Single entrepreneur versus teams: why teams are important when building a successful business?

Frank Sinatra was famous for singing “I did it my way”. We all know the song and as young aspiring entrepreneurs, I am sure many of you relate to the theme. Many of you have ambitions to change the world, to bring something new into the market and more importantly to ‘do it your own way’.

In this blog, I would like to look into the power of the “I did it” ” versus the power of “We did it”.

At our recent series of pitching days, where our NEFers presented their business ideas, it was apparent that the panellists were very interested in the teams behind the ventures: was there a team in place, if not what would the team look like, who would be the individuals within the team, what would be the structure of the team and what were their key skills, was there a co-founder?

This leads me to ask: why do we hear so often that a successful business is about teams? How can we have one entrepreneur’s vision and ambition succeed in the mix of a team?

Based on the various workshops and speakers events we organised at the NEF, I came to the conclusion that the secret is to identify, from a very early stage of your start-up what your personal strengths and weaknesses are.  As you try to build your business, you need the humility to recognise that you don’t know it all and that you will need to build a complementary team around you.

Trying to do it all by yourself can have its downsides as it will certainly require you  to devote all your time to completing key tasks and, depending on the idea you are working on, time could be of the essence in making your business a success.  In his recent book   “Empathising with the Ego of the Entrepreneur” Robert Frith surveyed a sample of entrepreneurs and here too they agreed that one key skill required for the successful entrepreneur is “to have a great team around you.”

Indeed, during an UCL workshop, we heard from a group of Angels, VC and crowd funding platforms representatives about how and why, before investing in a business idea, they all evaluate the team presenting the business idea. What they looked for, above industry knowledge and the idea, were the people within the team and the following key ingredients:

–          Energy of each individuals

–          Enthusiasm the team can show  towards the business idea

–          Interactions between the team:  can they work well together?

–          Drive and (long term) vision of the founder(s)

–          Complementarity of the team

–          Capacity to work under pressure and through hard times

So, if you are building a team it makes sense to check that the chemistry is there and the above ingredients have been put to the test.

Throughout the NEF programme, we recognise that working with or in a team can be challenging for young aspiring entrepreneurs, who have never worked in teams before or are just coming out of University. That is why we:

–          organise team building exercises at the onset of the L&D programme to help create strong relationships

–          pair them with an executive coach so they can work on their resilience

–          ask them to work with different colleagues to get familiar with different personality, skills-set and points of view

–          recruit them from different walks of life to stimulate knowledge sharing  and peer sharing

To conclude: the importance of building successful teams cannot be ignored within the entrepreneurial journey. As Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart used to say: “Individuals don’t win in business, teams do.”

 Véronique Rapetti, Learning Director, New Entrepreneurs Foundation