rebuilding from the ground up

these last few weeks have been some of the most exciting of my life. finally having a team working together to rebuild soompi has been great. but i have been reflecting about the advice that i would give to clients when i have my lawyer hat on and the actions i would take for my own company when i have my ceo hat on.  here are some of the things i have learned:

  1. determining compensation is very difficult for the first people joining the team. as a lawyer, it is very easy to look at the market and say “senior engineer with X years of experience typically receive this range in stock grants”.  however, when its person #1 or person #2 joining the team AND you are smack in the middle of an economy that is going through an identity crisis, it is much harder to determine what is “market”.  there is also the unquantifiable contribution of what early team members give to a company outside of pure work product – morale boost, different personalities create new chemistry which in turn leads to new innovation branches to follow.
  2. personality is huge for picking the right team members.  the importance of an individual’s character and related contribution to a team is something i “understood” but did not fully appreciate as a lawyer.  this is something that anyone who has ever worked a day in their life understands. but it manifests itself in different ways depending on the project or industry. when we hire at law firms, we often use the “4 am test” which is asking “can i stand working with this person until 4 am?”.  fair enough – works well for law firms.  of course, with most lawyers having innately toxic personalities and the fact that it is never fun working till 4 am anyway, no one is happy with their job. if the wrong lawyer is assigned to your team, you get through it like you get through every other bad day and you live to see the next case or project. at small start-ups, you never do the same thing over and over. it is almost impossible to segregate things into small projects. and since your very existence as a company is not on rock solid basis, the wrong team member can be fatal to your company. on the same note, many lawyers are lawyers because they feel like they “have to be” – who wants to walk away from the $230K salary? 99% of people in startups are there because they WANT to be. picking the wrong person can kill that.
  3. getting documents signed on time is a huge pain.  ok, i confess, i was the lawyer that always said “get the docs signed before anyone starts anything.”  and as a lawyer, i think that is the right advice and it is important to keep companies clean for future due diligence. but it is a pain and sometimes you want to move faster with work than with reading docs.  lucky for me, i can draft my own docs:) but i still have to send them out, wait for comments or questions from whomever is signing and so on.

so now i find myself wondering – am i a better lawyer now that i have been running my own company? or am i a better entrepreneur because i am a lawyer? either way, i think i am finally starting to see the value of having gone to law school.

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