How to Find the Right Person to Work on an Idea with You

Finding “your” people is a journey not a destination.

The business world is littered with stories of partnerships gone bad. For many startups and/or people building early stage products, there are painful stories of teams who were once united on a mission falling apart amidst acrimony and the inability to work together.

But when you do get the right people together, it can feel like magic. So how do you find that right person to work on an idea with you?

In her book Lean In, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg cautioned women that the most important business decision they would make is who they partner with domestically. That’s a thought process that can be transferred to building the right team to bring an idea to life. When you’re selecting a cofounder and and team members, skill sets aren’t enough. Work style, personality, and how willing people are to establish clear agreements can all have a huge impact on whether or not you are successful.

Here are a few things to look for…

Bring on People Who Can Flex with Your Ideas

If you know the story of We Greenlight you know that we didn’t start out as a crowdsourcing site for all ideas. We started out as a film production platform, but turned into what We Greenlight is today because we listened to our market. As founder Peter Dickinson notes:

“It was at that point we realized our users saw more potential in what our platform could do before we did. Instead of solving an issue in the film industry, our platform could be used to help validate all kinds of ideas.”

We Greenlight flexed and listened to what the market was telling us to do. But we also needed a team to flex with us.

Selecting the Right Team from the Start

The We Greenlight team began when Co-Founders Peter Dickinson and Iro Tibayan, who already knew each other, connected over the idea for a better green lighting system for films. They both saw great potential in having audiences decide what ideas get made. It is key that your early team members see potential in what you’re doing — and they must demonstrate a willingness to learn.

Pulling together the developers was easy for Iro as he had done web and app project management and development for several years, and had a core team that he had been working with for over 7 years, so the camaraderie was built in.

To bring in more of a business development and entertainment perspective we also turned to a Professor of Peter’s from film school, Frank Chindamo. We needed to work with people we knew and trusted, something that was true at the beginning and continues to be important.

Consider Work Style, Personality, and Skill Sets

Because so many members of our team had worked together previously, we knew we had complimentary skill sets; for other team members we had to rely on referrals from people we trusted.

We also shared mutual interests. Our developers previous work together gave our team a great foundation.

A challenge was integrating Frank and Ric into our team as they were much older and didn’t immediately sync with the tech background much of our team had. Instead they represented a more traditional view of entertainment principles and logic; that’s something we welcomed because we knew it was important to avoid group-think.

Deal with Problems Early On

In the early days we encountered problems around communication, as we all had very different ideas of how We Greenlight could work and even about how it would look. This caused a lot of problems in our initial site design that appeared more like a mish-mash of compromises, because everyone was giving input rather than leaving it in the hands of the people most skilled to execute, the designers.

We learned from those early mistakes and have built a team of trusted experts.

The Most Important Piece of Advice

Find people that you enjoy spending time with, because you will be spending a lot of tiresome nights and long days with them as you bring your idea to life. You need to make sure that, despite the friendships that grow as you work together, you still keep focused on the work at hand: your project. You need to find the sweet spot that helps keep morale and productivity up so that your idea becomes a reality.

Be Prepared to Lose Team Members

Many concepts change as you work on them and learn, and that may mean you lose team members because your direction changes. Perhaps their skill sets don’t match any longer, or their interest wanes. You need to be prepared for that change and not take it personally.

However, if you treat everyone with respect and give them full transparency into how things are moving along, you never really burn a bridge. Instead, it will be an issue of “not the right fit at a specific time;” down the road you may end up working with those people again on your idea, or another new idea. It will be easy to pick up where you left off in that working relationship.

Ultimately, finding a good cofounder and hiring the right team is about fit. Find ways to test that fit in the early stages and you’ll get information and a working relationship that serves you well when things get more complex.

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