Make Yours the Best Launch Team Ever

Jeremy Vickers, director of UT Dallas’ Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has tips to ensure the team includes the people who need to be there.



With an idea and a market, and some funding, and a ton of motivation, and a great team, a new concept should be a success. A lot of factors go into the next best thing, but getting the “team” right can be critical. Jeremy Vickers, director of UT Dallas’ Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has experience helping entrepreneurs launch their ideas into reality. Here are his tips for ensuring the team includes the people who need to be there.

Know who you are

Is this your idea—and is it really your baby? If it’s your baby, are you going to let others nurture it? Or will it be all about your vision? What do you like and what do you hate to do—and in the same vein, what are you good at and what, well, not-so-much? Being able to identify those strengths and weaknesses in ourselves can be difficult. You might get an honest friend to help you take this inventory.

This seems silly, but know what you want to be called — whether it’s founder, CEO or captain. Titles mean something internally and externally. Think how it will look on a business card. If it’s COO, will that leave prospective clients wondering if there’s someone more important to talk to?

Another issue startups face is the founder being In.Control.Of.Everything. Figure out at the front end if this is you and how it will impact those who join your team.

Figure Out Roles and Responsibilities

You’ll probably have a lot of blanks in your organizational chart in the beginning, but it helps to have an idea of who you’ll need to make this a going proposition. It’s also going to help to know which roles you can fill in the beginning while you grow the business. You may be the best CTO, but you might also need to fill the roles of sales exec and CFO until you have enough business to fill those spots with someone else.

Decide which roles are critical to going to market. List duties for each position so if you’re filling that position at first, you’ll know all the tasks you’ll be undertaking until everything is up and running. Someone has to write the checks and manage inventory and order supplies. That someone might be you.

Are team members partners, co-founders or employees?

People get touchy about this. Who you thought of as your friend who helped you out with the website might actually see himself or herself as co-founder. Make sure everyone is clear when they come on board what you consider them to be.

What skills do you need on your team?

First you need to inventory the skills you and other founders bring to the table. Then you must critically look at the skills needed. While a partner might have some IT skills, is it enough to manage the new organization’s requirements? The same questions might be asked about finance, marketing and other critical go-to-market tasks. Is it something that can be learned quickly or would it be better to hire someone to perform that task? And then, should it be an equity partner, a full-time employee or should you be hiring on a contract basis?

If you’re offering equity (and don’t forget to include yourself), you will need to have a formal vesting schedule in place.

Other people—mentors, advisors, family and friends—might play a role in your team

Any and all of these people could be critical to the success of your team and by extension your new organization or business. Have a clear idea (write it down) of what each of these people might offer to your organization and how much it will cost. Some of these people you’ll be sharing holiday dinners with long into the future so make sure everyone is clear on how much, if anything, they’ll earn for their participation.

As automobile visionary Henry Ford famously said: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Working together is the goal of every team, and getting there takes more effort than you’ll probably realize in the beginning.


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