By Malinda Gagnon, CEO + Founder of Uprise Partners
I joined Daughters of Change Founder and President Marie Sola on an episode of her podcast to talk about my experience building a company and following my passions. She commented that when someone starts something (a new business, campaign, project), there’s this compulsion to try and do everything on their own when what they need to do is let go and delegate.
Having a team allows you to focus on the bigger picture and lead your venture. Even if you are a true Renaissance man or woman, you will not be able to do everything. And unless you enjoy handling details, you won’t want to. It’s like planning an event. There are major decisions like the date, time, and venue. But for the event to be successful, there are myriad tasks like choosing the tableware, setting up decorations, hiring serving staff, scheduling performances and speakers, and prepping audio equipment.
When my co-founder and I started Uprise, we were doing every little task ourselves and running ragged. After hiring our first team member in 2018, we gained time to look around and take stock of the business as a whole. Since then, our team has grown rapidly. Getting to that point of being able to slowly delegate and trust your team is essential for success.
Here’s my advice for building a successful team:
- Look beyond “employees.” Look for “team members” instead – those people you can partner with to build the business. A team member also does not necessarily mean full-time or cofounding partner. Volunteers and interns (people who help out on a part-time or temporary basis) can be a major help. Having someone else draft an email or design a website, for example, saves you hours that could now be spent interacting with customers. Open source and online services would be another great addition, especially for administrative tasks like bookkeeping or tracking email campaigns.
- Give structured assignments. The more you disclose about the kind of help you need, the more they can help you. And I don’t mean micromanage. I suggest providing new team members with a clear mission and direction. Create clear job descriptions, and as that role evolved – and it will in a new organization! – update it. Depending on their role, they won’t need to know every detail about the business, but they will need more than “our software allows people to make custom company videos.” Enable them to run with what you’ve given them.
- Care about cultural fit. Not everyone can handle the uncertainty of #startuplife. There are highs and lows, ups and downs, and everything is constantly changing. Nothing is certain. Especially during the very early stages of a new venture, everything is in perpetual chaos. My co-founder and I had build teams before and large companies. But even with experienced management, new companies evolve so rapidly that it will feel chaotic. Team members will need to be able to work within your business’s fluctuating frameworks. Look for team members who are excited by this dynamism and don’t shrink from it.
Building a team takes time and effort, but the rewards of seeing amazing work happen and the organization take off are worth it. I am incredibly thankful for the Uprise team. I feel like I grow wings when we make new hires! Suddenly I have all this energy and attention to pour into other areas I didn’t have time for before. And that helps to propel the business forward even more.
I also appreciate the great collaborative environment we’ve built at Uprise. The team’s skills complement each other so well, and everyone is happy to help each other out. We have a lot of fun. Even though we are primarily remote these days, we enjoy working together.
I encourage all entrepreneurs to let go of micromanagement, let go of the compulsion to do everything alone, and build a team that will help you and your venture soar. You’ll have a lot more fun doing it that way too!
Malinda Gagnon specializes in launching and growing products and companies. She has 20 years experience in business strategy and digital communications. She is the CEO and Founder of Uprise Partners, a consulting and investment firm specializing in engineering, IT and marketing. At Google, she was a founding team member of the advertising technology organization in Cambridge, MA. At WPP/GroupM, the world’s largest media investment organization, she founded and led a digital consulting practice, as well as the Product Management and Technology group. She has advised clients such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Volkswagen, Unilever, Land Rover Jaguar, Allergan, Walmart and many others. She is a mentor with startup accelerators such as MassChallenge and Techstars. Malinda is also an avid motorcyclist, skier, scuba diver and yogi.