Boston University

Get your motivation on for this week’s events

It’s a new week, new energy! Network, get inspired and advance your venture vision.


Today, Nov. 7: Tech Tackles Cancer, hosted by hack/reduce, at Lansdowne Pub9 Lansdowne St., Boston. 6-11:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Register HERE.  Join hack/reduce, one of Boston’s biggest tech associations, for a good-time fundraiser aimed at eliminating pediatric cancer. No matter if you donate or just go out and support the cause, you’ll have a ton of fun with your fellow tech community builders.

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Recruiting Challenges for Startups, hosted by Nancy Drees at WeWork South Station, 795 Atlantic Ave., 8th floor, Boston. 6-8 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. So you have your startup vision in place, and you’re in the early planning stages. A priority needs to be the team you assemble to make that vision happen. The Vacaré Group is hosting a seminar with tips on how to build that startup team successfully.

Wednesday, Nov. 9: SheDemos 2016, hosted by She Starts and the Babson WIN Lab, at C Space, 290 Congress St., Boston. 5:30-8:30 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. If you’re an aspiring female entrepreneur, don’t miss the SheStarts/WIN Lab annual showcase of their dozen startup finalists. Not only will you get inspired by these rockstar women and the businesses they’re creating, you’ll get to make connections helpful to furthering your own startup vision.

Thursday, Nov. 10: 6 Months On: Equity Crowdfunding Rules and You, hosted by the Capital Network at the Cambridge Innovation Center’s Venture Cafe, 1 Broadway, Cambridge, 5:30-6:30 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. Startup funding can be a complex and confusing field. Head to the Venture Cafe for an educational conversation with experts on the ins-and-outs of crowdfunding and investing and how to successfully navigate them.

Friday, Nov. 11: Babson Entrepreneurship Forum: Take Action, hosted by F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, 231 Forest St., Wellesley. Tickets $30. Register HERE. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs: Join Babson students, faculty, and the Boston business community for a day-long conference and networking bash. You’ll get access to valuable entrepreneurial trends and leadership tools, along with pitch advice from the “Live to Pitch” component.

Saturday, Nov. 12: BU BUzz Lab Startup Bootcamp Fall 16, hosted by the Boston University BUzz Lab at Boston University Questrom School of Business (Room 208), 595 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets $10. Register HERE. If you’re looking to get your venture off the ground, or are already there and just want some tips on improving the process, join the BUzz Lab’s boot camp. Your startup will benefit from BU professors’ expertise on key topics like market validation, financing, legal navigation and team building.

Sunday, Nov. 13: Power Hour Brunch Bites Sunday, hosted by Cove at 293 Third St., Cambridge. 10 a.m.-noon. FREE. Register HERE. Cap off your weekend with yummy brunch treats and networking with your fellow Boston community space workers. Local eatery bites, coffee, and socializing galore.

Teamwork: The Power of Won

By GREG STOLLER

In corporate America, to actually get something done, you need a strong team. In startups, the problem is even more acute, given staffing constraints. Consistent forward progress is the goal, and an individual can’t ever do it all. Whether in a boardroom or an incubator, business success is a team sport.

The textbooks go one step further, touting the merits of being cross-functional, in order to be high performing. Conspicuously absent from this logic, however, is the personnel composition. The best teams have one person tapped as the ultimate leader, but then move to highly specialized roles in order to better achieve implementation. This is where quarterbacks add value beyond just leadership: knowing how to staff a group, and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

When assembling a team, I blend doers and thinkers. Doers focus on business development, with an eye toward implementation; the people who pound the pavement, bringing ideas from concept to fruition. Their peers are thinkers—executives who maintain a strong vision and blend the different parts of a company together strategically. One personality type isn’t better or worse than the other. It’s surrounding yourself with people who are unlike you, to create management chemistry.

Strong team leaders always hire people smarter and more diverse than themselves, to achieve better long-term results. In the past month alone, I’ve run two projects employing this model. The first was for executives currently running a business, while the second was for MBA students looking to build skill sets, either to work in finance or to launch their own companies in the future.

Executive education

To prepare teams of Asian executives running existing companies for a U.S. business plan competition, I assembled a three-person advisory panel of specialists (thinkers) to work with them over two weeks. One member of my team analyzed the business merits of their pitches, while the second reviewed their written submissions. The third helped to perfect their delivery techniques. Within just a few days, the Asian executives (the doers) improved dramatically in terms of framing their respective value propositions and making the pitches exciting to potential investors.

Our specialist team worked effectively because we checked our egos at the door. For example, even though I love writing and would have enjoyed helping the executives improve their written scripts, it’s not my strongest area of expertise. The person I recruited writes professionally for business and teaches on the side. Similarly, while I love using technology, I know my own limitations here, too. For the expert I brought in, it’s second nature to optimize audio levels, shoot in the correct light and fluently run through post-production.

MBA competition

We used a similar approach for MBA students, preparing them for a worldwide competition. By comparison, here the graduate students assumed the role of venture capitalists, and we assembled a nine-person preparatory team. Of these mentors, one-third were entrepreneurs, one-third were practicing financiers and the remaining were intellectual property law specialists. As opposed to framing value propositions, the MBAs were led through successive 60-minute practice sessions to hone their analytical and negotiating skills.

An advisory team, rather than single specialist, created a different dynamic, given the wide range of perspectives around the table. Having more people on hand also enabled us to do more accurate role-playing, and mimic what might happen in real time. This proved particularly effective, as some of the exact scenarios we practiced actually came up during the competition.

Whether for an existing business or future executive development, it’s not a matter of skill-set building, but rather blending the right personalities and attitudes. I want people who enjoy sharing both the responsibility and the glory of success. If a team is going to work well, people have to respect what each member does and they have to be willing to support each member.

Who should be on your next team? This should be a part of your networking. You should be on the lookout for people who can augment what you do and bring to the table what you don’t have, so you can offer more. Energetically blend doers and thinkers as necessary, too.

It’s also vital to take detailed notes on both the personnel and the process, in terms of what’s working and what might need to be tweaked, and to share them openly.

Finally, the best teams should be focused, and positioned for consistent, long-term success, and not bothered by any early stumbles encountered.


Greg Stoller is a senior lecturer, and is actively involved in building entrepreneurship, experiential learning and international business programs at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.