Adapttech: How we created our team

Adapttech: How we created our team

Putting your team together is one of those critical things you need to get done when you are starting your company. After all, what do you do when you need to get things done and you are not the best person for the job? You hire someone smart. Smarter than you. 

My Top 5 Things for a Good Entrepreneur

My Top 5 Things for a Good Entrepreneur

Over the last years Fred —my business partner at Adapttech— and I have been trying to figure out what are the most important characteristics an entrepreneur can have. Not surprisingly, we feel the most important ones are the top two in this article.

What I've seen from my limited experience, and I really emphasized the limited experience part, is that most sucessful entrepreneurs have a set of common traits that I decided to gather in this article.

1. Knowing when to be flexible and when to be stubborn

This is a personal one. This is what I feel makes the difference between success and failure in a startup.  It's hard, because just like raising a child, there is no manual: you only hope for the best and give all you've got from your heart. When you are just starting everybody seems to have the secret formula for success. They don't. Everybody has some piece of advise they want to give you, and naturally, down the road they contradict themselves.  

So, for example, they will tell you that the most important thing is to raise money. Then others tell you that the most important thing is to get in touch with your future clients to get your business validated and being able to pivot as soon as possible. Well, it is all very complicated: without money you cannot travel around asking your clients what they think of your idea, but at the same time you cannot go ask investors for money unless you have already checked that there is a market for your product. It becomes somewhat like the chicken and the egg. 

Let me tell you one thing right away: the market is never wrong. Take this as delivered by the heavens themselves. Even if you think your idea is the best solution possible for the problem at hand, if the market doesn't like it —or doesn't understand it— they will not buy it. And guess what? It's not that they are a bunch of morons, is that you are the one who didn't know how to be flexible when you had to (read this).

The same thing applies the other way around.  Sometimes we see ourselves taking a decision because we have a better understanding of what's coming up next. During the early stages of development of Adapttech, we decided to work with .stl files for the 3D modelling. Now, many experts told us that this wasn't the best format to work with, but we had a reason to stick to it: we had a feeling 3D printers would invade the market soon, and 3D printers talk in .stl. Only time will tell if we made the right decision.

Bruce Lee once said that "Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.'' This is what I meant with being flexible, just make sure that the reason you change into different shapes if because of the market and your customers, and not your own ideas. Try to validate every single one of them with the market, and make sure to pivot at the right moment: fail often, fail fast and fail cheap.

2. Focus

This is one of the most important things that seems to elude most entrepreneurs. Once they get a taste of the new world they are tackling, they want a piece of everything... everywhere.

I think it's in part because of what they tell you on all acceleration programs and entrepreneurship courses: go out, make contacts, talk to people, join groups, validate your ideas... but they don't teach you when —or how— to stop. And it all starts to affect the way you do your work because the fear of missing out is always constant. You start to think that if you are not present in every single meeting or business event you are simply going to "miss the big opportunity''.

I feel you need to follow the 80%-20% rule: dedicate 80% of your effort to the top 20% of core important things you need to get done. Starting your own business time is a luxury you can't afford. Focus. Get planned. Don't fear missing out on some things, fear missing out on important things. What are these important things? No one is in better position to know it than yourself.  Prioritize, make the most out of your day, and focus on delivering the best result possible in the place where you want to make an impact. The main problem is not that you are not able to go everywhere and do everything... is that the effect you'll have is much less than if you were focused on what matters the most.

3. Choosing your team

I cannot stress this enough. Your company is only as valuable as your team. Your product is only as good as your team and your success is only as great as your team. Team, team, team, team, and then keep thinking about your team. They are the living soul of your company, and if there is something I can tell you that makes Adapttech what it is today, is the men and women that come to work everyday to the office.

We have a very short list of requisites for hiring people at Adapttech: they must be smarter than both Fred and I... and they must be better than us at doing the task at hand. Naturally, there are more things we consider, but these two are a must. Have you ever heard that the blessing of having friends is that you get to pick them? It couldn't be more true when it comes to your team: the biggest opportunity relies on the fact that you get to pick them.

