Day 1 – Create your impact team

Introduction

The first day of the workshop, ‘Create your impact team’, is about the participants themselves. They shall understand their strengths and capabilities running their business. Also, realizing what they are not good in, which qualities they need to succeed; not only for their own sake, but also to be realistic in front of investors. Knowing what you might be lacking helps you recruiting the right people. However, relying on written evidence – i.e. resumes and cover letters – isn’t enough. Profiling or creating a persona, is more about a candidates attitude and cultural fit into your organization.

Agenda

  1. Icebreaker (10 minutes)
  2. Input (20 minutes)
  3. Management team (40 minutes)
  4. Profiling (40 minutes)
  5. Conclusion (10 minutes)

Icebreaker

  • Initiation: Split up in teams of two (maximal 3) participants
  • Moderator: Instruct the teams to find 10 things in common, which are not job related
  • Team: Every pair discloses what they have found

Rationale: This exercise is fun, easy, and quick. For the purpose of this workshop; however, it shall lead to a discussion about the importance to share non-work related activities with your peers. Though keeping cultural differences in mind, within some, business is business, and personal matters a no go area. Nevertheless, I named this workshop, ‘build your impact team’, i.e. targeting social impact companies. While any business should be created out of passion, fighting social ills to bring about positive change is a matter in which personal values might be challenged even more severely; conflicts assured.

Input Session

Form over function

Personally, I tend to talk about my own experiences and f*** ups; excuse my language. For instance, I might be story-telling about how obsessed I have been over my first business plan, i.e. caring about its form rather than its function as an investment tool and personal guideline (not a full blown encyclopedia). Though, I wouldn’t discourage anyone to invest a good amount of time planning your business, but you should be developing something the market demands (or have deep pockets to create one; cf. Tesla).

Further, maybe you are not alone in this, but the only one fanatical about structure. So, also in my case, I did a fantastic job in loosing my friend and business partner in the process. I assume somewhere around surpassing the 50 pages’ mark, I lost him. I had grown so convinced that our (by that time mine, only) idea is undoubtedly the next big thing that I never thought he would disagree.

Unfortunately, our product had become so cumbersome that he couldn’t see how we would be able to market such an animal. In fact, he was the expert in the field we tried to tap in to, which is why we decided to do this in the first place. But, I had started to grow into such a presumptuous idiot and telling him (the real professional) how things are supposed to be done. Pride will have a fall and if you cannot convince your business partner (and friend) from your idea, it’s perhaps not worth pursuing, so we didn’t.

Spectators do not win the game

Taking someone off the sidelines isn’t an easy endeavor! You might as well end up playing the game alone. Probably two years after my first business plan frenzy, I stood once more on the verge to start my own business. Some not very encouraging freelance projects past, I figured to might as well give it another shot. In fact, a former MBA fellow and friend had inspired me to do it all over again.

So, we started debating how to crack the myth of the ‘un-approachability’ of the German market and a degree of skepticism that abounds in the Indian business community. This time around, we didn’t even bother writing up a lengthy plan, rather concentrated on leaflets and marketing material. We wanted to prototype our ideas, to understand the market here and there (i.e. Germany and India).

In India, we made progress quickly and found our first ‘customer’. Yet, we needed two to make the offering happen, so I returned to my birth country. Unfortunately, my business partner, at least that was the word, could not make it and left me alone in the battle for clients in Germany. Though, I might not be the most convincing sales person, I tried – attempting to convince local SMEs that India is an attractive market and not everyone is trying to rip you off. I did not succeed.

Back in the East, we revisited our approach and figured we might as well start with some trainings and take potential clients back to the West. This, however, seemed to be a matter of trust, which we seemed lacking. While we tried again after being rejected the first time, the second refusal seemed to send my friend in a tailspin. He appeared utterly discouraged and despite my efforts, I could not get his motivation back up again. So, we decided to give it a break and revisit our ideas at a later stage – something that never happened. But why?

Looking back, I know now that my business partner was never really on board. The excuses made, why he couldn’t come to Germany where triggered by other engagements and promises he had made. When we started, he had just quit his job with a large corporate. From multi-million dollar sales gigs to start selling to small scale business, wasn’t anything that motivated him. Giving 100% and more in an uncertain venture, nothing that sounded appealing. To market what we had started, to promote and to utilize the contacts we had made to get a foot in the door, however, was much more tempting.

Management team

There are several ways to conduct this exercise. On the one hand, teams of 3-6 participants could be tasked to write down ALL their individual strengths they possess. Showcasing the variety of individual capacities and that everything might be useful – work related or not. For instance, being a good cook might be beneficial for a restaurant. Yet, have a great chef in your midst, can make it more likely to have everyone joining a team dinner after office hours. Similarly, I used to be a personal trainer and while I am not actively coaching, my colleagues do enjoy when I share some tips and tricks.

On the other hand, one could categorize each ones’ capacities into soft and hard skills. While participants tend to overdo the former, when the teams are not part of the same business entity, they might be heavier on the latter, if they are engaged in a common venture. In this case, classifying the skills further either among the value chain, in case the teams know how theirs’ stand, or alternatively, in primary, secondary, and support functions.

In both cases, this exercise is meant a team to get started about what strengths they possess and should be further exploited. It, however, shall also unravel where gaps are. Thus, the second part of this task is too get together and see what is missing. Once again, similarly then the initial step, this can be done in an open or more categorized manner.

In terms of investor relations, stockholders started to think twice about hiring a team of jacks-of-all-trades, compared to the ones being aware of their shortcomings. Furthermore, a GAP analyses does not need to end at just stating the lacking capacities. In fact, you might want to ask the teams to given reason for their felt deficiencies, not just personal ones. For instance, one team states that they are not good in programming a webpage. But, do they really need a fancy one from the start?

Profiling

What do I/we want? What do I/we really need? Questions, which answers are no, no brainer. Though, partly based on the gaps identified, those enquiries are beyond a candidate’s formal education or qualifications and even beyond the experiences we might seek. However, practicing what one is preaching, or states on her/his resume, is without doubt significant. Moreover, when we, for instance, seek someone who works with young people, having knowledge is the one side of the medal, being motivated to empower youth the other side. In fact, the hard skills should be complemented by soft ones.

What else? Well, I believe the level you are recruiting matters. Are you looking for an employee, a manager, or even a business partner? For the latter, I have discussed some of my experiences earlier and do admit that this might be the toughest. Are friends your best bet? Should you go to bed, on a business level, with your family, husband or wife? How good is your judgment when you are emotional attached to this person? I do believe and have witnessed both business that prospered being run by a couple, but also quite the opposite. Frankly, I am no relationship counselor, so in no position to give advice. Though, I do believe it is simply about complementing ones ideas and strengths as well as ability to compromise.

Concluding Day 1

I recommend concluding the day with two little tasks and showing the inspirational video – The Candidate – by Heineken (or anything similar video that shows that, ‘standard questions lead to standard answers’). Firstly, hand the teams a role description for which they should prepare a 20 minutes interview session for day 2. Secondly, each team should design a team building exercise of 10 to 15 minutes. However, not just any, there should be a rationale behind why they have chosen this particular one.