The past week has been an interesting one for the dissection of the entrepreneur.
Forbes had a great article: Are You A Humpty-Dumpty Entrepreneur, which discussed the difference between a workaholic and an entrepreneur (short answer: workaholics enjoy working; entrepreneurs enjoy doing).
Jessica Mah, one of my favorite young entrepreneurs, wrote: Why 99% of Entrepreneurs Fail: Because they dont do anything (short answer: too many like to start things–easy, but dont have the fortitude to finish things–hard).
Dave McClure, who is a master of subtly, wrote Great Entrepreneurs are PASSIONATE about Customers & Products, NOT about being Great Entrepreneurs (short answer: just build something. stop worrying about how you look, and start worrying about what you are accomplishing).
Finally, I wrote the post: What is an Entrepreneur? (short answer: some who has passion about something and focuses on finding out whether its going to work or not by starting AND finishing.)
Whew. Thats a lot of discussion.
Now that we know what a Entrepreneur, whats next?
Whether you raise money or not, the most critical decision an entrepreneur makes is team selection.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to selecting a team.
School 1: Hire your friends.
When my friends Jake and Jeffrey, owners of skinnyCorp, built the company, they decided that many of the folks that they would hire would be friends. Not just friends, but people they had known for most of their lives. When you talk to them about the people that work with them at Threadless/skinnyCorp, there is almost always a story about high school or college that accompanies the introduction.
I asked Jeffrey and Jake if they had ever fought. Quick denials. Given their personalities (Jake is a mellow, quiet dude; and Jeffrey is a constant talker; who is also quite a giver) its not surprising.
Hiring your friends adds value in a couple of ways. First of all, you know you are going to get a group of people that are willing to stand beside you regardless of the challenges and should provide support around ideas and efforts.
Of course the negatives are that you might have a crew that all thinks similarly or are unwilling to hurt each other’s feelings, making the truth a hard thing to come by.
School 2: Cauldron of Friction
One of my favorite books, McDonalds: Behind the Arches, covers the genesis and growth of McDonalds and other franchises. (Did you know that Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s was Colonel Sanders marketing guy?)
John F. Love writes a lot about the decisions that Ray Kroc made early on with McDonalds. Things like buying a corporate plane so that they could fly over potential restaurant locations and determine the best placement based on traffic flows and housing placements.
The other thing at Kroc believed in what that you hired for competence, and that competence bred loyalty. The senior management meetings at McDonalds were legendary for the yelling matches and friction between the leadership. Kroc believed that you got better answers from people who were passionate and willing to stand up for what they believed in rather than valuing harmony.
Often, when an idea is thrown in a cauldron of friction with a healthy dose of respect, the results are often surprisingly innovative. To be forced to defend concepts and ideas creates an environment where on the positive side there is an immense requirement to truly understand the problem and the suggested solution. On the negative, people become afraid of the process, and therefore stop bringing ideas forward.
So whats the best choice?
Do you hire your friends and work in a welcoming, supportive environment or do you hire people who primary value is their competence, where ideas are thrown in a cauldron of friction with the hope that a healthy respect develops resulting in an environment that allows for ideas to survive and flourish?