Another critical point regarding the choosing of your team is that you should avoid to either expand it too soon or too late. Both of them are equally wrong, and the results are equally catastrophic. Knowing when to take these decisions can be very difficult and tricky, but that's the reason why not everybody does it.

I have purposely skipped the most important part that precedes all of these: finding the right business partner. I constantly kid about this when I speak in public, because I say that finding Fred was harder to find than my wife... and in all true, I'm only partially kidding. Fred is a great business partner because he has all the qualities I lack, and at the same time I try to be a good business partner to him by covering his weak spots. This has makes us a great team, because we try hard to protect each other on the things that we just know we are not good at.

4. Humility —AKA knowing who is best

There is so much to talk about this...  and it's specially hard for me since humility is not —and has never been— my strongest point. As my wife constantly says, I have to work on that. Having said that, let's go back to the part of finding the right person for the right job.

You see, one of the things that makes your team specially strong and healthy is to always keep in mind that every triumph is collective, and no one wins alone (a corollary to our rule #2): don't be an asshole). If you always keep this in focus, it's easy to agree that sometimes the best person for a particular job might not be you. There is a natural reason why you hire an electronic engineer for electronics and a art designer for art. You need to assess and recognize when you are harming the company by spending time doing a certain job when there is someone that might be better than you.

What I've seen in most entrepreneurs is that because they founded the company, they think they are the best ones for managing it. Not necessarily. You might not even be the best one to do pitches or presentations. Keep an open mind, because one of the best managing decisions you can make is knowing when to step down.

5. Adapt and overcome

This one is stolen from the US Navy SEALs, but it's as good as it can get. Mike Tyson, the boxer, once said something that stuck in my head: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face''. I used to fight in Karate, and let me tell you he couldn't be more right. Almost nothing goes according to plan. I mean, the result can very well be what you were planning, but it is extremely unlikely that the whole process runs smoothly and without any problem whatsoever. If you have, in fact, managed to get that, please quit your job and open a consultancy firm. I know a thousand guys that would be willing to pay you a ton of money for getting things done without a single hiccup.

If you are one of us mortals, then you know what I'm talking about: Murphy is part of our everyday life. Now, that things go sour is not itself a bad thing. What is catastrophic is for things to go wrong and not take any correction upon it. Is just like a bad leader. The worst leaders are not the worst because they make bad decisions. They are the worst because they make no decisions at all.

After all, the most important task you have as a company leader is to make sure every single one of your employees can do their job properly, and if you are not able to anticipate problems, you better become good at handling them.

 

Photo Credits: Fernando Veludo / N Factos

Adapttech: A new branding as powerful as our technology

 

This Tuesday, May 9, we are proud to present our new branding. A much needed change to reflect the evolution that our company went through this past few years, since it was founded. 

This transformation, that the company is very proud, was developed by our Lead Designer Diogo Lopes and Marion Degorce, our design intern for this last few months. Even though, the whole team contributed with valuable inputs during the whole process.  

A process that now Diogo unveils, explaining the whole concept behind the idea.

"Every company, no matter what they do, have an important statement that drives and focus a team into a project. This statement gives meaning to everything that is developed and guides the company towards an end goal. Internally this is easy to do, while interviewing people for each position, this is achieved by transmitting the company culture or “Dojo Kun” and can be also transmitted through day-by-day reminders in meetings or coffee breaks. The challenge is to communicate this idea, this culture, outside the office to the right people. At Adapttech, we felt the need re-think the corporate image because the team had grown and we want to create a good brand that represent us. The rebranding process began like every other one, we defined rules for development and identify Adapttech’s mission statement. The team defined three major points that would help us during development.

First, every team member had to participate in this project, with inputs, raising questions, providing visual references. Having discussions about every stage of development and making choices based on the team feedback.

