Building the Right Team # 1 – The 5 “H’s” of a Great Team

This is the first in a series of blog posts on creating the right team.

Recently I had the opportunity to coach and mentor a company that has developed a new product. It is the results of decades deep scientific research and thousands of experiments.

I started in my usual manner by asking questions about their value proposition.

  1. Who is your customer?

  2. What is the problem you are trying to solve?

  3. What is special / unique about your solution?

  4. What are the benefits your customer will receive if they use your product?

And I was really excited. The problem is real. The solution is unique. The benefits are nothing short of amazing. The product is 3-5x more effective than anything else currently in the market. They have done numerous proof of concept projects with the product which have validated the results.

And then I asked them about their traction in the market. And they got quiet. They have been stuck for the last year. No sales. No leads. No forward motion. So what was going on?

The answer became apparent very quickly. Their entire team is made up of scientists and researchers. No one on their team had experience in running a company. No one on the team had experience in sales and marketing. In short, they had the wrong team.

So what makes a great startup team? I have always liked the concept first put forward by Rei Inamoto, the Chief Creative Officer for AKQA in his talk at SXSW 2012. He shared with the audience this nuggest of truth, "To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler."

The Hacker is the person with the technical know-how. They are often the CTO, lead programmer or chief scientist. They are the person that makes the technical magic happen. They create the code, the algorithms, the chemical equations that bring the product or service to life.

The Hipster is focused on the user experience. For a digital product, they are focused on making sure that the user interface, the color scheme, the fonts, the layout, and the flow from page to page are seamless, aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. If it is a physical product, are concerned with the visual impact, the color, the shape, the texture. They are responsible for getting the “wow” factor into the product.

The Hustler is all about sales and marketing. Customer and user acquisition is the lifeblood of the company. They were born to sell.

Every great team I have been involved with has had these three. It is important to note that these are not necessarily people, but roles that you need filled in the organization. One person can play more than one role in the early days of a company.

But over the years, I have come to realize that there are two more roles that need to be filled.

You need a “Headmaster.” The Headmaster is the business person who is focused on the actual day-to-day operations of the company. Budgets need to be created. Bills need to be paid. Contracts need to be created and signed.

And finally, you need what Sergio Marrero of Rebel 1 Ventures calls the “Hound.” The hound is different than the Hipster. The Hound’s role is to “sniff out” what the customer really wants. They keep the Hacker, the Hipster and the Hustler focused on the customer.

In future posts, I will explore each of these roles in greater detail.