Advantage ‘A’ Team

Ajai Chowdhry

“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality” are words of a famous American football coach which holds true to the importance of a good team in business. In today’s scenario this truly reflects that the value of a good founding team cannot be underestimated especially for start-ups. A successful venture starts with an idea but at the heart of all successful ventures and entrepreneurship, is the team that gets it going. It may be your idea, but you can’t chase it alone. To have a great team in place that bring their expertise and personalities on board can help multiply not just the hard work but also the vision. Some key elements that bring forth the importance of an A-team are – 

Diversify

The core team of a start-up is its lifeline and no amount of ideas can ever be perfectly laid out with a flawed management. Diversity can not only result in innovation but can also positively impact the company culture. Also, heterogeneity in the team in terms of age, experience and portfolio are an important characteristic. It helps take decisions faster and fosters the start-up performance as every member brings along with him a value add to the business. I have always stressed upon this need that it is the team that lies at the heart of a successful start-up. A founder may want to pursue his goals alone and enjoy the freedom it brings in terms of decision making but there are several attributes to running a business which may not lie under his experience. Also, at this stage I would like to add that hiring part-time people on board is a recipe for disaster as they can never share the enthusiasm and vision of the founder or his idea and will bring no loyalty on board.

Constructive Criticism

When the founder is deeply rooted in the various facets of launching his business, even the best of them can overlook flaws which may or may not be detrimental to the success of the start-up. The fact that they are the founders/leaders can in no way mean that they are perfect and it is therefore important to have a team on board that does not hesitate in pointing mistakes and works towards providing solutions. Also, with the presence of a team it becomes easy to bounce off ideas and brainstorm along the way so that the best course can be strategically picked upon. The importance of listening to other’s ideas can ensure that the venture gets the best solutions.

Networking

Every person that comes on board comes with their network which can prove to be helpful at any point of time in the business. Expanding the network for a start-up is a crucial task at the start and having more and more people to connect and consult with can only add to its growth. An individual can also build his network but compared to three to four people doing the same at the same time has much more potential for success and can be more rewarding.

Team says it all

Another reason why a good team is critical is that it is one the key criterias angel investors look for when investing in a startup business. The character of each founding member and the functioning of the founding team as a unit can add a lot of value for investors and when I assess a potential investment, I look closely at the team behind the company. A passion for success, strong technical foundation and good business acumen are qualities that are essential. The team behind the start-up is the most important piece in the puzzle and it’s important for this to fit well into the entire ecosystem to provide seamless functioning.

All young companies inevitably face unexpected setbacks, be it cash running out, product development delays, lack of market adoption, all of the above or maybe even more. It is at this time that the core team is tested and how they can collectively utilize their skills to move forward leaving the obstacles behind. Some teams can take poor ideas and via strength of execution create a very solid business. Other teams can be given the best of ideas in the world and yet they will falter. Hence, a carefully picked core team is a mission that needs to be accomplished strategically as just like a secret ingredient in a dish, a strong team is the secret ingredient behind a successful start-up.

–Ajai Chowdhry is one of the six founder members of HCL. In 2011, he received the prestigious Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honours, in recognition of his consistent contribution in building the IT industry of the nation.