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What are your tactics on keeping a team engaged during slow times, yet ready to pounce?

While working on sales and raising funds; our engineers and designers usually get side jobs to hold them over. This is fine as they need to work and feed themselves. We want them to be our first hires and they do have a shares stake in the company.

The challenge is to get everyone together when success does strike. This has happened before, but the ramp up time of 1 month was just too long and we lost a client during the process with people scattered.

There is another opportunity on the horizon; I can't tell them to quit and come to me just yet - but we need a few weeks to prep. We meet one night a week to keep everyone up to date. They are excited and nervous and dedicated, but not willing to starve.

I know this happens a lot during fundraising. Can you entrepreneur veterans share some of your tactics for keeping people engaged over these times so they are ready to pounce and take action when needed?

4 Replies

Philip Chang
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Philip Chang Entrepreneur
Strategic Communications Consultant
Hey Alison - Re: managing remote part-time colleagues, one thing that's worked for me in crunch time is to give an estimate of what time/utilization needed from them at the beginning of the week. And then discuss.

It's not precise or exact but sets a baseline for expectations so people can cover for one another.
Jose A. Mejia
3
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Jose A. Mejia Advisor
Passionate Global Executive | Engineering and Breakthrough Leader -
Alison, I have the tough job of doing this several times for start-ups and for large companies that are in trouble. My thoughts are: 1. Make sure that you believe it yourself and that you are pumped and have a clear view of the future and its possibilities. This also means that not only is your emotional connection clear but that you have done proper homework to help you create a thoughtful and logical connection to your arguments and vision. It is ok if the data is not all there, but a 70 % data and a very clear intuition is cool 2. Open yourself up, share how you think about things, share your views, share your logic and your intuition, don't be afraid to be completely YOU and and share it. People, just like you, can sense as a group when a leader is truly being themselves and are also convincing, engaging and thoughtful 3. If you can, bring external sources to talk with them about either what you see or also about sharing data about how many others started and almost failed and yet made it, the ride is hard but the benefit could be huge as long as you are not asking for foolishness. Or another idea is to have a small group do that homework and share it with the larger group. 4. Appeal to what is important to them, think what would you want to know and hear if you were in their shoes. Maybe you even want to facilitate a pre-meeting where they are asked a simple set of questions like: What do you want to hear or know about the company? what do you want Alison to share?? etc meaning try not to assume. 5. Finally, think of the engagement matrix: Good luck
Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Jose, well said. Alison, it's our personal connections with our teams that get us over the rough spots in the long run. Our ability to connect and present a vision and game plan that people can believe in makes all the difference. Money can overcome a lot of things, but if there is no money then connection and passion and vision is all the fuel you have. Once you have that connection and trust many also want details to back up the vision so having some hard data to support the plan is more than worth the effort. Frequent communication is also key - i would say daily or multiple time/wk - they need to know you are hustling and that you are excited every day.
Alison Lewis
1
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Alison Lewis Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO/Creative Director
I don't feel like this is a rough spot; I feel like it's more of a timing issue. Takes time to ramp up and I'd like to lower that time.

"connection and passion and vision is all the fuel you have" - yes, this is me!

Right now we meet once a week and have action items to take away. They review our proposal documents and plans and make comments and are part of the decision of how we will make the next step.

We meet for beers to discuss again on Fridays, twice a month.

I like the idea of an update from me every day. That's a good idea.

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