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Scalable, multi-tasking team

Truly entrepreneurial venture should have a strong preference for a tightly knitted, multi-tasking management team.  Two to four managers often run the whole show, sharing all the functions among them.  The CEO may lead sales, marketing, and even finance.  COO may also run IT.  Everybody runs their own HR and training.  A multi-tasking team has two advantages: it keeps the cost low and focuses the team on its core proposition.  The first advantage is pretty obvious.  Senior functional managers are expensive and they require even more costly supporting infrastructure. 

More fundamentally, functional division of labor discourages an “integrative” design and diverts mindshare and resources from the core proposition.  When the team should focus all its energy to close a big sales contract, the “marketing director” may distract the team on “brand building” or “corporate communication” issues.

Management teams in a startup should be multi-tasking and scalable.  Multi-tasking addresses the breadth of the team members.  Scalability addresses how high they can grow.  Successful startups are fast growing organizations.  You want managers who could grow with the business.  A supervisor for a team of 3 should be able to lead an entire country operation with 100 people in the not-so-distant future.  Multi-tasking in the early days certainly helps because it encourages him/her to learn all the tricks in the trade. The willingness to provide continuous on-the-job coaching and training is also important.


The power of a shared vision

Many readers might be saying to themselves at this point, “Not the ‘vision’ thing again.  These guys really have nothing new to offer.  Everybody talks about vision.  All major corporate CEOs outline their vision for the company.  And all of them have a mission statement.  Why would this be special for a startup at all?”

Our answer, “Many corporate practices are irrelevant or even harmful for a startup, some of which we have listed.  But some corporate practices could be very useful for startups.  In fact, the management gurus might have learnt them from studying the successful startups.  Distinctive, compelling proposition is one of these useful practices.  Shared vision is another.”

Major corporations could use systems and procedures to translate the vision into business practices.  Key performance indicators (KPI), for example, would be a very useful tool for that. But in the early days of a startup, you are not in a position to formalize the systems and procedures yet.  Everything is in flux.  And you could not afford to have even one of your staff deviating from the corporate goal.  You have so few of them.  Everyone needs to share the same vision.
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