In my previous posts I have discussed how important people are to making a great startup, In this post I will outline the characteristics that I think make for great people to help make you startup or your business a success.
I think the number one character trait in looking for great people is simple… Integrity. If you think about it, this is a great characteristic and makes for easy decisions, but how do you know if a person has integrity? This is the most challenging aspect of this requirement, however you can read how people respond to problems, you can examine a resume and look for any red flags that show lapses in integrity, but to start to answer this question lets look at the core qualities of integrity so we can unpack this and see if there is some guidance we can use to make this clear.
1 – Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
I really like the part where it is the opposite of hypocrisy, so we are looking for an honest and ethical person. I would hope most people would have this virtue, but unfortunately this is most likely a rare trait. Some things to consider,
a) Do they claim to know things but don’t know them as well?
b) Do they take credit for everything or offer to give credit where it is due?
c) Listen to everything they say, usually there will be very straightforward times, especially when you have them tell you a story about a time they had a challenge, or learning something new, these are revealing to the persons true nature.
d) Watch their behavior for kindness, and politeness
Lets say you found a candidate, here are the other qualities in the order of importance.
2 – Motivation is similar to passion and only if the person has integrity will there motivations be in the best interest of the company. With the proper motivation everything else will fall into place, this is important to be sure the candidate has motivation as well!
3 – Capacity is in third that with the proper motivation if they have capacity they can then understand what is needed and why things are important, and how to make things improve.
4 – Understanding is impossible without capacity as you really limit your understanding if you have no capacity to understand!
5 – Knowledge is meaningless without understanding!
6 – Experience is blind without knowledge!
How strange this is, that usually hiring decisions are based on experience instead of the things that fall in place with the proper foundation!
Building a business is not straightforward or easy, things that seem like common sense surprisingly are not the right choices for success. Knowing that the goal of a startup is ultimately to make money, with this in mind it is a good thing to remind yourself about as you progress in making a startup successful.
With many startups based on technology and solutions it is a big trap that you can fall into easily, thinking it is about the technology. What really makes it work and successful is the core issue of solving a problem, making the pain go away, and possibly giving pleasure or all three. I call these the three P’s
1- Problem : This is ultimately what you are solving the niche where you fit in.
2- Pain: This is the pain you are making less, or removing, where people most likely are willing to pay you money to make it go away.
3- Pleasure: The converse is that pleasure, bringing pleasure and taking away pain are almost the same, you can think of games or other interactions matching in this category.
Technology is important, it is the means to an ends, however there are so many technological solutions, that they are interchangeable in many ways, there is no one secret sauce people are solving problems and if for some reason you technology works, that is great but don’t think that is what it is about.
I think the key ingredient to a successful startup is knowing the technology is not key, but the people are! People are what make technology work, and people are what it is all about, that and of course a solution and plan for making money! Many large companies buy out startups not just for the company as a technological asset, but for the data, business establishment, and most importantly the people who executed correctly.
How do we find the right people for hiring, this will be coming up!
#1 – Passion
You need to have passion for the industry and business you are working in. To really succeed in business you can get lucky, but if you are not passionate your customers, and potential business partners will know immediately. Passion also makes the dedication a lot easier.
#2 – Dedication
Creating and running a business needs to be a serious venture with a different mindset from most other endeavors. Think about it, as a customer if you are buying services or product from a company, the dedication of the people at that company really changes the relationship, dedicate provides a basis for trust and a respectful relationship.
To show evidence of dedication can be expressed by being involved in all aspects of the business but also being authentic and an insider in the industry. Knowledge of the industry, the major players and the motivations of all parties involved help show the dedication along with passion you have for the market you at in.
#3 – Solve a problem worth solving
There is nothing worse that a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist or is trivial, in the method you solve the problem you can sometime make a seemingly trivial problem go away, but this requires education about pain points and also more maturity with your clients and industry. This ties in to the above two notes in that you really know the market, and industry to solve a problem, or perhaps you are providing a solution to a problem that is not well known, this is a challenge to success especially if the problem is not that painful. I would also make a correlation to this that it can also be providing pleasure versus removing direct pain.
#4 – Profitability / Monetization
Money and profitability is the cornerstone of any business and you need a plan to be profitable, if that is the goal of your business. In the case of a non-profit do-good foundation you still need money, your paying customers are different. you should not start a project without knowing where the money will come from, it will save you time. This ties into # 3 above, in that the pain has to be enough to pay for relief, or the value added needs to be worth the money.
#5 – Customer Focused
Caring about your customers, this is paramount to success just as a money-back guarantee lets you stand behind you product. With tools nowadays you can easily keep track of correspondence, use forums, and surveys, newsletters and personalized messaging to really make the customer feel important. I would balance this to not spoil the customer but respect them!
#6 – Attention to detail
Passion and Dedication really shine when you are paying attention to all the details, like keeping you website working with all different browsers, having a great out of box experience or specializing the fonts and layout of your emails, all customer interactions. Having an easy cancelation process, streamlining and minimizing clicks. User-Experience and Human-Computer-Interaction design along with Info-graphics and smart visualization that doesn’t waste space or peoples time! This is the death by a thousand paper-cuts.
#7 – Specialize
Find your customers and know them!!! Create personas to have them relate to you development team, engage customers with usability studies and also specialize and discriminate to find the people you want to help and how to want to help them, with specialized products in the modern market you can learn and solve problems that people really need to have solved! Specialize and move on, expand and grow, but to start you need to know your customers!!
#8 – Market / potential
This ties in with monetization, you have to sell your product to someone and they have to have money to buy it!! Would you sell ice-cubes to eskimos? To have a real winning idea do the research and find the market that has the money. Google trends has great resources for the research and best of all it is free. There is also google correlation to find correlated search terms for your market!
#9 – Growth Strategy
Once you get going and you have a healthy product making money now what is your growth strategy, thinking about this in the beginning is a great way to plan for the future. If your building an eco-system it can be as easy as leveraging partnerships, Advertising, Market research, sales teams, there are lots of options some newer than others, and with the landscape constantly changing you need to keep on top of it or your business will erode. It is best to make these decisions based on some factual data and not on any emotional basis and don’t keep trying the same old things, but learn and model your own process as it will need to change to succeed.
#10 – Keep it simple.
With all these tips, you really should focus on keeping things as simple as they can get and no simpler! If anything is really complex, or hard to explain chances are your best bet is to move on to something else. Almost all successful ventures solve a real problem and can explain it in a simple way, if you cannot condense it down to the core ideas and get your point across it probably isn’t a good idea to build a business around.