What does “great” look like?

One of the biggest challenges for first-time founders with little work experience is that they don’t always know what “great” looks like in every area required to build and run a successful business.

Understanding “great” is one of the single most important levers to push your team to greatness, hire the best people possible for a specific job, and build a world-class organization. It’s hard to steer your company if you don’t have a clear picture of what your destination should be.

But, does this mean you need to spend decades in every department of a company before you can launch your own business? Definitely not; there are several things you can do to gain a clearer picture of what great looks like. Here are a few:

See as many candidates as possible

When hiring for an important senior position, try to see many, many candidates. Talking with a wide range of people will help you better understand the landscape and how different candidates think differently about the job in question. You can also leverage your Board of Directors or investors to get a second opinion on leading prospects.

Hire people who have already seen “great”

It’s helpful to hire people from top-notch start-ups who have actually seen what great looks like. When I was running AbeBooks, my Director of Product Management came from Amazon and he had a completely different (and more ambitious) perspective on product and growth opportunities.

Talk to top experts in a specific field

At Version One, we connect some of our start-ups to world-class growth hackers, designers, and other leaders in their field. By spending a few hours with these kinds of experts, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s possible and what you should strive toward in any given field.

Get feedback and input from your peers

Some of your peers may have already figured out what great looks like and the best practices to get there. At Version One, we try to facilitate these conversations through direct introductions (“you should talk to founder x, he/she has learned a lot in this space over the past few months”) as well various platforms to connect our portfolio founders: Slack, portfolio dinners and vertical-specific get-togethers.

The bottom line is if you haven’t already seen great, you at least need to learn what it looks like.

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