Do you have what it takes to be part of our team?
I recently attended the Upfront summit, a remarkable event in Los Angeles focused on the Venture community in Southern California. Mark Cuban kicked off the day with a fireside chat along with Jeff Hirschhorn, REDEF. During his talk he shared four traits he looks for in a founder:
- Continuous Learner
- Willingness to Sell
- Focus on Making a Profit
While the event focused on founders, founders need a team and in many cases the founder gives way to a later stage CEO to help commercialize and scale. In my role as CEO, I often think about key traits in seeking to hire team members of an early stage company that must constantly refine its product/position, drive growth and constantly improve / tighten processes as the company works towards generating a profit. For me, my four key attributes boil down to the following:
- Intensive focus on outcomes, not activities - For early stage companies that are often burning cash, you need team
members throughout the business that understand it’s not about being busy but it’s about delivering daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly that advance the business in meaningful ways.
- Agility - The ground is always shifting and you need people that can adjust. Products evolve, your target market shifts, new customers emerge and you need talent that has the capacity and comfort to shift with it and move. In a prior company we talked about hiring business athletes. The importance and value of this trait can’t be underscored.
- Customer Centricity - Much like Mark Cuban’s focus on founders with a willingness to sell, I seek team members that are committed to making sure the customer is successful. They are willing to go deep to figure out how to best deliver for a customer, solve their problem and put in place solutions that ensure future customers don’t repeat the same issues. It is not just the job of sales and project management to engage, serve and grow.
- Business Savvy - It’s up to me and my finance leader to provide information to team members on business performance, value levers and key metrics. With this information, team members need to have the business awareness and savvy to understand and know how to operate accordingly. It can be challenging sharing too much information as you may overwhelm or create undue concern with employees who do not understand burn rates, valuation metrics and capital raising. But I know I’d rather our team have visibility and understanding. For example, when we choose not to replenish a set of computers early so we can direct more money to online advertising, everyone understands the choice and supports the decision.
In my role I spend 15% of my time on talent: assessing our people, identifying gaps, developing our team and surfacing new members either for immediate or anticipated needs over the coming quarters. The above four traits are my must-haves along with the key functional expertise, I seek for specific positions. While we don’t always get it right, alignment here is essential to ensure we all play our part in appropriately exploring these attributes in candidates.