Cornerstone Staff Portraits 2018 290. thulani

Thulani Dube

The main focus for start-ups is often funding models and pitching to investors to secure the much-needed capital to drive concepts and ideas.

It goes without saying that funding plays an important role in the growth and sustainability of a young business.

However, there is another important factor that entrepreneurs should not neglect: building high-performance teams.

The most successful start-ups are the ones that radically disrupt the space they occupy. They comprise a group of individuals with expert knowledge that will bring to life the concept that will break barriers and change the game.

The skills of being able to develop these concepts and then pull together the human capital to achieve this is a factor entrepreneurs cannot afford to neglect.

The creation of high-performance teams extends far beyond start-ups. The composition of leadership teams, management teams as well as start-up teams affects the performance as well as the completion of the tasks and purpose for which they were formed.

Before start-ups look to funding they should look to collaboration.

This not only increases a start-up’s existing network but fosters inspiration and a culture of effective problem-solving that can cut costs.

With over 30% of funded start-ups running out of money in the first three months in South Africa, the importance of a well-balanced team whose individual characteristics will help mitigate this risk becomes paramount to start-up founders.

One of the most important characteristics to building a high-performance team is the ability of the members to learn continuously.

When building a collaborative platform it’s important to be aware of those traits that drive team members to strive for continuous learning as they acknowledge that the environment is not static.

Learning is a key component for team members in navigating the fast-paced volatile environment with all the unpredictability of the 21st century as well as the rapid changes which the 4th Industrial Revolution is ushering in.

Start-ups can never ignore the complex nature of the landscapes they operate in. Hence, the founders must gear their teams to navigate multifaceted and interconnected dynamics that face organisations of all sizes as well as positioning in the growth cycle.

Critical thinking and emotional intelligence becomes a valued currency in this process.

Seeing the bigger picture and having foresight are crucial for the members of a high-functioning team.

When drawing together all these elements, the team will always be in sync with the world around them and fully primed to make decisions and stand accountable for their decisions.

A diverse range of expertise within the team will serve to complement the abilities of other team members to ensure that the goals of the start-up are met efficiently and innovatively as it grows from strength-to-strength.


  • Thulani Dube is faculty manager (Quality Assurance and Operations) as well as entrepreneurship and economic transformation faculty programmes co-ordinator and business studies lecturer at Cornerstone Institute.
  • Originally published in the Cape Argus on Monday, 23 December 2019.