Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Build The Damn Thing

Dec 17, 2022

Episode 6: How To Build An Amazing Team


Having the right team is crucial to any business and its success is dependent on it. Knowing who to hire as well as when to let them go can make or break your company.  In this episode of Build The Damn Thing, learn how to find the right people with the right skill sets to help elevate you and your company.


Jeffrey Robinson   |   Rutgers 

Ellie Bahrmasel   |   Further Faster Ventures 

Sharmayne Lueiza Munoz   |   Genius Guild 

Citi Medina    |    Equal Space 

Brian Aoaeh    |    reFashiond Ventures 

Elisa Camahort Page    |   Author 




Stay Connected!  

Kathryn Finney


Twitter: @KathrynFinney

Instagram: @hiiamkathryn

Facebook: Kathryn Finney


Genius Guild


Twitter: @GeniusGuild

Instagram: @geniusguild



Subscribe to our podcast + download each episode on Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.




Produced by Genius Guild Content Studios

Executive Producers:  Kathryn Finney and Darlene Gillard Jones

Post-Production Company: Prosper Digital TV

Post-Production Manager: Joanes Prosper

Post-Production Supervisor: Jason Pierre

Post-Production Sound Editor: EJ Markland

Co-Music Supervisors: Jason Pierre and Darlene Gillard Jones

Show Music: provided by Prosper Digital TV

Main Show Theme Music: "Self Motivated" Written & Performed by Tamara Bubble


Full Transcript


Jeffrey Robinson (00:00):
What I, what I like to, like to see often are startup teams, which is in and of itself is a statement. A lot of folks want to be a startup of one. And becau, I don't know why that is. It, it could be because, uh, they think that entrepreneurship is a solo sport. And I'm here to tell you it is not. You need other people. And that the most successful folks are the ones who have teamed up with others, especially with folks who have complimentary skills. Um, you do really great at marketing, but they do really great at operations. Uh, people remember Bill Gates, but don't forget there was Paul Allen, right? And then after that you had Steve Ballmer. So they, you got three people who really shaped Microsoft into what it, what we know of it today. Um, and they have different sets of skills. And I, I, I would, I would say to anybody who's in startup phase, you know, where's your team, uh, whether they're, you know, uh, founders, owners, whether they're employee number 1 25, whatever. Look, you need a team to get going. 

Kathryn Finney (01:12):
Having the right team is crucial to the success of your business. Knowing who to hire as well as when to let them go, can make or break your company. In this episode of Build a Damn Thing, learn how to find the right people with the right skillsets to help you elevate you and your company. 

So with my family, um, my family created a dry cleaning business, um, <laugh>, uh, that we had no business creating cuz we knew nothing about dry cleaning and hadn't really ran the a business yet. I was the only one in my family that had ran, ran a business, um, at that point. And so we created this dry cleaning business that failed and it failed spectacularly. I mean, it was like TV people coming to my brother's house. I mean, it was like bananas, how much it failed. But there was so many lessons that I learned from that. 

Um, one big lesson was, and this happens to a lot of us, is that we hire all these consultants at the beginning of our business to tell us what our business is. No one can tell you what your business is. You need to find that out for yourself. And hiring expensive ass consultants to tell you is one way to easily fail. You've got to get dirty. You have to go and talk to your potential customer. Instead of spending the tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even more than that on, um, expensive Ask consultants, my family should have just spent a couple of Saturdays at some dry cleaners sitting down and asking people questions, noting who was coming in and who was coming out, what were they doing, what were they wearing, how much were they spending? Talking with other dry cleaners around the city and getting more information on how they're running their business, that would have saved us thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars right there. 

But instead, we had the most expensive attorneys you could have. We had the most expensive, um, consultants. We had the former, uh, CEO of ikea. Why did we need the former CEO of IKEA as a consultant on doing dry cleaners in the hood? He knew nothing about dry cleaning either. He knew retail, but he knew big box retail. He knew nothing about small businesses in the United States. I mean, that was like the sort of like this really stupid things that we did, but was so vital to me in my subsequent businesses because I learned that consultants only come in when you have a very specific project you need them to do, that's time boxed and they come in for that and you do not bring them in for anything <laugh> else. Even though I had, um, you know, started a business with my family, I learned that businesses are not just about money, it's about people and it's about relationships, particularly when you're working with folks. And so it becomes very important to create space and create a company in which you enjoy working with the people, especially in small business where you're going to have some failure, you need to be good working with those people, and you have to have a good working relationship and you need to really understand what their needs are and what your needs are too. 

