Perspectives on Teambuilding

By Alisson Peña on an Interview with Tobias Seeger, Henrike Wonneberger and Melina Bluhm

Teambuilding is the art of improving the bond between group members to enhance their motivation and performance. From their daily work to activities and events, it is a complex topic that requires different viewpoints to understand. At Chemovator, we asked our venture builder HR Manager, a Venture Team Co-Founder, and Venture Team member to share what Teambuilding means to them.

An idea around chemistry and a team consisting of a minimum of two people is what potential new Ventures bring to the Entry Pitch at Chemovator. In the first step to becoming a new venture, an expert will spot the dynamic between members already. For Tobi, our Head of Human Resources at Chemovator, some questions - other than the pitch only - will come to his mind: “Are the founders on the same page? Will they stick together through thick and thin? Do they have the right skillset which is needed to build a company? What is the first hire which we need to make?”

Once the team successfully makes it to the Validation Phase, Tobi explains the importance of HR to the Venture Teams: “You can´t do everything yourself and there might be fields where you are not a superhero. Get the right people that share the same mindset as you on board and always hire as a minimum criterion a 100% team fit.”

Becoming a founder from one day to the other is a challenging journey. Henrike Wonneberger, Co-Founder of our Venture Team Replique, was once in the shoes of being a team member in a big corporate, but in Chemovator she found the necessary resources and mentorship to make team building a smooth task. Now two years in the pipeline and ready for the spin-off, Tobi describes Replique as an example of a complete and high-spirited Venture Team. Therefore, we asked Henrike, Tobi, and Melina, the lead of Marketing and Communications to share a piece of advice on their Teambuilding journey from the beginning to founders.

What was the story behind Replique?

Henrike: “Replique was founded in February 2020, but I was not a part of the team at the time. The idea came from Max, Janos, and Samy, who were working in the Data to Value team at BASF and they were very enthusiastic about 3D printing as this very digital technology with lots of data that could rethink the entire way of doing supply-chain. So, they thought of creating a digital platform with an encrypted digital warehouse and using 3D high-quality industrial printing. During their validation, they pitched the idea to many potential customers who gave positive feedback, and so the journey began.”

What was your motivation to join the Venture?

Henrike: “I worked in a neighboring digitalization team at BASF and had worked with the founders on some projects before and kept in touch. I had always been intrigued by the business model of Replique and when the Replique team offered me to join, I did not have to think twice. This was in autumn 2020. The transition process took a while and I joined in February 2021.”

Melina: “I was looking out for work opportunities during my master’s and having already worked in a startup, I was sure I wanted this atmosphere where you can bring in your own ideas and have more responsibility. Chemovator sounded like an interesting place where the corporate and startup world met, so I applied, joined Replique, and wrote my thesis with them as well!”

Why did you stay with Replique?

Melina: “I think the biggest motivation comes from skyrocketing the idea of Replique. I believe in this 3D printing platform as a business model, and I am certain that we can transform the manufacturing industry. I wanted to be a part of this growth. Our team dynamic is also very motivating because we work together in a great way where everyone always supports and listens to each other.“

What do you look out for in new members of the team?

Henrike: “It was a small team when I joined so I participated in the recruitment process throughout the way. In a small team is equally important to have hard and soft skills. Of course, experience is required for roles, but also people with the right mindset. We also believe in learning and developing yourself, so finding the people who can get into new topics and are able to multitask. Last but not least, it is important to click on a personal level as well.”

How do you recognize that your team works well together?

Henrike: “I recently had the pleasure to see how the team worked on a very large project that involved all areas: design, engineering, communication, and sales. The result achieved was amazing and I was proud to pitch the results on behalf of the team. In parallel to this pitch, however, our team ran the show at Chemovator Open House. Due to the other large project, none of the co-founders could join. Not only did we hear afterwards that we had missed a great event but also, that our team had delivered an awesome pitch and great team spirit. This obviously makes us all very proud and shows that the team works very well together.”

How do you motivate your team?

Henrike: “As a leader, I learned you cannot really motivate your team, but only try not to demotivate them. I believe motivation is very intrinsic and comes from people themselves so when you hire people, try to look out for those who have the right spirit and as a leader try to find a way to keep this spirit alive! This can be team events or giving space to the team to take its own decisions.”

Tobi: “I completely agree with what Henrike mentioned. I would add one thing regarding demotivation and how to avoid it. Be always transparent to your team and have them in the loop reading the current status of the Venture Team, and what tasks are on the table for the C-Level.”

How do you ensure that teamwork also works remotely?

Henrike (in laughs): “A good internet connection. Find a space at home where you separate work and your personal space. We are lucky to have all the necessary equipment provided by Chemovator. At Replique we work according to scrum in sprints of two weeks, so we have daily remote standups. I think it can get very lonely as a team member if you don’t have regular feedback and exchange.”

Tobi: “Rather talk too much than too little and don’t forget to give room and time for private things as well. You can’t replace the “chat in the coffee corner” but it’s also important that the team members know each other. If you are working in home office or a completely remote set-up, try to get the whole team together at least once a quarter. This “happening” should be also a mix of business, but also with a fun/private part to connect with each other and get to know your colleagues better.”

Melina: “Working remotely was difficult for everyone during the pandemic, but we had daily meetings where we updated each other and had our small talks. When the rules allowed for it, we met each other at least once a week at the office and I think having this personal contact and getting closer through team events is very important.”

How would you say the team dynamic changes in a big corporation vs. a startup?

Henrike: “BASF from the outside is a big corporation, however inside each unit has its own “subculture”. In my team, we worked for example remote even before Corona so this way of working is not new to me. In a large company, decision-making will take way longer and this often leads to less transparency regarding why things were decided in one way or another. However, it is something that comes with growth, and although in startups everything is faster and more direct, you will need more organization in a flat hierarchy as things scale.”

Any advice for founders on Teambuilding?

Henrike: “I believe Teambuilding is not only the responsibility of the founder but everyone in a team is also invited and welcomed to bring in ideas on how we can work better. Corona showed us how important it is to make time for not only working and staying in touch with each other to talk about other topics. Even just a small garden party can make a difference.”

Tobi: “You should be sure that you will be able to work with this person in the team. The human factor is very important, I would even say the most important part. Rather cut back on skills. Seek out the most important skill, but as I mentioned before, the minimum criteria should also be a 100% team fit.”

Melina: “Founders should involve the team members in decision-making because it allows them to feel more connected. As Replique goes through investor talks right now, we are happy to be always updated. Also, give your team members the freedom to make their own decisions and include their ideas. And have Teambuilding meetings because it is fun and brings us all together!”

What does Teambuilding mean for you? As a founder or team member, we are looking forward to knowing what your take is in the comments!

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