Thursday, September 29, 2011

Building Teams: The Importance of Evangelism

I had a conversation last night that reminded me of the purpose and power of evangelism: building teams is much more than "recruitment"; it's more like a mission.

Your product is not your company. All of the passion you feel for your product is important, solving the problem is important, serving a customer is critical.

But putting the same energy, passion, and commitment to building an amazing team will make the difference between execution and not, progress and not, an enjoyable, thriving workplace and not.

Recruit True Believers
So where do you find true believers? You can't simply identify them from a stack of resumes. You absolutely must get out and preach the gospel of your vision, and show that passion that inspired you to build a product without a net, and convince friends and family to part with their hard-earned money.

But the most powerful use of your passion is when you get other people to change their lives on your behalf: to come work for the crazy founder out to change the world, just to be a part of something bigger than themselves and more satisfying than some run of the mill corporate job, or service job serving someone else's vision.

Get Out There
Recruiting is not about getting a stack of resumes. Get out there. Speak at tech meetups and conferences. Organize your own and invite everyone. Say 75 people show up at a meetup. You speak, you evangelize, you froth at the mouth, and you end up with just 1 recruit: that's entirely worth it.

Meaningful Work
People don't show up to meaningful work just for the money. Yes, you need to pay them. Offer extraordinary benefits like 90% of healthcare, but keep the salaries low and the stock options high. Make sure you create a equity structure that doesn't screw them through liquidation preferences and the like (I'll write about that again soon).

Your greatest power is getting people to do what you need them to do, against the better judgment of their friends, spouses, and parents.

Take Care of People
And then treat them very, very well. Your job is not to be held high on their shoulders. It's to turn them into stars at what they do, on behalf of your shared mission. Once you put yourself well above them (psychologically, etc), you create negative incentives and possibly an atmosphere where they will no longer perform with the same zeal they developed when you first got them to drink the kool-aid.

Building a startup is not merely about building a product--that's just the focal point for serving the customer. You have to build teams of inspired, kick-ass employee-partners willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous startup life, and you can only do that through the positive, passionate evangelism you already have.

Just remember this: use your powers for good.

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