SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SMART PEOPLE
Another hallmark of J. C. Faulkner’s approach to building D1 was that he sought and attracted the highest level of talent. Doug Crisp and other members of his management team left senior posts and promising careers with one of the largest banks in the United States to join D1. As they attracted others to the venture, a positive talent cycle took hold, where talented people created an energetic, achievement - driven culture, which attracted even more high performers. J. C. soon realized that the high level of talent at D1 had the unexpected effect of reinforcing open communication and accountability. “The danger of hiring very smart people,” he says, “is you can’t ‘spin’ things to them even if you want to. You are held accountable.”
Likewise, as a new founder, you can lessen your susceptibility to the passion trap by partnering with the smartest, most talented people available, people who are driven to succeed, who can discern fact from opinion, who will tell you the truth, and, most important, who care more about the good of the venture than keeping you comfortable. These benefits are additive to the more fundamental fact that the quality of your core team will drive your ability to create value over time. “Your biggest challenge will be building a great team,” says John Doerr of the powerhouse VC firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers. “In the world today, there’s plenty of technology, plenty of entrepreneurs, plenty of money—what’s in short supply is great teams. Focus on the team. Teams win.”5
It helps to include a few cage-rattlers on your extended team, people who will speak in unedited language and who don’t suffer fools gladly. Cage-rattlers are not the savviest communicators, but you will always know what they think. “It is very difficult for the strong-willed entrepreneur to really listen to critics,” writes Daniel Isenberg, professor of management science at Babson College. “If you find people who will be painfully honest with you, get them on board.”6 These might include co-founders, team members, prospective or actual investors, advisers, mentors, or old high school buddies who have seen you at your worst, as well as early-adopting customers who relish the right to complain about your offerings after surrendering their hard - earned money. Whatever their role, the cage-rattler’s essential qualification is an unedited propensity to poke holes in your plan, ask tough questions, and raise worrisome possibilities.