by Jack Litewka, author of “The Sophisticated Manager: A Guide to Success“
You’ve got a Great Idea for a product or service. You dream of creating a Great Company.
Those two things – a Great Idea and a Great Company – are not the same thing, and the latter does not automatically follow from the former. There are countless Great Ideas for products and services… and only a few of those Great Ideas result in a Great Company. Why? Because the two require different skillsets, knowledge, and interpersonal skills. Failure to build a Great Company is why Great Ideas often die on the vine.
Let’s assume that you already have a Great Idea for a product or service. Terrific. The question that you then have to ask yourself is: “How do I create a Great Company?”
The answer is: “I need to build a Great Team Culture.” Why is that important? Because a Great Team Culture translates into a team that consistently meets and exceeds the quality bar.
If you’re thinking “I don’t have time for that now,” then you’ve already decreased your chances of success in creating a Great Company. You are always creating a company culture, but the question you need to ask yourself is: “Am I intentionally creating the Great Team Culture that I need to succeed in the long run? Or is the team culture evolving haphazardly?” If the latter, you are not optimizing your chances of success.
So the next question is: “How do I build a Great Team Culture?”
There are a number of answers to that question. Here are a few of the things you need to consider if you want to create a Great Company:
You need to be clear about what you consider a Great Team Culture… because creating a Great Team Culture is the key requirement for creating a Great Company.
- You need to hire great people, and that requires:
- Knowing the skillsets your company requires. (That’s the easy part.)
- Establishing a rigorous, world-class hiring process – from the initial job description through interviewing of candidates through hiring. (Very few companies do this in a world-class manner, especially start-ups.) Yes, this requires time and effort – and you might not think it’s worth the investment. Think again. Hiring is the most important specific thing you do. Hiring is expensive. Hiring has long-term consequences. It isn’t wise to conduct a so-so hiring process because doing so increases the odds that you’ll end up with a bad hire or a mediocre hire or a merely good hire – but not a Great Hire.
- Understanding that the two key traits that you’re looking for in a new hire are team fit and upside potential.
- Knowing what the Great Team Culture that you want to create looks like… and being able to communicate that to your staff.
- You need to involve your staff in the planning of team meetings… because it is their meeting as much as it is your meeting. (If that’s a surprise to you, think about the differences between a Dictator and a Creator of a Great Team Culture.)
- You need to make your values and expectations transparent to everyone in the company – and do so in an inspiring manner.
It’s difficult to focus on building a Great Team Culture when you’re simultaneously trying to build a great product or service – but both are critical for the long-term success of your company. If you don’t have bandwidth to do both, here are some things to consider:
- Are you more of an idea person than an operational person?
- Are you better at big-picture thinking than you are at attention to detail?
- Are you a control freak? Or are you able to delegate?
- Are you easy to work with? Do people enjoy working for you and with you? If not, you’ll lose top people, and you will need to give thought to what you can do to ensure that Great Hires will want to continue working for you. (Note: If you’re not sure whether you’re easy to work with and work for, then that’s a red flag… and you need to figure out ASAP how to increase your self-awareness.)
- Have you prioritized your activities? (If you don’t do that, you can’t know whether you have time and energy to do all the things on your plate – which will make it difficult for you to make the best strategic decisions about what to delegate to others on your team.
- If you don’t have time and/or energy to build a product/service and also to pay attention to building a Great Team Culture, you might need to hire a person who can carry that part of the load for you – to ensure that little things and big things in culture-building are addressed and to ensure that you don’t burn out.
Author of “The Sophisticated Manager: A Guide to Success” Jack Litewka has over 40 years of management and consulting experience. He has worked in huge companies and small companies, in high tech and medium tech and low tech, and in for-profit and non-profit businesses. During 14 years at Microsoft, he was a Sr. Director and Product Unit Manager. He and his team transformed a worldwide IT Professional training business from a $20M to a $60M business in less than 3 years.