In my previous post, I discussed the importance of the New Venture Team (NVT) in setting the start-up for success and failure. The NVT is a unique type of team that has a much greater accountability and wider role than that of a normal functional team within an established organisation. Being a member of an NVT is nothing like the team member role that we are all so used to. The ultimate outcome of the start-up is the result of how the NVT functions. No matter how great the idea is or the potential of the new technology, only high performing teams can establish a sustainably successful start-up. We tend to assess the start-up results, looking at sales, profitability, global growth, while overlooking how the start-up really got there.

So, what does it take to become a successful start-up?

There are two major team components that drive the start-up results: diversity of thinking and team processes.

The diversity of thinking:

NVTs operate in a never-ending changing environment. They don’t have the luxury of reaching a milestone and resting there for a while. While working on reaching a milestone, they need to start thinking on the next one. At the same time that the start-up is evolving, the environment is rapidly changing. Most decisions and practices need to be constantly evaluated and the comfort zone is far from the horizon. In this type of environment that is based on novel and unstructured decisions, the major enemy is group thinking. You must have a diverse range of opinions looking at the situation before making a decision. To reach a diversity of thinking, NVTs need to have a variety and complementary:

  • Experiences, knowledge and expertise- that cover understanding of internal processes and external influences
  • Skills and competencies
  • Personalities- when looking for co-founders, people often seek complementary skills and individual chemistry. However, beyond the chemistry (which is very important indeed), NVTs must have complementary personality traits. This is something that investors tend to overlook as well. For example:
  1. Risk profiles- if everyone in the team is risk adverse, the start-up might move too slowly. If everyone in the team is a risk taker, then the start-up may take off fast, but major risks might not be considered and mitigated. The team needs to have a balanced view of risks when making decisions.
  2. Resilience- leading a start-up is a never-ending roller coaster. Founders and members of NVTs must be there for each other. They must pull each other up, despite the challenges, and move forward. Everyone will have a time of regression or a moment of desperation, but if one is pulling down the entire team, the start-up is in danger. The mental state and resilience of the team are crucial.
  3. Looking at frameworks like MBTI, we can learn about other types of diversity that the team would benefit from decision makers that use intuition vs. evidence based thinkers, process oriented vs. breakthrough seekers, task oriented vs. people oriented, fast and dynamic vs. steady, those that love running with a project on their own vs. collaboration focused people and the thinkers vs. the feelers.
  4. Culture, gender, age – support the ability to understand future client and stakeholders’ needs.

The diversity of thinking is a key for successful decision making. Having said that, there are two inputs that each of the individuals brings to the team that should have no diversity on high integrity and commitment. Believe me, hearing many stories of founders, you don’t want to be a team member where your colleagues are cruising or not sharing your definition of what integrity means. No compromises on these two!

Team processes:

While the diversity of thinking is key, it also creates risks and needs to be managed properly:

·     Conflicts- the more diverse the views are, the more conflicts the team deals with. Conflicts are not a problem at all; on the contrary- when managed constructively, they allow the NVT the opportunity to discuss the start-up’s goals and make better decisions. The problem arises when conflicts are avoided and/or managed badly, this is when teams find themselves dysfunctional and pay high team and individual costs (anxiety, separation).

  • Team dynamics- including teamwork (working together and sharing the load), and feeling of safety in the team- are processes that need to be worked on. Alternatively, power and political games kick in and start eating the team from the inside.
  • The processes of establishing the start-ups’ vision, strategy, goals, business plan and culture significantly influence the start-up’s success as well.

The team can be diverse, but if these processes are not set well for success, the start-up heads towards failure.

So, what does it mean to be a high performing NVT? This is the topic of my next post…

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