Seabiscuit, The Father of Venture Capital and You

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A while back the CFO client sent me an email. She was going on vacation and wanted a recommendation of a book on leadership that she could read while she was away.

Without hesitation I recommended unexpected book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. She called me asking why in the world I recommended a book about a racehorse when she asked for a book about leadership.

I told her that the real story was about the tremendous teamwork and belief in each other that developed between the owner, the trainer and the horse. It was that teamwork and affinity for each other that allowed them to succeed against very long odds.

Georges Doriot, considered the father of the venture capital industry, promoted a similar perspective on success. Doriot founded American Research & Development Corporation, which backed one of the first blockbuster technology start-ups, Digital Equipment Corp.

Doriot’s strategy was to invest in talent and great teams, not necessarily great ideas. He was quoted as saying, “An average idea in the hands of an able team is worth more than an outstanding idea in the hands of a team of only average ability.”

I recommend that you spend more time building your executive team than searching for that “next great idea.”

Avoid traditional team building exercises. Instead, spend quality time together as a team. Not in static meetings where department heads report on what they are doing, but in substantive business planning and review sessions where the team is sharing perspectives on solving problems, managing interdependencies between projects and analyzing new opportunities.

Do not rush these sessions. Allow enough time for your team to look at issues from many different vantage points. You may see the right answer quickly. Resist the temptation to point it out. Allow the team to fully engage each others' opinions.

Through this process each team member will broaden their perspective and learn to collaborate in a way that will yield real synergy and develop a team whose ability is far greater than the sum of its parts.

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