Oh, The People You’ll Meet

The best part about building a company is the people that you meet along the way. Finding other people who share your sense of purpose makes all the long hours and hard work worthwhile.

My favorite people in business fall into at least six categories. They include:

The angels. In startup terms, angels are the individuals who make initial investments in your business. Many have had their own successes and are paying it forward with their investment in you. Without them, most startups would never get off the ground.

The other kinds of angels. There are people seemingly sent from heaven to help you. Whether it’s an introduction, assisting with a piece of publicity or helping in some other way, these angels often appear our of nowhere to lend a helping hand.

The supporters. The family and friends that support you no matter what happens are essential to getting a venture off the ground. Whether it’s a reassuring word when you’re a little down or a friendly “go get’em” comment on Facebook or Twitter, this kind of emotional support is often just as important as money or ideas in building a business.

The strivers. I love to hire people who may not have tons of experience and want to stretch beyond their current capabilities. For me, watching people grow into their new roles is one of the most gratifying things about building a new company. It can also lead to better products because these people don’t worry how things were done before.

The champions. Champions fight for you and your product inside their own organization, even when they have little to gain personally. They get their colleagues to try your product, even if no one has ever used it before. Without these champions, most products would never get off the drawing board.

The mentors. Every founder should have a least one great mentor. These are the people who have been there and can give you advice on things like hiring, fundraising and when it’s time to sell your business.

Of course, there are other kinds of people that you encounter along the way who can be less helpful. Some people want something unreasonable from you. “Can I be on your advisory board?” someone might ask, even when you hardly know him. Other people will feign interest in buying your product when what they really want is a job.

And then there are the jerks. The CEO who pretends he wants to buy your company when all he plans to do is rip off your idea. Or the venture capitalist who doesn’t shake hands or return an email. Some people seem to have been given everything in life except manners.

But more often then not, I’m amazed by the generosity, loyalty and support of the people I meet. I couldn’t do it without them.

By Matt Straz
Matt Straz was a senior partner at MEC from 2002-2008. He is currently the CEO of Namely.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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