Am pretty sure this is not the first time your reading such a post, you’ve most probably written one yourself. So how is this any different? Well, it’s been quite a journey getting to where I am today, having worked as part of a lot of A Teams, forming some myself and leaving them to join others. However, one thing remains stagnant. Each day, client and team I was a part of taught me something new. I faced my biggest challenge when setting up a team with no budget and no existing client. All I had with me was a vision. A vision for a future, one that could take a turn for the worst instantly and leave me penniless. Am not here to tell you how fun our A Team is, or how we want to increase our team, but this is a post about my personal struggle while setting up what I consider my current A Team, a team that am most proud of.
Setting up the ideal team for The Archangel Interactive has not been easy. As much as starting an agency while still in campus was as fun, it was educating. I however have to take you back to the very first day The Archangel was initiated for you to understand why this topic makes a lot of sense to me. Many who know us think The Archangel started in May last year, 2014 but that’s just a part of the story. Others think it was the first day we met at Rasma Hotel in Nairobi Kenya in February 2014… well, allow me to take you further back to a hostel in Juja while doing a programming assignment. I had just finished two years of field experience working for three amazing companies and was in the middle of my third year of campus. That was the first time I approached my first team: two developers and a marketing buddy. It was one of those moments where you tell your friends about a dream and let yourself sound vulnerable. The rest said “Sure, sounds like a great idea” but the better of the two developers said “Well, there’s a lot at stake so allow me to get back to you on that”. You could clearly tell he could through my naivety, him being more experienced and analytical. Creativity and big dreams can make you look crazy at times. I was hoping he could guide us on how to do things right, but I kinda felt disappointed with his reply. My first team was now set but they still had to learn. I had found my niche in design but they hadn’t. I could however tell how good they would become in due time and I was ready to take the journey with them. Someone once said that you are only as strong as your weakest link. So yes, our team was weak, we still had a lot to learn and that was my first lesson.
Months later and I successfully completed my third year. I was now in the middle of my internship and I still felt a void. Something was missing. I realized as early as first year that I wanted to push the limits in design but the only way I would have grown better was to always challenge myself. I wasn’t feeling as challenged, I needed an extreme, one that would not would not make me feel overworked and underpaid, not that I was being underpaid though. I had a great boss, just so you know. What I wanted to do required breaking the boundaries a lot and as much as all my employer’s thought I was perfect, I still needed a team that could help me deliver where I was weak. Time came for me to go back to school. I needed to make the team before time my elapsed. That’s when the Rasma Hotel story you keep reading about came in. I sat down an wrote down my mission and goal for the industry, what I wanted to do better and how I could get there. I knew the manpower I needed and had the right people in mind to help me achieve what I wanted. People I had worked with before and skills I couldn’t match up to. Soon enough, team number two took shape and so did The Archangel. I had the ideal team, the “A Team” as I called it; and they were all in. You should have seen the excitement on our faces after, almost doing my victory dance. I was no longer the young naive student I was earlier and I felt it. That’s when the Archangel was officially born. The A Team consisted of seven members, including the first two from Team One. Little did I know that my lesson number two on picking a good team was just beginning.
After a set of meetings, people started getting job offers, others got small tasks that overwhelmed them, but others stood by me the whole time. Some, as good as they were, simply couldn’t collaborate. I learnt quite a few things from this:
- An A Team is not just built by people with great skills, it’s built by people who are ready to work as a team in the first place: what’s an A Team if all you have are pure As and no team.
- An A Team will stick by you through thick and thin, if they believe in your vision, they’ll be there no matter what. You don’t have to know them, but you’ll eventually comfortable around them and you get the work done.
We were now down to four members. Later, things changed and one of my A Team members was part of another A Team, and they were all good programmers. We knew that if we would outsource the job to their team, they would deliver it faster and better considering their experience. If we work on this project, and enjoy working with them, then we could bring them to our team. Huge mistake, as we later came to find out. They were a team of As for sure, but they had a lot to learn about team work and leadership. I came to learn that:
- You may have an A Team, but it’s not yours, you need to build not just an A Team, but your A Team.
- Your A Team is only as strong as its leader. You need to have a team leader, not a team manager, there’s a difference. The leader takes responsibility for the team no matter what.
- If you don’t enjoy working with your A Team, then you shall not be working together for so long.
- You need to have something that binds you, a goal, a vision, a target, a project maybe. Whatever it is, just have it.
There’s a long list of lessons, but let me stop my tiny scribble there, it’s starting to look like a high school essay. Just so you know, am not writing this because I have the best A Team in the world but I’ve learnt what it takes to make an A Team. I have a great team that I have to admit. We break boundaries, we deal with clients who have amazing challenges, some you’ll learn of in due time. We haven’t reached the A Team status that the Martians recently achieved, but we’re getting there.
We work in small teams, and amongst them are great A Teams, sometimes it consists of 2,3 or even 4 members, both in and out of the country but they work and you won’t believe what they can achieve. At times they don’t, but isn’t the sweetness of ice cream increased by some chaotic sprinkles on top?
Remember only thing from all this:
You don’t find your A Team, you build one. They don’t have to be all As, but they will eventually learn.