Ajay Pattani is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Chicago and founder (and reigning ping pong champion) of Perfect Search Media, a search and social agency named to the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing companies. Making the list has Ajay thinking about the importance of his team in getting the company there, so we asked about his perceptions of teams and teamwork. Here's what he shared.

Watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, I noticed that each Oscar recipient had something in common: a team of people they thanked, who guided and supported their careers and helped them reach the podium to give their acceptance speech. I also noticed that their teams included different "sub-teams" composed of a wide range of people who influenced them--some even thanked their grade school teachers!

In our company, teamwork tops our priority list. As a core value, it's one way we describe our agency during the sales process. It's no coincidence that we credit teamwork as both one of our company values and one of our differentiators.

While I've long appreciated the power of teamwork, I've recently broadened how I define our team and who's eligible for team membership. Life is a team sport, so when you start considering everyone as a team member, your life improves.

Team members can be family, friends, colleagues, mentors and even acquaintances. In my definition, anyone whom you positively influence and in turn positively influences you qualifies as a team member.

I started thinking about the many people who have significantly influenced my life; I hope this list may inspire you to reconsider who makes your team's roster.

Work Associates

Next to sports teams, the most commonly defined team is those we work with. Your colleagues and employees are all members of a single team working toward a common goal.

Studies analyzing performance based on team size and chemistry have become an important topic that relates to both individual and company success. I had the pleasure of hearing Patrick Lencioni speak on the topic after he wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which explores the causes of breakdowns among teams and, from analyzing what's missing in those situations, the qualities of a strong team.

I've learned first-hand the importance of focusing on building and motivating teams: It's instrumental to personal and company success. In my opinion, teambuilding is one of the most critical leadership skills successful entrepreneurs must have and hone.

I've broadened my definition of our work team to include anyone with any influence on our company: clients, vendors, partners and other parties who play a role in our success. At our most recent company holiday party, I thanked our core team?and their dates.

Yes, even those who support your team members can be considered part of your team. See how your team just expanded?

Family Members

People often view their family structure as a team. One's partner, siblings, parents and children provide immeasurable support.

As a single person, my parents and brothers are an integral part of my team. In fact, I consider my parents the strongest team members I have. After all, if not for them I would not exist. I credit both my parents and their parents for all of my positive skills.   

My brothers have been on my team my whole life. In elementary school, I was in a competition to sell the most boxes of M&Ms. I canvassed our neighborhood and soon noticed that many neighbors would pay me a dollar for the candy and then allow me to keep it.   

I realized that being a cute kid helped drive sales. One day, while watching my younger brother and his friends playing, I realized the only thing cuter than me going door-to-door was my kid brother doing so. He and his friends were eager to live the dream and get paid in candy to sell candy.

With the help of my newly anointed candy sales team, I placed third in the entire school. I couldn't have done it without a rock-solid team of second-graders backing me up. That formative experience taught me the importance of teamwork.

Educators and Mentors

As an adult, I'm constantly learning, a process which is fostered by those around me. Teachers, mentors, friends and family all deserve a spot on your team because they care about your growth and well-being. I strongly believe that any success we achieve in life is the result of those who have taught us and positively impacted us throughout life.   

As a child, I developed such strong connections with teachers that they even influenced the morals and ethics I live by today. I admired the teachers who treated students as friends and observed that they often inspired better academic performance from their students. This experience shaped the way I manage people.

Organizational Colleagues

I've developed strong relationships through membership in organizations, thus further expanding my team. These include Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Young Entrepreneur Council, Streetwise and 1871 Chicago.  

EO is one of the largest international networks of entrepreneurs. I'm in an EO Forum with eight other Chicago-based CEOs representing various industries. We meet one afternoon a month to discuss business and personal challenges we're facing and offer each other support and guidance. These individuals have become an important part of my team and help guide me.  

I recommend joining professional and community organizations as yet another facet of your team that you can tap for support. They offer professional growth, a new educational perspective and a new faction of friends.

Expand Your Team

My four pillars to happiness are foundational in growing my team: doing more, being grateful and positive and helping others are the best methods I've found for increasing overall team size and therefore the number of people that support you. My mindset is to think of anyone I meet as an opportunity to grow my team, whether it's a potential client, a tour guide in Paris or a bartender in Mykonos. Opening your mind to such possibilities can expand your team. And you never know who might surprise you and become your team's next MVP.

My success is 100% the result of my amazing?and ever-expanding?team!