Keith Roberts, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Colorado, is the President of Zenman, a Denver-based web design/development and digital marketing agency. We asked him about the importance of having the right people in the right positions and why that's vital to a company's success. Here's what he had to say.

During Zenman's nearly 20 years in business, I've learned a lot about marketing, web design and running a business. But the most important lessons relate to leadership -- and believe me, I've learned a whole lot about the right (and wrong) ways to lead.

In 2015, Zenman started to follow EOS Traction, an operating system that helps entrepreneurs identify core values and create business goals they can measure against. There are a lot of elements to the system, including one tenet called "Right Person, Right Seat." The idea is that a member of a team should share core values with the company, feel a sense of ownership over his or her position and be equipped to fulfill what the role demands. The philosophy creates a culture of trust among team members, rather than a sense of blame.

Our decision to adopt "Right Person, Right Seat" came out of our process of identifying our core values as a company. Once we had identified those core values, we were able to have a discussion about whether Zenman's core values aligned with each of our team members' values and goals.

What we realized was that some members of the team were simply not a good fit for the position they were in. For example, we used to handle billing in-house, and it took the employee whose role it was two to three days to complete billing. This delay had a huge impact on cash flow and was really problematic for Zenman. Eventually, we replaced that employee with a trained bookkeeper, and the task went from three days to only a few hours -- always being done on time.

Other members of our team realized as we unveiled our one-, three- and ten-year plans that they themselves weren't heading in the same direction as the company and left to find their ideal people. Once they had a clear sense of who Zenman is and where we're heading, they got off the bus voluntarily.

Sometimes, it was tough seeing members of our team "self-select" and leave Zenman in search of their people. We had to let go someone who had become a close friend over the years. We had to let a family member go, too. But we want our team to come to work all-in, and we want people to find their perfect fit. So for those who left, we knew they would ultimately find the right group for them.

These moments were growing pains in the truest sense. As soon as we had shed team members who weren't the right fit for their roles, and had hired people whose values and goals aligned with ours, Zenman saw some immediate successes. Team morale was high, we became more efficient and we created better work. In short, we had created the ideal team, and great things were happening. We know we aren't done forever; people's lives and circumstances change, which means we constantly need to adjust.

Being a leader is a hugely rewarding role, but making challenging decisions comes with the territory. Those decisions are never fun, and sometimes they don't feel good. But the positive results that come when you perfect your team? Those are priceless.

Published on: Apr 7, 2016
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