How To Pick a Target Market For a B2B Startup (Part II – Surveys)

This is Part II in a three-part series about finding your ideal target market. Click here if you’d like to start from the beginning.

In part I of this series, I showed you how to use brainstorming and a bit of research to build a short list of potential target markets for your B2B startup.

Now it’s time to narrow that list even further.

To do that, we’re going to use surveys to ask polarizing questions and find out even more about our targets.

Why Mess With Surveys?

Pretend it’s 1993.

A since Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes haven’t been invented yet, we can safely say that finding a target market is a lot like buying a CD. An old-school, shrink-wrapped, don’t-scratch-it-or-you’re screwed compact disc. The kind you’d purchase for $16.99 + tax by having your mom drive you to Tower Records after mowing lawns all weekend.

At the store, do you simply buy the first album within reach? Oh no no. This is a major commitment, and there’s going to be some planning involved.

Having been impressed by the copious amounts of distortion and flannel displayed by the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, you’re ready to go with an album from either band.

But you still have some work to do. Flipping through stacks of plastic jewel cases, you discover that Pearl Jam’s albums have cooler artwork, so you’ve narrowed it down to Ten and Vs. Oh, but which one?

With the 7 minutes you have left before your mom comes back from Sears, you nab of a set of headphones to preview each album. After listening to Alive again, you’re confident that Pearl Jam’s first release speaks to your teenage angst slightly more. Ten it is. Whew…

Pearl Jam Ten
A big decision indeed: once that shrink-wrap came off, there was no turning back.

That may have been an overly dramatic illustration. But my point is this–picking a target market is a huge decision. Rush into it and you’re bound to make mistakes. Spend some time learning about your options and you’ll be much better off.

Yes, surveys are a bit time-consuming, but they are a key step in narrowing down your list of potential targets. Ultimately, you’ll want to do in-person interviews to make your final decision. But you probably don’t have the time to interviews dozens of people in multiple markets. Surveys help you narrow your list so that you only spend time interviewing the most promising opportunities.

Let’s get started, and I’ll share the process I’ve used to conduct surveys with my own team.

Start By Pre-Qualifying Your Audience

This may be the most important piece.

Pre-qualifying means asking a test question to see if a potential survey taker is actually someone you want a response from. Data from anyone else is a waste of your time. Pre-qualifying questions should ask for any information you think is relevant: industry, job responsibilities, use of certain software, or perhaps a ranking of Kenny G songs, from worst to most worst.

You can usually set up pre-qualifying questions so that anyone who gives a wrong response is removed from the survey.

Choose The Right Questions With These 3 Tips

I’ve written some good survey questions and plenty of bad ones. Here are four things I try to keep in mind that have helped me write better questions:

  1. Only ask questions that are actionable. Eliminate those that are merely interesting. If the response to the question won’t affect your decision to pursue a target market, then toss it.
  2. Your respondents can only handle so many questions. Ask too many, and they’ll start giving unthoughtful answers just to finish the thing.
  3. Don’t shy away from open-ended questions. Sometimes it’s hard to know what response options to provide. Using open-ended questions can help solve this. While they can be a pain-in-the-ass to sort through, open-ended questions let your survey takers provide whatever information they think is most relevant.

Get Your Wording Right Or The Whole Thing Is A Waste

Frame your questions the wrong way and you’re better off not doing your survey at all. Leading questions or ambiguously worded ones can actually give you misleading information about your potential target market. Here’s an obvious example to help you get the idea:

What is your favorite Michael Bolton song?

Sounds innocuous right? But it implies that the survey taker enjoys listening to that bronze-skinned tenor in the first place. He may try to give you an answer (“I guess I sort of like them all…“) but you probably won’t find out what you really need to know–that you couldn’t pay her to listen to even a single one.

Here are three resources to help you write better questions:

– Qualtrics: 10 Commandments For Writing Outstanding Survey Questions
– Hubspot: How to Write Survey Questions: 7 Things NOT to Do
– Grammar Girl: How to Write Good Survey Questions

“I guess I sort of like ’em all…”. Whether you’re talking about Michael Bolton or your list of potential target markets, either way, it’s not the right response.

Two Easy Ways To Get People To Take Your Survey

Now the real crux of the process: finding the right people to take your survey. The more specific your audience, the more difficult it will be to find them.

You have two options.

