The Key to a Successful Entrepreneurial Team

Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. Courtesy of the HP Company
Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. Courtesy of the HP Company

William Hewlett and David Packard, who I have had the honor of meeting personally, were two very different people who together created an amazing company called Hewlett-Packard.  The two made up an entrepreneurial team: a group of entrepreneurs who together launch a new enterprise intelligently combining their capabilities. This is a situation that is becoming more and more frequent.

However, what is the best way to organize such a group for effective functioning?   This is a question for which you need to have clear, upfront answers when an entrepreneurial team decides to launch a venture.

  • Distribute or share work?

What is better: to divvy up work among many entrepreneurs or for everyone to do a bit of everything?   Obviously, it is better for each individual to dedicate him or herself to the areas for which they are better suited. However, they should also strive to maximize information sharing so that every partner has a sufficient level of understanding about all of the company’s different areas and could therefore competently participate in decision-making.

Often having the two or three partners together can help convey greater seriousness and commitment and also to arrive at better solutions: an important sale, a financing agreement, hiring of a key person, establishing an agreement or alliance with another company, etc.

  • Conflict or collaboration?

If the new company is going to have many partners that need to collaborate with each other, sooner or later conflict will be inevitable. One of them made a decision and the other partner wishes he had been consulted; one thinks that he or she could have contributed in an area that the other sees as exclusively his or hers.

Certainly the partners need to resolve conflict, or better yet, try to avoid it.  The tension and emotion that entrepreneurs work under can often obstruct cold and fast reasoning The entrepreneurial team’s productivity can improve with swift mediation that avoids or helps to resolve conflict.  The instrument to achieve this can be an advisory committee or an investor with some time on his or her hands, with the mutual understanding that he or she continue to develop the business.

  • Business and personal development

As individuals we evolve at different speeds in our personal development.  Starting a venture requires effort, dedication and flexibility in many areas (compensation, travel, place of residence, etc.).

Often not all entrepreneurs are willing to commit to the same extent in all areas .  One team member might be willing to travel on Sunday in order to meet an important client first thing Monday morning, spend Monday night restructuring the proposal and have it signed by Tuesday.

He or she may return home only to find out that the other partner took Monday and Tuesday off in order to “enjoy the snow.”  Maybe this person believes that “you only live once” and that “the company is running well” and that “we are earning enough.”

Meanwhile, the other is thinking “now is the time to create a great company” that “we can make a lot of money” and that “it’s now or never.”  From this scenario, it’s evident that there are very different life objectives and therefore, it will be difficult to continue working together. In cases such as this, the possibility of moving forward is untenable; it might be a good moment for those partners who are less ambitious to exit the venture.

What you always need to keep in mind are the values that should always characterize the entrepreneurial process in the interaction between partners, like generosity, humility and respect.


About Pedro Nueno

Pedro Nueno is Professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship, IESE and Professor and President, CEIBS (Shanghai, Beijing). His areas of specialization include entrepreneurship; intrapreneurship and starting new ventures; management of technology and innovation: management of privatization and turnaround processes; industrial alliances; joint-ventures and acquisitions; industrial procurement, and supply-chain management. He holds the Bertran Foundation Chair of Entrepreneurship at IESE and the Chengwei Ventures Chair on Entrepreneurship at CEIBS.

One thought on “The Key to a Successful Entrepreneurial Team

  1. It is important to know which is the real purpose of your partner:
    – Build a project to create value and wealth.
    – Have a means to fund their hobbies and social status.

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