You may have a great idea, but if you want to attract investors you’ll need more than a great product – you need an A-Team. Without the right team helping you commercialise or grow your business all you have is a great idea. So, how do you assemble your A Team?
Managing a start-up or high growth business can be exhilarating, but it can be challenging to find the time to do everything that has to be done. Most founders find themselves stretched from pillar to post as they juggle the demands of an expanding business. Wearing many hats isn’t just exhausting, it also means you run the risk of working in your business rather than working on your business. For your business to scale it requires strategic thought and planning.
Build a lean and agile A-Team
I’m an advocate of running a lean business, but I’m yet to see a small to medium business (SMB) that wouldn’t benefit from having an A-Team on call. If you’re bootstrapping or have limited funding your resources are scarce and precious. The key is to build an A-Team that is both lean and agile.
There are several ways that you can build your lean and agile A-Team.
1. Find a freelancer
You may find freelancers, either through word of mouth, friends, relatives or online platforms like Upwork or PeoplePerHour.
Pros: This is often a low-cost option that can help you complete simple, discrete and easily replicated tasks.
Cons: It’s rare for a freelancer to have the depth of experience or real-world contacts that are essential to commercialise and grow your business. Often freelancers are also geographically remote which can make them difficult to manage or integrate into your business.
A-Team Potential: It’s unlikely that a freelancer will have the requisite skills or desire to transition to your A-Team.
2. Join a small business incubator
Another viable low-cost option is to establish yourself in a small business incubator. These start-up incubators allow you to immerse yourself in a like-minded community of motivated entrepreneurs. There are many incubators these days, especially if you live in a capital or major regional city. A simple Google search will help you find plenty of options.
Pros: Incubators provide you with more than just a desk and high speed internet connection. Many incubators also offer accelerator programs and host motivational and educational events to help you stay ahead of the pack. Some are also government funded and may encourage and support you to apply for grants.
Cons: While incubators are great for building a community and networking, they rarely offer strategic advice or help you solve a problem specific to your business.
A-Team Potential: While you may develop some valuable alliances, it’s unlikely that a member of the incubator community will be available to be part of your A-Team.
3. Hire employees
Depending on the stage of your business, you may be in a position to bring on board permanent employees. Hiring an employee means you can bring specialist skills into your business.
Pros: The skills of the employee become an integral part of your business and they can give your business the stability it needs to grow.
Cons: Employing the skills and experience your business needs can be expensive. Most talented people will naturally try and maximise their earning potential, which means you may need to match the salary offered by established corporates and bear the on-costs of having a permanent employee. While you may not need someone full-time, it may be difficult to find someone with the right skills who is willing to work part-time. One of the biggest risks of hiring employees is that you will need to expend significant resources and take your eye off the main game to manage them or recruit someone new if they do not live up to your expectations.
A-Team Potential: Over time some of your employees may earn a spot on your A-Team.
4. Bring in a Partner
If you know anyone that wants to work twice as hard for a fraction of their market value you may want to bring them in as a new equity partner.
Pros: Sweat equity allows you to add skills, experience and contacts to your business needs.
Cons: Bringing in a new partner is costly and time consuming. You may also lose control over your business or have someone else calling some of the shots. Before entering any new partnership arrangement it’s important to negotiate and draft a shareholder agreement carefully to ensure that you minimise the harm to your business if you have to manage or buy out your partner if they’re not compatible.
A-Team Potential: A business partner should be part of your A-Team.
5. Find trusted advisors
If you want to turbo boost your SMB it may pay to find dedicated and tailored support in the form of a trusted advisor who acts as coach or mentor, or create a panel of them in the form of an Advisory Board. Typically, an advisory panel would consist of three specialists in their field and have experience in your business model, industry or core technology or product service. Trusted advisors will also have expertise in specific areas, like accounting or business planning. This enables them to identify issues and guide your business confidently for the long-term. When putting together an advisory panel always consider the skills and experience deficiencies of your current team and how each panel member will best add value.
Pros: Over time a trusted advisor or Advisory Board members will develop a deep understanding of your business and your own personal strengths and weaknesses. They are not just advisors but also a sounding board that you can bounce ideas off and offer guidance, identify issues and help you find the right solution. Trusted advisors can also get into the detail when required and help you delve into core strategic issues. Their rich experience also means that advisors often have a rolodex of handy contacts to steer you in the right direction, saving you time and resources.
Cons: Finding the right people to be trusted advisors or sit on your Advisory Board can be challenging. While they are often referred by someone you know and trust, you may also find someone who may be suitable through a diligent search process. You can always bring them in and interview them, as if they’re going for a job, to see if they’re the right fit for you.
A-Team Potential: A trusted advisor or Advisory Board are the A-Team that will help support you and your business as it grows.
When deciding how to build your A-Team, it’s best to think strategically. Don’t just look at what you need today, consider what your business needs in the medium to long-term. You don’t need to do everything at once, you can gain traction by engaging a trusted advisor early on and move to an Advisory Board or panel as your business grows. In the meantime freelancers can help you fill any gaps in the short-term by undertaking non-strategic tasks on an ad-hoc basis. Only once your business model is proven and you have a minimum viable product should you consider taking on partners and employees. Once you’re ready to expand to this stage, you’ll have established advisors who are there to help you vet your new recruits and support you all the way.
If your business could benefit from a trusted advisor or part time CFO that knows how to help your business grow and attract investment, let’s have a chat.