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How to build a startup dream team

The best startup teams are lovingly nurturing, brutally honest (or honestly brutal) and devastatingly effective together.

The best startup teams are lovingly nurturing, brutally honest (or honestly brutal) and devastatingly effective together.

Any startup investor will tell you that ultimately, it comes down to the people. It is the single most necessary element in an early stage venture; an effective team is a product greater than the sum of the parts.

Are you all in the same boat, rowing the same way? You won’t get far if someone is dragging a foot on shore, or worse, rowing in a different direction. Common ground is critical. Motivations, skills and strengths need to combine and align to move forward with the speed required to pull off a startup company, let alone to do it in the pressure cooker environment at Startup Weekend.

Don’t forget the soft stuff. What do you like to do? Relationships within teams break soonest when the team does not share a set of common values.

Planning! Sounds awful! But setting out the expectations early means you’re all crystal clear on what needs to happen, when and by whom. Find the right balance – 5 percent of your time is a typical guideline for admin like planning, tracking progress and addressing issues. Knowing how you will make decisions and who will make which ones also saves bickering.

Teams mean people and different people mean different perspectives. It will not go smoothly – accept that now. This is so inevitable there is much study on how teams deal with “storming” (google storming + Bruce Tuckman).

Most problems encountered are due to communication. What we say is not always what the other person hears. (And saying it slower and louder won’t help!) Step back for a moment and relax – stress makes good reality TV, not good business practice – and address things objectively. Have the humility to accept new information and adjust your views. If that fails, get an adult.

The Startup Trident of Wisdom: Many Hands Make Startup Work

• Align your purpose, align your values
• Set the ground rules early on how you work together
• When conflict arises, take a deep breath – could it be the message, the messenger or the mood?

Michael Elwood-Smith is a business strategist at CreativeHQ, which is organising Startup Weekend Wellington with Webfund, BizDojo, and IWantMyName.

The inaugural Wellington Startup Weekend is on this week from November 4-6. The room will be crammed with entrepreneurs and mentors trading advice on how to get a team around an idea and turn it into a business fast. This is the second in a series on the quintessential elements of startup success.