Startup Lessons: Team Chemistry

One of the most overlooked factors of a championship sports team is chemistry. People like to focus on the superstar’s performance, but they neglect to acknowledge that winning a championship is a team effort. A great case in point is last year’s NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs. They had a solid nucleus of players in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, but they didn’t have the star power of the Miami Heat and their big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. By playing as a team, the Spurs were able to win, and win convincingly in five games.

Like a championship sports team, team chemistry in a startup is vitally important. It’s just as important as my previous startup lesson on team diversity, if not more so.

There are plenty of reasons it’s important, but here are a few that are top of mind:

  • In a startup, you are going to spend a lot of time with the members of your team. It’s not that uncommon or surprising for you to spend more time with them than you will with other important people in your life such as family and friends. Therefore, you want to make sure you’re getting along with your team members.
  • If a member of the founding team is underperforming, disruptive, or not fitting in with the culture of the company, getting rid of them can be difficult, Even if you are able to dismiss them, a significant portion of the company’s equity could leave with the team member depending on how well your initial stock agreements are written and how your stock vesting schedules have been setup.
  • Having a strong bond with your team members makes it easier for you to put in the time and effort required to build a company. You won’t mind and will want to work hard for the benefit of everyone involved. Bottom line, you won’t second guess yourself for making sacrifices in your personal life, which you will have to do, in order to help the team and the company succeed. You’ll be committed to giving your all and not expecting to receive something in your return for your contributions. You’ll be confident knowing that they are doing all they can to support and build the business.
  • Believe it or not, there will be disputes and disagreements about all sorts of things in the business. It will range from big issues around the product you’re building and markets you’re addressing to little problems like what kind of coffee to stock in the break room. The team has to be able to sit down and work out their issues in a direct, open manner. Without good team chemistry, disputes won’t be resolved properly causing the team to fracture.
  • Strong team chemistry also relies on a foundation of trust. You have to be able to trust that your team members are doing what they say they are going to do and meeting their commitments.

Teams and people are the most important part of a startup company. The idea or technology is important, but without a strong team, the quality of the idea or technology doesn’t matter. Over the course of building, there will be challenges, opportunities, and setbacks that will alter the original business concept, if not entirely change it. A strong team, with strong chemistry and diversity, has the best chance of pulling of “the pivot” and adjusting their business concept based upon market feedback.

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