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Build the Team First

In typical entrepreneurial circles — business schools, incubators, venture capital firms — nascent company leaders are relentlessly challenged with two questions:

  1. What is your idea or product?
  2. Who is your market?

While these questions are important, they fail to paint the whole picture. No product makes it to market as originally conceived. Further, no company survives for very long with one product. This means that, even during the earliest days of a company’s existence, there is something more fundamental to a startup’s success than the product idea.

For companies that survive, there is a current stirring just below the surface while ideas are becoming products and products are coming to market. The secret sauce is a leadership team that can function cohesively; a leadership team that can bob and weave efficiently; a team that can adapt quickly as products and ideas morph into revenue-generating reality.

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out this profile of Keith Rabois on the Role of a COO, How to Hire and Why Transparency Matters. Rabois is a Silicon Valley icon who has been instrumental in getting such companies off the ground as LinkedIn, PayPal, and Square:

Getting leverage as an entrepreneur is all about hiring the right people. That sounds easy, but it’s actually really, really hard…

At a startup, you can be tricked into thinking you’re building a technology company, so you focus a lot on the product. But ultimately, you’re really building a team to build the product and then the company. (Emphasis mine.)

In short, your goal is to build a cohesive team — an aligned group of leaders who, pulling together as one team, are able to pivot and adapt and leap small buildings in a single bound. Can you do it?

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