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Growing Your Business – Creating Your Core Team 1

Although many small businesses begin with only one or two members of staff – the founders – most growing businesses quickly recognise the need to create a larger team. Not only can this spread the workload but a well-selected team can bring in more energy, creativity, drive and knowledge than the founder alone might possess. A small, closely-knit, highly motivated team can be an unstoppable driving force.

The authors of The Beermat Entrepreneur call the members of this core team ‘cornerstones’. They suggest that the ideal mix is one entrepreneur providing strong leadership, surrounded by four ‘cornerstones’ – one for sale, one for finance, one for product development and one for project delivery and customer service. In real terms, most small businesses cannot afford such a big team, and don’t really need it to begin with. However, even bringing one other person in to the business can make a huge difference to its success during the first year or so.

In many cases, the original team will be composed of the founder, or founders, and one or two relatives or friends who have been roped in along the way. This works well if everyone is committed to the success of the business and prepared to work hard. As we’ve seen the early days of a business are defined by long hours and a painfully demanding workload – there is no room for the half-hearted or unenthusiastic. Not only will they not pull their weight, but they will sap everyone else’s enthusiasm too.

I’ve heard it said ‘never work with friends or relatives’ and it’s true that in some cases this leads to disaster. However, a team who like each other – and have a friendship beyond the business – can also be extremely efficient and powerful.

Jude, Business adviser

Remember that just because you enjoy spending time with someone socially it doesn’t mean you will like working with them. Ask yourself what they would be like to work with. Are they hardworking? Enthusiastic? What do they have to offer your business? Try to find people whose skills compliment yours, who can bring something to the business that fills ‘gaps’. For instance, if you are fantastic on the finances but weak on marketing, you need to find someone who can bring something extra to the marketing side of the business.

A recent London Business School survey of CEOs found that they considered the major factor that had contributed to the success of their businesses was ‘selecting the right people with good attitudes who are loyal to the company and who want to excel in their careers’.

Defining Roles

Whether you decide to go into business with others as equals or you employ them as part of your original team, it is very important to define roles carefully. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and where the boundaries of their ‘area’ lie. In businesses with two or more equal partners a lack of clarity about roles can be a major source of conflict, taking up valuable time that might be better spent focused on other aspects of the business. If you have a management team, you need to give them space to fulfil their roles and feel that their contribution is valued. This doesn’t mean handing over control, final decisions will still rest with you (or if they don’t you need to be clear about exactly who is the boss – only one person should take this position or squabbling and infighting can result).

Consider the following key roles and divide them between your core team. You should all be clear on who is going to take each role.

Business leader – who takes the final decisions? In other words, the boss.

Sales person – who sells to your customers? Identifies customers and carries out your customer research?

Finance person – who manages the money and the associated administrative work?

Supply management – who locates suppliers, negotiates with them and maintains adequate supply levels.

Core business – who does the core tasks of your business, by which we mean the things that your business is actually about? This might mean making a product, providing a service or something else.

Marketing and PR person – who promotes your business to potential customers and raises the profile of your business?

Some of these roles overlap, so good communication is also of key importance to your business.

Importance of Role Clarification

People do either one of two things in a business – they either add value or they add cost. There are no grey areas.

One of the most important teams to ensure that your core team members are all adding value is to help them clarify their roles.

There are a number of different aspects to role clarification:

Prescribed role – This is what the business uses to set down the individual’s overall goals and objectives. It is usually called a ‘job description’ or something similar and it sets out the person’s responsibilities, authority, and key tasks, as well as their position in the business hierarchy.

While this is a useful starting point, it does not take account of personal differences and changes in circumstances such as growth of the business or the need to cover weak performances by others.

Personalised role – the prescribed role is only part of the picture. These are factors internal to the individual which will affect the way he or she performs in the role.

This includes their abilities, skills and strengths, as well as their expectations of the role, their assumptions (about the role, the business, the sector. etc.), their values and ambitions.

Perceived role – the perceptions and expectations of others in the business will have an impact on the individual. For example, they will have their own views on what the priorities of the role should be as well as the boundaries: ‘I don’t think Sales Managers should…’; ‘I expect you to…’ These can limit or restrict the way a person performs, but if expectations are high and positive they can raise the person’s game, enabling them to perform to their full potential within their current role.

Should I Start A Business? 10 Questions Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Should Ask

Are you thinking about starting a business? Before you start your business or even your business plan, take some time to reflect on these questions and your answers to them. Not only will they give you an opportunity to ask powerful questions, but they are also indicative of many of the critical factors associated with starting and building a successful business. Asking the questions will help you decide how strongly you want to start a business. Answering them will help you build a successful one.

1. Why do I want to start a business?

What are your motivations? Is it money, fame, freedom, control, work/life balance or something similar? Perhaps you prefer to making a living at something you truly enjoy doing. While many entrepreneurs cite money as the main motivation for going into business for themselves, it often turns out that there are other more personal motivations. Be very honest with your motivations and what you are looking for in business ownership. Successful entrepreneurs know what they are seeking and how their business will help to achieve those goals.

