Member Dan Peterson Speaks: When Picking a Team, Put Values First

The Challenge:

The case at hand was brought to a recent Alliance meeting by an Alliance CEO whose early stage startup company was about to close a B round of financing. The CEO was preparing to build the executive team with some key hires.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were in your shoes, I would have 100% certainty that "my" top team fit the creative, fast-moving, take-no-prisoners type of company I wanted to build.

Congratulations on the new funding! It is a great opportunity to build exactly the team you want. I also know you have previous experience hiring key people as a CEO, which good, too. However, I must encourage you to be absolutely positive that your first key hires have the right attitude for the challenges your company will face.

I realize you know how to hire key execs in a large corporate environment. But in world of entrepreneurship, hiring a top team takes a ground-up approach. It's like the difference between tending the farm and planting the seeds.

For a startup company, values and culture are incredibly important. If I were in your shoes, I would focus on the culture I wanted to create and have 100% certainty that "my" top team fit the creative, fast-moving, take-no-prisoners type of company I wanted to build. I would also make sure "my" key hires met everyone in the organization, and I would use assessment tools to help me understand just who I am hiring.

Years ago, when I was running my own startup, I developed a mantra: "˜Every organization is aligned perfectly to get the results it gets.' Culture and values lie at the very heart of that. People roll their eyes at me when I talk about values, because I sound like a broken record. But I feel it so deeply, and so should you.