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Five Lessons to Help Small Business Owners Build an Effective Team
There are a number of factors that lead to a business’s success – great solutions, a well-developed strategy and access to capital to name a few. While these are all important, I believe the biggest driver of success is none of these – it is the team.
The employees of a small business make an especially big difference in success or failure. Employees in a small business are typically working on meaningful projects, interacting with clients and influencing the direction of the company.
For small business owners, one of our core responsibilities is around people – hiring, training, managing, developing and leading. What makes this role as people leader more challenging is that most small businesses lack an HR department and other resources that the larger companies have.
We all want to have employees that are talented, engaged and driven to make an impact. The reality of the situation is that building and leading a team is not easy.
Over the years, I have made my fair share of mistakes with people, whether it’s making poor hiring decisions or not putting enough focus on development and engagement. While I’m not perfect, I’ve learned through mistakes, employee feedback and peers.
Here are five lessons I’ve learned about hiring, engaging and leading a team.
1. Hire slow, fire fast.
There is nothing more stressful than firing someone. It is not pleasant for anyone involved. However, it is better to make this tough decision as soon as you realize there is no path to success or goal achievement for the employee. Making this decision will save you time, money and will ultimately put the employee in a better situation in the long run. To avoid having to fire fast, take your time to vet candidates and don’t rush to hire. I use a multi-step process which includes a resume review, a survey, a phone interview and in-person interviews with me and at least two other members of my team.
2. Include your team in important decisions.
As a business owner, it can be easy to think that we know what’s best for the company. However, by including your employees in decision making you are not only improving the connection between your team and the strategies and vision of the business, but you are also likely to generate even better ideas through discussion and brainstorming. When we developed our Brandstores and Elevate solutions, our team was involved in the branding, solution specs and launch efforts. This led to a strong offering that has helped us expand our client base.
3. Have meaningful conversations.
Managers and employees should have regular conversations around development, performance and engagement. These conversations help employees understand where they stand, what is going well and what areas need improvement. They also help managers build trust and better understand the values of each team member. It is not enough to do an annual review each year. You may want to consider doing at least a 6 month and annual review while also including monthly touch bases to stay in tune with your team.
4. Build your team to run without you.
To build a team that can handle your business effectively, you have to hire smart people, align their job roles with their skills and interests and then empower them to make decisions and take care of the client. One of the best tests you have for if you’ve built your team effectively is if you leave for a few days and your team has things covered.
5. Your job is not to be liked – it is to make the right decision.
It is almost a certainty that you are going to make decisions that will please some people and make others unhappy. Instead of focusing on pleasing your employees, make the effort to engage your employees on decisions, provide clear reasons for an outcome and communicate with the team. By doing this, you are being inclusive and transparent – both of which should help maintain trust with your team.
There are many more lessons that I’ve learned (and am still learning) about managing and leading others. Having employees can be the most challenging and rewarding experience as a business owner.
For me, seeing my team grow, enjoy their work and deliver meaningful results makes running a business more fulfilling. As a people leader, we have a special opportunity to impact someone else in a positive way while also leveraging talents and skills to move your business forward.