An entrepreneur friend recently asked me about the ideal makeup of a complete startup stage team. Borrowing the “persona” concept from PeoplePattern’s social analytics offering, here are the personas or roles that I think are required to ensure the highest probability of success. I’ve also included other roles that are important for the contextual fabric that allows the team to operate at its maximum potential. Note: several of these personas may be incorporated into the same person on the team — they are not necessarily individual roles.
The Visionary: the inspirational keeper of the flame.
This is the person who lives and breathes the mission of the company with deep passion. They have a burning need and desire to fix the identified market need, to make the customer or the world better for having experienced the product or service. This is the person that keeps the rest of the team passionate, engaged, committed, and inspired.
The Team/Company Builder: the person whose passion is to build a great company.
A company that employees love to work for, customers love to do business with, the world loves to support and promote. They focus on the culture, and hiring to the culture, keeping the company’s identity clear, focused and consistent. They design the organizational structure, keeping the company as lean and streamlined and smoothly operating as possible.
The Conductor/Expediter: they make the trains run on time.
This is the person who makes sure the goals and priorities are understood, the proper resources are in place, and that it’s all happening on time.
The Designer: the person focused on creating an amazing user experience.
This person is passionate about understanding how people interact with the offering and finding new ways to delight customers with a fun, cool, and efficient experience.
The Guru/Blackbelt: the subject matter /domain expert.
This contributor knows the market, the customers, the problem and the associated processes at a deep expert level. They are a key part of defining the product/market fit, the minimum viable product (MVP), and the deployment/implementation requirements.
The Architect/Builder: the product delivery expert
This person designs and builds rock solid architectural foundations, flexible agile application frameworks and powerful APIs.
The Strategist/Positioner: the go-to-market maven
This person sleeps with my partner Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing The Chasm under their pillow. They figure out the target markets and customers to focus on; the positioning that differentiates the offer from alternatives; and the messaging that best communicates the offering’s value in terms the customer most understands and appreciates.
The Evangelist – the promoter, the frontman
This person is brilliant at taking the product and company positioning and company culture/image, and convincing the outside world to believe, to become buyers, and to become passionate advocates for the company and its products and mission.
The Closer – they get others to take action and seal the deal.
While evangelists are great at getting people excited and believing, they aren’t always great at actually getting the final commitment and order. The closer asks the hard questions, asks for and gets the order, whether its customers or partners.
The Customer Advocate – the voice of the customer/consumer
This person is passionate about an awesome customer/consumer experience (including the product, deployment, support and service) day in and day out. The person who loses sleep over a .998 SLA, a tweet from an unhappy customer, a poor feedback rating/review.
The typical successful entrepreneur/early stage CEO will embody several of these personas, usually one or more of visionary, company builder, conductor, designer, strategist, and/or evangelist.
The Contextual Team
While the following roles are “context” versus “core” to value-building, they are mission-critical to success. Their presence and competency usually won’t propel a company forward or create the great product idea, the market-changing monetization approach, or the next big sale, but their lack of presence can wreck the whole show. They make sure that the core team has the support, information, and protection it needs to excel.
The Bean Counter
Every company needs to know where the money is at all times, and how it’s performing financially. A great financial person can make a good CEO great.
The Legal Beagle
It’s no fun wearing an orange jump suit. Orange is NOT the new black! Making sure the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed allows the core team to focus on creating value, rather than lawsuits, depositions, and IP infringement claims.
Every CEO needs a sounding board, a coach, a mentor. Someone with whom they can safely express their issues, fears, and hopes. This person helps the CEO think things through, consider options, look at things objectively and rationally. A good mentor can help the CEO look past the next corner or two, think about longer term team needs, dynamics and performance, and be an advocate, cheerleader, or critic as the situation dictates.
Every high growth business needs capital. There is smart money and there is well… A financier (a.k.a.: angel, venture capitalist, etc.) that understands your business model, understands the progression of financings you will need to navigate, and has a network in the downstream financial ecosystem is invaluable to both successfully financing the business while also retaining a reasonable amount of ownership for all the owners. They understand building a company is a process and are reasonably patient with and rational about the ups and downs.
Pull together a team with these core personas, and support them with an A+ context team, and the probability of creating real value is substantially improved. And yes, you can expect investors to be looking for how many of these slots are filled, and how good those people are at each of these roles.