Young: Entrepreneurial team support is meaningful

I have read some news items recently related to the economic development strategies of young people and their attraction to the Okanagan Valley to enhance our economic picture.

At the same time, there was a realization this valley hasn’t recovered yet from the economic downturn.

That was coupled with mixed signals that continue to announce our vision for a beautiful future for the Okanagan, and yet the continued struggle with how to define the entrepreneurial spirit in our valley. 

Those thoughts brought me back to another favourite topic of mine—the meaning of entrepreneurial teams and their impact on our world. 

I bring back to you the old Chinese saying, “It is difficult to clap with one hand,” which appropriately opens our reflection on entrepreneurial teams.

For the past 15 years,  team entrepreneurship has received increased attention as new research suggests that fast growth firms are more likely to have been founded by entrepreneurial teams.

Much of my own research over the years has supported the idea that the new venture creation process is quite often precipitated by a group of entrepreneurially-minded people rather than the individual zealot.

So not mislead you, an entrepreneurial team may be defined as two or more individuals who jointly envisage an entrepreneurial opportunity, and thus consensually create a new venture in which they have a personal and financial interest.

After dabbling in this team thought model, I wanted to remind all of us of the importance and direct relevance of entrepreneurial leadership in this same context, and how important this ingredient is to creating the entrepreneurial mindset. 

For an entrepreneurial leader, building a great team is crucial to successful launch and growth of a new venture. 

Early stage teams without such substantive leadership never seem to have the complete recipe of skills need to take the perceived opportunity along its desired path.

So, let’s get daring and get into some key questions and comments regarding the creation of the entrepreneurial team.

First, let’s identify the skills needed How do we find, attract and engage the best talent for our new venture? 

And critically perhaps, as the entrepreneurial leader how do we motivate, lead and retain the created team toward our version of successful victory? 

Entrepreneurial leaders are distinguished from other managers by their personal practices. 

Such practices I suggest to you fall into three categories: Setting the entrepreneurial work climate; orchestrating the venture opportunity seeking, and moving the new venture or ventures personally in a forward motion.

Getting strategic in deciding what skills we need to make our dream venture become a reality is a great beginning to team creation. 

For example, what will make your new venture standout from the perceived competition? 

What capabilities will be crucial to your success? What skills must you have on your team to achieve your goals, to create value and protect that newly created value? 

More simple put, you need to design, through a great strategy, a targeted culture for the new venture, one that will make your prospective team members easily able to commit and dedicate themselves in seeing your dream become realizable.

Let’s also delve a bit into getting tactical—yes, a big word that simply means to get your wonder team together and build a specification or a list of responsibilities for each key position in your new venture structure. 

Frankly speaking, assess how well the collective talent you have assembled matches up with what you will need to succeed in the early stages of your venture launch. 

Then, I would suggest that you strive to get the best. Depending on the stage of your venture and how much money you can and wish to spend, your approach to finding the right team candidates may vary. 

You will need to be proactive and aggressive while you are evaluating a potential team membership, for it is your “dream machine” that you are creating.

Appeal to your team candidates need to win and appeal to, not only their technical skills and experience, but their values and cultural beliefs as well.

Two more ingredients make up my recommended team “recipe.” 

Take a personal role in motivating and retaining this wonderful championship team you have created. That’s your job as the entrepreneurial leader in your new exciting venture creation. 

The way that you lead your team will be the most important factor. 

Share your vision and be open about the challenge. Share your entrepreneurial passion and demonstrate your determination. 

Much has been written the world over about passion reigning supreme over the venture process and success curve. 

Teach and mentor, share your talents and perhaps most important of all—demonstrate humility. You will want to “hear” clearly and unmistakably what your new team may be telling you.

Lastly, and a tough one to many of us serial entrepreneurs, is to get tough. Try your best to objectively evaluate each team member annually and update their list of responsibilities.  

Hold your people accountable where warranted. It’s really not that hard to know when you may need to change some element within your core team. But it is very hard to decide to actually do it. 

I have faced that decision during some of the periods of my entrepreneurial life, and the decision remained with me for a time on each occasion. 

Not enjoyable, but necessary, I can assure you. 

Please accept these words as an absolute reality as a new entrepreneur, you cannot nor will not please everyone, and if your new venture is changing rapidly, your needs may change just as rapidly

So always make your need change with grace and support being forever true to yourself. Forgive yourself, people and move on to achieve your entrepreneurial dream.

You will be amazed at the inner joy leading a successfully structured team brings to your life, those around you and your venture.

Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership coach, educator and consultant and founder, Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.

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