Teambuilding Without Teambuilding - 1

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Teambuilding Without Teambuilding - 1
I joke about how I came up with the idea for the ExitEvent Startup Social -- in that it should be that last part of any tech or startup conference, where everyone is drinking and socializing and getting the most out of their time. The really expensive, bloated, and boring part, from the networking power breakfast to the sessions to the breakout groups to the keynotes? Let's get rid of all that.

As an entrepreneur, you have to believe that your idea will come to fruition without a roadmap. Yes, you need a roadmap, but that's for things like product release schedules, marketing, sales, company growth, things like that. The only ingredient to make a good idea succeed is faith.

So that's the Social. Faith that I don't have to put a speaker out in front or a pseudo-educational theme around why you should be there. I can't guarantee that you'll come away from the Social having learned something to propel your business forward. But nine times out of ten, people do. They find their own way.

The beauty of it is it works for an advanced later-stage big-startup CEO (think Aaron Houghton), all the way down to the idea guy at Red Hat just itching to leave and finally break out on his or her own.

Everyone talks about helping entrepreneurs and then getting out of the way. I like to think ExitEvent -- both the site and the Social -- is a case study. Plus it's a lot of fun.

Switching gears. Yesterday, Automated Insights (my actual startup), spent the day trekking out to the country to spend four hours shooting at each other with paintballs. None of us are the paintball type. With the exception of Jack, the closest any of us had come to paintball was a first-person shooter video game.

Teambuilding Without Teambuilding - 2
The words "team building" never came up, except once or twice in an ironic sense when talking about unleashing pent-up rage on one of our co-workers. There was no opening speech, except for the part about not shooting each other in the eyeball or throat. There was no contest or personality study or explanation of how this was like our workday. There were teams, but they were based on who wanted to shoot who the most.

But as we left the field that afternoon, we were all ridiculously closer to one another than we had been before we arrived. In fact, as I write this, I'm pretty pumped about going in to work today, just because, and despite the fact that I'm really, really sore, especially in about half a dozen places where I "took one for the team."

Nah, I got shot because I get all Rambo-heroic in those kinds of situations, yet I'm less Rambo and more "easy target."

But this teambuilding without teambuilding approach made me think about the startup as being just like a big corporation, only without all of the bullshit. Everything we do is with an eye for the bottom line or some other (and there are only a few) metric that directly contributes to the success of the company. And it made me focus again, for the first time in a while, on whether this no-BS theory, like the Social as well, should be applied to every aspect of startup.

Sales without "sales."
Marketing without "marketing."
Hiring without "hiring."
Product development without "product development."
Project management without "project management."

The list goes on.

This is the ethos on which I started my older (and now temporarily shelved) startup Intrepid Company. Making startups succeed by removing all the layers that got in the way of that success. It worked there too.

So kudos to Robbie Allen for sanctioning what looked like a day of fun but probably paid more dividends than two or three days of heads down work. And even further kudos for not tainting the day with handouts or grand objectives.

More often than not, you just need to do the thing, and then get out of the way.