A Business is Only as Strong as Its Team: Part Two: Building Your Team

Startup Stock PhotosAs discussed in my last blog, a business is only as strong as its team, I shared with you why having a strong team is so vital to your business’s success. Once we as business owners understand the value of a strong team, the natural next step is how to create that team and how to measure its success.

There are several key elements to building and measuring a strong team—from defining roles, ensuring communication, to celebrating successes and measuring progress. I’ve outlined four key elements that you’ll need to consider in building a successful team. 

  1. Define and Value Roles

In addition to a job description, ensure your staff have their responsibilities clearly outlined. Clearly defining what it is the team member is responsible for, as well as how it plays a part in the overall company, will help in understanding the value their position plays in the overall growth of your company.   

  1. Openly Communicate

Open, or two-way, communication is a key aspect in running a successful business. Your employees rely on you to communicate your expectations to them and to provide any information or training that may be required.

From a feedback and measurement perspective, communication is key. Create not only an onboarding document which outlines your expectations, but also develop a feedback mechanism for them to communicate their progress or any difficulties they may be experiencing. You can establish weekly or daily meetings with them and ask them to create a report, which gives you an overall perspective on how they are progressing and managing tasks. 

  1. Celebrate Success/Embrace Failure

If an employee or team accomplishes something in the workplace, celebrate it! No, you don’t have to throw a big party with cake, streamers and balloons, but even the simplest recognition like a personalized email acknowledging their accomplishment can go a long way.

However, if mistakes happen, use them as a learning opportunity not just for that individual, but also for the entire team. As a business owner, it’s essential not to place blame or point fingers when something goes wrong. The goal of your team is to work towards the future of the business, so learning from mistakes should make for a valuable lesson moving forward.

  1. Collaborate

A team is non-existent without collaboration. Collaboration can be achieved in many ways – through effective communication, sharing of knowledge, and peer support. Ensure you have built in opportunities for collaboration, which might be regular team meetings, in-house lunch and learns, one-on-one meetings, etc.

Roles often collide and allow employees to work synonymously together. If we think back to the restaurant analogy, a cook would not be able to plate food without clean dishes, nor could a server serve the food if the tables are not cleared.

Lastly, team building and measurement is an ongoing process in which you play a vital part. Allow yourself the time to invite your team to share in your goals and help you achieve them. Just as no man is an island unto himself, no company can be built without a strong team.


What do you and your team hope to accomplish for the remainder of the year?

A Business is only as Strong as Its Team

team.jpgWith over 30 years of experience, I’m often asked by business owners how they can take their business to the next level. While there are many ways of doing this, such as marketing initiatives, sales strategies, staffing and the like, I always stress one important factor that tends to be overlooked – the foundation of a solid team.

As a business owner, you’ve likely hired staff to support your operations. If you haven’t hired any staff yet, it’s likely just over the horizon if you plan on any form of growth in the near future. Strategic staffing ensures you are hiring not only the right person for the job, but someone who will support the vision and future growth of your organization. When hiring someone to fulfil a role, ask them what their values are and how they think they align with your company’s mission. Simply put, just because a candidate has a certain skill set, it does not mean they are a good fit for your company. Having a team mentality with cohesive goals will foster a dedicated work environment built for success. If your team encapsulates members who are willing to grow as individuals, both professionally and personally, there’s a good chance they’ll want to apply that opportunity for growth to the growth of the company. Taking the time to mentor your employees will result in unequivocal benefits for both parties involved for years to come.

Further to aligning values and goals, balanced skill sets will ensure you have a strong team. It’s important to remember that as individuals, it’s human nature to have both strengths and weaknesses. The strongest team is one that encompasses skills of all sorts that complement each other in a synergistic manner. Similarly, there must be a good balance between leadership and peer support. As a business owner, you should strive to lead your team to success through empowerment and motivation, but most importantly, through example.

One thing that I have observed in organizations is that there is sometimes a lack of effective communication within teams. As individuals, we tend to think that everyone we interact with wants to be communicated to in the same way that we do. However, this is not always the case. While one person in your organization may like to talk things through, another might like things written down. Learning how to effectively communicate with your team will allow for a more productive workplace and will ensure that your goals are always successfully met.

Ultimately, a strong team will only thrive if trust is established between team members. In my next blog, I’ll discuss in more detail the best ways to build a strong team and how you can go about measuring their success.

Do you think you have the right team in place to achieve your company’s goals?

