I’m sat at SFO airport waiting to board a flight and reflecting on my 72 hours in Silicon Valley. I’ve been at Menlo Park courtesy of Facebook, up in Mountain View meeting some Googlers, down in Palo Alto and finally in the sunny city of San Francisco itself meeting with start-ups and entrepreneurs to get the skinny on what gives this place it’s energy and draw for the next generations of thinkers, makers and investors.
What struck me more than anything is the almost unanimous focus on people first. It pleasantly surprises me to hear this time and again, for admittedly I was expecting a more ruthless ‘follow the money’ response to my questions.
Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the recent legislations, maybe it’s just that it’s so damn expensive everyone pulls together, but almost every response was around building the right team, with the right people and avoiding the sharks and d*ckheads, which for those that don’t know me personally, is exactly my mantra so it resonated.
Before I leave I thought I’d share my top insights for success from the valley in the hope that if we all taken a human centred focus in building our teams, we’ll build; happier, more successful, more durable places to work and invent.
1. Your first people are the biggest decisions you will ever make so set your foundations strong.
2. Build for people and embrace the friction that this causes to your business models and frameworks. People and the diversity they bring will only better and enrich so if something is getting in their way, break it down and rebuild it so it enhances them another abilities.
3. Back people and then back markets for they are the only consistencies in a world that shifts constantly.
4. Be prepared to back your entrepreneurs no matter what for they will cause the best ‘Good Trouble’.
5. Size for ‘Pizza Box’ teams. If your team can’t happily share a pizza then it’s too big and decisions won’t get made in the right way and work will be layered and complicated, keep it lean, lean in and everyone will have a fair slice.
6. Build progression around 50/50 goals so that you stretch yourself and your team to aim high for the 50% they will hit and learn quickly from the 50% they will miss.
7. Be open to talent shifts and support them where you can, no one likes to be a square peg in a round hole and the cross population of skills will stabilise growth.
8. Know every factor in your ecosystem and the relative value of it (which if you follow the above will be human focused) so you can make informed decisions with reduced risk quickly.
9. Be open to crazy ideas as they’ll probably be the best ideas you ever hear.
I’m happy to say I do most of this, but I’m definitely going to action point 6 immediately as I love this thinking and I think my teams will too.
What will you do from tomorrow?