It is often said that nothing, even the smallest act, can be accomplished by a single man. Hindu spiritual leader, Padma Bhushan, speaks about this in great depth in his book, Leadership. No man acts in isolation; he has to have assistance, and when it comes to launching a successful startup, this is particularly evident. Yet, the startup’s team is often comprised of unsung heroes.
When we think about the most successful startups, Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, Spotify, Xiaomi, and more, we hear about their leader’s trials and struggles, and how they came up with an idea. What we don’t often hear much about is the team behind them. But for a startup, there’s no doubt that a product or service is just an idea unless there’s a strong team to bring it to fruition.
In my experience, co-founding a biotech company specializing in the development of a new cancer treatment, our team has been essential in achieving the successes we’ve seen so far – from filing patents and making scientific discoveries, to undertaking research activities, publishing scientific papers and raising capital. These have all required significant expertise that one person alone could not bring to the table.
So, how do you build a team for success?
The right leadership
At the center of every team is the right leader. A strong leader is essential to provide guidance, motivation and build morale. While team members may come and go, the right leader conveys a clear vision and direction to both internal and external stakeholders. When a startup lacks direction, when they’re unfocused and not clear about their goals, it becomes impossible for the team to understand what the business aims to achieve and how to reach those goals.
Belief in the product
The key driver to motivating team members is belief in your product or service. At Propanc, we wholeheartedly believe that our drug has the potential to change the way cancer is treated in the future. And unless startup members truly believe there is something exciting and valuable to create, the next opportunity that comes along may surpass it. Interest will soon begin to wane, especially among the job-hopping millennials on your team — 60 percent are on the constant lookout for something new.
Never over-relying on one member
The key when creating a balanced and effective team that can see your ideas through to realization is to never be over-reliant on any one member. Realize that every member is important and must share in your vision. Many managers make the mistake of placing too much faith in the track records or impressive resumes of their team members. Yet, what can certainly look good from an outside perspective, or on paper, may not necessarily translate into the right personality for your startup.
More important is the motivation of the team member to deliver on what they can bring to the table – people who actually follow up on their rhetoric with action. For our business, individuals who are passionate about drug development and making a difference, especially in the cancer space, have consistently won me over. And for your business, I suggest looking for the talent that really has a vested interest in what you do.
Communication is key
Finally, sitting down with your team members, individually, or as a group, and talking through your vision, and what they see for your company, can have a galvanizing effect. In Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he discusses the importance of companies finding their “why” – their motivation and the reason that they do what they do. Our key people know what gets us out of bed in the morning. Solving significant healthcare problems, like cancer, and helping sufferers and their families, worldwide.
It’s this bigger picture that motivates us to continue our way forward, even when we face challenges and adversity. And it’s what keeps our team passionate about coming to work and contributing ideas.
Today, we’re preparing for our first in-human trials for our lead product, which we hope one day can prevent and treat metastatic cancer. As a result of our vision, our belief and unity as a team, we continue to enjoy the successes of our company’s journey as we look toward the future. Hopefully, when the time comes to celebrate your victories, sharing them with your team – your unsung heroes – will make them all the more enjoyable.