This anecdote is a part of a series from the People Matters June cover: Travails of Team building. The story focuses on learning the first principles of attracting and enabling the core team from entrepreneurs. Read it in two parts Travails of team building: Learning from startups and Travails of team building: Enabling, not retaining.
Irrespective of the venture, my key approach to team building is the same groom leaders and let them pursue their ambition with minimal inputs, only till they need them. There is ample room to make mistakes and learn. I’m not scared of failures and the core team knows that they will never be judged for a slip as long as the effort wasn’t lacking.
Irrespective of the employment level of an individual, we encourage entrepreneurship. One thing that changed the way I approached hiring decisions was the hiring of Ishita Anand. She had approached us for building her own venture which unfortunately failed but I saw a lot of potential in her. She was only 23 at that time. I offered to hire her for the role of marketing manager at one of my startups, BitGiving, which she was open to. She displayed a spark of brilliance and an entrepreneurial disposition right from the beginning in the Sales team – 90 percent of her concepts would be ideas. Her proactive approach and outlook towards the entire organization made me realize that young people with ideas are far more valuable than experienced people. It takes some time to groom them but the ROI and the dividend that one gets from doing that is very high and completely worthwhile. It leads to an organization that is much more vibrant and hopeful. Ishita eventually came to co-found BitGiving with me and is now the CEO.
Most people on the floor are offered shares in ventures that they are a part of. It’s a unique culture where everyone is a partner in some way. That’s perhaps the reason why we have negligible attrition in an industry that is fraught with it. People are free to pursue what they want and we back them. More than half-a-dozen individuals who joined us as salaried employees today are entrepreneurs with their own identities, organizations and teams.
It’s a healthy environment for learning and growth, which is why people join and stay. The guy who does the design for us now, started when he used to do events dealing at some point of time. I spent months and months sitting with him and discussing UX with him. Now he has been working with us for 5 years. It has taken us almost 5 years to bring him to a point where he is the most badass designer that I know. So we invest in people – whether it is mistakes or strengths. Even if we have to pay for training, we do that. Or if they want to make big career changes, for example, if a guy wants to move from programming to sales, we give them that opportunity.
When you have that environment where nobody is caged and there is freedom to whatever they want to do, usually it has a very pleasant impact on what you call the formation of culture. Everybody who works for you is an ambassador. Common purpose, mutual growth, and general respect are key to great teams. Put this in a transparent and honest ecosystem with no room for speculation and you will see that the results are mostly pleasant.