Second, it had to be simple to understand and simple to apply. Since the re-branding would be made in-house by a very small team, we have to be smart for branding application, creating templates that would streamline the development of content and would help to maintain coherence.

Third, it couldn’t have very strict guidelines. When a brand has a lot of guidelines the creative freedom of the designer is removed. We only wanted the guidelines to guarantee readability.

Team feedback and discussing ideas

Team feedback and discussing ideas

Adapttech is developing a product to help people that lost a leg to recover their mobility faster and with better comfort by providing better tools to help the prosthesis technician. Normally, an amputee had gone through a very traumatic experience, because of health reasons, accidents or war injury, is a sensible subject that needs to be treated very seriously. Our goal is not to be the cure or the solution of a problem but the fix for it. We adapt existing technologies to provide better care and comfort working around the problem.

On the other side, Adapttech is, even though with a very professional team, an informal company with a startup mentality that faces every challenge heads on with each individual team member doing what they love to do.

In other words there is a conflict between a very serious and professional company and the informal and lively office environment. The challenge was therefore to develop a visual language that would appeal to both characteristics of the company.

Starting with the development of the new brand for Adapttech we did visual research of company brands that are in a same business field and we also looked at startups, to understand the current state of branding in the healthcare and medical technologies. Then, we made a visual map of Adapttech technologies and their outcome, trying to find some visual feature that could stand out.

This research showed a lot of different ways to handle the new visual language for Adapttech but with the help of the whole team we sorted them into categories and chosed the examples that we liked the most and the ones that could be more related for Adapttech.

Filled with references and ideas, we started to sketch and discussing what could be Adapttech’s new logo and visual identity. We quickly realized that were no appropriate tangible symbols to represent the mix between professional and startup mentality and the concept of fix, adapting to a problem.

Through the research and testing we had a visual language aligned but we didn’t had any symbol. We thought on several ideas but all of them had different reading and wasn’t quickly associated with our company and we didn’t feel that would represent properly. This idea was to use the knowledge that people already have so they can easily understand what we do, to shorten the gap in communication, but it wasn’t an option.

During the "ideation phase", we tried to mix several symbols and icons until we got something that we could work. This was providing more interesting results and concepts that we could extend beyond the logo.

After several experiments, we opted to combine the silhouette of a person walking while the heel is striking the ground with a typographic approach using the letter “A”. This was the idea that the team supported the most. After that we started to develop and refine the symbol, testing different typefaces, colors and compositions, alongside with the team feedback we were able to find a solution that we are happy.

The applications we adopted the visual language of the logo and visual characteristic of our laser scanner, that creates sequences of circular lines and display abstract and yet familiar shapes based on the golden section. Testing for the applications were very important since it determined logo composition and if it would work properly in different supports, sizes and colors.

These elements placed together form the new Adapttech language, towards a serious market but with a youthful spirit and drive.

The goal now is to continue to develop the brand through digital and print applications, while maintaining consistency in the company communication, we want to give space to grow into something better.

Wally Olins said that branding is creating and sustaining trust in a company that consistently delivers what they promise in a coherent communication. Adapttech rebranding is one step in creating trust, now we will build on that with great technology."

Our Dojo Kun!

dojokun.jpg

1. We don't f*ck around

If you are thinking about doing something, you are already late

The due date is always yesterday

If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough

2. Don't be an *sshole

Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men

No one wins alone, and every triumph is collective

If you f*cked it, unf*ck it

3. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Aim for the third best: the second best comes too late and the best never arrives

If it's stupid, but it works, then it's not stupid

If it's not broken, don't fix it

4. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit

Mission

To develop biomedical technologies to help people with physical limitations improve their quality of life

Vision

To become a worldwide reference in innovation, design and quality in the biomedical devices industry

Our Values

Integrity

Respect

Accountability

Availability

Determination

Dedication