Life, for many, seems to move at light speed. For us, as entrepreneurs, that's a welcome respite.
Often clutching at the slippery slope of existence, entrepreneurship is a challenge of awesome magnitude and scope. For those focused on successfully navigating the playing field, it's unlikely you'll reach your potential unless you think of your business as a team sport. It can't be a solo competition.
As Michael Gerber points out in The E-Myth (and I paraphrase), you might have the vision and passion to create, but might not have the skills, knowledge and desire to do other tasks that are less, shall we say, central to their interest and strengths. Freedom to create, decide, and move your vision forward is where you should focus your energy as an entrepreneur. Putting a strong support team in place is the only thing that makes such freedom a reality.
I know this all too well. When founding my firm, my training as a CPA and CFP didn't prepare me for my role as chief compliance officer, or to handle human resources, bookkeeping, marketing, risk management, IT--need I go on?
No one person effectively can, or should, wear all those hats. It's impossible to properly manage all these tasks while actively pursuing the reason you opened your door in the first place. The clear answer is to devote the time, energy and effort to construct a team that works with and for you.
Here's how to build a winning team.
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Don't try to be great at everything. Look reality in the eyes and remember you probably aren't an expert at certain tasks, and there are likely some you resist or put off handling yourself.
- Inspect the important aspects of your business and determine the strengths and weaknesses in each. Whether in sales, administration, legal, accounting, or elsewhere, if there are areas where you are currently unsure or tip towards the queasy, that should tell you more attention is needed.
- Who is on your current team and what role do they play? Do you even have a team? In Good to Great, author Jim Collins exhorts the idea of having the right people sitting in the right seats. Your job--in fact your very survival--is essentially dependent on the team that supports and carries out his or her vision.
- If your vision isn't crystal clear to every member of your team; go back and make it clear. There's no reason to wait.
- Set expectations for every member of your team and communicate them precisely.
- Solicit questions. If you sit behind closed doors and expect everyone to move their vision forward, you'll restrict the atmosphere for open questions, growth and learning. That can be fatal to success. Effective entrepreneurs ask questions, learn from the team, and welcome the same in exchange.
- Help your team help you by being specific, providing adequate time to communicate and by soliciting advice on areas in their expertise.
- Make sure the people on your team talk to each other and communicate in an open, positive, circular and productive fashion. Political jockeying and positioning can create a poisonous atmosphere.
- Ask your team tough questions. If they're independent consultants, require signed declarations of any conflicts of interest. Make sure they sign confidentiality agreements and vet them carefully and thoroughly--this is an area where you must be ruthless. I once witnessed a CPA who, while extracting fees from an entrepreneur, referred in an insurance person. The insurance agent enriched the CPA by sharing commissions. The entrepreneur had no idea.
- Create expectations that are reasonable. Create accountability for success and failure.
Your team is there to assist, counsel, promote, advise and work to the benefit of your vision and passion. A great team also can be instrumental to your own happiness and satisfaction, just as an ineffective, destructive or nonexistent one can spell dysfunction, chaos and failure.
While following these steps may not slow your days down to the speed of light, it will allow you to steer around the asteroid fields.