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Why You Need a Complementary Team of Different Skills When You Start a Company

This is a guest post by Bill Gross, an entrepreneur who has started over 100 companies & is the CEO of Idealab, one of the first technology incubators that creates and operates pioneering technology companies.

Idealab founder Bill Gross


I believe that every company needs a strong founding team to be successful, however, I feel that “strong” needs to be complemented by “different.”  If the senior team has the same views, or is too close to one another, I feel there will not be enough thoughtfulness on both strategy and execution towards success, especially when you first start a company.

Hiring people that have different skills and strengths than you (as a founder, CEO, or any member of a team) is very difficult, but important, to get multiple viewpoints.  The hard part is not getting people with differing viewpoints; it’s integrating those multiple viewpoints into better decisions.  Often times people with differing perspectives also have different styles and different approaches to things, and that can cause flare-ups and anger.  The way to have those different styles, viewpoints, and approaches lead to 1+1=3 is to build mutual trust and respect for the different and differing members of your team.  THAT is easier said than done, but THAT is when true greatness is achieved.

Mutual trust and respect cannot be dictated, but must instead be earned.  There are many ways to earn trust, but almost all of them take time, and take vulnerability.  It might even require coaching, to get people to a place where they can truly see and hear another’s point of view, and then see how that point of view can be mind-opening and expanding, rather than mind-closing and threatening.

In the past several decades I have started more than 100 companies, and more than 40 have had successful IPO’s and acquisitions, and 25 are thriving, but that means 35 have failed.  When I look back on the biggest distinguishing factor between success and failure, it was almost always a harmonious executive team, with broadly differing viewpoints and perspectives, but with a leader that was always able to get the best out of everyone – and not always please everyone – but always include everyone’s thinking in the major decisions and direction of the company.  I have seen this type of teamwork matter more than the idea, more than the timing, and even more than the capitalization of the company, and thus I believe it is one of the most, if not the most critical factors in success.


  • Totally agree with you, Bill.

  • great article Bill. Below is an article that explores this topic using Social Network Analysis. The author concludes, much in agreement with you, that the most successful social networks are the ones that combine an ability to get things done, which, as you point out, requires high levels of trust, with enough variety of background and thought so as to get a continuous stream of new ideas. Hope you and your readers find this useful: http://www.philosophyib.com/3/wholebrain/what-type-of-innovation

  • According to ‘Team of Rivals,’ Lincoln spent most of his time playing peacemaker. Maybe that’s what made him the leader he was, balancing personalities and getting his job done.

  • Thank you, Bill for sharing these pearls. Harmony is the only way to avoid chaos

  • Thanks Greg

  • words i live by! thanks Bill for sharing all your wisdom.

  • It takes wisdom to know this is the right way to build a team. It also takes emotional intelligence and a lot of work because this approach isn’t easy and it often isn’t fun, either. That’s probably why we need reminders like this. Thanks, Bill!