few billion dollars’ worth of funds to startups. It’s a great resource, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Where are you today?

 If you’re a business owner, I’d love to hear where you are in your journey. How have you approached the tasks of finding the right leadership team and scaling with the right team? Was it easier than you thought? Tell me what you see from your vantage point, and I’ll be sure to comment back.