Ellie Bahrmasel  (04:52):
When we started our co-founder relationship, we all aligned on the idea that we wanted to create the kind of environment where we could be our whole selves and have the space to make the decisions we needed to, to have the lives that we wanted. And we reached a point about a year into the journey where we realized we had more work than three people could handle. And we asked ourselves, what do we do really well? That we would love to find someone else who does what we do well, who can share some of the responsibility? And also where, where are some of our blind spots? Where are ways that based on what we've learned from our user persona, where we can add more value that we can't today based on the team in front of us? And what's the kind of space we want to create for those people who say yes to being on the journey with us? 

My name is Ellie Baral and I am the c e o and co-founder of Further Faster Ventures. 

So we did a lot of work as a team to craft not just role descriptions, but processes that we would use to bring people into the fold, setting some frameworks around communication and norms, so that way once we did find right people, we could integrate them into our universe and then have them co-create with us. How that evolved, 

Kathryn Finney  (06:24):
The very first thing I did when I started Genius Guilded was to work on our core values. This was before hiring anyone. This was before even receiving any investment. I worked in a core values with a brilliant executive strategist named Valesca Toro, and we worked through like, what is Genius Guilded and what do we stand for? And Lesko was like, you know, genius skill really stands for you, Katherine, who are you? And she was like, here's some thoughts. And I said, well, here's some ideas. And we kind of kicked back. She's like, you are always abundant. You are always giving, you come from a pace of abundance, but you're also honest too. And you have a clarity in language for people. You, um, come from a place of honesty because you want people to win and you feel that people deserve to know the truth. Um, you are, uh, you're a big thinker, you're brilliant. Um, and you want others to be brilliant as well. You want others to live up to their brilliance and you encourage that and you wanna see that grow. And so as we were developing these core values, it really helped me solidify the people that I wanted to work with and who I didn't wanna work with. 

Sharmayne Lueiza Munoz (07:44):
One of the things that I really like about Genius Guild, and that really surprised me that so revolutionary compared to other companies is our core values. And one of our core values that's my favorite and really has stood out to me, and we put this in practice, is the core value of being human. 

I'm Sharmayne Lueiza Munoz  and Chief of Staff at Genius Guild. 

I feel this is so important because it allows us to be vulnerable and we can all hold space for each other to show up as who we are living that core value as a team. The whole team feels like they can express themselves, come to each other with any problems, whether it be business or personable, personal, there's never any judgment and everyone can feel like they can express themselves, be great and feel safe. 

Kathryn Finney  (08:53):
The core values have been so helpful. Um, now that we're out in public and we're known and people are like, oh my gosh, you're hiring you all this other stuff, it's allowed us to say no very quickly, uh, because we really do live these values. Like, do I trust you? Are you honest? Are you brewing? Are you a big thinker? Are you generous? Um, do you believe in people? Do you give people the benefit of the doubt or are you always negative? Do you assume that someone's always doing something to you or do you assume that people want to help you and and, and do something for you? All of these things have been like so helpful for us, uh, and really understanding who we bring on. 

Medina (09:40):
I think that for me, finding talent is finding people who are passionate about one of the tiers of services either company does, and through that, growing them up because I can teach skills, but the willingness to want to be a part of the mission, the the, the desire to make change in the community, that's something that's a huge need for me and the team that surrounds me. And I want them to be passionate about their, what they're doing because I, I wouldn't want them with me otherwise. 

My name is Medina. I am the proud founder of Equal Space, and I am a digital advocate for equity space for people of color. 

The other big identifier is, you know, what are they bringing to the table? Quite honestly, the way that, um, our businesses run, we don't have the luxury of people who don't bring a skill to the table to help us move the companies forward. And so really identifying what my core needs on my team are, and then filling in that talent has been how I've built the team. And, and to date, it's been an amazing team. I, I love everybody I get to work with. 

Kathryn Finney (10:53):
Brian came on as our VC at residence, which was amazing. Brian is, he's really the smartest person I think I've ever met in venture. He just knows stuff. He like got a c f a degree because he had time and he just wanted to do it. Um, <laugh>, I've never met anybody like that who's just like, I read financial textbooks for fun. That's a fun Saturday for Brian is reading a financial textbook and he is also married to a powerful black woman, which I knew he would know how to work with another powerful black woman. 

Brian Aoaeh (11:37):
When I think of a genius in the entrepreneurial context, I think of someone who is really great at one thing, um, but then also has the unique ability to attract, to recruit and to retain people who fill in the areas where they are not as strong. So, you know, just to, to be very st stereotypical about it may be, um, the genius that the founder has is in developing a vision and setting a direction for the company. But then if the company relies on technology, someone actually has to be able to build the technology. And so attracting an engineer or a technologist who can actually focus on building the technology that the company brings to market is, is absolutely essential. 

My name is Brian Aoaeh. I am a co-founder and general partner of Refashion Ventures and I am the co-founder of the Worldwide Supply Chain Federation. 

