In this post, experienced entrepreneur Brian Glaister, President & CEO of Cadence Biomedical shares his 9 Principles for successful team building. We will also learn how to build your winning team with the best Leader, Culture, Teammates, and Advisors. We will finish off with Brian’s top book picks and Q&A from the session audience.
Brian came across as very genuine and humble. He definitely believes in his work that helps people with walking disabilities become more mobile.
Like many entrepreneurs, Brian hit speed bumps on his road to success. He failed two business plan competitions before winning the third. Brian enjoys sharing what he learned with others and provides coaching and mentoring to other business plan competition teams. He likes to joke “I got my PhD in mechanical engineering, but my MBA through business plan competitions.”
Winning Attributes of a Great Leader
Brian believes that a “giant chunk of success comes from how you operate together and a big chunk of that comes from the person at the top.” He referenced the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In the book, eleven top companies are described as having a level 5 leader. One of those was Ken Iverson of Nucor. Ken set the corporate example by fling coach. Another example from the book was George Cain CEO of Abbot Laboratories. It took George fourteen years to get rid of nepotism in the company.
Closer to home, Brian’s wife worked at for a CEO who took time out of his day to install a broken toilette. Another local star according to Brian is Steve Dimmer, CEO of Innovative Pulmonary Solutions. Steve went twenty months without a salary, leveraged grant money to get the company going and recently raised an eight 8 million dollar venture round.
Brian believes in the four characteristics of emotional intelligence as outlined in Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Be sure and watch the video for an expanded explanation of the attributes.
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
As part of the discussion on social awareness, Brian admitted that “there are tons of reasons why you shouldn’t start a company because it is really, really hard. You have to be able to look past [the challenges] and believe that you can get there. ”
Winning Attributes of a Great Culture
The Cadence team looked long and hard at W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. one of the best places to work (Brian’s best friend’s Dad also works on the culture there). Brian then outlined the
9 Principles they want to follow at Cadence:
- Distribute power (to accomplish, not dominate) and opportunity widely. That creates a whole team of problem solvers vs. just one or two people.
- Maintain transparent communications (business plan and financials internally).
- Encourage an environment of trust.
- Encourage a high performance ethic and self-responsibility. The hard hat award for the hardest worker to wear for the day.
- Live by contradictions. By combining big picture view with that from those closest to the problem, you can solve the problem fast.
- Tackle the hardest problem first.
- Don’t have too many meetings.
- Work can and should be fun – “If you are going to hate your job every day, why come to work?”
- Work hard, but take breaks when needed.
Winning Attributes of Great Teammates
Brian then listed the four key attributes they look for in employees – in order.
“We have a strict no jerks allowed policy,” he said.
According to Brian, advisors are great to have, but they are not part of your company, not really motivated to help you succeed. They may provide ideas, but not a lot of help
For Brian the Board of Directors is much more important. “They have a fiduciary responsibility for your company. They are there to provide accountability and make sure you stay on task,” he said. The board also provides relevant guidance and can provide critical help executing your business plan. Brian believes that “there are thousands of great ideas, but value is built on execution.”
In case you didn’t get the message, Brian finished with an emphatic statement that “I can’t overemphasize just how important a great board of directors is.” A good board will help you avoid rookie mistakes and “keep your feet to the fire,” he said.
Brian finished with his top four books for building your team and leadership culture:
- Good to Great
- Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Patrick Lencioni Leadership Fables
Q: What happens if a jerk sneaks in? Brian was very clear that the rule is “fire fast and hire slowly”. Take the time to interview carefully to avoid mistakes.
Q: How did you find your teammates? “I hired my friends.” They are just now looking at hiring additional people outside of the core team.
Q: Sometimes you have a great team, but after a while the dynamics are not functioning. How do you fix that? “Laser tag!” Brian believes in company vacation. He emphasized that you should do team activities during work “so you don’t barge in on family time.”
Q: How do you convince people to come on board in the early stages? “We were all looking for this. We’ve all had jobs we didn’t like. We wanted our 40, 50, 60 hours per week to mean something. We are all working below market grade salaries. The purpose outweighs the risks and the hardships.”
Q: What are some of the lessons you have learned two years in? For Brian, the early struggle was “being the boss of friends. It is hard to do and still be best friends,” he admitted.
Q: what did you find was successful to ease that transition from friendship to management? Brian was lucky to have a strong mentor in the family. “I leaned on my dad a lot. He’s the COO of a billion dollar manufacturing company. There’s a bat phone signal going to Wisconsin.”
Q: what do you do when a key contributor is a jerk? Brian counseled that “problems won’t solve themselves.” There isn’t one solution for every situation. You have to face each issue individually.
Q: How democratic is the culture? “Business is not a democracy, nor is it a dictatorship,” he said. “For the most part we come to a consensus.”
Q: What do you provide for professional development? Cadence isn’t’ big enough for a HR department so they don’t have formal training. Brian indicated that they just “figure things out as they go.”
Q: When you come across a challenge with the team, whose advice do you rely on? For Brian, it is the whole team, his Dad and he “leans on the board a lot.”
Guest post by Sam Rosenbalm who fuels his passion for startups and social enterprise as a director in Microsoft’s BizSpark program and a GSEC advisory committee member and judge. Connect with Sam @rosenbalm