Menno Beker: Build a strong team by admitting your weakness

Boatside Chat #3 with Menno Beker, European serial entrepreneur and advisor to startup and growth companies aiming for the global market. Marten and Menno discuss the million dollar question, What is a good team? To find the answer, a CEO or founder must first admit their own weaknesses. Only after that can you hire the right people.

Menno highlights that great entrepreneurs are leaders, who excel at creating teams and visioning next steps. They do not have to be good in sales, finance or HR, except in a minimalist way. They run the business in a holistic way and hire the best in the world, accepting the price tag for acquiring the necessary talent.


Marten: I’m sitting here with Menno Beker, an outstanding European serial entrepreneur and advisor to startup and growth companies. So Menno, we talk about building a great team and finding the right people, but why is that important? And if it is important, how do you build a great great team?

Menno: That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? First of all, what is a good team? I think it’s important for a CEO or founder to discover first, what are their weaknesses? What are the topics they’re really not good in? Normally what you do is, I think is, those are the qualities of really good CEOs. Discover if I’m not good in these areas, how can I make sure that I get the right people in, who do those things that I’m not good in?

Marten: Right. Do you see people being honest enough to meet their weaknesses?

Menno: No. But you will see after a while you will exceed at… Real entrepreneurs, they will hire the best in the world to grow their business. They accept that they are leaders. They are really good in creating teams and creating the next step. They’re not good in for example sales. They’re not good at sales, they’re not good in finance. They’re not good in HR. But they’re good in all the topics in a minimalist way. They know how to run it from a holistic view. That’s how they do it.

I think that’s something you can see in pretty much every successful company. That quite often they are small teams not large teams. Four or five outstanding people that trust each other for a long time. They have a strong CEO and the CEO knows exactly how to run the business with the five guys. Or six. Guys and girls involved. What I’ve experience is that those guys and girls go to different companies after they leave again as well and they are successful in that company as well.

It’s what you’ve done as well, it’s about building teams.

Marten: Right, yes, very much. How soon do you know? If you meet the new person, how soon do you know if it is a great fit and a great person?

Menno: What I do normally is if people ask me. For example in eKomi, what I did in eKomi is I went in and I didn’t tell anybody I was in. I went to couple of events. I went to into the company and I figured out what kind of people are they. How does the structure work? How are these people working together? Because nobody knew exactly who I was and what I was doing you get different stories. People tell you different stories. People tell you more insight than they maybe will give you if they know who you are. Based on those stories, you can relate it back to the guys and say, “Okay, I discovered this, this, this, and this.”

In some cases you can also say after doing your due diligence, as a board member or as a CEO, “I think this company is really not good so I’m not going to do it.” That’s different.

Marten: In summary, you’re saying a CEO must know not just his or her strengths but also weaknesses.
Menno: Yes.

Marten: Then you said that when the CEO builds a team, the people that come on board, they also have both strengths and weakness.

Menno: Exactly. The difference is between the CEO and all the other are, a COO is a COO and he’s bloody good at being a COO. A CFO is most the time just CFO. He’s never going to be a CSO or a sales guy. He’s going to be the CFO. Those jobs are more easy and you know what’s really good in the market. Or you will discover by asking your friends and family, who’s really, really good?

In the market you will find the right people. I think the most difficult thing for your entrepreneurs and startup and even past the startup phase is accepting that if you want quality, there’s a price tag on that quality. What we’re not doing is we’re not valuating that price tag on the right values. We think that we can get the right price out of our own system. We think. Sometimes it’s really, really smart to go and look abroad and figure out who’s abroad. Not in your own country. Get in different countries, because in a lot of cases, building a team is also building an enterprise team. Building a team who is capable of growing your business outside.

I will never enter a company anymore who has the focus of being a leader in a country. No, they need to become the leaders of the world.

Marten: Wonderful. Thank you, Menno. Great advice to startup CEOs.

Menno: Thank you.

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