Entrepreneurship is a Team Sport

Last Thursday, I spoke on a Babson Connect panel on “Entrepreneurs of All Kinds.” Also on the panel were Nathan Bricklin, Head of Social Strategy at Wells Fargo, Julie Lewis, President, CEO & Founder of Digital Mountain, Chris Pollino, who leads Executive Talent Development at Genentech, and Susan Resnicoff, Director of Cat Food Marketing at Del Monte Foods. The panel was moderated by Shaun Steingold, Business Development Manager at Hewlett-Packard.

One of Shaun’s most interesting questions was:

“What’s the best advice someone ever gave you?”

The first answer that came to mind for me was “marry someone who makes you laugh”

After the laughter died down, this lead to a great series of audience questions about partnering and entrepreneurship, including the following two questions:

“What strategies work for getting a spouse on board?”

It starts with empathy for your partner’s fears. Often, an entrepreneurial venture is no more risky than working for an organization, and in all likelihood, less risky. Use your partner’s fears to think through risk mitigation strategies.

In my own relationship, we took turns to spread our risks. My husband took a year to build a new product, while I had a full time role in an organization. Once he gained traction in his own business, I began mine. Now we’re both entrepreneurs, and provide each other with strategic and emotional support, which works tremendously well.

“Should I partner with friends?”

I’ve started working on entrepreneurial ventures with people I’ve known and people who were assembled to cover specific functions (Dev, QA, design, Product Management), who later became friends. I think it’s most important to have diversity of talents and perspectives.

One tool I’ve used to do a quick personality diversity check is “Personality Poker.” Whether you use this, MBTI, DiSC, Strengthsfinder, or good, old-fashioned personal assessments and conversation. Your objective should be complementary talents and personalities and shared values.

What’s most important is that you cultivate a culture of feedback, and don’t let issues fester.