Silent Leadership

quiet.jpgWhen most people are asked the question, “what makes a great leader?” the responses are predictable, with a list of qualities that most often includes confidence, charisma, and energy. But there is a whole other type of leader that tends to be forgotten: the silent leader.

What exactly is quiet leadership? Simply put, it is the ability to inspire, motivate, and encourage through action instead of words. While a boisterous leader may have the right effect in some cases, they are certainly not the right fit for every company or team. Fortunately, anyone can adopt a quiet leadership style by practicing a few important behaviours that I’ve detailed below:

  1. Effective Listening
    • An ability to listen to others and actually hear what is said will ensure everyone feels respected and has ownership in the work of the company.
  2. Honesty
    • To be a successful quiet leader, your employees must trust you implicitly. Being truthful will ensure loyalty from your followers.
  3. Transparency
    • This goes hand in hand with honesty. While remaining quiet, you must still ensure you are open and approachable to your team.
  4. Modesty
    • Even as a leader, you do not put yourself above your team. You hold yourself to the same standards and accountability as your employees.

Keep in mind that although a quiet leader may be in the background a lot of the time, they still have an air confidence about them that people respond to. Leading by example and not just “talking the talk” can be the best way to motivate your staff. When you build the right relationships with your employees, you will find that you no longer have to be loud in order for them to listen.

Have you ever adopted a quiet leadership style within a team? Was it successful? Please share your experiences in the comments!

How to Implement KPIs into Next Year’s Strategy

kpi photo.jpgIt’s hard to believe, but we will soon be entering the final quarter of the year. It’s an important time to ensure your business is on track with achieving its goals, in addition to setting your goals for the year to come.   But depending on what your anticipated goals are, you may want to set something a little more specific – key performance indicators. While similar, the two can greatly differ so knowing what these differences are can surely help move your business in the right direction.

What Are Key Performance Indicators (KPI)?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. While goal setting illustrates a set of objectives you’d like to achieve, implementing a KPI will actually measure the success in achieving these targets.  More importantly, however, is to know what type of KPI to implement, and this all depends on your type of business and what part of the business you’d like to track.

For example, if you’d like to see how your marketing efforts are assisting your sales objectives, setting an Incremental Sales KPI would prove highly beneficial. This specific KPI analyzes how your marketing efforts have increased your sales revenue during a specific campaign. The end result of a KPI will show you if the resources and budget you’ve allocated to a specific campaign, resource or individual have proven effective.

KPIs can fall under the following categories:

  • Financial Metrics
  • Customer Metrics
  • Process Metrics
  • People Metrics

How Do I Know The Right KPIs For My Business?

While setting KPIs are beneficial to your business, they can be just as detrimental to your time management if you do not set the correct ones. There are thousands of KPIs to choose from, and it can be overwhelming not knowing where to start. Here’s a tip – not only do you want to select KPIs that suit your industry, but ensure they also match your strategy. Additionally, ensure the targets or goals you are evaluating performance against are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). By using this key formula you are ensuring both your goals and KPIs are achievable. 

Where Do I Start?

Are you interested in incorporating KPIs into next year’s strategy? Start with these simple steps:

  1. Define what areas of the business you’d like to measure.
  2. Identify what questions the decision-makers, managers or external stakeholders need answers to.
  3. Select your KPIs. Consult your peers and business coach/advisor for input.
  4. Measure, measure, measure, don’t stop measuring when results are unsatisfactory.

Never hesitate to change or add KPIs throughout the year. After all, the main purpose of a KPI is to inform decision-making!

What Can You Do About Poor Performers?

performanceAs a business advisor I see the issue of poor performers come up all the time. If you’re a small to medium-sized business owner you want to be out there growing and developing your business, not mired in staffing problems. Without big human resources departments and manuals of policies and procedures to follow, I know you often don’t have a roadmap on how to deal with poor performers. The reality is that regardless of the size of your business or your particular industry, at some point you will have to deal with this issue.

What are the causes of poor performance?

Poor performance can be the result of many things including:

  • Not understanding expectations
  • Lack of ability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Not a team player
  • Chronically late
  • Bad attitude
  • Personality issues
  • Non-work related problems
  • Health issues

Why is employee performance so important to your business?

Employee performance affects organizational performance. A poor performer can create a toxic environment in your workplace, dragging down your entire team.

How can I avoid poor performers in my business?

Here are a few measures that I feel may help you to avoid the problem of poor performers.

