Building a Team for Long-Term Growth
Gurbaksh Chahal: At 16, the first person I hired was my older brother. I knew I could trust him implicitly and he’d already been my confidante and helper.
Gurbaksh is a die-hard internet entrepreneur. In January 1999, he started his first company, ClickAgents at the age of 16. It was one of the first ad networks focused around performance based advertising. Eighteen months later he sold it for $40 million to ValueClick.
In January 2004, he launched his second company, BlueLithium. The company focused on data, optimization, and analytics and became a pioneer in behavioral targeting. On September 4th, 2007, Yahoo! announced that it was acquiring BlueLithium for $300 million in cash.
Some of his television appearances include The Oprah Winfrey Show, Bonnie Hunt, EXTRA and Neil Cavuto, among others. He has also been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Entrepreneur magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.
Chahal is also an international best-selling author of "The Dream," the true inspirational tale of his entrepreneurial journey. In September 2009, Chahal launched gWallet, now re-branded as RadiumOne.
On April 29, 2010, Chahal was awarded the Leaders In Management Award and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Commercial Science from Pace University for his career achievements as an entrepreneur.
When you step on the first rung of the entrepreneurial ladder your team is often a team of one—and that’s you. You wear all of the hats and work all hours of the day as you strive to realize your dream. And, if you’re like me, you do it all from the bedroom of your parents’ home. Or, maybe you’re lucky enough to have a separate room or some garage space to utilize.
But eventually as your business begins to grow you’ll discover that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything yourself and you’ll be stretched thinner and thinner. You can’t do the sales and the marketing, the bookkeeping and the fulfillment, and everything else involved, all by yourself.
Congratulations. You need help. You’re beginning to build a real business.
Now you actually have your first leadership challenge. You have to find people to lead. The right people. Before long, if all goes well, you’ll need a team of people that can take your enterprise to the next level. Of course, as your business gets ever bigger you’ll have to identify and recruit more talented, more experienced and more expensive executives. But whether you’re a small company with a handful of employees or you’ve already enjoyed tremendous growth and have hundreds of employees there are some common factors to bear in mind.
Here is what I have discovered as I have made the journey from a 16-year-old novice running a home-based start-up to RadiumOne, my third and biggest internet advertising venture which I’m determined will become my first billion-dollar Company based on its current trajectory.
Find people you can trust: Running the business is stressful enough as it is without looking over your shoulder all of the time wondering if you can truly depend on the people around you. At 16, the first person I hired was my older brother. I knew I could trust him implicitly and he’d already been my confidante and helper, opening a bank account for me with the first check I received for $30,000—because I was too young to sign checks. He came on board as “head of human resources” and we began recruiting. Before long we had about a dozen employees including someone else I knew I could totally trust—my sister.
Find people who share your passion: You don’t want people working for you who just want to punch in at 9 and punch out at 5. You want people who can appreciate the excitement of your vision and who want more than a job. They want a career. You want people who are going to walk through the door with a spring in their step and who want to make a truly positive contribution to the business. You want people with whom you have chemistry so that it’s a pleasure to work with each other. These are people that you have implicitly trust, because more than likely you will face hell many times before you reach the promise land of success.
Find people who are smarter than you: We all have our strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to identify what they are and ensure that we bring others to the table who can make contributions in different ways. I learned this lesson the hard way. I suffered a major tech crisis right when my first business was beginning to explode and that wasn’t my area of expertise. I quickly recovered from it by hiring an experienced chief technology officer and several engineers all at generous salaries. The sensible business owner hires the smartest people he can find and rewards them accordingly.
Find people who will tell you what they think: You don’t want a bunch of ‘yes men’ surrounding you! It might be your company and you always have the final say—but it would be most unwise to surround yourself with people who always agree with you. No-one can be right 100 percent of the time. So make an effort to recruit seasoned, independent thinkers who are smart enough to form their own opinions and willing to voice them when necessary. For your part it means having an open door policy so that your personnel feel they have the freedom to speak up.
Find people who are team players: The dictionary definition of the word team is “a group of people who work together.” Together is key. It means with each other. Not against each other. Not for the self-glorification or advancement of one individual. All the players on any team whether in the NFL, the NBA or the business conference room have to pull together to get a winning result. They should want that result to come from shared effort and contributions. It also means being careful of having an overly-abrasive team member who rubs everyone else the wrong way, no matter how talented they might be. It will become obvious if someone has their own agenda, and it should probably be your agenda not to keep them around.
Find people who want to learn: I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning, and learning from one’s mistakes. Having people on your team who can acknowledge their errors and then employ strategies based on the lessons they have learned can be a tremendous asset. Seek out and promote those who have the confidence to grow as a result of past errors and who embrace the constant change of today’s fast-paced business world.
Find people who want to win: Make a point of looking for people who want your company to be the best in its field, who will have a sense of pride in your mutual accomplishments. You really don’t want people who are satisfied with the status quo. You want goal-setters; go-getters; kindred souls. Surround yourself with a team of like-minded people willing to go the extra mile, that want to be as successful as bad as you do, and I promise you that energy only multiplies over time.
The process of building your team will take years. You will add new members to help handle your expansion and the challenges that accompany growth. But the basic tenets outlined above will apply throughout the years and if followed will enable you to build a team with a common goal, to win.
Gurbaksh Chahal is CEO of RadiumOne, an enterprise advertising platform based in San Francisco.
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