I received an email this morning from Mike Anderson of Partnerup.com, a relatively new venture from Minnesota that’s intending to match up entrepreneurs with potential employees, board members, advisers, and team members. It’s a nice-looking site and a good idea. I’d like to see it reach critical mass.
Starting a business isn’t necessarily a team sport. Of the 26 million or so businesses in the United States, something like 20 million have no employees. So lots of people are running their one-person bands and home office businesses by themselves. There is potentially a lot of satisfaction in that, no doubt. I speak from experience. My business was a one-person home-office consulting business for almost a decade before it became the software business that is now (Palo Alto Software).
Still, the importance of teams is often misunderstood. If starting a business isn’t always a team sport, growing a business is. Even the one-person business becomes a team when it grows. I was on the radio this morning with Jim Blasingame, who (you probably already know) is a very successful one-person business called the Small Business Advocate. I’ve been doing radio with Jim for 10 years now and I’ve watched him grow what was originally a one-man business to a team of three or four employees, and more recently contractors doing Web development, and create an alliance with IBM at askjim.biz. This is one good example, which comes to mind because I was just on his radio show. Jim is growing a team.
Teams are so often the answer to the entrepreneur’s questions. You don’t have to know everything and be everything and do everything to own your own business. You have to understand how to gather a team. You don’t have to live the numbers if you have somebody on the team who does. You don’t have to sell well if you have somebody on the team who does. You don’t have to know the industry inside out if you have somebody on the team who does.
I’ve written often about how a business has to develop its identity, focusing on what it does well. The entrepreneur should to that too. If you can’t do everything (and who can) then you should be building a team.
Understand which are the key elements for your business. Every business is different, but most businesses need somebody to run the numbers, somebody to market, to sell, and to deliver or produce what you’re selling. And in the real world of business in the United States today, between the litigious nature of our culture and the intricacies of taxation, you almost always need to have an attorney and an accountant you can trust.
Can you be all of these things? Hats off and congratulations. If not, think about gathering a team.