  1. Use Facebook’s detailing targeting tools to build an audience that closely matches your target. Then set up a Facebook ad that links to your survey. Like all Facebook ads, you’ll have to pay to get those clicks.
  2. Use a third-party research service like TapResearch. Not only will a service like this help you find the right people, they’ll do it incredibly quickly. This is my preferred option; in fact, we use Tap Research so often that they even wrote a short case study about us.

What To Do With All That Data?

Now that you’ve amassed enough data to rival a burgeoning record collection, what do you do with it all? Outside of the obvious (read it), there are four things we always do with our own survey responses:

  1. Make sure data is statistically significant. That’s just a fancy way of saying “get enough data so that if you ran the survey again, there’s a very high chance you’d get the same outcome.” To figure out how many responses you need, check out this calculator from SurveyMonkey.
  2. Look at how responses vary based on answers to other questions. For example, let’s say you’ve asked for “years in business.” If you look at the responses from people who’ve been in business less than 5 years vs those who’ve been around longer, do you see a difference? This data might help you refine your target market further.
  3. Throw out the entire response of anyone who’s given bogus answers. You don’t have to get many people taking a survey to get responses like “asdfasdf” or the classic, “your mom.” Discard every answer from these survey takers as they probably weren’t taking your questions seriously.
  4. Read through every single open-ended answer. Some survey services will show you a word cloud that highlights the most commonly-used terms. But they’re not very useful. Instead, read each response individually and you’ll get a much better sense of what people are saying.
A massive record collection is like having a ton of data about your target market
Hopefully, you have a similar look on your face after organizing all your survey data.

What’s The Next Step In Picking Your Target Market?

The purpose of this exercise was to help you narrow your list of potential target markets down even further.

To do that, compare data from each target market. Did each group provide relatively similar responses? If so, you probably didn’t ask the right questions or word them the right way. Time for a redo–this time with some more polarizing questions.

However, if you crafted your surveys well, then you should now be able to get a sense of the most promising three or four target markets to go after. You’ll learn about each of those further in part III, where I’ll share some tips for conducting in-person interviews.

To receive an email when part III is published, provide your email below and I’ll send you a note.

How To Pick A Target Market For A B2B Startup (Part I – Research)

In a B2B startup, there are two questions that you must answer before your company gets very far: what is the product, and who are you going to sell it to? In today’s post, I’m going to focus on the second question, and show you a 3-part process you can use to find the exact market niche to focus on.

Before We Begin, Here’s What Not To Do

But, my friends – before we talk about how to do things the right way, let’s take a moment to reflect on the one thing you should not do. Have you guessed it already? It’s sell to everyone. 

It’s tempting, isn’t it? After all, your product idea is so wonderful, why on Earth would you want to restrict it to niche? The answer is simple: a product for everyone is a product for no one. Few products have a truly universal appeal, and I’m willing to bet yours isn’t one of them. Unless you can solve a specific problem for a specific audience in a really exceptional way, no one will give you their attention.

The Fisherman, The Psychic, And The Detective

With that being said, let’s move on to the solution to finding your market niche for your B2B startup. I’ve encountered three ways to go about it:

  • The “Fisherman” Approach: cast a wide net by offering your product to as a diverse group as possible, and see who bites. Then, focus there.
  • The “Psychic” Approach:  when you feel like you already know who the best fit is, and move forward based on gut instinct.
  • The “Detective” Approach: through research and interviews, discover who will be the best using empirical evidence and your judgment.

These are all legitimate approaches, and I don’t think you’d have to search too hard to find successful businesses have been started using each. However, the Fisherman and the Psychic approach present some risks that could actually slow you down.

With the Fisherman approach, the risk is that no one bites, because they didn’t feel you were speaking to them. With the Psychic approach, the risk is that you’re just plain wrong. Or more likely, that you made a merely OK choice but could have made a better one if you had done your homework.

Inspector Clouseau
Pink Pather’s Inspector Clouseau may not have had to do research market niches, but I like to think he’d be great at it.

If either of the Fisherman or the Psychic approaches don’t work out, you’ll end up starting over and going down the path of the Detective anyway. That’s why I recommend starting with the Detective approach. It gives you the best chance of finding the right answer the first time around, while only requiring a little extra time and effort

Become A Market Niche Gumshoe With These 3 Steps

So how does the Detective approach to picking your market niche work? It’s actually pretty easy. You can break it down into three steps:

  1. Brainstorm and research every suspect you can imagine
  2. Survey the remaining suspects to get a quick read
  3. Personally interview the most promising suspects

In the rest of this post, I’ll outline step one of the Detective process: brainstorm and research. You’ll find instructions for steps two and three in follow up posts. (To receive an email when those posts are published, just enter your email address below.)

