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Building a Business, Part 2: Build the right team

As noted in the first article in this series, to build a company you need a vision. In our case, we found a crucial need: salespeople all over the world had a resounding complaint: “CRM sucks!” Our vision was to build a CRM application that actually empowered salespeople.

The First Requirement

Having our vision, we didn’t want to rush-program something—we wanted to take the time to do it right. I realized that the first thing we needed was a crack technology team.

This has been true of the greatest tech companies ever. Apple began with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs’ parent’s garage. Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed the initial core of Microsoft. In both cases, it wasn’t marketing that launched the company, but technology.

Because my product was software, I was putting together a programming team. But for another sort of product it would be some other kind of technical team—maybe a design team. For a service, it might perhaps be a group of experts in that particular service type.

Building the Team

Building a company must be done step-by-step, and must start with great people. I like the approach in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great in which the author states that you need to “seat the right people in the right places on the bus.”

Another analogy I like to use in describing this process is similar to building the Gaudi Cathedral in Spain. This architectural marvel has been under construction for 133 years and is finally nearing completion. The people involved in the cathedral’s construction in the beginning had to go on total faith and be completely committed to something they would never see in their lifetimes.

It’s the same for a company, even if it isn’t nearly as long a span of time. Your vision––your cause––must become your team’s vision. When my team and I began, we didn’t have a tangible product. We had to go on total faith that we would get this product developed and on the market.

Getting Down to Details

When I began, I was in Austria. It was cost-prohibitive to put such a team together in Austria due to the country’s nearly Socialist approach—for 12 programmers you pay 14 salaries, and the cost overhead for each person hired is 55 percent. I knew I had to go somewhere other than Austria if I was going to put together a cost-effective team.

I was one of the first to venture across the border into Slovakia before the year 2000, for the purpose of establishing a tech team. I did it for three reasons:

  1. Cost. At the time, the cost of technical talent in Slovakia was 70 percent less expensive than Austria.
  2. Education. Programmers in Slovakia had been influenced by Russian universities, and their technical education was actually superior to that of the West.
  3. Longevity. I thought that if I assembled a group of young, vital people in Slovakia, it could be a team that would remain together and dedicated for years to come.

My first attempt at a team consisted of some “older” people (mid-twenties) along with one younger man, 21. I was able to see right away that this younger man outperformed his older teammates by miles, and decided to bet the company on him. Before I departed from one of my visits there, I made the younger man the boss and instructed the others that they had to listen to him.

When I got home, I got a phone call from the young leader that the remainder of the team had quit! But it didn’t matter—I knew if I built a team around him, I’d have a loyal, very capable leader. And I have—today he is my head of development.

In the end, I was able to put an incredible technical team together in Slovakia. They were so good that I was able to leave them there, functioning, and come to America, which I had to do in 2012 to bring Pipeliner to market. Because we had worked so tightly together, it wasn’t a problem for me to take off with the promise to return once a quarter.

So first comes the vision—and then the team! And if I hadn’t proceeded that way, we definitely wouldn’t be here today.

Next week: the continuing story of creating a business.

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This content is sponsored by Pipeliner CRM.

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