1. Mira Zaslove (Bio: has spent over a decade working with startups. Previous employers include Fab Exchange, Pay By Touch, Morgan Stanley, Robertson Stephens, Capital Group and CAE. Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University and is currently employed at HP.)“A-Players Hire A-players, B-players Hire C-players.” – Steve JobsSurround yourself with the best talent you can, the top people you can find. They are worth the cost. Do everything you can to hire, retain, and motivate them.Find partners who are experts in an area you aren’t, who possess the talents that you are lacking. As a first-time entrepreneur, your idea is going to change. The monetization strategy may pivot, consumer adoption may stall, and things could get dire. You will need a solid group around you to successfully build your idea and execute.
Why is hiring A players critical?
- Like attracts like. A top notch database designer is going to bring in a top notch web designer, who will attract the top sales and marketing team. A-players are attracted to working with a talented team that can execute. They will set the culture of excellence at your company early on. You want the A-players leading and setting the tone.
- They aren’t threatened by people who know more than them. Instead they want to work with people smarter than them. They are quick to admit what they don’t know, and learn from those who can teach them. They are working for long term growth, not short term ego boosts.
- They aren’t afraid of sunk costs. As your idea, strategy, and goals change you are going to incur sunk costs. It is better to cut bait quickly and move on. Always make the best decision now. A-players are less prone to being swayed by decisions, time, or money they’ve already lost.
You become like the people you surround yourself with, so set yourself up for success early on., Rama Dev Jager and Rafael Ortiz spoke to Steve Jobs about starting a company. He told them, “When you’re in a startup, the first 10 people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.”
Stand for something.
Great companies have a point of view, not just a product. A purpose for existing that radiates from everything they do.
A company’s ‘point of view’ is where your team’s passion for what you’re creating meets a greater purpose; that greater purpose will be relatable to some larger audience out there, who shares your belief of what the world should look like in the future. Those will be your most passionate customers and your best new hires.
But don’t just take my word for it…
“If you want to build a brand for the ages, you need to stand for something today, tomorrow and everyday.” – Seth Godin
“Marketing is not about touting features and speeds and megabytes, or comparing yourself to the other guys; it’s about identifying your own story, your own core, and being very, very clear about what you are all about and what you stand for… and then being able to communicate that clearly, simply, and consistently.” – Steve Jobs
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
“The companies that perform best over time build a social purpose into their operations that is just as important as their economic purpose.” —Harvard Business Review, November 2011.
I also created a slideshare deck with nine other lessons for first time entrepreneurs that you might find helpful as well:
4. Gerard Danford (Bio: He completed his MBA from London Business School and holds an Acdemic PhD from Aalto University in Finland. He has 20 years experience as a business school academic in Scandinavia, USA, Europe, and Russia, and also specializes in strategy and international business. He has held Adjunct Professor positions previously, and teaches MBA, Masters and Executive Education level courses. He was also founder & CEO of international business consultancy.)
Understand why others have failed.
- The product is not perfect for the market: The startup makes a product no one wants (42% of startups lack a product the market needs*).
- The entrepreneur ignores something: Good product ideas and strong technical teams are no guarantee of success, especially if you ignore other critical issues (business processes!).
- The company does not grow-fast enough: Growth leads to growth, which leads to even more growth. Marginal, single-digit growth rates, do not make for a sustainable business. If the growth doesn’t happen, then the growth will never happen.
- The team does not know how to recover: Startup teams must master the ability to; change products, adjust compensation plans, develop new marketing approaches, shift industries, re-brand, pivot and even start all over (or quit?). Remember, startups with co-founders have a higher success rate.
5. Zack Fishbein (Bio: Founder & CEO at + Founder & Lead Aerospace Engineer at