Small-business operation is complicated by a unique set of circumstances, usually including a lack of available resources, restricted cash flow, and an ambiguous internal structure at the early stages of growth. To form a solid foundation for growth and development, it's important to stabilize your initial team and infrastructure.
Finding a great team to support your business, however, is a major challenge for small-business owners. Small businesses tend to attract fewer and less-experienced candidates than their large firm counterparts, and startups in particular find it difficult to provide adequate compensation for talented prospects.
As you gradually build a stable long-term team for your small business, keep an eye out for these four types of employees. They'll serve as the talented foundation you need to scale your company:
1. The Passionate One. Passion is not skill or experience; it's a genuine desire and interest in a given field. You can be passionate about your field even before you have professional experience or tangible examples of your work. While experience is an important consideration, if you're looking for long-term additions to your team, passion can't be substituted. Finding someone truly passionate about his or her work means you'll never have to worry about that person losing interest or failing to come up with new ideas. Passionate employees are the ones who go out of their way to improve their performance and execute superior work--so find employees who are passionate about their industry and passionate about your company.
2. The Entrepreneur. You're the central entrepreneur of your operation, but having entrepreneur personality types on your team is a recipe for success. Problems cannot be solved by the same type of thinking that created them, and having a team full of unique-minded entrepreneurs is the perfect way to get some new perspective on almost any conceivable problem. Entrepreneurs are skilled critical thinkers with a taste for innovation, which means a team of entrepreneurs is an idea-generating, problem-solving machine. Entrepreneurial types do have a slight tendency toward egocentrism and individual thinking, but in the right environment, a team of cooperative entrepreneurs is a virtually unstoppable force.
3. The Teammate. It's a bit of a cliché, but team players are perfect for small businesses. In the early stages of growth, or in the context of a localized operation, "big picture" accomplishments are what really matter. While corporate employees can afford to bury themselves in very specific, rigidly segmented responsibilities, small business employees succeed or fail based on the collective efforts of the entire group. Team players care about the other members of your organization just as much as they care about performing well in their own roles. They'll be willing to go the extra mile and help your other employees, and they'll do whatever it takes to help make your business a success.
4. The Agile One. Agility is a highly valuable trait in a small business employee. Rather than letting themselves be defined by one set of responsibilities, agile employees have no problem taking on additional tasks--even ones outside of their usual realm of expertise. Small businesses generally have fewer than 50 employees, with many operating with fewer than 10. Regardless, small businesses face a similar scope of responsibilities as their larger counterparts, meaning a smaller number of people must complete a wider range of tasks. Having agile employees means worrying less about workload distribution; you can rely on your agile team to respond to changing demands and schedules, and avoid the segmentation and productivity loss that's associated with strictly defined roles.
On the other hand, it's critically important to weed out the counterproductive types of employees before they cause any lasting damage to your business. While it may be difficult to fire someone who is one of a small number of employees, you can't afford to keep someone on the payroll if that person is actively harming that vital foundation. In my article "3 Employees You Should Fire Immediately," I outlined three types of employees that usually cause more harm than good in an organization. Here are four more:
1. The Negative One. The negative employee is the one you hear complaining at every turn. He or she doesn't want to accept new responsibilities or work extra hours, and criticizes the direction of the company at almost every turn. There's a big difference between identifying a problem with potential solutions and always seeing everything in a negative light; that's the difference between a critical thinker and a pessimist. Negative thinkers tend to spread negativity like a virus, infecting your other employees and eventually bringing a harmful cynicism to your entire organization. This type of behavior can often be corrected before eliminating the employee entirely, but don't let pure negativity taint your office under any circumstance.
2. The Follower. It's tempting to want an employee who will do whatever you say, when you say it, no matter what. It would make life easier for you and make task delegation a snap. However, the "follower" is not necessarily a valuable employee for small businesses. Followers do accept requests without complaint, and perform just as well as their counterparts, but the lack of independent thinking and leadership is a major fault when you look at your company from a distance. Followers never ask questions or start new initiatives. Instead, they're more like robots, always completing tasks but never producing or inspiring anything new.
3. The Established One. Don't get me wrong here; adding someone highly experienced to your team can be a great way to establish a sound, long-term foundation for a given department. Unfortunately, years of experience come at a high cost, and too much experience can sometimes lead to inflexible opinions. For example, if you land a developer who's been building websites for 15 years, he or she may require a higher salary and demand certain processes be followed. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but small businesses generally require flexibility and agility over raw experience. If you can choose between someone with experience in a given field and someone with genuine passion in it, go with the passionate one as a general rule.
4. The Selfish One. The selfish worker is in it only for a paycheck. This type of employee wants to show up at 9, do as little as possible, go home at 5, and never do anything extra to benefit the team or the company. These types of employees rigidly and defensively separate themselves from other members of your team, refusing to accept new responsibilities or extra workloads. In a bigger environment with more individual flexibility, the selfish worker may be able to thrive, but in the confines and team-intensive environment of a small business, there's no benefit. Most employees do come to work with a paycheck as their first priority, but if your employee doesn't care about the company at all, there's no reason for that person to be a part of your team.
Obviously, employees can't be accurately categorized into any one group; you may have a stellar employee from the positive group with a handful of tendencies from the negative group, or vice versa. Your hiring and firing decisions must come from your best judgment after a careful analysis of an employee or prospective employee's full character. Team building takes time, but the more effort you spend to ensure a great fit, the better it will pay off for you in the long term.