If there’s one thing that’s more available than ever for founders, it’s advice. Not a day goes by without someone recommending a book, blog, podcast or conference that I can’t miss, or someone I ‘have to meet’.
On the other hand, we all know that the secret to success is not as simple as following instructions from [insert your favorite unicorn]’s playbook and just doing what those before you have done successfully.
Perhaps this explains why it is so easy to forget the obvious source of insight, advice, and perspective that you have right in front of your nose, the people that you have spent the most time courting and that have cost you the most – your team.
This article shares some of the reasons why our own team has become one of the most important sources of advice for us and how you can better utilize your team.
Why your Team is your Greatest Untapped Resource
We know that hiring and resourcing are cited as one of the biggest challenges startup founders face. Sourcing, recruiting, onboarding and remunerating your team makes your people your largest investment – in terms of time, focus and capital.
There’s tremendous upside in seeking counsel from your team outside of their direct area of responsibility – whether or not the challenge at hand is in their job description.
Sharing information with your team and encouraging discussion, ideas and problem-solving across functions has shown us four measurable benefits.
These benefits have translated to increased product velocity, better quality decisions, and a more engaged team.
1. Different Perspectives > Different Skill Sets
There is not too much similarity between an engineer and a marketer. I’m also yet to meet a lawyer that thinks like a designer!
One of the greatest benefits of building a diverse cross-functional team is not just diversity of skills but a diversity of perspectives. Having these different people turn their minds to a significant challenge or opportunity can offer unexpectedly positive results.
In fact, a 2015 McKinsey study showed that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. The more areas you can find to add dimension to your team’s experience, the more dimensional your team’s thinking will become.
We have seen tremendous value in applying the structured, logical problem-solving approach to product messaging that only an engineer can dream-up. At the same time, it’s been amazing having marketing look at engineering architecture decisions through the ultimate lens of a customer.
2. Immediately Scale Problem Solving Resources
As a young business, we’re eternally under-resourced. With a product team of one and a marketing team of one, the hardest part is having to define the problems we’re solving, come up with the solutions and then solve them.
Imagine if you could have many more brains on the problems and solutions when you needed them. In one click, we can scale the people working on a challenge, spitballing an idea or responding to an opportunity from 1 to 10.
Through sharing information across the business, we’re able to ramp up ‘brain resourcing’, as we do Amazon Web Services instances enabling us to reach outcomes far faster than our departmental resources allow.
Don’t underestimate the value of having the wider team turn their mind to what’s on your plate, as you need it.
3. A Common Understanding
Every business leader spends a large part of their focus on team alignment. It’s critical that the entire team understands what matters most to their business, the shared objectives and how their piece of the puzzle contributes to the greater plan.
An incredibly valuable consequence of sharing information, seeking advice and including team members in discussions beyond their immediate functions is natural exposure to what matters most to the business, which creates alignment.
For example, if you’re working on the best way to leverage a new, very important partnership, seeking ideas and sharing feedback with the rest of the team will cause your wider team to care intimately about the outcome, whether or not they are responsible for partnerships.
4. Maximize Team Loyalty and Investment
It’s well known that a reason some startups create such significant value compared to conventional companies is the nature of the team.
Early stage businesses are a breeding ground for loyal, motivated and invested contributors, often working on a project of passion for little remuneration. What better way to feed team loyalty and investment than sharing information, seeking input and operating inclusively.
It’s well known that transparency creates loyalty. Our experience shows us that turning to our team when facing significant challenges and opportunities has the effect of increasing engagement, motivation and connection to the business and the problems we’re solving.
That means we simultaneously increase our problem-solving ability whilst driving the team to be even more engaged.
Sharing is the New Normal
We’ve written before on why ‘need-to-know’ as a concept makes little sense in 2018. The only way to achieve the benefits noted above is through sharing and actioning insights outside the confines of your job function.
We figured this out for ourselves first by making customer meeting notes accessible to the whole team.
Within days, Engineering was suggesting ideas as if they were themselves customer success managers, Design was iterating on interfaces minutes after customers made a comment in a sales conversation and Product could ‘attend’ every customer-facing meeting without leaving their desks.
The team was more aligned than ever and we had the highest quality ideas, input, and discussion we had ever seen.
As an aside, this value drove us to our product today. If we wanted to realize the ultimate value of our team, then individual or department-specific tools like CRMs, note-taking products, and Google Docs weren’t going to work on their own anymore.
We needed a way to share meeting insights with the team and turn those insights into action in our team’s existing tools.
How do you leverage your team’s aggregate knowledge?