First, List Your Suspects

I was going to start out by saying “imagine that you’re a real detective…“. But I don’t need to, because you kind of already are. Hopefully, you’re not looking for a murder suspect, but like a professional gumshoe, your first job is to gather as many facts as you can that pertain to your case.

Start by making a list of every single suspect you can possibly imagine. This means coming up with every market niche that might have a chance of doing business with you. For a B2B company, try to be as specific as possible. Don’t just say “small businesses,” list “dry cleaners,” “fine dining restaurants,” and “yoga studios.

Here are three pieces of advice for making the most of this process:

  1. The list doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. You can always group entries together or split them apart later on.
  2. Try not to be overly concerned with whether a niche would be a perfect fit at this point. Since you’re just brainstorming, bad ideas can be helpful because they’ll trigger other ideas you may not have come up with otherwise.
  3. Try to have at least a dozen entries to start with.

Next, Eliminate Anyone Who’s Not Viable

Now that you’ve created your list, your next job is to eliminate any entries that simply don’t present a viable opportunity.

This could present itself in a few different ways: (a) the market may not be large enough to be worth pursuing; (b) the market is so large that it’s likely to attract the attention of a larger and more powerful competitor; (c) businesses in the space simply don’t make enough money to afford what you’re offering; or (d) there’s some other circumstance about the market that makes in undesirable.

To answer these questions, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Here’s how we go about it on my team:

  1. Look up the market size, in terms of number companies within that niche.
  2. Find out how much revenue a typical company in that niche generates.
  3. See if the industry is growing or declining and if there are any geographic characteristics that would help or hurt you.
  4. Use Facebook’s Insights tool to see if there’s anything unique about people who work in that space and to gauge audience size.
  5. Get your hands on industry websites and publications to see if you can glean any relevant insights on companies in each space,

As you gather this information, cross out any opportunity that no longer looks remotely desirable. Ideally, go through this exercise with a few people on your team. If someone provides a new piece of information that helps you rule out an opportunity, that’s great! She just saved you a lot of wasted effort. Try to be aggressive, and eliminate at least half your list. And if you can, see if you can get it down to 5-10 options.

What’s Next? Stay Tuned

At this point, you should have eliminated the options that are least likely to get you early traction. With the obvious bad fits out of the way, you’ll now move on to the survey process, where you’ll begin to understand the nuances of each market niche in a bit more detail. That’s what we’ll discuss in the next post, and if you’d like to receive an email when it’s published, just provide your email address in the form below.

How to Choose The Right CRM For Your Startup

Choosing a CRM is a lot like dating: you need some experience to know what you’re looking for, it takes a while to find out if you’ve made the right choice, and if you decide to switch to another option, it’s generally a pain in the ass.

We recently went through the CRM selection process at my company, and we ended up with a great choice. I wanted to share the steps we went through, to hopefully save you some pain in your own journey.

Background

We originally used Hubspot as an all-in-one marketing/sales platform. We tried to use it as a CRM as well, but it’s not well suited for that. As our sales volume started to increase, and we quickly needed a better solution to help us manage leads and deal discussions. After an afternoon spent Googling every CRM search string we could think of, we soon realized that there were hundreds of choices. Far too many, in fact. Suffocating under the sheer variety of options, we decided to take a step back…

Assessing Your Needs

We took a break and tried to honestly assess what we really needed from a CRM. Just like your buddy’s girlfriend you can’t stand to be around, some CRMs will be a poor fit because they’re tailored for a different type of user. But since you can’t afford to date a dozen CRMs before you marry one, you have to figure out what you want first.

