Watch for the glue between the people
As I take quite a while to get to the point, let me tell you now: This article is about choosing the right people for your web site creation team.
Recently, I flew across the continent to spend time with some people who have tremendous ambitions for their upcoming web site.
Interestingly, after the fees were agreed, flights and hotel were booked, and five days of other commitments rescheduled, it occurred to me that I’d never even spoken with any of these people before. We’d built our entire relationship by email.
As a result, our first meeting over dinner was faintly reminiscent of a very polite group of dogs meeting together in the park. Lots of careful sniffing going on.
Over the next few days, we dug deeper into the meat and potatoes of their plans. And I have to tell you, their plans are pretty impressive. Incredible detail. Acute awareness of danger points in the areas of product delivery and customer service. Wherever I looked, they had someone working on a solution.
As for the multimedia company that is actually putting their site together, they’d done a great job. I’ve never come across people with such creative talent who are also so obsessive about the details. A pretty rare and valuable combination.
After a couple of days the principals asked, “Well, what do you think? Is it going to work?” Honestly guys, what a question! My kids think I’m dumb, my wife won’t trust me to load the washing machine, and you’re asking me to pass judgement on the work of about a dozen extremely talented people who have been working on this project for months?
But I wasn’t being paid to be faint-hearted, so I gave them an answer. Here, more or less, is what I said.
“Yes, I think you’re going to do very well. You have long experience in this industry as a ‘legacy’ company moving into ecommerce.”
“You have the expertise and resources in-house to deal with customer service, delivery and returns.” (Although early success will change that pretty quickly.)
“You recognize and respect the similarities and differences between offline and online business.”
“You’ve done the math with hundreds of pages of projections and financials. You have a margin on your products that amazon.com would die for. You have conservative estimates that still show your venture turning a profit in pretty short order.”
“You have a marketing model that is both unique and timely. I don’t think it would have worked a year ago, but I do think it will work now.”
“Where your employees don’t have the necessary expertise, you have outsourced to people who do. Small ego – big smarts.”
“But is this why I think you’ll succeed?” Nope. “First, let me get past the clich of ‘It’s your people.’ The secret to your upcoming success isn’t just about the people you have put together in this team. With time and money, it isn’t too tough to find good people.”
“But what I do think is unique here is the relationships that have evolved within that group.”
That’s about as far as I got. You know how it is — the smart ideas that actually impress people usually don’t come until after everyone has left the room.
Here’s the thought I wish I’d expressed, and what I’d look for in other groups.
It’s not just the people – it’s the glue that binds them together. When I looked at the space between the people I met on this trip, I saw a level of passion, trust, ‘positive tension’ and mutual respect that I’ve never seen or felt within a project group before.
That, in my humble view, will ultimately be the key to their success.
So when you’re building, joining or investing in a team that’s going online – look at the spaces between the people and try to assess the strength of the glue that binds them.
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