2. What do I want my business to be “when it grows up”?

Where do you want your business to go? What is your vision and long-term aim? Many businesses fail because their owners do not have a clear vision of where they want to go with them. Challenge yourself to think beyond just starting a business or being self-employed and visualize your business in its established and complete stage. A clear image of the future provides a clearer path to getting there.

3. Am I willing to do the due diligence necessary to research and plan for my business’ success?

Due diligence, through research, planning and review is the cornerstone of successful businesses. Countless studies have shown that the lack of a business plan and all of the due diligence necessary to support it are associated with failed businesses. In addition to operational and administrative aspects of business planning, the aspiring entrepreneur should have an extensive knowledge of the business that they are considering: industry drivers, competition, growth potential, and daily challenges of operating that type of business. It takes time to thoroughly evaluate a business idea or opportunity. Your enthusiasm to jump right in may override due diligence and objectivity. Knowledge is power. Invest your time and develop the knowledge you will need to become a powerful entrepreneur.

4. What are the financial requirements and how can I meet them?

Financial considerations are likely the biggest concerns of aspiring entrepreneurs and one of the leading causes of business failure. New businesses often take three or more years to become profitable and new entrepreneurs are not prepared for the financial challenge they face in the startup phase. On the other hand, many successful small businesses are started everyday with less than $10,000 in startup funding. Successful entrepreneurs move beyond wondering whether they have enough money to start a business by determining how much they will need and developing a strategy to gather the resources to launch and nurture a growing business.

5. Where will I find my customers and what will I tell them when I do?

Who is your ideal customer? What are their characteristics? Try to be as specific as possible when deciding on your target market. Consider “thinking small” and targeting a well-defined niche. This enables your message to be much stronger. Once you have determined your ideal customer, ask yourself where you will find them. Where are they likely to gather? What web sites do they visit or books/magazines do they read? To which organizations or clubs do they belong? What other businesses are complementary to yours that could be a referral source to you?

Next, you need to decide what to tell them. Along with business planning and financial support, inadequate attention to marketing and sales is a major cause of new business failure. Consider your message. Make sure it is clear and succinct:

o Who your business serves

o What benefit your business provides to these customers

o How you provide the benefit

6. How much time can I spend on my new business?

A new business needs time and attention to grow and flourish. Ask yourself about the commitment of time and energy that you are prepared to make to support the new enterprise. Many new businesses struggle because of the lack of focus and effort that the new owner contributes. Even if you begin your business on a part-time basis, remain committed to its success and respect the time that you devote to it. Time management and organizational skills are very important to maximizing the time your have available to devote to your business.

7. Am I willing to take risks and be objective about the results?

Successful entrepreneurs are risk takers, albeit calculated risk takers. The only way to avoid risk is to do nothing and success seldom comes from doing nothing. Are you willing to take some risks and take possible failure in stride? Ask yourself how you can detach yourself from the outcomes and make objective decisions regardless of whether the results are positive or negative.

8. How will I maintain balance with family and friends?

With all this talk about hard work and commitment, it is easy for a new business to become all-consuming. Strong family support is important to a successful new business and there will likely be some changes in the work/life balance dynamic . However, it is equally important for new entrepreneurs to remember that business and professional pursuits are only one of the dimensions that define them. Remember you have a life outside of the new business and think about how to attend to it as well.

9. Can I honestly acknowledge my strengths and challenges?

What are the skills and capabilities that you have that you think will make you a successful business owner? Now, what are the areas in which you need to develop or seek support? Business success is a product of being honest and taking action. Strengths and weaknesses are not the basis for a yes/no decision on whether to start a business. They are simply a baseline that measures the gaps that need to be closed to improve chances for success.

10. How willing am I to ask for help?

Finally, ask yourself how you feel about seeking out support whether it is for subject matter expertise, to develop or complement skills that you need or to act as a mentor or partner in your new business enterprise. One of the major perils to a fledgling business is the reluctance of its owner to ask for help. While there are many decisions and actions that must be made, you don’t have to carry the burden alone. Ask yourself how much more you could accomplish and how much sooner if you had the support of mentors, coaches and subject matter professionals as an integral component of your business success strategy. When you look to the strengths and weaknesses identified in question eight, think about how or whom you might engage to close the gaps standing between you and your entrepreneurial success.

Did you find answers to the questions easy or elusive? If you found answers to some or all of the questions difficult, don’t despair. Important questions are supposed to be thought provoking and sometimes difficult to answer right away. The decision to start a business is likely one of the most significant choices you will make. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make it a thoughtful and well-considered decision? Use these questions as a guide to seek out the knowledge, clarity and confidence that you need in your product, your business and yourself to be a powerful entrepreneur.