It is clear that the technological ecosystem in the North is becoming friendly to Tech start-ups. We are at the "open arms" phase. The North is still an open and untouched segment of the country for every innovative start-up to explore. The above stated is easier said than done. Starting up a technology company in a system like this has its ups and downs. I will be talking about one of the major factors that determine the success of any tech startup comprising of a team. Team work.
Like it or not the Nigerian environment unconsciously disallows team work. The educational system, the social environment, the social media, and many more unknowingly disallows it. Looking back I can’t remember anytime I was deliberately taught the values of partnership. This little concept we fail to deliberately teach affects a lot of potential entrepreneurs, especially at the startup stage. This however is a damage that slowly creeps into our mindset, we don’t notice the damage till it’s done. This short story about Adamu illustrates how.
Adamu is a computer geek. He studied and lived in the Northern part of the country all his Life. Right from his primary to secondary school days, everything seemed to him like they will go right if he gets to do it alone. In school he was always given individual assignments, and whenever they were given a group project, he would be automatically made the group leader, and would be left to do it alone. The saying "too many cooks spoils the broth" sank into his head and his subconscious, so much that he thought the lone wolf was the smartest and most efficient wolf. He wouldn't let anyone see his code, let alone touch it. The trust issues in the country made it worse because he heard stories of how so many people were duped and taken advantage of in business. He has seen example of groups that split ways like musical groups for instance. He is a reserved introvert like some nerds are, and he feels since it’s "the North", people like him to share ideas with are rare and hard to find.
Finally Adamu decides he wants to start a company, he is inspired by people he thinks are "lone wolves" like him. Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Aliko Dangote, Bill Gates, Elon Musk. He fails to understand that the success of these people at many points in their lives was not a product of their creative genius and hard work alone, but other ingredients like partnership, and team play.
He tries, only to find out that he needs help. He is bad at communicating properly, managing revenue, and relating with customers, so he learns the hard way. He gets an extroverted person for a team mate. Chinedu. They both share the same goal, but the route they prefer to take to reach the goal are different. There is a clash. Adamu thinks his team mate acts like those classmates he used to have in the group assignments. The team mate thinks Adamu is just being bossy because of his technical skills. No one listens to one another, there is a misunderstanding, and they are young people with no experience when it comes to working in a team. They become one big unproductive duo.
Getting the right team mate to strengthen your weakness is as difficult as getting the perfect life partner, sometimes you would just have to mould the effort of your team mate into something that compliments yours. This is a key team play technique. Sometimes it takes luck to find the right people to partner with. But once you get a team, together the possibilities are endless. Each team member fitting neatly into the puzzle. Let's outline a few tips that I'm sure would have helped Adamu and Chinedu.
Eliminate the lone wolf syndrome. Understand that if you really want to achieve your entrepreneurial goals excellently in a system like this, you need good helping hands. 99.9% of the time this is true, 0.01% means your project is extremely concentrated on one activity, so you need no diversification. That's a small chance. You have to forget all you see on the media, look deeper and you will see the hands that helped. The reason why too many cooks spoil the broth is that they all have different pictures in their heads of what a good soup should be like.
Take time to understand your team members. This will help increase productivity and satisfaction in yourselves. Understand what your team member is comfortable with, his strengths, his weakness, the environment he is most productive in, and many other attributes. The idea is to get the most out of each other for maximum productivity. It will be of great help if everyone in the team works towards the aim, by understanding how each of their fellow members love to work. For instance i learned that some of my team members are more productive at night. So the efficient option was to give them the task to work on overnight, while we all give feedback during the day.
Be ready to sacrifice and leave your comfort zone. Appreciate when the same is done for you. People hardly want to leave their comfort zone for anything let alone another person. It's natural to feel it’s too much of a sacrifice to come early to the brainstorm workshop, write code when you don't want to, spend your pocket money on the startup. And this revolves around the fact that you think it wouldn't be noticed or appreciated. It sucks to come early when everyone else is late. You will seem like the over enthusiastic one. Over time you lose interest and you begin to point fingers. This is bad for any start-up team. Everyone must sacrifice visibly for the goal, and these sacrifices should be acknowledged and appreciated no matter how little. It boosts the team’s morale.
Be open to criticism, Share new ideas, and focus your criticism on the team’s growth, not on the person. Every action of a team player should be for the teams greater good. Nothing must compromise the growth of the team. But the growth of the team depends on the individual growth of the members, and one way to make your team grow is to constructively criticize each other, while appreciating your efforts. If you don’t do it, other people outside will. The only difference is, they wouldn’t care much about your team member’s feelings. it's awesome when everyone in the team wants to be better at what he does.
Treat Tribalism, Religious beliefs, Age, Sex, and Social status like it didn't exist. In Nigeria people allow these things to cloud their judgments daily. It is bad for any team. A perfect team is a diverse one. The team must share equal goals and zeal. And that is enough to make it work.
Communicate. Effective communication saves a lot of time spent on dealing with a misunderstanding. One team member must not assume another understands a concept when there is a possibility he doesn’t. Do more talking less working. Not less talking more working. This doesn’t mean the workspace should always be a noisy place. There is a right time for everything. This means if ideas, concepts, and tasks and communicated properly, there would be a decrease in errors and assumptions hence lesser working time. I'll say amongst all, the most important and common way to cultivate team spirit is to always believe in your team, and it’s potential. Getting the great team is not straight forward, but it's actually less complicated than working alone.
Author: Faruk Shuaib
Phone: 08148882058, 08176836670