Insights and Opinions

Building a Team to WIN!

One of the keys to any successful business venture is the ability to keep, attract and retain a team that few in your industry can compete with. Experience, chemistry, energy, and passion are all important aspects to watch for when building a team like this. But before you get too caught up in these qualities, be sure to visit your customer base and understand them completely. If you want to earn their business you better build a customer facing team that understands them and ideally some parts of the team should have done the role your customers are in now.

Mirror Your Customers:

I can’t stress how important it is to not only know the products and services you are selling but more importantly how your customers will use them in their environments. This often adds that dimension of differentiation that many overlook when building teams that few can compete with. Big resumes and industry leaders are often critical elements to a well- rounded team but be sure to have balance by mixing outside knowledge with inside veterans which can have great momentum if done properly.

Targeting Talent:

So how do you find and then attract these folks to your existing or new team? I have always gone after folks well known by my customers that are not looking for a career change. For the most part these are the most successful ones.

First Meeting/The “Pitch”

Never have someone else pitch your company’s uniqueness. This is something you have to practice and have down. It begins with the company’s vision, accomplishments (with details) and most importantly the way you deliver it with passion and conviction. I have always started with explaining very simply the industry problem and what the company is doing to solve it and then the early success the company has had and the momentum you expect.

Selling YOU:

If you will be their direct supervisor never underestimate the importance to connect with them quickly and then be able to tell your career story and the success and learning’s you have had along the way. Don’t forget the number one reason why folks stay or leave their current business is because of their supervisor, the relationship they have and how they support their career path and ambitions. Character is critical here especially if they don’t know you, you must spend time on your approach, philosophy and values so they have a chance to see the leader you are. I do believe that the most talented individuals in the industry will join your team if approached properly and in a unique, personal and special way.

Initial Contact:

I have often reached out to some of the top industry folks directly and asked them for a coffee meeting next time I am in town because I wanted some time to get their thoughts on the space and trends. These are great initial meetings to get to know some folks that you haven’t met before and see if there is chemistry between the two of you before you decide they would be ideal to join your team. The key here is to get to know them before (or if you decide to) meet them again in a few weeks and go in for the close.

The Close:

You should get a good sense from your first meeting about the targeted individual as to chemistry, experience, and passion. It’s important to determine if they have passion or emotion. Stay away from the emotional ones – they often find it difficult to scale. Once you are ready for the close do something unique like get on a plane and go all the way across the country just to have dinner with them. Tell them that you are coming just to see them because they are important to what you are doing and learning. I have hired numerous executives doing this and you may be surprised about how effective it can be. Few leaders ever get on a plane for 11 hours just to show them how important they are so try it.

Be Personal:

Everyone uses recruiters who can help come up with short lists but I think talking to your customers and partners gives you a better list of the real talent rather than a headhunter that can filter “the movers”. A great sign of any leader is their ability to bring with them high talent from previous companies (where possible). It says a lot about you/them, but when that’s not an option or applicable think about the approaches I have discussed here. Good luck.

Nick Hulse is the Chief Revenue Officer of Rubicon Project, and responsible for all customer facing teams, product marketing and international operations. Most recently in Silicon Valley as a software executive, Nick has enjoyed great success in the mobile, software, infrastructure, and services industries over his 20-year career. You can read more from Nick at his blog,, where this was originally posted.