When your team comes out of beta

December 13, 2010 by Jared Goralnick

Sergio's Thumb's UpLast week it wasn’t just the AwayFind application that came out of beta, it was the whole company.  Entrepreneurs hear all the time that it’s all about team, so we have intelligent responses about how our team is perfect for the job.  But it’s usually not.

Don’t fire your team after reading this, but do consider how to get to a better place.  Growing (with) your team is as important as building your product.


Investors and Entrepreneurs

When investors look at startups, they discuss the idea and the market, but ultimately they’re betting on the team.  An idea is a sheet of paper and a market is a spreadsheet–only a team can create a product that serves its customers.

We entrepreneurs somewhat grasp this—we accept that our assumptions about product and market could be wrong.  We talk of concepts like prototype and beta to describe the product, and we try out our early visions on different size customers from varying industries, conducting interviews throughout the process.  But what about our team—what words do we use to describe the hodge-podge, ever-evolving group we’ve assembled to become the next Google?

KeithIf you look yourself in the mirror you get yourself, flaws and all.  We have the team that we have, and if we think carefully about it we know that there are weaknesses.  Maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s personality, maybe it’s motivation… but whatever the case, both skills and chemistry don’t just magically come together.  Much like the product we build, a team starts with a prototype and comes to maturity in different shapes and sizes throughout the product lifecycle.

But we don’t usually act on this knowledge, we just focus on shipping on testing.  The extent that we think about team is to look out for the connected cofounder and then the ninja UX guy, hoping that more skills and horsepower will come together like puzzle pieces.  But people are raw materials, not pre-fabricated components, and there will be holes in our company beyond just technical skills.  The puzzle will start to take shape but it won’t be the shape we pitched to investors (or ourselves) once upon a time.

Teams Change

People change.  People work together differently.  People leave.  These are all options for our businesses.  We all get caught up in “lean startup” hype, but all the processes we’re attempting to put in place are carried out by a team.  And maybe the changes you need are deeper than development processes.


The Reality of a Team, of my Team

PatoI’ve run several organizations and worked for all sorts of managers, but I don’t always know what’s best for my team.  Even when I do know, I can’t (or don’t) always follow through.  I try to do what’s right with the circumstances and resources.

That means listening to issues with technology, process, and communication.  That means working together on quality control, personality conflicts, and personal matters.  And one by one my team has worked together to address these issues, reassign roles, and sometimes let people go.

My Team Came Out of Beta

Think about Google for a second.  We place them on a pedestal for their engineering culture, quality of life, small teams.  Whether or not that’s the case, it’s how many perceive them.

RubenI’ve had my share of issues in my companies for the past 8 years.  Sometimes my team didn’t deliver or it took way too much “management”; sometimes I could’ve done better.  There were a lot of reasons for that.  My biggest mistake was probably being too patient, leaving people in roles they weren’t ready for.

But working together with my present AwayFind team, who’s been growing steadily since June of last year from 2 to 3, to eventually 6 full time people…our most recent release was a beautiful thing.  We worked smarter, relied on each other, and gelled.  Every product role that we need today is met, and I feel pretty damn good about things.

Right about now a giant thank you is in order—you guys seriously rocked.  And what you did had little to do with me.  I don’t what I’d want for a better group.  Thank you.

My Team is about to Enter Another Beta

MarianoBut it’s not over.  As Tony Wright articulated in Startup Founder Evolution, the role of product and business development have to shift as a product company evolves.  So, very soon, we’ll hire and change a little.

We as founders with small teams should recognize that as our companies change we need more engineers, more business people, and we need to let some people go.  We need to pay attention to issues with development process, keeping people happy, and making everyone feel a part of things.  I’ll be very up front and say that the team building AwayFind today is very different than what it was when I began it as a side project at SET Consulting.

I’m proud of how we’ve evolved, and look forward to what’s ahead.  Keep your eyes open and be ready for these changes, because with the right team you really can be something great.

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