When climbing the Everest, there is no doubt you would want to have the best team for your expedition. The best available skills, capabilities and experience. In short: you want the A-Team. And you would not settle for less. Just the same, if you are serious about your business, you can’t afford to be undemanding or sentimental about one of the most crucial success factors: your team.
Get over the random-factor from the start
In many start-ups the initial team is somewhat random. Often it’s a case of who was around and available at the right time and in the right place. And most often, a founder will bring in friends to help get things started. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you proactively embrace that random-factor for what it is: a great way to get the business started. But if you want your business to reach its full potential, there comes the point when you need to think bigger to get to the next level. There are several questions to ask. Are the individual team members in the right role? Could their talents be better used differently? Can you help them develop the necessary skills? Are there skills and experience missing in the team altogether? It might be that some individuals are just not right for the team at all. And it might be that the best person for the job is not yet part of the team.
Compromising on your team is bad for everyone
Of course, one reason we often stick with a suboptimal team are sentimental motives. Nobody wants to fire their friends! But getting stuck in that deceptive comfort zone is not only bad for your business. It’s bad for their careers as well! When individuals are in the wrong job it means they cannot flourish professionally, and that harms their future prospects and long term careers. So, a systematic and honest periodic appraisal of performance and suitability is indispensable for any A-Team. And in my experience it is best to make that process a top priority from day one. Continuously working on finding, building and developing the A-Team is definitely a key success factor for your business and should therefore be part of your company’s DNA.
Focus on what you need, not what you want
It is generally good to know what you want. It keeps you focused and on track. When it comes to your team however, you should silence that voice a little. Instead, think about what you need. Or better, what your business needs. The easy part of this task is to determine the objective skills and experiences needed: Product Development. Sales. Engineering. Finance. And so on. Although easy, even this part is all too often forgotten or at least not managed rigorously. The harder part however is around the softer elements and capabilities. We tend to (often unconsciously) surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves. Of course! This is comfortable and gives us a feeling of control and safety. What you and your business need to excel is not comfort and uniformity. It is diversity and challenge.
Would you work for peanuts? Why should others?
Another frequent reason for sticking with a B-Team is the reluctance about offering the kinds of compensation packages that would attract the best people. If you believe in your business, you have to be able to attract the brightest women and men with competitive career paths. And yes, competitive salaries! The cheeky adage ‘paying peanuts will get you monkeys’ describes one of the trickiest false economies. Even with the best will and inspiring purpose in the world, uncompetitive compensation packages will not attract the best people. Also, they will not motivate existing staff to level up their game and contribute their best. So think about the calibre of people you need for achieving your goals and realizing your vision. If you have those people, great. Reward them. And if you don’t have those people, make it your mission to find and attract them. Your business deserves nothing less.
P.S.: This post is the third in a series of six blogs covering the key ingredients for a successful business. Stay tuned for the others to follow over the coming weeks! You can find links to the published blogs below: