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You Can't Grow Your Business Without Growing Your Team

In professional sports, the teams that win the most are, usually, the ones who consistently field the most talented players at each position.  The NY Yankees and the LA Dodgers are an excellent example of that.   Yet, despite both, almost annually, fielding a team that makes up the highest payroll in baseball, the Yankees have failed to win the World Series for the last 11 seasons, and Dodgers won their first one in more than 30 years, just this past season.
Often, it’s not the highest payroll teams, or even the most talented, that become the champions in their sport, but the team with the culture and chemistry that enables them to play well together, no matter who is on the field. Great examples of this, over recent seasons, have been the Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros, whose payrolls were dwarfed by Yankees and Dodgers but had a culture and chemistry that outplayed their payroll. 
In a small business, your team is not only the foundation for your growth but the foundation for your culture.  How you are able to grow will be best embodied by how you live your culture. How you live your culture will be best embodied by the team you hire and manage.
Here are seven key tactics to hire and grow your team and, in turn, grow your company:
  • Hire for Culture; Somebody Who is Passionate, Then for Skills.
    Let’s get this out of the way right up front.   Hiring for culture does not mean hiring clones. In fact, just the opposite. You want a team that is well-rounded, that brings a series of personalities into play but share common values.

    What is their passion?  Does it tie into the company’s culture or its strategic direction, or both?  If it does, then you’ve got somebody special. The late Tony Hsieh used to say, “We hire people we would hang out with.” That they have the right skills is a given, or you wouldn’t be interviewing them.

  • Make Accountability a Critical Part of Your Culture.
    The only way to make someone accountable is to specifically define their role and responsibilities and then give them the authority and the necessary resources to carry those out.  This is one of the hardest things for small business owners to grasp.   They, typically, assign their team members responsibilities, but the team members are virtually powerless to carry them out because they don’t have the authority or the resources.  They have to ask for “permission” or “escalate” the situation to a manager or the owner.  And then the owner can’t understand why they have so much turnover.

  • No Micromanaging! Allow Them to Fail and Make It a Teachable Moment.
    This is the corollary to the last tactic. The first part of this is allowing the authority. The second part is not providing “authority on a string,” where you give the authority to one of your team members but then pull it back when they fail.  We all fail sometimes. Your employees are no different.  However, to really make accountability work, treat the failure as a teachable moment, as opposed to removing the authority after the failure. Show them how they could have done it better or differently and have them learn from that.

  • Create an Atmosphere That Encourages and Provides for Individual Growth.
    In many of the companies I ran, we instituted a tuition reimbursement program for courses that helped employees become more proficient or more professional, or both, in their jobs. We paid 100% for an “A,” 50% for a “B,” and zero for a “C.” That told them that if we were going to pay for it, they had to study.  And we got a copy of their grades to verify.  

    Additionally, if a trade association in your industry offers courses that help employees grow as professionals or add to their proficiency, encourage them to enroll in those. Finally, we also encouraged employees to attend industry events, where they meet peers and learn more about what is going in your market.

  • While Your Business Is Not a Democracy, Encourage and Allow Input Wherever You Can.
    In all the companies I started or ran, eventually, we had a program called “Nobody Asked Me But…,” where we encouraged employees to constantly question things as basic as “why are paying so much for a monthly coffee service when we could get our own Keurig machine?”; to as strategic as “why are we losing customers and not protecting and growing our existing customer base, better?”

    I have always been pleasantly surprised when an employee came up with an idea that was an absolutely “palm to the forehead – why didn’t we think of that?”  Sure, no business is a democracy. Somebody is always in charge, but that doesn’t mean as an owner you have to have all the ideas…or answers.
  • Celebrate Victories – Individual, Team, and Company.
    Jaime Tardy, author of “The Eventual Millionaire,” has a great quote – “Success is series of small wins.”  And those small wins are all important.  Celebrate them.  Whether an individual or a team drove the win, make it a reason to praise and celebrate.   Especially when the company hits an important objective or milestone. You might even make it a reason to have a company outing, even if it’s just lunch at Applebee’s, to observe the achievement.
  • Make Their Family a Part of Yours.
    Maybe on an annual basis have a picnic or a dinner where spouses or even kids are invited, so that their family can meet the company family.   You can be sure they talk about various people at work.  Here’s an opportunity to put a face to a name.  But further, it provides a chance for an employee to show off his or her family and for the company owner to acknowledge the employees’ contribution to the company’s success.  It’s also the intersection of the two families in the employee’s life.
 As I previously noted, in a small business, your team is not only the foundation for your growth but the foundation for your culture.  How you hire your team, how you create accountability for them, how you enable them to grow and get assimilated in the company are the key ways you live that culture and manage your team.  That’s where growth and ultimate success comes!



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