[Picture is of the Icelandic Olympic Handball team that won the Silver Medal]
I have written quite a bit about team building and development here, here and here. However, I feel it is important to stress the fact that foundations and founding teams are extremely important. If you don’t get that right, it always leads to a lot of mess. Peter Thiel is right:
no company has a culture; every company is a culture.
The right team enables you to create the right environment to bring the best out of every member in the team. We call this culture. [Click to Tweet (can edit before tweeting): Reading @startupiceland’s latest: How to build great teams]
I wrote earlier how having a great culture in your startup can be huge competitive advantage. I think the way to build a great culture is to pay attention to excruciating detail while recruiting every single member of the foundation. As a startup goes through the phase of establishing product market fit, the team dynamic is different than when the startup is scaling revenue. The requirements of the team changes.
The leaders and founders of the company need to pay attention to the growing stress in the team and make sure the right buffers are in place if you did not take the time to recruit the right kind of people. To quote from the book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
(you probably guessed that I am a big fan of the book):
From the start, I wanted PayPal to be tightly knit instead of transactional. I thought stronger relationships would make us not just happier and better at work but also more successful in our careers even beyond PayPal. So we set out to hire people who would actually enjoy working together. They had to be talented, but even more than that they had to be excited about working specifically with us. That was the start of the PayPal Mafia.
I have made the mistake of bringing diversity into a team too early, it brought a lot of stress in getting everyone to respect and like each other and aligned with the overall goal of what we were doing. Did I mention that I have made all the mistakes in recruiting? So, as a startup founder, focus more on understanding the development phase of your startup. If it is still in the experimentation phase or you are still trying to figure out the Product/Market fit err on the side of hiring people who are committed to your mission and enjoy spending time with you and you with them, because it is going to be a tough journey, better to have friendship to support you along.
I always ask the question when a founding team meets me where they met and how they know each other. The right answer is a working relationship before or childhood friends who grew up together. Another reason why I think founders in Iceland have a unique advantage as most of them grew up together and their relationships go much deeper. The disadvantage is lack of diverse thinking but at the early stage it is not that important, you need to build diversity as you move to the next phase.