3 Teams in Startups whose value you usually underrate

3 Teams in Startups whose value you usually underrate

Almost 2 years ago, on September 15th, 2014 I joined the Zencap team as a CRM manager. Since then, a lot of great things happened, people came and left, experiences and challenges passed by, eventually topped by the success of our merger with the biggest global business loan lending platofrm Funding Circle in October 2015. In a series of blog posts, I’d like to look back and summarize of insights I found worth to share. Part 1: Team, Focus: department setup.

What differentiated Zencap from most of the Rocket Internet companies is the quite slow, more selective way of hiring people. By knowing whom to hire for what position, we assured an unique and fruitful mix of different types of people. Instead of focusing on characters and profiles (which is important, but I understand only little about hiring strategies) , I’d like to focus on different sub-teams and departments.

Most of the startups who deal with any business around tech and data (as we do) will need people in the following fields: Product/IT, who built the platform where the business happens. Marketing, who approach new prospective customers. Sales, who turn interested into actual customers.  That’s the basics, added by the classical Finance, HR, Office Management and Legal.

That’s the obvious part. Probably as important as these key roles are the following departments, that are often forgotten or overlooked, but actually differentiate great companies from only good ones:

  1. Operations, who do the actual business. These are the hidden guys in the background, that keep the business up and running. Why are they so important? In every startup, you have plenty of – let’s call it as it is – fuck ups: manual processes, transactions, fixes. In Ops teams, you find that kind of guys that were shipping coal into a almost sinking ships’s engines while they sealed all leaks. Great Ops people back you up and are very reliable, as they need to juggle with confidential and critical data every day.
  2. Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse Specialists and Analysts: At Zencap/ Funding Circle, we started with a great BI team from the very beginning. Since its inception, every decision is driven by the thought, whether any decision will improve this or that KPI. Ongoing tests lead into a culture, where ideas are developed as hypotheses,  tested and then either adopted or challenged once again before another test is conducted. This prohibits your company from running into the wrong direction until it’s too late. A good BI team offers exactly what the name stands for:  it understands the business including all challenges, processes and needs, and delivers intelligence for all departments in a form which is comprehensive and operationally executable.
  3. Customer Relationship Management: Clearly, I am biased, though I’d like to add CRM in this list. Why? First, because too many people just don’t know what CRM actually means to a business. And second, because I know a lot of young ventures who struggle while growing because they just „forget“ to increase the customer lifetime value (CLV) after they once converted an user into paying customer. At Zencap/ Funding Circle, we have two major customer groups at once, borrowers and investors with very contrary interests. At CRM, we try to do 3 things: I) understanding and analyzing them (with BI), II) activating (with Sales and Marketing) by automated emails in the funnel and finally III) retaining our customers – exactly the same what you do in a good relationship with friends our your family. The longer you run your business, the more important is a good CRM. It included the core, a good customer base management tool (like Salesforce.com) and also a plan how to interact with customer. At this, CRM is very reliant on good content (which needs to harmonize with your SEO strategy) and your IT, which must enable your data flows into a well set-up email/push/SMS-communication software. I will write more on the selection of good CRM software in another blogpost soon.

Don’t miss to hire good people with expertise in these areas. They will help you to retain control, to gain a deeper understanding and to create long lasting relationships to your customers. Without them, you wouldn’t have a clue on where you steer to, how and based on whose interest.