Startups and the human dimension

From work to personal matters, partners play a key role in our lives. They might be the defining factor between failure and success, happiness and sorrow, and the pattern goes on. And as the saying goes, “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are probably in the wrong room”.


Needless to say this plays an even more crucial role in the startup culture. And sometimes it might come off as a chicken and egg situation. A lot of start-ups die off because they do not integrate the proper blend of people. On the other hand, using our own team as an example, we came to be one a good while before ending up on this project. Starting off as a rather non efficient model, slowly and painfully we reached critical mass in knowledge and experience and then we started maturing into what we are today. And what is that? Well certainly not a mix of flamboyant rainbows. But if one thing takes time, that’s team and trust building. Around the same time, is when we came up with ‘Project #play’, and it was just on time.

So, you’ve got your project and your team. In a manner, you are already halfway down the road. But once you hit the start button, you’ll find yourself depending on various forms of “partners”. The keyword here is “partner”, if you’re starting something off from scratch, your usual customer-supplier relationship won’t get you far. At this point you are probably too small to attract serious attention, but you need quality work/services, and of course you want the best for your company. And trust me, while there are exceptions, there is no magic recipe. You will soon find yourself swapping partners quite frequently, and while there are a handful of actions you can employ in order to cross reference their credibility, in most cases you won’t get a chance to find out until you actually put them to work. Never forget, patience is the key to success.

Now, if you ask me. A partner only shines once you go through serious work. And while mostly you’ll have your ups and downs, what really helps is being crystal clear on some key aspects. Namely; what you want from them, and how they can give it to you. And this doesn’t just include short term goals, you need to layout your business plan and see if and where each one fits at given points of your expansion plan. And that is where potential comes in, there’s this famous quote a CFO once asked a CEO “what if we invest in developing our employees and they leave?” to which the CEO replied “what happens if we don’t, and they stay?”. Partners work likewise, if you detect that they have good prospects of keeping up with your needs, and they are eager to evolve, you can achieve great results just by investing time in them. A little side note to all of the above, one must never mix up personal with professional relations.

Of course, you are always going to have bad apples, and at times things might seem to fail, but do not despair, the solution to your problems might be just around the corner. A very important role of your CEO, is being able to detect fresh from rotten and allocate resources accordingly. And perhaps the most critical trait in all of your cooperations is taking up responsibility for your mistakes, in any play that involves two parts, there are so very few where the fault lies on one.

Last but not least. No matter what you do, do not forget that you are always dealing with human beings and emotion plays a great role whether you like it or not. So always aim for added value; and that might range anywhere from a personal gift to a simple thank you dinner. You’d be surprised at how much of an impact small gestures like that can have. If there is a high in demand/scarce in supply skill in today’s businesses, my vote would go for soft skills. In a recent publication, Google pointed out that the most efficient way to improve business is simply to be kind and respectful to each other. So set out, meet people, forge partnerships and make mistakes now that you can afford them. The more the merrier!