During a recent Six Steps to Getting Strategic session, James and I discussed his goals for the year ahead: he wants to attract investment, build a team, and propel his business to the next level.
“Great”, I said. “So what does your team look like?”
“Hmmm”, he muttered pensively. “I want a sales team, a tech team, someone to run finance, HR….”
James rattled off a handful of functions. Yet as I probed deeper, he wasn’t able to tell me why those functions mattered, how having those people on board would improve the company’s position, or what all of it might cost.
James isn’t alone. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzzwords of organisational management.
I would hate to see any of you haphazardly build out a team. You’ll end up with deep rifts in your business model and lackluster performance from the people around you.
So what is the right way to build a team? Try these five steps.
1. identify what you need
Start with a blank piece of paper.
Put your ego to the side and ask yourself what skills you lack. Knowing that you can’t do it all forever is an important realisation to make.
Maybe your role is the visionary. Maybe you’re best in front of clients. Maybe you want to manage operations and let someone else define strategy.
Although you’ve dabbled in IT, marketing, and finance, you’re no expert. Ultimately for your business to grow, you will need support. Make a list of all the things that you think you need within your business.
2. learn the details
Now you have a list of what you think you need but what do these functions actually DO?
When you say you want someone to run the _____ department, what does that mean? What is the person responsible for? What do you expect of her?
If you don’t know, you need to have a conversation with someone who does. Who do you know in your network who could tell you more about procurement or marketing?
Here’s a great job description written by Corrina Gordon-Barnes, someone who clearly understands the type of person she needs for her business and what that person will (or won’t) be expected to do.
3. in-house or outsource
Once you are much clearer about the types of functions that you require within your business, make an honest assessment of whether or not your team must be employed in-house on a full time basis.
Do you need a permanent member of staff or can you rely on a freelancer? Could you use an external service provider who specialises in finance? Could you bring in a marketing consultant to help you design a strategy but leave you to run it?
Weigh up the pros and cons of both approaches for each function.
4. interview with purpose
This section could take up a whole other blog post, so I’ll try keep it short and sweet here: You need to find out if the person in front of you is the right person for the job.
Don’t go into an interview blindly, talk at them about your business, or fail to ask any meaningful questions.
Does this person share the same values as you? What will his contribution to the business be? Will she be willing to contribute both strategically and operationally (like you’ve been doing for the past year) or will she want to have a team around her?
Make a list of the most important questions that you need a response to, and then write down how the perfect candidate would answer that question.
5. share a vision
Your team needs to believe in you and needs to believe in where the business is heading.
Having the right skills is not enough. If your team don’t believe in your idea, then when the going gets tough (and it will at times) they won’t have any vested interest to put in the hard work required.
Instead work towards the same goal. You will be a much stronger unit than if everyone is going in a different direction. Share your vision with your team and let them contribute their own ideas to it. Create a shared vision that everyone believes in.
Then, check in with your team regularly to ensure that everyone is still on board.
over to you
As always, I’d love to hear from you. What’s missing from my list? What one thing do you wish you spent more time on when you starting to build your team? Share your advice with us in the comments below.
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Corrina Gordon-Barnes says
Thanks for sharing a link to my job description, Danielle. We found the PERFECT person so it worked 🙂 One very important element was believing that she was out there looking for us too, while many people told me that such a person didn’t exist!
Danielle Anderson says
Hey Corrina. Thanks for coming by for a visit and for your extra insights.
Perhaps it’s easy for that nagging inner voice to transition from the “why would anyone want to pay me for this?” to “why would anyone want to work for me?”
Having that positive belief that the right person is out there looking for you too is a great one to add to the list. 🙂
Lisa Mcloughlin says
I too loved Corrinas job advert and wished I had seen adverts similar to that over the last twenty years of my working life…
I think it is so essential to step back and see where your strong skills are and look to filling the gaps within a team….but with just enough overlap so that there is a resonance between all and that things don’t fall apart if a member is ill or on holiday or leaves suddenly 😉
Danielle Anderson says
Lisa, I’m glad you mentioned having a bit of overlap. I agree that we need to have coverage for people taking holiday (or suddenly leaving), so there should be strong communication amongst team members about what people are working on and how processes / procedures need to be followed. I think that warrants a post of it’s own, so I’ll address it in a future blog. 🙂