What’s More Important: Idea or Team?

With all of my experience in the startup world, from owning, leading, and consulting, if I had to choose just one tip for an entrepreneur it would be this: focus on your team first, then your product.
In the fast-paced startup landscape, it would seem more expeditious to hire people quickly due to experience rather than personality. Let’s face it — it’s convenient to assess qualifications through a written resume. It’s arguably harder and more time consuming to interact with people and analyze their level of flexibility, execution, and commitment.
It is also common to put all your effort into your idea or product rather than your team. I would contend that this is fundamentally mistaken. What if you considered focusing on your team first and placing your product — as important as it may be — second?

Startup Statistics

A staggering 90% of all new startups fail, and only 50% of those make it to their fifth year. The Wall Street Journal states that roughly 23% of failed startups mention that the reasons for their demise involved team issues. If so, then it would seem that experience alone is not what makes any company successful. Soft skills, such as entrepreneurial passion, ability to communicate, and a shared strategic vision, are of great importance — not just when starting out, but throughout each phase of the startup journey.

The Importance of the Team Rather Than the Idea

Typically, business leaders spend a lot of time on company goals rather than on who will actually be implementing the strategies and initiatives to achieve those goals. Don’t get me wrong — the idea is an important aspect of your business. You need to have a clear grasp of the market, particularly your niche, and an overall plan and strategy for growth and development.
That being said, the team is more important than your idea. Even with an incredible idea, if your team is incapable of working together, then the smallest detail could derail your entire project and cause you to burn through time and capital with zero success.

Gil Smolinski — Startup Advice — Your team is more important than your product

Building Your Team: Avoidable Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that startups and entrepreneurs make when starting their hiring process, and some of them can be avoided from the onset.
One mistake is to rush the hiring process. Instead, take your time. On average, it takes roughly six months to hire the perfect person for the role you are seeking to fill. That may seem like a very long time, but growing too quickly could mean you inadvertently end up with the wrong mix of people. Ensure that each hire is right for the team dynamic as well as truly capable of handling any curveballs that the startup journey will (inevitably) throw.
As we discussed before, the rush through that process could be caused by disproportionately valuing experience over personality. If an employee who ostensibly has all the experience in the world ends up acting like a jerk to others and creating a toxic workplace, does that experience really matter in the end? Alternatively, what if they simply turn out to be incapable of rolling with changing ideas (which is an unavoidable component of the startup journey) and thus end up stunting your growth along the way?

Creating the Best Team for Your Business

I can offer you a few pieces of advice on how to create the best team for your company. It may take some time to actively change your attitude from a focus on an idea to a focus on the team, but it is worth the time and investment.
From the start, create the right company culture. Deloitte has found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees say company culture is an integral part of the business and important to overall success. It also helps employees find value at work, which is an important element in ensuring employees maintain a drive to succeed.
Take care of your staff. Make sure they know you care about them, whether this is shown in more abstract ways, such as checking in with them emotionally, or through more tangible ways, like free lunches and beer.
Take your time hiring and ensure each personality is a good fit for your business. Seek open-mindedness and a willingness to adapt, grow, and trust. Hire people who show that they have the ability to become industry experts. You don’t necessarily have to hire people who already are industry experts.

Team First

Bottom line, your team comes first. It’s as simple as that. Create a great work environment and your team will in turn be there for you, no matter the challenges you face in the stormy seas of the startup world.

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Angel investor, entrepreneur, professional diver and passionate cook. My Medium blog in Russian: https://medium.com/@gilsmolinski/

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Gil Smolinski

Gil Smolinski

Angel investor, entrepreneur, professional diver and passionate cook. My Medium blog in Russian: https://medium.com/@gilsmolinski/

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