Assembling a Team
The following post is from Finn Merrill M’16, founder of PilotHouse, a fall 2015 hatchery business.
From the Beginning
Enthusiasm and Partners –My business started during the summer before my MBA. I was then working at, Altenex, a small energy company based in downtown Boston. I quickly realized most of the people at Altenex were brilliant. A few of them were Babson graduates. During the Altenex annual outing, sailing on a schooner out of Gloucester, MA, some of the Altenex founders asked me “why are you getting an MBA at Babson?”
I told them that I had a few ideas that I wanted to test and explore thoroughly. Babson was the right place to do just that. As I described one of my ideas, a portable resort system using containers and international shipping, Ken Davies, immediately perked up.
Ken had been thinking about a similar idea and agreed that the hospitality industry had ample space for improvement – in terms of both of consistency and innovation. As I started my MBA and began to run high-level numbers on ‘containerized ideas’ and tented hospitality solutions, I kept Ken deeply involved.
Keep Smart, Well Connected People Enrolled
Each ‘mod’ was an opportunity to take advantage of group work to push my idea along. My BCAP, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship classes were all chances for me to refine my concept further — and get credit for it.
With each iteration (and presentation), I exposed my concept to smart and ‘well-connected’ people. Ken was impressed by my progress and continued to feel excited about the opportunity – so he made the first real seed investment into PilotHouse, helped me incorporate, and taught me about division of equity.
Shopping for a Team
My classmates have heard my ‘pitch’ many, many times. Each group project is an opportunity for me to ‘shop’ for teammates. My classmates are smart, specialized, and have a diverse set of interests. It is not the case that I can ‘pick’ teammates. In fact, I have to sell PilotHouse to them and they have to pick me or express interest in helping out. Luckily, a few have. With each new perspective, our business concept improves.
Working for Free & Getting Things Done
This something I grapple with constantly. Nobody here is making any money and we are unlikely to draw any significant salary until at least a year from now. That is a tough sell. At the same time, I’ve gone as far as I can alone, and I now need some help.
I am not comfortable asking for help, a favor or charity for two reasons. First, we are all business students and we need to earn a living after school – nobody should be working for free after receiving their MBA. Second, I am likely to get higher quality work from people who consider themselves part of the team, than I am from those who are just ‘doing a fun project’. I am learning to work in this ambiguity and provide useful direction to the team I work with.
Good news is that we are making progress and getting real interest from Hospitality industry veterans and angel investors alike. With some luck and a lot of hard (unpaid) work, we should have a really unique business operating by this summer. We are looking for a beautiful property in the Northeast to ‘host’ our first unit this coming summer. Please feel free to reach out with leads or other questions.
Email me at Finley.Merrill@PilotHouse.co or find us at PilotHouse.co.