And then when that, when that process is far enough along, you know, maybe the visionary and the technologists are not necessarily the, the greatest at accounting and finance, but that is absolutely essential if you're going to succeed. And so then, uh, being able to recruit someone who can do that and then at the appropriate time, marketing and sales becomes an issue. And so recruiting someone who can handle mark marketing and sales, but does it, like I said, trust is key because it's almost like you're entrusting someone with your child. Um, so that's my definition. 

Kathryn Finney (13:38):
So how do you build amazing team? Like what does that take? Um, I always think of it in terms of something once someone once said to me about love, if you wanna be loved, you have to be lovable. If you want people to follow you, you have to be someone that people want to follow. If you want people to work with you, you have to be someone that people want to work with. And I, I think that's so true in building a team. And so where your, this is where your personal core values come in. This is also where your business core values come in. And so as you think of people to help you build your company, often the first group of people is your family and your friends. And yes, our family and friends may not be able to write massive, large checks, but there's other skill sets that they have. Like in the beginning of digital and divided, my mother helped us with hiring. She has a 40 year background in HR and was able to really help me get through some of our HR challenges and help us with hiring. And we had to lean on her because we didn't have enough money to have an outsourced, uh, HR person. Um, when I was doing events, uh, even at the budget fashionista, I didn't know very much about events. So I leaned on Darlene who helped me to really think through our events and to build things out. 

Elisa Camahort Page  (15:00):
Uh, I always say you want your co-founders to have the same work ethic. You do whatever that level of work ethic is, make sure you're aligned. You can't have one of you be super workaholic and one of you be relatively low key. Um, that's a recipe for, uh, a lot of hurt feelings and, and, um, frustration. But you need them to be experts in different aspects. So I, I've always thought that a lot of companies have problems with their founders after just a few years because they were too much alike. They were experts in the same things. They brought the same special skills to the table. And so it becomes somewhat competitive about whose idea is gonna win versus people bringing different skills and expertise to the table that now, you know, I can lead on this part of what we're doing. And the other two can sort of support but also bring fresh eyes. Whereas you can lead on this thing that I'm not an expert in and I can support and bring a pair of fresh eyes to. 

This is Elisa Camahort Page author and entrepreneur. 

Um, so I think that's one of the main problems is, you know, picking your partners from a co-founder point of view and making sure that you all bring something unique to the table and that you all respect each other and can communicate well together even when things aren't going well, even when something doesn't work out. You have to be able to have the hard conversations, not just the fun, creative, let's think how we're gonna change the world conversations. Um, and I think a lot of times people do not communicate well, particularly when something goes wrong and that, that's another reason. Partnerships founding, founding partnerships really end up breaking up or failing. 

Kathryn Finney (16:53):
There's a lot of other ways to build a team too. You can use outsource services like Upwork and Fiber. They're really particularly helpful when you have discreet tasks that you need done. Like you need a series of Instagram posts done, or you need to change the, the background of your website. Um, those sites are very, very helpful. And there's also free resources like from the s b a small business centers or your local universities, and particularly business schools, which often offer students as consultants to small businesses. 

Jeffrey Robinson  (17:30):
I started my first company with my college roommates now almost 30 years ago. We had a team when we started out. Uh, that core team has lasted, um, the entire, uh, time, uh, that this company, these companies have been afloat and, and I'm talking about a 25, almost 30 year arc. And it wasn't always the same company, but the same core team was there each time because we knew each other. Um, we had worked each with each other as student, uh, student leaders, uh, at, at university, and we carried those relationships outside the university into business. 

My name's Jeffrey Robinson. I am a professor at the Rutgers Business School. I'm also the academic director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. 

As of, uh, you know, as of this recording, you know, we have made the black enterprise, you know, list of 100, um, largest black-owned firms in the country. And so that company is BBC T Partners. That, uh, doesn't happen overnight. I mean that there's a 20 year story just about BBC T Partners, but the same four founders, uh, were involved that for that entire time. And, uh, anybody who asked me about, uh, startups, I always tell 'em that story. Uh, because the team matters. 

Kathryn Finney 19:00):
Uh, if you talk to any of the genius skill team members, they will tell you we are very protective of our team in our space. We do not play. We, we are doing one of the hardest things that you can do, which is a south a at least in the United States, a 500 year old problem. We don't have time for people who don't have vision and who aren't brilliant and who aren't honest and who don't come from a place of abundance. And that's just not what staff, that's also what partners too. Um, we are doing something big and bold and forward thinking and so we need to make sure we're all together on that. And I have a team that is that way and we're protective of it because we are doing such amazing work. Um, this has been really one of the greatest things I've ever done in my life. 

Kathryn Finney (19:59):
You have a business, it's making money, and you've got an amazing team. The next step is funding the growth of that business. On this next episode of Build a Damn Thing, I hope you determine whether or not you should look to raise money and what to look for when you do.