There Is No “I” In Team.
As small business owners, we often start off alone or with just a small group of supporting employees, but perhaps not a team. As the business owner or CEO, we take ownership of the majority of headaches and frustrations. We are most likely to be the first to arrive at work each day and the last to leave. Everybody else gets paid before we do. The business frequently centers on us and our experience and knowledge, and without us there would be no business. Does this sound familiar to you?
The problem with this business model is the absolute dependency it has on one person. If the CEO gets sick or debilitated for a long period of time, then the business is in danger of collapse. As a husband, wife, father or mother, if you fall over and die prematurely it leaves your family in an extremely vulnerable position, unless you have managed to buy lots of life assurance cover.
It is rare for one person to have all the skills necessary to run and scale a business and so it becomes necessary to hire employees to help carry the load. Many solo-preneurs try to go it alone and may succeed for a time, but it most certainly puts a cap on the earnings potential for the business and indeed its owner.
Therefore, if you want to move beyond a risky lifestyle type business and to grow it into something special, you need to bring in other people to help you run it. It moves the business from an “I” business to a “We” business. The transition from I to we is not an easy one. Not only do you have to recruit and train the right people, you must also learn to step back and allow them to make decisions for the business that previously were part of your domain. If you micro-manage the business, it will never achieve its full potential.
Some business owners try to run the growing business as a hybrid, wherein they bring in new employees but they do not empower them to make decisions. This type of business often lacks accountability and responsibility as the CEO continues to make all key decisions. It is a silo like structure with different people doing different activities but it lacks harmony and cohesion. It is a perhaps a team structure by name but the CEO has absolute power.
Real teams have devolved responsibilities and accountability. If you consider the word team – T-E-A-M, the letter “I” does not appear in it. I love this metaphor because it makes it clear that a real team structure does not include an autocratic member that calls all of the shots. A real team structure involves collective responsibility for achieving team goals. It usually involves each team member supporting every other team member. It certainly means that there are common goals shared by everyone and that each team member is expected to pull their full weight for the good of the team as a whole.
So where does the solo-preneur start when building a team? I would suggest that the business owner should develop clarity around business goals first. When the goals are fully articulated, then specific plans can be developed and time-lined for achievement. This leads to identifying job roles within the business that require filling. If there is a proper written job role for each core activity in the business, it should incorporate the type of person you need to hire, what experience and qualifications you are looking for, what is expected of the person you wish to hire and their part in the overall plan, what specific tasks and responsibilities they are required to undertake, and the reporting line you wish them to adhere to.
However, you cannot hire people in a vacuum purely based on the job you wish them to do. Their fit with the culture of your business, or the culture you are building, will be the glue that adds coherence to a team. You certainly don’t want a collection of individuals that operate according to their own whim and agenda. Instead, the business owner must articulate the purpose of the business, its core beliefs, the longer-term vision, the modus operandi, and the role each team member is expected to play.
Remember that every team needs a coach. This is what drives high performance. Your new job in a team environment is that of coach and leader. It doesn’t mean that all responsibilities devolve to team members. Good coaches are cheerleaders who encourage the team to perform to its full potential. Leaders inevitably lead from the front by example. As a coach or team leader your job is to bring people along with you. You create the buy-in. You set the goals. And if you are smart, you stand back and let the team members deliver for you without too much interference.