Over the last couple weeks we took a detour from our research in entrepreneurship and looked around the real world around us. We first met Derek Lew, his business Sole Supremacy and his movement “Life > Shoes.” Then we met several researchers who have contributed a lot to my independent research this year. This week, I finally get back to my study in entrepreneurship, and today we are going to talk about something new: how does teamwork play a role in our entrepreneurship experiences?
When we talk about teamwork, you might feel that you are already very familiar with the concept. Well, I understand why: you have already had a lot of teamwork experiences such as tackling a hard math problem with your classmates, or playing a competitive basketball game with your teammates. However, in business, teamwork is something more than simply cooperating with each other. It is also about how to assign every individual to the most suitable position so that he/she can maximize his/her contribution to the company. That’s why when we talk about teamwork with an entrepreneurial mind, we talk about personnel plans. But before we go into details explaining how personnel plans work, let’s just take a step back and examine how teamwork has helped many entrepreneurs succeed.
As we look through the list of successful businesses, we can easily discover that many of these businesses have more than one founders. Paypal was founded by not only Elon Musk but also Peter Thiel and four other intelligent young individuals. Nike was founded by not only Bill Bowerman but also Phil Knight. Tesla combines the work from five successful entrepreneurs, and even Sole Garage was founded by not only Roger Wu but also Maxwell Han… Well that last one was a joke. But with that being said, we conclude that teamwork is not a recommendation, but a prerequisite for successful entrepreneurship experiences. Again, different individuals bring different ideas, spirits, and even attitudes into a business, and in order to thrive, a business needs all these different elements. Just like Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
But instead of going into details to talk about how a company should enact a personnel plan properly, I come up with a different approach – let’s chat a little bit about my experience last summer at Wharton and see what we can learn from it. In LBW (Leadership in the Business World) Program, 140 students are divided into 14 groups, and each group would present a completed business plan at the end of the program to a group of real business analytics and investors. Here you might think, “ten people to accomplish only one business plan? That sounds easy!” But in fact, to organize everyone in a polite and proper way to reach consensus is something we spent weeks learning about. When we first met each other, we were all eager to showcase our talents by coming up with creative business ideas; as a result, we were not able to settle down on one of them after a whole week. After we finally came to agreement and decided to develop our business idea in transportation, we were stuck again, because we all wanted to work in different departments, and without an organized meeting, we could not determine who would be responsible for which part. It was a challenge for ten very independent, rather experienced and smart individuals to agree with each other, and what I learned the most from this experience is how to sacrifice myself for the benefits of the whole company. Sometimes we do not need to be the one guy who catches all the flare on stage. Instead, I have learnt how to listen to others and contribute behind the spotlight. I was not the person to pitch our business enthusiastically to the investors, but I enacted the management part of our business plan with dedication. I was not the person to receive all the compliments after the presentation, but I am proud of myself answering one of the toughest questions from the investors after the presentation was over. Sacrifice is a significant part of teamwork, and when everyone is willing to sacrifice, a team is unstoppable.
After talking about what I have learnt from last summer’s experience, let’s see what our team came up in the end.
As we can see, not all of us 10 members of the team get a position at the company, but it is awesome how we are all willing to sacrifice ourselves. For One Stop (the transportation business we came up with), we had the traditional three positions: a chief operational officer, a chief executive officer, and a chief financial officer. This “traditional three” structure is very normal in established businesses, but it is specific and clear in dividing the total work up. In our company we also have three vice presidents, relatively in Research & Development, Sale & Marketing, and Human Resources. It is amazing how we have each found our spots in this company according to our strengths. For example, I am good at communicating with people and making connections, I am responsible for the human resources department in One Stop. My friend Jason is good at advertising and broadcasting, and that’s why he works in the sales & marketing department. Again as I mentioned above, it is important for a business to fully utilize its personnels. A team would not function if its members are held in unsuitable positions.
That wraps up this week’s blog post. It is great fun starting off a new topic and relating my own stories into the study of personnel management. Next week we will go into more details discussing about how to maximize the efficiency of a group of leaders within a company, and we will look at some popular personnel structures within a company. Stay tuned!