How To Grow Your Small Business Team

How to Grow Your Small Business Team

Growing a team is tough. I know. As a CEO and business owner, have done it, and continue to do it.

Over the last fifteen months, I have gone from a single employee company using subcontractors solely to a six-person team doing 95%+ of all work internally. The climb has been good, but it has also been tough.

Here are a few of the things that help me find and retain good people for my team.

Define your core values and culture.

Core values drive your culture. They let everyone know what is important to you. 

The core values for Invoq are:
  1. Win as a team, lose as a team.
  2. Be willing to learn, risk, and fail.
  3. Move heaven and earth to win for the client.
  4. Be willing to share new ideas and challenge other team member’s ideas.
  5. Always consume coffee.

These core values say a few things.

1. We are team-centric. As a company that focuses on a small, highly bought in customer base, we rise and fall on the successes of our team. A choice or conversation by a team member can easily result in 10’s of thousands in lost or gained revenue. We look out for each other, collaborate, and help each other get better.

2. I expect every team member to do three things.

First, I expect them to be learning, investing in themselves, and honing their craft. In other words, becoming the best version of themselves possible.

Second, I expect them to take risks: to bring new ideas to the table and to try new things. They're free to throw crazy ideas out to the team, knowing that they won’t be ridiculed.

And last, I expect them to fail. I expect them to make mistakes. One of my mottoes is: if we don’t make mistakes, we aren’t trying hard enough. We are playing it too safe.

3. We are client focused. That means we do everything under the sun to win for our clients no matter what it takes.

If that doesn't motivate you or get you out of bed in the morning, then you should work for someone other than me.

4. Be willing to share new ideas. We love ideas. I love fresh perspectives and the different angles that each team member brings to a problem.

Be willing to share with other team members why their ideas are good and bad. Why will it, or won’t it work. Is there a way to tweak it slightly to make it 10x better? Put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable.

5. We value coffee and consume large quantities of it. (If the smell of coffee makes you nauseous, we may not be a good fit for you.)

Define your 12 & 24-month goals.

Lay out your plan for the next 12 and 24 months. This will help you with two things. First, it will reveal the biggest piece(s) you need to reach those goals. Secondly, it lets the potential team member know where you are heading and what that will look like (at least in some way) for them and their place on the team.

Define what piece(s) you are missing.

Define what your next team member needs to bring to the table (skills, responsibilities, etc.) Get an HR consultant like Paraclete Partners to help you make sure you have the proper things in place for future team members. Things like job descriptions, employee handbooks, and anything else you need for your specific company.

Make a list of what makes the position attractive (you need to sell your future team member on why they want to work for you).

You probably don’t think of selling and job interviews as going together, at least not from the perspective of the company being the one doing the selling. The reality is that in 2017, in many industries there are more job openings than qualified people to go around. You need to sell your future hire on why they should invest in your team vs. your competitor’s team. That may be things like perks, culture, the things they will learn, educational opportunities (we took our entire team to INBOUND in 2015 and 2016). Connect with a good recruiter like that can help you with this as well as bring outside perspective to what you really need, should have, and the going rate for those people.

Hire people with high grit levels.

As a small business, you rise and fall on your people. It takes on average 30-50% of the first year’s salary to onboard a team member. You may think that number is wrong. It's not (but that is for another blog post). Growing a small business is tough on the owner and the rest of the team members.

Find team members with grit. If you aren’t sure what grit is, read Angela Duckworth’s brilliant book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It's a book every business owner should read. 

Hire people that are good with elastic skills.

I’m currently listening to “To Sell is Human" by Daniel Pink. One of the things he references is how company roles and job descriptions are continually changing. The need for people to do things outside of what was their role traditionally is imperative. For example - designers who know how to analyze and customer service personnel who are responsible for sales and contracts.

Find people that are good at learning new things, like change, and are willing to keep going.

Develop a culture and hire for your culture.

Create a place where people want to work. That can be many different things. For Invoq, that looks like a small highly connected team solving business problems as a full funnel agency. We use the Inbound Marketing methodology and sales enablement to solve problems for our clients. We do it in a collaborative environment while drinking coffee and white-boarding problems into solutions and answers.

Building a small business is about building a team. Get team players, not lone rangers.

P.S. Hiring lone rangers to build your team will shred unity and create rifts in your culture.

In summary, build your culture, find people that match your culture, and have outside people help you in your search.

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Topics: Small Businesses