I recently attended a business lunch in which a panel of VC/PE guys were discussing some of the criteria they use when deciding to invest in a company; listening to them, one remark really stuck out: “we pay equal attention to the team, and the product”. As the CFO of an early stage HCIT company, that comment resonated with me, and was the catalyst for today’s topic.
It’s difficult for any of us to debate the value and impact of LinkedIn (disclaimer – I am a shareholder…). It’s the only professional social network, it’s got a very clear value proposition to a wide array of customers, and it has a pricing model that fits all shapes and sizes. Somehow, LinkedIn has managed to take one “raw material” (essentially, your resume) and create many different “finished products” from it.
I’m not here to ask you whether LinkedIn is part of your investment portfolio – I am here to ask a different question about LinkedIn and your team… Should the Company influence how the team members represent themselves (and therefore the Company) on LinkedIn?
Here is why I think this is an important consideration – especially for a start-up or early stage venture:
- LinkedIn offers a great branding opportunity for the Company. By connecting your team and their personal “brands” to the Company, you are reinforcing your brand.
- Presenting a fairly consistent look and feel for your team’s profiles further solidifies the Company’s image as one who has it’s game on, and whose team members do as well.
- Displaying the talent of your team in this way will allow you to present favorably alongside larger, more established competitors or peers. If you doubt me here, search on your largest competitor and see if their team has adopted this “consistent look and feel” approach. I think you will find most companies are yet to employ this approach.
Before declaring my hypothesis valid, I polled a broad spectrum of colleagues, and considered this from every possible angle. Where I settled is that the Company should have a place in shaping the profiles of it’s team members. Here’s how to do it in a way that makes the most of the opportunity, and helps everyone feel great about participating:
- Establish and communicate the guidelines clearly to the team, and provide an open forum to discuss them. Let the team hear your reasoning, have input, and take some ownership of the project.
- Identify the “must haves” from the Company perspective, be prepared to support them, and ensure they connect to elements of your culture. (for example – a photo is required because we feel that this enhances trust, which is a key element of our culture)
- Request that everyone “follow”, or otherwise affiliate themselves with the Company on Linkedin.
- Provide some guidance regarding what a “complete” LinkedIn profile looks like (photograph, professional summary, complete job history, etc)
- Have the leadership team provide good examples with their profiles
- Require everyone have a profile that looks or feels exactly like everyone else. Think “organic”, not “homogenous”.
- Be “heavy-handed” in defining what should or should not be included. Offer flexibility where appropriate.
- Ask team members to do anything with their profile that you would not do with your own.
This approach offers investors, prospective customers, or anyone interested in you or your company valuable insight into the organization and how it works. They can see exactly who makes what happen, how they have successfully executed before, and the teams they have previously been a part of. Embrace this approach of maximizing the value of LinkedIn, and you will have taken a big positive step toward presenting your company AND your team to the world in a progressive and logical manner.