Here are a few questions that will help you find out:

  • How complex is your sales process? Perhaps you sign leads up after a phone call or two. Or maybe it’s a months-long conversation with several people. You won’t need every feature under the sun if you just need a fancy list to keep track of who needs to be called.
  • Who will be using the CRM? Is your team really tech savvy, and comfortable setting up a lot of configuration? Or will they refuse to touch something unless it has a beginner-friendly interface?
  • How many leads do you manage at once? How similar are they? If you’re selling the same thing to every lead, you probably have a fairly straightforward process. A CRM that simply helps you track progress will be fine. But if you have multiple products that have unique sales approaches, you’ll want more flexibility to customize.
  • Where do your sales take place? If you’re out in the field much, then consider CRMs that have mapping features and a strong mobile app (many CRMs don’t).
  • Do you sell via email, phone, or both? Several CRMs that offer in-app calling, call logging, dedicated telephone numbers, and other features that make it easy to manage calls. Other CRMs offer direct integration into email services such as Gmail and Outlook, which is handy if you want to easily track correspondence.
  • How long does this CRM need to last? Remember, just because you pick a CRM now doesn’t mean that you’ll use it until the end of time. Yes, it’s a pain to switch, but if you’re a startup, the software you use today isn’t what you’ll be using three years from now.
  • What other services do you use? Are there email, billing, chat, or other web-based software you use for marketing and sales? Several CRMs offer direct integrations with those platforms, making it a cinch to sync data.
  • How available is your tech team? Many CRMs can’t fully connect to other services unless you make use of their API. Have a custom website that someone wrote from scratch? You’ll need to make API calls if you want those forms on your website to update your CRM automatically. If this is a concern for you, check out Zapier, which offers direct integrations between many platforms, all without writing code.
  • How much does it cost? Don’t worry about this one for now. Most CRMs geared at startups will be within a fairly similar price range. Unless you’re on a shoestring budget, focus on finding a tool that works best for you. More expensive isn’t necessarily better.

Review With Your Team

If you’ve talked through these questions together, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you need out of a CRM. Here’s what we ended up with:

Our sales process typically involves a couple of emails and a phone call or two. However, the time from initial interest to close can take anywhere from one day to one month. We need something that will make it easy to track correspondence and deal stage. Phone integration and mobile apps are must-haves.

Right now, our products have fixed pricing. The sales process is mostly educational and less focused on negotiation. With that in mind, we didn’t need anything really nuanced. Just an easy way to keep track of how many customers are interested and how many we’ve closed.

Our sales team is a smart bunch, but they don’t have a lot of time to learn a funky interface. Finding something that was intuitive is paramount. While our sales are mostly done in-office, knowing where leads are located geographically is really important, as we sell to many local businesses.

Finally, we need a service that will integrate with MailChimp and Gmail. We’ll also need to update our CRM via an API, since we’d have an custom-built website and sign-up portal for our services.

Go through this exercise and get ready to go hunting…

Narrow It Down

There are a couple options for narrowing your choices: use a service such as Capterra or G2 Crowd to filter your options, OR take the easy way by looking at the short list we came up with:

  • Close.io – great for call tracking and a simple interface
  • RelateIQ – uses algorithms to help you know where to spend your time
  • Intercom – offers a single platform for communicating over multiple channels
  • BaseCRM – solid call/email integration, great UI and mobile app
  • HighRise – extremely simple, a glorified contact manager
  • Nimble – strong social media integration
  • Pipedrive – targeted at high-value/low-volume deal flow
  • Pipeline Deals – focused on managing an intricate sales process
  • CapsuleCRM – easy to get started with

Go On A Date

Once you’ve selected three or four candidates, it’s time for a test run. Set up a trial account, import your data, and start to poke around. Before long, you’ll get a sense of how steep the learning curve is and how much customization is involved before you can really make use of it. Make sure you include any mobile apps as part of the trial process.

If you’re still having trouble making a decision, here are a few tips to help:

  • Submit a support request and see how quickly and thoroughly their team responds.
  • Check out their documentation. How many resources do they provide to help you along?
  • Ask one of their sales reps to tell you why you should choose them over another CRM you’re considering. They may point out some features you weren’t aware of. If you want to dig even deeper, ask the sales rep to tell you what the weak points of their CRM are. Every service has a few.
  • If Salesforce came up on your short list, cross it off. Unless you have a big sales team and a lead who’s already familiar with Salesforce, changes are it will be overkill. By the time you have it set up, you could already have been using a simpler CRM for months.
  • Visit the company’s blog to see how recently they’ve released new features.
  • Take a look at Zapier to see what kinds of integrations are offered. Set up a Zap and see if it works.

Make Your Choice

You won’t know whether you’ve made the perfect decision until you’ve committed to a CRM, started using it for real deals, and discovered all its warts. But you won’t be able to try them all for months. And at a startup, sometimes done is better than perfect. So make your decision, move forward, and don’t look back.

