Team building can indeed be an addicting activity. Just recently, an American entrepreneur named Judy Estrin, who helped to found no fewer than eight businesses and also has a great deal of business experience and savvy, including positions of senior board management at FedEx, Walt Disney Enterprises, Sun Microsystems and other prominent companies, and she has said that team building is so exciting that it has her hooked! She also played a key role in developing the Internet, helped designed two microprocessors (the Z8 and the Z8000), co-founded the communications server company Bridge Communications, the network software developing company Precept Software, Inc. and the networking technology Packet Design, LLC, and served as CEO for the latter until its dissolution in 2007. Her sister Deborah is also a tech entrepreneur.
Ms. Estrin refers to her method of team building for start-ups as “jazz band” because, as she is fond of saying, “the best innovation happens when you have teams that are no bigger than a jazz band.” She has said that she prefers to devote her time and energy to the excitement of a new venture. In addition to serving on the board of directors of the three companies mentioned above — and also on that of Rockwell Corporation — she has also run her own businesses. Her experience has led her to say that she prefers to work in small or start-up businesses, both because of their greater innovation and flexibility and also because of the greater “closeness” to the customers themselves. Certainly, Ms. Estrin has found that her style of management works best in such an environment.
Team building for the start-up business
It requires a certain combination of skills and abilities to build up a team in a small business or start-up environment. No matter how many ideas your team members may have, or how intelligent they may be, if they get bored as they move along each task, they will not be able to work efficiently. Recruiting should therefore be based on definite, specific key positions such as technical, organizational, financial or sales. Each team member should be able to play his or her instrument, as it were, exceptionally well while at the same time being aware that it is the mix of sounds, more than anything else, that makes a piece of music a great-sounding one. The team manager is the drummer — the player who controls the rhythm of the music.
The importance of management
The essential ingredient for the success of any business is the management team. Ms. Estrin knows that fact very well, and her real talent is figuring out which employees have the talents and attitudes that would enable them to work best together. If the players on a football team think only of themselves — even if they are all “star” players — then they will lose almost every game that they play, even if pitted against a team consisting of “inferior” players. (This kind of reminds you of the fable of the tortoise and the hare, does it not?)
The things that Ms. Estrin has taught go against many long-established stereotypes in the business world. For instance, many of us have the impression that the best salespeople have succeeded because they were motivated by the promise of monetary gain, but in fact, the motivating force behind their success was the desire to help their clients to achieve the desired results for their businesses. Ms. Estrin says that she would choose only those who follow this philosophy to be members of her team. Addiction to building teams is a good thing, not a bad one.