When we set out to start our own companies, we do so with one goal in mind. We want our companies to thrive, prosper and to stand the test of time when it faces its biggest challenges.
But at the end of the day, while every company has the potential to become the next Apple and Google, or the Coca-Cola of its generation, many companies fail because the company tries to take on the world alone.
There is a lot of value in collaboration. I recently read an article on forbes.com by Tamara Schwarting, the CEO of 1628 LTD, which discussed the topic in detail.
In the beginning
Schwarting points out that creating a company that sustains the test of time requires a network of allies, advisors, and partners. Learning to select the right partners and, in turn, trusting them is vital for success.
“When I set out to start a new business two years ago, I recognized I would not be able to do it alone. I had spent 20 years in corporate America and knew first-hand the value of relying on the expertise of others. Even with confidence in my concept and expertise in the industry, I was risking too much to depend solely on my knowledge and abilities,” said Schwarting.
She added that early in her career as a scientist, the depth of her expertise was the key to her success. But when she shifted to supply chain purchasing, this discipline was much more relational in nature. Schwarting’s results were only possible through the reliance and support of a fully cross-functional team. She said she couldn’t be successful on her own.
Cultivation over time
Schwarting pointed out that like any relationship, business partnerships have to be cultivated over time. “Partners need clear expectations. They need to know they are valued. Building trust over time becomes essential when complications and difficulties arise, and they always do,” said Schwarting.
She adds that it is common for entrepreneurs to express loneliness; nobody knows what it’s like to work this hard. No one truly understands the company’s vision except the company. “I have learned that this, in part, is a self-imposed condition seeded by the need to maintain a tight control on all aspects of the process. This mentality holds good people back from being great. When we allow ourselves to trust others and express that trust through transparent communication, we build a foundation for personal and professional growth and success,” said Schwarting.
Dealing with people
Schwarting points out that at the end of the day, companies don’t do business with other businesses, companies do business with other people. “My partners are handpicked not only for the quality of work, but also for the way they function together. I seek to know and understand my partners as well as they know and understand me,” said Schwarting.
She added that when building her team of partners, she assembles a diverse group of individuals in her inner circle. “This allows me to rely on different individual strengths for specific phases of the project or the business,” said Schwarting
For her line of work, Schwarting pointed out that she looks to fill the following roles:
- The optimist: this is a person who always looks on the positive side and will generally downplay negative risks/attributes;
- The realist: this person seeks balance in providing guidance. These individuals can objectively provide both negative and positive perspectives;
- The cynic: this person is quick to point out all of the areas of concerns or watch outs for a project;
- The strategist: this person is big picture, solutions-oriented. They are best engaged in early stages as they enjoy running scenarios;
- The doer: this person is tactical or transactional in nature and thrives in an environment where they can make lists and accomplish tasks;
- The caregiver: this person likes nurturing individuals who may not have a vested interest in my project or company. They ultimately care about the business owners holistic well-being; and
- The connector: these individuals get satisfaction from making introductions within their network and look for ways to leverage their knowledge to help others.
Not mutually exclusive
Schwarting points out that these roles are not mutually exclusive. It’s very common to have a given individual play multiple roles (i.e. The Optimistic Strategist or the Cynical Connector). Depending on your specific personality type you may need to surround yourself by a slightly different mix in your core team.
“Regardless, keeping in mind being an entrepreneur does not necessitate forging a path alone. It would be impossible to do so. Instead, it’s important to surround ourselves with a network of partners to help weather the storm and share the fruits of success,” concluded Schwarting.
7 IT principles
While the above information is relevant for all businesses, we need to remember that the IT industry is unique and does, at times, play by its own rules.
So, what are some of the core principles that the IT industry needs to follow when it comes to looking for business success? I recently read an article on forbes.com that gets insights from some of the industry’s best minds on the topic.
- Implement Diversity and Inclusion Practices. Tech executives today must be implementing diversity and inclusion practices across the organization. In order to attract and retain top talent, the executive team must ensure that recruitment, hiring and management practices are inclusive. – Jess Gartner, Allovue;
- Humanize Leadership and Technology. In an era of rapid expansion of artificial intelligence and machine learning in every walk of our lives, humanization of leadership and technology has become more important than ever in successful technology leadership. – Gigi Kizhakkechethipuzha, Virtina;
- Evolve Constantly. The ability to evolve constantly, emphasize on survival anxiety, focus on emerging and disruptive technologies, creating a collaborative environment, leveraging thought leadership across the enterprise, evaluate and consider digital transformation, empower more women business leaders, and make all employees feel special is a good recipe to be equipped for success. – Srinivas Arasada, Evolutyz Corp;
- Help People Reach Their Potential. The key to success is putting the right people in the optimal positions to reach their potential. Identifying the intensity ranges of the soft skills that are most common across top performers in each position allows you to not only put the right people in the right positions, but also to understand the gaps of current employees. With this information, you can laser coach every employee. – Michael Simpson, PAIRIN;
- Adapt or Face Extinction. Technology follows Moore’s law and is changing rapidly in shorter cycles. Technology executives need to adapt and be adept at the changing technology cycles or face extinction. Collaboration, quick decisions and rapid turnaround are mandatory to be successful. – Deepak Padgaonkar, V3iT Consulting, Inc.
- Don’t Lose Sight of What the Market Needs. Technology executives need to be acutely aware of what customer problem they’re trying to solve. Don’t succumb to “shiny object syndrome,” and lose sight of what the market actually needs and wants. As companies are increasingly driven by technology, our ability to adapt teams and what we build to address significant business problems is a fundamental shift. – Andy Lientz, Smartsheet; and
- Stay Involved in Day-To-Day Operations. Stay involved to attract the best of the best! I’m a product leader at heart and do my best to stay very active in the day-to-day activities of product management and development. I encourage my team to continuously test new features and think up unique applications of the platform beyond its intended use. Our team challenges each other daily to stretch our ideas around what’s already possible. – Will Hayes, Lucidworks.
It makes sense and will not be difficult to implement once there is buy-in from all parties involved in the process.