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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Assembling your Dream Team

The “Dream Team” was the 1992 United States Men’s Basketball team that competed in the 92’ Olympics in Barcelona. The team gained its namesake due to the sick amount of talent organized on a single roster aimed at winning the gold medal.

So I took the concept of the Dream Team and semi-corporatized it for an exercise I considered yesterday:

If you were going to start a company, and had to choose four other partners to start it with, who would you choose, what characteristics would you seek out, and why?

First and foremost this is an extremely broad topic because you could argue that the type of business you’re starting should ultimately dictate the people you choose, their strengths/weaknesses and overall professional specialty. I’m going to argue otherwise. I think any business initiative is possible with the right people with their heads screwed on straight. You could be selling anything, from ice picks to raccoon hats, I don’t care what it is. With the right amount of human potential, shared (borderline reckless) optimism and drive, a solid business plan, and of course, financial backing, you could you start a company and make it successful.

As with most of these blog submissions, I think I could go on to write 2000+ words on this topic, but let’s run through it quickly. Here are mine:

One. The Numbers Guy.

You need the guy who’s going to run the numbers. The guy who will take all of the budgets, costs, expenditures, velocity of sales and price points, and somehow get a ridiculously complex financial model to spit out a (hopefully) profitable, positive number and suitable ROI. You can call them bean counters and cubicle-based life forms all you want. But I want a straightforward, loyal business analyst capable of communicating all of the business financials in layman’s terms to the partnership. That skill, to me, is invaluable… and one which many accountants lack in general. Now if we could just implant personality…

Two. The Consummate Salesman

This is pretty self-explanatory. Give me someone articulate, somewhat emotionally intelligent, charismatic, excited, loyal, straight forward, physically attractive, persistent, focused and hard working. That’s it. Now, repeat after me: “Just sell baby.” Maybe a little bit douchey to maneuver with the yuppie niche in your market, but not full blown. That should do it. I note hardworking because too often I see people in sales make their quotas, or who get so used to working on their own schedules that they forget how to grind.

Three. The Project Manager

You’re going to need a lynchpin. A creative problem solver, team motivator, organizational Chimera of a person capable of taking a pile of personnel, sorting it all out and pointing everyone in the right direction to produce optimal results and increased profit margins and efficiency. This person is a facilitator, empowerer, communicator and producer of the show. Give me someone ambitious, driven, team-oriented, aggressive, organized, outspoken and loyal. Someone who relishes a challenge to get their hands on anything and make it work. A solid project manager is tough to come by and highly sought after by the world’s top companies, agencies and governments. It’s why project management is one of the fastest growing professional disciplines since 2006.

Four. The Jack.

In many ways I feel like the Jack needs to possess a little bit of all three of the positions listed above. The creative spark in the business who can do a little bit of everything, but not micromanage and overstep boundaries. In many ways, the right hand man to the owner/CEO. This isn’t to be confused with being a bitch and doing everybody’s work they don’t want to do. On the contrary, The Jack is the guy who closes deals, looks for new opportunity, gets things done and is afforded a little more freedom that everyone else. Extremely bright, social, loyal, straightforward, entrepreneurial, outside-of-the-box thinker and value-based logic. So just give me an articulate business-minded mechanical engineer hybrid person and we’re all good. He's an opportunist.

So there you go. There’s my “Dream Team”.

The preceding team building exercise could and should be an obligatory question during any new hire interview. It reveals certain character traits about a person immediately. Generally it tests two things: one, who would you do business with and how would you construct a team and two, what kind of company do you keep in your off hours. I want to know both up front because you’re representing my company 24 hours a day. Analyze the company people like to keep, and you can begin to pinpoint what makes them tick. It reveals the traits and characteristics that a person admires and holds in the highest regard. Take mine for instance. I list “loyal” and “straightforward”, as a characteristic every single one of my team members should have. That’s because those two qualities are on the top of my list when it comes to people I surround myself with –both in business and my personal life. If those two qualities are completely lacking –get out. Just get out. I don’t deal with people who tip toe around issues and aren’t confrontational, and I’d take a bullet for every one of my friends and they’d do the same for me. I don't even feel awkward typing that even though I've never been shot at.

I’d urge you to take 15 minutes and consider the exercise above. Not only will you learn more about yourself, I guarantee you learn more about why your friends are your friends, and why your acquaintances stay that way. Who knows? Maybe you wake up tomorrow with a brilliant idea and all of a sudden you need to assemble a core of people around you to make it happen. Live a wishbone lifestyle. You have options.

-Cole Breidenbach


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