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How to Build a Startup with a Great Team Dynamic

By Mahmood Alfayoumi

November 21, 2017

Creating a company is one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever faced. It’s not necessarily because the role of co-founder is difficult (it is!), but it’s because it takes a huge mental push to get up in the morning and start.  

How to Build a Startup with a Great Team Dynamic, by Mahmood Alfayoumi

Let’s say you’ve taken your first step towards founding your own company: finding initiative. Everyone wants to own an impactful business, and as a strong individual, you’re already ahead of most of your peers by finding your drive and working hard on it. Yet, you realize you can’t do this on your own, or at least not for very long. This is where your need for a task force comes in.

Whether you like it or not, without a diverse set of individuals backing up your company’s development, it will be extremely difficult to advance. Let’s face it—you may be a skilled coder, or a 3D-printing guru, or an amazing designer with plenty of connections, but chances are you’re not a master of all three. Before you start looking for a team, you need to identify what you’re really good at. What will you bring to the table?

Remember, you need to be a master at a specific trade. You’ll do better in a team as a master of one skill set, not as a jack-of-all-trades. Find what you’re really good at and develop it further.

Be a master of a specific trade. Find what you're good at and develop it.

The most important way to advance your company is to develop a strong team with amazing chemistry. To accomplish this, you need teammates whose skillsets easily complement each others. The question is, how do you even find people like that? How do you make all those skills just fit together? Here's how to find the right cofounders and build a high-performing team:

1. You need chemistry

I’ll bring you back to when I was just starting my first day of classes in LaunchX. Between breaks, I tried introducing myself to as many people as possible, telling them about what I can bring to the table (in my case, I’m pretty decent with AutoCAD Inventor and 3D-printing). On top of that, I also talked about my interests in piano, soccer, shoes, and my hometown.

By using my strengths and interests as a vehicle for connecting with others, I was able to develop the chemistry with my teammates similar to any other friendships. This bonding period was crucial to developing the trust I currently have with my teammates, Marwan and Neil. Sometimes, it may just take one little spec of information to get you to connect. For instance, we discovered that we all love the song “Habibi, I Love You,” and during our four weeks in LaunchX, I can guarantee you we sang that song over 100 times.

With our bond, we were able to create VocalEyes, a startup leveraging artificial intelligence to identify objects, read text, and detect faces using an iPhone application known as VocalEyes AI. Now, our application has over 11,000 downloads, and it’s been exponentially growing. I can assure you that without our connection, that would have never happened.

Photo of VocalEyes Team

2. Your skills and needs have to align

It’s not just liking each other that makes a successful team. You need skill sets that fit like pieces in a puzzle. None of your major strengths can overlap with your teammates’, otherwise one of your cofounders may find themselves obsolete, and they’ll lose their drive to continue working. Therefore, everyone needs a solid way of contributing to the company. For instance, I’m pretty good at 3D-printing, so I made sure none of my teammates happened to be crazy good at that too. Remember, it’s not a selfish way of thinking; it’s just the best way to ensure your role in the company.

Teammates' skill sets should fit together like the pieces of a puzzle.

On top of that, you need to look at your other teammates skills and make sure they’re both useful and relevant. In our case, Neil is a master coder and Marwan has an eye for design. Note that all of our skills are completely different, yet combine easily to the benefit of the venture. For instance, I could 3D-print the new cover for our hardware device, while Neil can code the software and Marwan can easily advertise the product on our website, vocaleyes.ai.

3. Every Car Needs an Engine

Along with this, you need drive. Your drive is what pushes you towards your goal, which has to be the problem you and your teammates are passionate about solving.

It's important to make sure you align your priorities with your teammates'. Do you want to help or save lives? Do you want to improve an industry or service? Make sure everyone has a similar passion for your problem, because that initiative to continue forward may make or break your team.

Every car needs an engine. If you suddenly strip away the engine that pushes the car forward, you’re left with a stagnant car. Don’t leave your company static with a contrasting team. The team is the drive that continues pushing you forward.

I strongly recommend that you sit down with your team and brainstorm on different problems you’ve all faced. Find something that clicks for all of you. If it takes way too long to find something you all want to do, or if one of you has to seriously compromise to work on an idea, then your team will not be successful—no one wants to do work they don’t like. You need work that’s parallel to a living rather than a job, and if you don’t like the problem, you won’t like the work. That’ll ultimately cause clashes with your teammates, and you’ll have a terrible team dynamic.

To recap, your teammates need to have chemistry. You have to enjoy each other’s company (pun intended) and be able to sing along together after an argument, or else it won’t work out in the long-term. You need skill sets that match. If these don't fit, then one or more of your teammates cannot work to their potential. Finally, you absolutely need a project everyone is passionate about. Otherwise, the drive to work will not be there.