What You Can Learn from Navy Seals on Building a Fundable Team

What You Can Learn from Navy Seals on Building a Fundable Team

Plus, 5 More Tips to Getting Funded.

Last we talked, I gave you 15 Ways to Build a Winning Team and get Business Funding, and I promised more. This blog post provides five more, and also simplifies what you already know.

Begin by viewing the short video below about leadership from U.S. Navy Seals.

What can you learn from this video? First and clearest is the classic message from the Seals: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” This seems to put the onus on you, the Vision Master, to lead your team to victory.

But look closer. There are two Seals in the video, one doing the talking and one looking on with square jaw and steady gaze.

Let’s take the subliminal message seriously: It takes two to lead a team, one the outspoken Vision Master and one the “get it done” steely-eyed Execution Master. This is a concept many of you know as one of Intelliversity’s pillars.

OK, maybe you don’t need two leaders in a 7-man boat. However, any ship in the U.S. Navy typically has a captain (also called CO or Commanding Officer) and an XO (also called Executive Officer). In other navies, the XO may be known as chief officer, chief mate, first mate, first officer, or second).

What does the XO do in the Navy? From the U.S. Navy’s website: “The XO is typically responsible for managing day-to-day activities. … They support the Commanding Officer freeing them to concentrate on tactical planning and execution. The XO also takes charge in the absence of the Commanding Officer.” Is it the same in an innovative business?

Admittedly, running a company is not the same as running a ship. Running an innovative business is possibly the most complex job known to humankind, more complex than leading a ship and even more complex than marriage with children. To guide the long-range strategy of an innovative business, the CEO (Vision Master) may have to limit his/her responsibility to keeping the team moving in the same direction, ensuring the team understands and is fully committed to the mission of the company. Depending on skill set and business type, he/she may also be in charge of product development (as in most tech companies), mergers and acquisitions, and/or company culture (as did Jack Welch at GM.) The COO or President (Execution Master) is like the XO of a ship but in a business may take on greater responsibility for planning and sales and marketing, as well as day-to-day execution. A well-known example is Sheryl Sandberg under Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook or Gwynne Shotwell under Elon Musk at SpaceX. They do more for their companies than an XO may do for a typical Naval vessel.

So how does this relate to our 15 or more ways to build a winning team? Let’s examine that list again:

  1. Team members have aligned values, both personally and business-related
  2. Team members have complementary skill sets and leadership styles
  3. Team members have a passion for the mission, not just a job (i.e. proper motivation)
  4. Financial rewards and compensation are clear
  5. The Vision Master or Execution Master has prior business success in the same sector (V.M.)
  6. The founder has the majority of stock (not 50/50 split) (V.M.)
  7. The Vision Master is willing to trust and delegate operational details to his team. (V.M.)
  8. Team is open to being held accountable
  9. The team has fun (good chemistry) while working
  10. Work ethic is high
  11. Time-expectations of team members is aligned with liquidity prospects of the company (V.M.)
  12. Agreements and commitments are in writing
  13. Company standards-of-behavior (code of honor) are clear
  14. Team members are open to learning, coachable and hence pivot quickly
  15. Team members have support from the spouses/mates to pursue entrepreneurial goals

The ones marked “V.M.” are those that the Vision Master (founder/CEO) should take direct responsibility for overseeing. All the rest can be handled by the E.M. so long as the V.M. clearly states the standards. So with only a few exceptions during the early days of a company, the V.M. mainly sets the standards and then delegates their execution to the E.M. Makes sense, right?

So now, here are five more ways to build a winning team so you get funded (and grow the company):

  1. Each team member is highly “suitable” for his or her position. (This can be interpreted as each team member really enjoys the kind of work he/she does. You don’t want a CFO or CMO who really wants to be in product development, for example.)
  2. Decision-making processes are clear. (For example, it is clear which decisions can be handled by an individual executive verses which decisions must be kicked up to the E.M. or V.M.)
  3. Communication processes are clear. (For example, executive team meetings are held at well-defined times. The frequency of reporting is clear. Key Performance Indicators are clear, and so on.)
  4. The company’s mission and specific objectives are completely clear to all members of the team. (Every member of the team can state them.)
  5. There is a culture of risk-taking as well as accountability. (These two apparently contradictory values can and should be reconciled on a winning team, and good Execution Master knows how to do this.)

Each of these can be handled and managed by the Execution Master after the standards are clearly set by the V.M.

Let me remind you; there are exceptions to every rule. Any given company may require a different division of responsibilities depending on the talent available. The Vision Master (typically the CEO) may delegate to the Execution Master, often called COO) more or less responsibility.  I advocate the V.M. should error on the side of delegating more rather than less responsibility. It’s fair to paraphrase (from an old saying about a lawyer representing him/herself) that a CEO that has him/herself as COO has a fool for a second-in-command.

Take Away

Come to an investor with a thorough analysis of the composition and culture of your team, and you’re going to impress them.

For full access to Intelliversity's library of free eBooks on funding innovation and leadership, go to the Intelliversity library. Our eBook, Born to Star gives an in-depth look at the importance of the right combination of Vision and Execution Masters for your team.

What you can learn from Navy Seals about teamwork and being fundable