WTF? I know, weird title but bear with me. The point of this blog entry is to share my experiences of building two types of small businesses.
The first one was a PR firm in the real estate space. It all started with me. I built it into a top 50 nationally recognized firm, with 50 employees or so at one point. The culture there was, for better or worse, about a person. Me. I was the brand. In the service industry it's like that with virtually every small company. I had a great team but they came in and they came out. Again, that’s the nature of the service business.
When I was building the “ME” corporation, I followed these characteristics when building the team:
- Culture mattered less than skill set
- The desire to make money was critical
- The desire for upward mobility is key
- Competition works
- Titles and organizational charts were paramount
- Structure was essential
Next stop was a small start-up in the news space, The News Funnel. That’s what I’m doing now. The brand is clearly and thankfully not about one person anymore. It’s about a website, of course. But behind the site it’s about a team. That’s the “WE”.
What I’ve noticed is how different building a WE team is than a ME team. ME was great for making money and for my ego. But it is impossible to build something lasting and sustainable that has the foundation of an individual as the brand.
The WE is much more sustainable and even healthier for the soul. Moving collectively in one direction is what really drives a company. Sports analogies are great metaphors in this regard. The best teams work in sync, have role players and push each other to work harder and smarter. The end result is you get to where you are going faster and are a better company in the end.
Assembling a WE organization requires a different mindset however. When building the WE organization, I noticed the following characteristics that I seek out:
- Culture is everything
- The desire to build something is everything
- Flat is better
- Competition works but it’s about hitting milestones vs. your competitors, not your fellow employees
- Everyone has pretty much the same basic skills
- The less structure the better
Maybe it’s the unique nature of working in the tech sector but I honestly think there are some things I would have done differently in the past, given what this experience has shown me. Great companies and great brands ARE indeed defined by great teams and great culture. While it always starts with the CEO, if you hire with the right requirements in mind from the beginning, you could wind up with a team that resembles something like what the Miami Heat has going on down in South Beach. If you don’t, then you end up with something that looks like the New York Knicks! (Cheap shot, I know, but I couldn't resist).