In my experience building a successful business team is very, very challenging. Especially for an entrepreneur.
When I started with my first business it was just me: a lot of work, a lot of fun and the business went wherever I wanted it to go. No one to blame if it went wrong and a hero when it worked out. ‘All in’ was the motto. And it worked.
After a while the work started piling up and I struggled providing the service I wanted to provide. I tried getting some help, but then I had even less time, having to train and monitor that person as well. It wasn’t easy and ended in the business going down. I just burned out and lost control.
I didn’t see it then, but I wasn’t ready to run a growing company long term. I just didn’t know how.
Knowing when and who to ask
Skip forward 20 years. Yes, that is the time it took me to get it. It wasn’t by chance either, but out of necessity. That is the time when I met my mentor and when I asked the question: *How do you run a successful team?*
His response was the question: *Do you want to run a successful team?*
I thought this was a stupid question. If I didn’t want to run a successful team, then I wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place. But then it daunted on me. Do I really? Or do I just want someone to help me run a successful business. Is my focus on the business or on the team?
At that time I learned that being a great team leader requires dedication to the team and the will to make the team successful. It requires to trust the team that they can do an amazing job in running the day to day functions of the business and that there is no need for me to interfere. It requires a change of job from the person who is running the business to the person who is running the team.
Not only was this a real eye-opener but also a really scary thought at the same time. What happens if the team isn’t good enough? Will my business go down? How can I control this? And what do I do if it doesn’t work? At the time the thought freaked me out.
When we are talking about a team, we are talking about people. Not processes, control or strategy. We are talking about people. A team leader needs to understand people and specially the way people interact. A team leader needs to understand what his team needs, how the team interacts and what moves the team forward. In a way he needs to be able steer the team in the right direction.
How do you do this?
Every person is an individual with needs, desires, problems and personality. As human beings we are driven by either the things we want or the things we fear. Leading with fear has proven to be futile. People who are scared don’t give their best and don’t come up with new and better ideas on how to do things. They just don’t want to get in to trouble.
Leading people towards what they want has proven to be best way in the short and long run. The secret is to find something they all want and can identify with. This is often the vision of the team or business. It is a possible outcome every team member can align to and wants to be part of. It provides the reason for the hard work done every day and provides the energy needed.
This vision also answers the second important part of a successful team, the willingness to achieve it together. We are all on the same path, walking in the same direction towards the same goal. There is no reason to fight each other, but there is every reason to help each other. It is important to get the right people together. If you have one or more members who are not inspired by the same goal your team will struggle and you will waste a lot of time and effort.
It isn’t easy to spot the right ones and I got it wrong so often, I stopped counting. But I am becoming better at it.
Stepping up to the team challenge
To move successfully from a one-man-business to a team-driven business requires several steps.
The first step is to understand what you actually need to run your business. I mean the day to day stuff, processes and strategies. You need to write down all the things you do everyday that keep your business moving forward.
It’s also important to have structure. Doing this also helps to identify the areas you need to improve on or you’ll waste lots of time on.
This builds your core. You now have a written-down strategy explaining how your business works, what you do everyday to make it tick and how you measure your success.
The second step is to become clear where you want your business to go. Doing the first step will help you a lot to identify areas where you can improve and expand your business. But most important is the overall goal. What is the highest thing you can imagine your business can achieve for your clients? Become as clear as possible about it and write down why do you think this is a good direction. Keep your focus on your clients and what you can do for them.
Get your customers to ‘buy in’ to your team ethic
Try not to fall into the trap of measuring the amount of money you can make. You will never find a team that will work hard so you make a lot of money. They will only do that if they can also make a lot of money, but this way you will never get the team spirit which can bring your business to levels you can’t even imagine yourself. We are all social creatures and to achieve team spirit you need to come together. Not just within your own team but getting your customers to want to become part of the team as well. That’s where the real power lies. If your customers and your team believe in the cause you’ve identified for your business – and if they can see that with your leadership there is a chance to get there – then not even the sky is the limit!
When you are clear with Step 1 and Step 2, it is time to introduce a team of one or more people.
Because now you are clear of what is expected you know exactly what kind of skill set you need, aiming for better than you, if you can. For the team members it’s great, as they know exactly what the minimum requirement is.
Once you have your team together your role moves from running the business to running the team.
You’ve chosen the right people who love your idea, want to be part of it and have the right skills for the job. Now is the time to get the team coordinated and align the processes to work together. It’s time to create a flow.
The step after that is to provide the space for each team member to grow and develop. We all need space for our own little achievements and ‘Hurrah moments’. That keeps us motivated and engaged.
How would you build a successful team around you?
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