A founder’s life can be lonely. Whether you are running a tech startup or an MSP business, the founder or business owner needs to process information that no one else has access to, sometimes take hard decisions without being able to consult with anyone, and deal with consequences of those decisions completely on their own. The founder journey can be stressful. Which is why it is quite important to have the right people around you.

Here, I am not talking about the right kind of technically skilled people or subject matter experts you should employ. That goes without saying. Here I am talking about something deeper, more strategic, and, maybe, even a tad philosophical.

As a second-time founder, I try to ensure that I have five kinds of people around me, and I believe you should too.

  1. Your Kirk or Spock: I have been a Star Trek fan for the longest time and I have taken many life lessons from that series. One of my biggest lessons from Star Trek is based on the Kirk vs Spock paradigm. It is basically gut vs head. You need to know what kind of person you are - are you Kirk or someone who relies on gut instinct or are you Spock, someone who is logical or analytical. You need both these aspects to run a company successfully. So, if you are a “gut-person”, like me, ensure you have a “head-person” supporting you at work, so there is balance.
  2. The “yes, can do” person: A young or early-stage business can be the perfect breeding ground for stress, if you let it. There are multiple fires to put out; there’s a lot to be done. You need people who have high energy levels, who have a positive mindset, and have a can-do attitude. The kind of people who will say, “yes, that can be done”, when something sudden comes up, the kind of people who will make the team laugh and keep their spirits up in a high-stress situation. 
  3. The question-asker: There is a tendency or, at least, a temptation to surround ourselves with people who will agree with us, who will appreciate what we say or suggest. But, that is not going to help you or your company. We all have blind spots; none of us take the right decisions at all times. You will need people around you who will question you and your decisions or ideas, who will ask you why, who will show you a different angle or point of view. For this to happen, for people to be comfortable with sharing their unvarnished opinion, you need to first create a conducive environment. Only then will people question you freely and directly.
  4. The one who compliments you: It is very important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. For instance, I am not a very numbers person. So my Chief of Staff is a person who has strong financial and analytical skills. My co-founder has a strong engineering background and is logical. This is how I have ensured that we have covered all the bases. There is a tendency, subconsciously, to hire “people like us”, which is detrimental for your business’ growth.
  5. The mentor/advisor: This will most likely not be a person who is part of your team. You need to have a person you can go to for advice. This can be a mentor or a coach. Like we all know, a founder’s life can be very lonely. There are things you can’t share with your team members. You need that sounding board, someone whose advice you value, and someone who can truly share insights that are useful for you. Also, when there is too much going wrong, you will need to be the person who cheers up the team and focuses on the positive. But, you too need to vent. Having a mentor or that “3am friend” with whom you can talk about any problem or issue is absolutely necessary for your mental health. 

I have always been a believer that you draw your strength from the people around you. While your product or services, the revenue model, and the marketing and sales tactics are all important, I have realised that it is the people around you that make the difference between success and failure. So, choose your people wisely.