  1. The hiring process: Choosing the right employees is crucial to a successful business but it’s not easy. If upon re-evaluation, you’ve discovered that you’ve hired several poor performers, perhaps you should consider outsourcing the hiring process to an external agency. The money you pay to the agency may actually save you money in the long run.
  2. Job expectations: Be clear about exactly what the job entails and what your expectations are.
  3. The onboarding process: Onboarding helps new hires acclimatize and orient to your business so that they can quickly become productive, contributing members of your organization. Have an onboarding plan in place for new hires and make sure that the tools they need to do their jobs are in place on their start date. E.g. workstation, computer, security pass, etc.
  4. Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings: One-on-one meetings between employee and manager can potentially head off problems. Speaking about issues as they arise or have the potential to arise is always better than leaving them to fester and grow.

What can I do if I have a poor performer?

In my experience I’ve found it valuable to try and ascertain the root cause of poor performance before any action is taken. If the reasons are personal or health related and have nothing to do with the job, perhaps a leave of absence is in order. If an employee is lacking in ability, perhaps upgrading their skill set or transferring them to a different department is the answer. If the problem is attitude or motivation perhaps setting performance goals will inspire the necessary change. Try instituting quarterly performance reviews to address any performance issues and monitor improvement. If all else fails, you may have no choice but to let the employee go.

As a first step, I suggest that you review poor performance issues you’ve had in the past or are dealing with now. Evaluate what action to take in order to rectify the present situation and what changes you can make going forward in order to avoid the issues of poor performers.

Everyone Needs to Take Time Off

sea-holiday-vacation-tableAre you suffering from vacation deprivation? If so, you’re not alone. So much has been written about the importance of a work/life balance, but not enough Canadians are living it. According to Dr. David Posen, author of Is Work Killing You?, “Humans were never designed to have stress all the time. Our stress reactions were designed to be turned on and then off. That’s the healthy cycle. But today we operate in a semi-permanent state of stress. Proper vacationing is an antidote to chronic stress. It is absolutely imperative that Canadians are vacationing each year – and not just one time per year.”

I understand from many of the business owners I work with that you worry about leaving your businesses because you feel nobody else can do your work, and although that may be partly true, I can guarantee that if you burn out – you risk not having any business to run.

Make this the year that you take a vacation – consider it preventative medicine – and instead of just thinking about taking a vacation, prepare for actually taking one by following these 4 tips:

  1. Plan your vacation during a slow period. It will definitely reduce your stress levels about going away.
  2. Deal with all time sensitive issues before you go. In theory, anything that arises in your absence should be able to be dealt with by your staff or wait until you return.
  3. Contact your clients well in advance and let them know you’ll be going on vacation. If they have anything that requires your special attention you’ll be able to take care of it before you leave. Delegate a point person for them to contact in your absence.
  4. Empower your employees to step in and step up while you’re on vacation. Delegate specific tasks or duties. Leave detailed instructions about how to deal with situations that may arise. If you’d feel more comfortable with regular status reports, have a staff member email you at a predetermined interval with a report of the company’s activities during your absence. Let your staff know that they can reach out to you under certain circumstances and be clear as to what these circumstances could be.

All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. We all need time to relax, recharge and reconnect with family and friends. What are you waiting for? Start planning your vacation!

Client Favouritism – Is It a Bad Thing?

CustomersLet’s be honest, we all have our favourite clients. I know I do. More often than not, our favourite clients are also some of our best clients. These are typically the clients with whom we have great partnerships and an understanding that together, we’re responsible for success. The question is do we, or should we, treat all clients equally?


How we differentiate clients

For some, client favouritism is already built into many of our business models. It’s common practice to tier clients based on the amount of revenue they generate. We routinely see companies offering different levels of service typically called Gold, Silver or Bronze, similar in idea to consumer credit cards. The clients that spend the most have Gold cards, then Silver level, and then Bronze for “basic level”. Does this differentiation set us up to treat our clients differently instead of focussing on delivering great customer service to all of our clients? Is client favouritism itself two-tiered – clients we like and clients who generate the most revenue? How are we treating clients that don’t generate the most revenue but are still solid performers?


Can client favouritism be a bad thing?

Client favouritism is not a good or a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine to dedicate more time to the clients you have great working relationships with; the ones that are profitable, appreciate your work and do what they say they’ll do. But if you’re only focussed on your highest revenue generators and let others fall by the wayside, you may be alienating some good clients. Not all of your clients are going to be rock stars in the revenue department. However, I do suggest that you nurture solid, steady, long-term clients that deliver consistent revenue, in addition to the few rock stars. These steady clients speak about your service to others, and can be a good source of referrals, so maintaining a relationship with your clients, where each feels like they are the “only” client, is the ideal.