If I could only offer one piece of advice to other entrepreneurs from my 30+ years of experience in business, it would be that the key to success is teamwork. While that may seem like an obvious statement, or even a cliche, the bottom line is that without a great team, a great idea will either underperform or fail.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress of growing a new business. "The customer comes first", "ensure your investors are happy,", "capture revenues and achieve a high profit margin as quickly as possible" are valid priorities and reasonable thoughts to have as you grow your idea into a business. But an idea simply doesn't become a business without an incredible team. So my advice to entrepreneurs is to search for these vital ingredients in potential team members:
1. Find bright, curious, and challenging individuals who are smarter than you.
You want to surround yourself with teammates who challenge you, albeit, in a positive way. If you're the smartest one on your team, your ideas won't be tested until they reach the market. However, if the individuals have the courage to challenge your ideas using critical thinking and curiosity, your product will only be enhanced. At CRF Health, I was surrounded by extremely bright, inquisitive team members. At times it was difficult to be challenged by these individuals on the path I wanted to take our product, or the way that I was doing something. But it was an incredible and humbling experience to work with such a team, and their pushback ultimately resulted in a better product for our customers.
2. Find individuals who have courage, conviction and integrity.
You want team members who will do the right thing for customers, other team members, investors and all stakeholders -- not just "the boss."". An example was when I worked on a deliverable for a strategically significant, important customer with unrealistic deadlines. My head of operations came to me and told me the deadlines the customer demanded weren't feasible unless he was going to work his team "beyond the bone," sacrificing quality, putting at risk the solution, the customers and the company in the short and long run. We chose to be honest with the customer about the challenge and realities, adjusted the plan to be more realistic and proactively managed their expectations. We delivered a better product while ensuring that we kept our own employees engaged and productive. The customer ended up giving us more business for our honesty -- which wouldn't have happened if my team members didn't have the courage or conviction to speak their mind and to find more practical solutions.
3. Find individuals who have a shared passion for your company's vision.
While my companies and jobs have been challenging and have brought me away from my family for long stints, I have always loved what I do. I enjoy getting up in the morning and working on something that I am passionate about. Among the most important ingredients in recruiting team members is to learn about their passions and to discover if or how those overlap with our company's vision. If a team member turns up to the job, views it as a "clock in, clock out" position, that won't benefit the fast-moving business -- like we are -- nor that team member. At Health Helm, Inc., all of my teammates are passionate about health care and patient success. Whether it's because we've had a family member that's undergone surgery and has felt lost post-discharge, or because we're passionate about improving health care system, we all find some connection with our core purpose to make a difference with a patient and their caregivers. We enjoy working together. This makes a huge difference -- we are intrinsically motivated and more determined to produce the best possible product for our patients, their clinical and family caregivers, and our customers. The key is to find individuals who can articulate why they want to join your team, and why they are passionate about and share some meaningful purpose with your company's vision.
I have been extremely fortunate to lead teams that have encompassed these ingredients. My past and current team members have navigated through times of challenge and chaos, and to celebrate in times of success. Our "power team" at CRF Inc. -- great gals and guys with diverse talents, experiences and ideas -- were key to achieving quality, results and to scaling profitably.
About the Author
Pamela W. McNamara -- Pam is CEO and co-founder of Health Helm, Inc., a mobile software company supporting Patient Reported Outcomes for Outcomes & Cost-effective care coordination with their clinicians. She was former CEO of CRF Inc., the world's leading mobile health, electronic patient reported outcome mobile health platform supporting clinical trials. Under her leadership, CRF profitably scaled in the US and globally. She was former CEO of Arthur D. Little, Inc., and led the firm's Global Healthcare Practice. She was President of Cambridge Consultants, Inc. (US). She sits on the Boards of Southcoast Health System (Trustee), Tufts School of Engineering (Advisor), rEVO Biologics (Independent Advisor), and was formerly an independent Director of Omrix Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:OMRI), GTC Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:GTCB). Pam has a BS in Civil Engineering from Tufts University.