Photo credit: USA Today
I often hear people tell me that they want to become an entrepreneur because they want to become “their own boss”. I understand the rationale behind this motivation, as it’s partially what motivated me; however, I believe most of the time this rationale is misguided.
If someone says “I want to be my own boss” and they just mean that they want to control their own destiny, then that’s completely understandable. However, if what they mean is actually “I want to be my own boss and not have to be depended on, help or please anybody else,” then they are in for a rude awakening.
Although the media makes it seem like entrepreneurs are successful because they can do it all, truth be told, successful solo founders are an anomaly. When creating a start-up, regardless of whether it’s tech or not, you almost always need multiple founders with complementary skillsets. In other words, those who build and those sell. Creating a strong founding team is often times more important to the success of the business than the concept of the business itself.
If you think being an employee in a division requires teamwork, wait until you become an entrepreneur with co-founders. Entrepreneurship is a team sport and there is no position on the team called “boss.”
Faith in your squad
Starting a business is a scary process for all those involved. When my co-founders Jordan, Brandon, Ken and I started Benchmark Intelligence last year, the four of us all quit our stable jobs and moved out of state to chase this dream.
All my co-founders have very patient wives, Brandon has a lovely daughter and Ken has three charming boys. We were all willing to put so much on the line because we had faith in what we were doing and, more importantly, we had faith in one another.
It’s important that the members of any team, whether it is a football team, basketball team or a start-up, have faith and trust in one another. When things aren’t looking up and you’re down on the scoreboard, you need to be assured that your team won’t give up. You need to know they will get back up, adapt and attack, just like any great sports team would.
Michael Jordan knows, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
Responsibility to one another
When you have co-founders, there is a certain level of responsibility that you never experience as an employee. When you drop the ball, you’re not letting your supervisor or employer down; you’re letting your team down. The actions you and your team take or do not take will determine whether your shared dream comes to fruition. So, although you may be your own boss as an entrepreneur, you still always need to be held accountable with your co-founders.
Most good entrepreneurs feed off the team dynamic as motivation. I know that as a CEO, my biggest motivator is seeing my team eat and my co-founders happy. I wouldn’t grind half as hard if I was just doing it for myself. I believe my co-founders would say the same about their motivations. We all have a responsibility to one another to help each other succeed and we never forget that.
Phil Jackson said it best: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
There is no I in team
The best sports teams aren’t always the teams with the best players but are the teams where the players play together best. This holds true with start-ups as well. You can have a team with some rock star brilliant co-founders, but if they aren’t willing to work together and show some vulnerability with one another, that start-up will likely not succeed and that talent subsequently go to waste. A team won’t thrive without the full commitment and sacrifice of every member on it. Teams full of scrappy entrepreneurs who are willing to claw their way to success usually go the furthest.
Truth be told, QBs and CEOs probably get a little too much recognition. As important as it is to have a strong leader, nothing would be possible without the contributions made by the other teammates. Many times it’s the ones that do the heaviest lifting that receive the least credit. Good leaders do everything they can to make sure everyone on the team feels appreciated for their commitments.
As Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”