For us, we went with BaseCRM. We really liked its intuitive interface, call integration, and mobile apps. It also has a fairly good API, which means that it can grow with us for a while. Reporting tools are solid too. Yes, there are some shortcomings we found with it, but none of them are serious enough to cause us to reconsider. And their support team has been really helpful. So far, so good…

Have you gone through the process of picking a new CRM? If so, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on how to make the process more painless. 

Startup Lessons from A Game of Thrones – Part 1: Tyrion Lannister and Getting Shit Done

George R.R. Martin’s novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, (or for you viewers at home, A Game of Thrones) is chock full of interesting characters and situations. So much so, that I felt compelled to write a few posts about the lessons that startups can draw from them.

Let’s start with Tyrion Lanninster, aka The Imp. Caution… spoiler ahead. Tyrion’s never had a lot going for him. A misshapen dwarf who’s been all but disowned by his family, Tyrion’s rarely enjoyed the respect of others.  While Tyrion’s immediate family is made up of avarice-driven, power-hungry, and cunning individuals who’ve jockeyed themselves into dominant positions in society, Tyrion spends his days drinking and whoring out of sight.

Tyrion in his element

That changes though, though, when the circumstances of war install Tyrion as Hand of the King. Tyrion is just as surprised as anyone at obtaining the second most powerful position in the kingdom, and he uses the opportunity to earn the respect he’s never had. The task isn’t easy, though: the king himself is Tyrion’s own nephew Joffrey, an immature and cruel boy who despises Tyrion even though he’s the very man he should rely on to help him run the kingdom.

But before long, Tyrion learns how to manipulate Joffrey through a combination of intimidation (“I’ll geld you, I swear it…” he threatens Joffrey once) and distraction (giving Joffrey a fancy crossbow to show off). While short of stature, he’s not short on wit. In the ensuing months, Tyrion finds himself running the affairs of the kingdom while the king is preoccupied playing with his toys.

This is exactly where Tyion needs to be some time later, when the city of King’s Landing is about to be attacked by rivals. While Joffrey should be the one making war plans, he’s too busy having his fiancé beaten and generally being a prick to make meaningful preparations. And as much as Tyrion hates Joffrey, he hates the idea of having the city sacked and his family thrown out of power even more. With the prospect of a loss looming on the horizon, Tyrion switches to full-on “Get Shit Done” mode…

He orders every blacksmith in the city forge a massive chain that will cut invading ships in two. He cajoles the ancient order of pyromancers make 10,000 jars of a hugely volatile substance called wildfire – enough to blow up the entire city of they’re not careful. He burns down the shanties surrounding the city walls to keep them from being used by the enemy as ladders. He has catapults built and sends men out to harass the enemy, all without the knowledge or consent of his incompetent nephew. Though untrained as a soldier, Tyrion even leads a band of soldiers to defend the city gates, while men with twice his size and experience flee to safety.

Wildfire: the napalm of Game of Thrones

It’s not not to be impressed by The Imp. He had the gall to deal the ineffectual and narcissistic King (and technically his boss) enough blows to keep him out of the way. He had the foresight to initiate some defensive tactics that others overlooked. And he had the guts to rush into battle despite his physical disadvantages. Without him, King’s Landing may have in fact been overtaken. Doesn’t he sound like someone you’d want on your side?

Thankfully most of us don’t have the disadvantages Tyrion had to deal with: a unsavory physical appearance, a family that’s rejected you you, and a 13-year-old egotistical and insecure boss. Now think of the challenges you’re dealing with at your own startup. Do any of them seem nearly as bad? No?… So what’s keeping you from being like Tyrion and Getting Shit Done?

Can the Bible teach us how to build great startup teams?

“Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do,” is a popular saying in the startup community, thanks to Mark Suster. Indeed, of all factors contributing to startup’s success: product/market fit, sufficient funding, competitive barriers, and so on – none are relevant without a good team in place.

But how do you know when you have a good team? The challenge with team building is that there are quantitative ways of assessing its health. You know when you need to raise money by looking at your balance sheet. You know that you’re on track for a product/market fit when customers start giving you money. But how do you know that your team has the right composition?

