It may not take a village or an army, but you certainly cannot build a company on your own. You need to surround yourself with employees that think of themselves as investors in YOUR company. They, like you, are investing the one resource that they have that is irreplaceable, their time. Your initial employees will be primarily investing in you, not your idea nor the company. In the early stages, they will feel and will actually be able to “make a difference”; their work will be highly visible, and they will be able to implement their own ideas and processes to help the company meet the almost limitless challenges that it will face. The incremental changes will be obvious and will create a feeling of ownership and pride. Quickly, they will become owners, investing in the company as well as you.
With few exceptions, new or small companies, especially during the pre-revenue phase, will have a very difficult time funding all of the people needed to fulfill all of the identified roles. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many of the unique roles with their specialized disciplines are not required on a full-time basis making full-time additions difficult. Fortunately, in recent years the number and breadth of part-time specialists have greatly expanded. Companies can contract out or outsource virtually any phase of their business from product design and development, to web site design and marketing, through manufacturing, sales, and customer service. These external resources can be used to jump-start certain portions of the business which will later be brought in-house or can be part of the long-term organization. The advantage of outsourcing is that the company will have immediate access to qualified personnel with the required bandwidth as required. “Fractional” CEOs, CFOs, sales professionals, accountants, and certainly attorneys are available in virtually every medium or large market.
The disadvantage is that these “for-hire” companies or consultants will, understandably, not have the same motivation as full-time employees. Contractors generally will view their involvement as a job while employees will view their involvement as a career. On the surface, the day-to-day performance may be the same, but over time or when other, perhaps out-of-scope, activities appear, employees with their long-term company success motivation are more likely to step up to the challenge. During the early days, an incredible amount of learning occurs. Customer needs, market realities, false starts, and core decisions regarding alternatives will occur on a daily basis. This instructional knowledge base will prove invaluable in providing insight as the company grows. If those early lessons are learned by contractors who will not be with the company long-term, that valuable reservoir of knowledge may be lost.
In filling the ranks, hire both specialists and generalists. The specialists should be individuals that are directly involved in developing the company’s core competence. It might be in the actual development of the product or service; it might be marketing or sales, or in some other specific discipline. The generalists, perhaps your first group of employees, should have a broad range of experience. The goal is to let these individuals unload the non-core tasks from you. Not only will the generalists need to have a broad range of experience, but they will need to have individual contributors not just managers. There will be plenty of time later to hire full-time managers as your span of control reaches its limits.
As discussed in the article in this collection “CEO Means Chief Everything Officer”, you, as the entrepreneur, will start out doing everything and you will always feel responsible for everything. However, as your organization expands and you learn to rely on others, you will become the Chief Executive Officer.
One of the most difficult tasks a lone entrepreneur faces is to let others make their individual investments in the company. It is hard to let go, but to grow, you must let go. Naturally, you will feel that others will not do their jobs as perfectly as you think you could do it. However, for non-core issues, bite your tongue and accept the fact that good enough is good enough. Giving people the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs and you will be surprised at their performance. You have to work hard to get out of their way. Quickly good enough will become great.