Tech might be the easy part to scale your company. But getting the people part right is another story, which is why so many founders struggle to put those pieces together.
Luckily, there's people who've been there and who work with teams on a daily basis like Michael Lints of Golden Gate Ventures. Michael studied Management and Control of information science in The Hague, The Netherlands. After his graduation, he worked briefly as a project manager at one of the largest insurance companies in the Netherlands, after which he started his own IT business. In 2007, he founded his own venture fund focused on Dutch SME’s before joining Golden Gate Ventures as a venture partner in 2013. Michael has had various positions on a societal and administrative level as a result of which he has been able to build an extensive international network. He is a former vice chairman of the Economic Development Board Rotterdam and a regular speaker at conferences. Michael was recently selected to join 30 professionals in a leadership research by Quartz and Hennesey VSOP.
Michael sat down with the SheWorx community to share insights on both sides of the table.
What is the killer for all founders? Distraction.
When you look at your day to day, did you do anything you want to do? You need to be extremely focused if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. When you look at seasoned entrepreneurs, they are incredibly hard to get an appointment with them. When you finally do, they are asking before the meeting, “What can I do for you?” “What do you want from me?” They do this because they are so careful with their time because they have work they need to do and want to finish their to-do list.
The best entrepreneurs focus on their customers, making their products as seamless as possible. If you are determined to scale your company, it starts with having this laser focus. What happens is that it trickles down your organisation. When you have that focus, you create that atmosphere of focus.
“We all have a plan, until someone gets punched in the face.” - Mike Tyson
One big trait as a startup founder is actually showing your unstoppable vision no matter what.
Execution is Key.
If you are focused on executing your business day to day, then you will be one of those founders that will be successful. Understanding how you can get your team to execute with leading by example. When you make a promise things will get done by you, you keep those promises. In terms of scaling, it comes down to the execution. The founder is either great or has built a team of great people.
Always hire people that are better than you. Get rid of the ego but care about the team and the collective. When you start hiring, don’t try to clone yourself. It’s actually about hiring people that are better than you because they see things that you don’t see. Don’t look for someone that is going to say ‘yes’ the entire meeting because it doesn’t make sense. You want to have those people that question what you are saying.
How do you influence a superstar to join your team with the uncertainties of a startup? Sell it.
You are basically selling like a used car salesmen. You have to persuade people to join even if it’s not what they want to do. Ask them, "What do you want to get out of this career?" Maybe after a year, they will want to stay.
Unconventional tip on finding great talent.
It’s a lot of work. Michael has even hired someone in his firm to find and spot talent. That person usually goes out to have drinks and persuade them to join the firm or one of the portfolio companies.
Use your investors to attract talent. They can be very helpful in getting talent into your company.
How do you get experienced people to join your startup?
This pool of people are very interesting. They need to understand they will have to sacrifice something; salary, option packages, days off. Founders need to sell the story that they will be apart of a great journey and they will be responsible for a business unit. In terms of getting the experienced people to join your company, it's ultimately your promise. It’s the only thing you can give to them. They will need a lot of internal motivation to do this. But once they make the jump, they might be a perfect fit.
Founders and CEOs are responsible for company culture.
Michael recommends daily Town Hall meetings right from the very start. Town Hall meetings are a way for you to be very transparent with your team where you talk about fears, challenges, opportunities and goals. It’s necessary to be transparent. This is where you get your team engaged because when you talk about your fears and address those fears you will get your team involved in being part of those solutions. Town hall meetings help you take a time to discuss these issues that might not come up in day to day operations. These issues help get everyone aligned in a collaborative environment.