There’s a useful concept that comes from an unlikely source: the Christian church. I promise that this post won’t be about converting you to one religion or another, but keep an open mind. In his book, “Building a Discipling Culture“, author Mike Breen developed a concept called the Fivefold Ministries. The idea stems from the five core roles that are outlined Ephesians 4:11-16 – apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ… 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

The concept here is pretty straightforward: each person has been given their own set of talents and abilities. Only by “unifying” these talents together can a group of people establish change. In the case of the Ephesians, it meant building a young church in the face of adversity. In the case of a startup, it means creating a new company in the face of risk and competition.

Let’s look closer at these five roles and see how they apply to startups:

Apostles – Thought leaders and visionaries, apostles are those who break new ground and challenge others’ view of the world. In the New Testament, the Twelve Apostles were those Jesus chose to establish Christianity. Tasked with developing a new religion in the face of very real persecution, the apostles of the early Christian church faced tremendous adversity in their task. Can you guess what the corollary in startups is? It’s the CEO and early founders: those who attempt to forge a new idea into a viable company. While company founders don’t have to face the risk of death in their pursuits (let’s hope!) their role requires a bold attitude and the ability to keep moving forward in the face of skeptics and competitors. While any startup requires it’s share of apostles, this role isn’t sufficient to get a company off the ground, as we’ll see in a moment.

On track to disrupt at least a couple industries, Elon Musk is a classic Apostle.

Evangelists – Evangelists make it their purpose to tell others about their beliefs and vision. They don’t necessarily set the vision (that’s up to the apostles), but they diffuse it, multiplying the reach of the apostles. Like apostles, though, evangelists also have to face doubters. They must possess the ability to win others over through intellect, empathy, charisma, and persistence. Evangelists in the early Christian church were responsible for converting others to Christianity. Their counterparts in startups are the salesmen, corporate developers, and marketers, who “convert” new relationships into partners, customers, and investors.

One of the early tech evangelists, Guy Kawasaki.

Prophets – This may seem like a stretch for startups, but not when you look deeper at the meaning of the word. It’s Greek root prophetes simply means “inspired preacher or teacher”.  In the Biblical context, prophets were inspired by God and cast a vision of what they believed would happen in the future. Relying on perception, intuition, and feeling, prophets are not unlike artists, who challenge our view of the world with their artwork. In the startup sense, prophets can take the form of consultants and advisors, often in the form of futurists. These visionaries look at how industry, technology, culture, politics, and other macro forces are interacting, and they predict what the world will look like in the coming years. While not as focused on implementation as other roles, prophets play an important part in helping startups challenge existing ways of thinking.

H.G. Wells told us much about what the future may look like.

Pastor – Pastors are simply those who care for others. They guard, protect, and nurture those in their custody. In the early Christian church, pastors were responsible for caring for young Christian communities that needed steady guidance and encouragement. In a startup, the needs of the young team are not much different. Faced with uncertainty about the future and lacking the cohesiveness that comes from working with others for a long period of time, startup teams need to be nurtured. A startup “pastor” may take the form of a special employee who has the rare talent of bonding people together, or in a more formal role, such as a human resources lead. In any role, pastors are crucial to developing and reinforcing a healthy company culture.

One of today’s leaders in developing a great company culture, Tony Hsieh.

Teachers – anyone who has a desire to know the truth and impart it to others can considered a teacher. Early Christians needed teachers to convey the lessons of Jesus and explain how they could be lived out in daily life. While we tend to think of teachers today as those formally employed as such, teachers in a startup can take many forms. It’s an engineer who helps his team understand a new technology. It’s the manager who makes sure his team understands the priorities of the company. It’s the analyst who looks closely at the way her company’s product is being used and provides insight into opportunities for improvement. And it’s the designer who helps his company adopt a common visual language in its products.

Leene Gade is awesome – head race engineer for Audi and the first female in that role to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, she knows how to teach her mechanics a thing or two.

As you’ve read this post, you’ve probably thought of a few people on your team who fit into these roles. Take a few minutes and review everyone who’s a part of your startup. Do you have strong players in each? Is everyone in a role that’s suited to their talents? What areas is your team lacking in talent?

Now consider what a team with solid players in each role would look like. You’d have a rich blend of people who can lead the formation of the company and set its vision (apostles), gain customers and advocates (evangelists), understand the future of your industry and your company’s role in it (prophets), keep employees empowered and happy (pastors), and ensure that the team is working on the right things and has the knowledge to execute (teachers). A pretty strong crew indeed.