Find Great People
In a small business, the impact of a single team member can be enormous. Every person you add to your team must be a star. Is that possible? Absolutely. First, make sure you define what a star is within each role of your company. Then you can go find them.
We dedicate an entire chapter to the Power of People in our book StartupNation: Open for Business to highlight the critical importance of building a superstar team.
We’ll focus on four action items in this step:
- Understanding the Power of People
- Find the stars to bring onto your team
- Keep your stars
- Importance of a mentor
The Power of People
The single most important factor in the success of a company is its people. It all starts with you as the entrepreneur and flows from there to everyone on your team. Great people can take a mediocre idea and turn it into success. But no matter how great the idea is, if you have mediocre people on the team it will not succeed. We have asked many angel investors and venture capitalists what the most important factor is in determining whether they will invest in a company. It’s the quality of the people. Successful entrepreneurs say the same thing. It’s star people that have made their businesses shine.
In tapping into the power of people, you must understand that it is the personal relationships that you have or can cultivate that will make the difference in your ability to attract stars to your team. If you are proactive about building those relationships, you will have a much greater opportunity for success. The challenge is that it’s not easy to invest your personal energy and time. It seems like a slow process. The reality is that you are at a great advantage as a small business. You can utilize your personality and uniqueness in a way that larger businesses cannot. Take advantage of that.
Finding Your Superstars
You must be proactive if you are going to attract superstars to your team. A college football coach goes after coveted high school seniors by sitting at the kitchen table with the recruit and mom and dad. You can hire people by placing ads but you run the risk of attracting walk-ons. Superstars need to be pursued. Here is a proactive strategy to increase your odds of adding stars to your team:
Create a superstar list. Write down the names of 12 people that you would like to work with. Don’t limit the list to people who could fit a current need on your team. Just choose stars, no matter what their specific gifts are.
Now here’s the key step … CALL THEM!! Tell each of the 12 that you have selected them to be on this elite superstar list and the reasons why. They will be appropriately flattered and motivated to want to help you build your team of stars. They may personally be in a season of their lives where they will join you. But even they are not, they will be able to point you to other stars to pursue. Stars know how to identify other stars.
If you already have a team that you are building upon, ask each of your team members to create their own superstar list of 12. Encourage them to proactively reach out to those stars even when you are not in an official “hiring” mode. Developing relationships in advance of the moment of need is extremely productive. Create a budget of both time and dollars so that you and your employees can cultivate superstar relationships. Remember, superstars need to be pursued.
Look for three types of people for your superstar list:
- People with potential
- People with proven skills
- People who are what we call “power brokers”
Hiring people with potential allows for growth into a position and keeps the employee motivated over a longer period of time (this works even at executive levels in your company). It’s also less expensive. Hiring people with proven skills will allow you to quickly fill in areas where your team is weak. Power brokers have both skills and can wield influence in your community or industry.
Posting on Job Boards
If you want an influx of resumes to make your selections from you can consider posting your open position on internet job boards. Your company will get worldwide or regional exposure depending on what sites you choose. This can be helpful for you to gain an understanding of the average candidate that is currently actively hunting for a new job. You can use this information to compare to the stars that you are cultivating through your proactive strategy.
It’s even possible that you will find a diamond in the rough. But realize that you will need to budget a good deal of time and energy to sift through all of the responses and you have an obligation to respond to every person who submits a resume.
Keep Your Superstars
Remember the great advantage that small businesses have. You’re small! You can be more personalized. Create an environment that is unique, flexible and customized. You can! Bigger companies can’t.
Three Strategies to Retain your Stars
Ask your team what they want. Instead of traditional cash-oriented perks, some may prefer a gym membership, others a flexible work schedule. Customization is a great way to compete against bigger companies who can offer your employees bigger salaries and better benefits.
Recognize the whole team
People are attracted to small companies because they like being a part of an intimate team. Be careful about singling out only a few people on a regular or long-term basis. This can be more hurtful than beneficial to a small team’s chemistry.
Communicate more than you think is necessary
Special events like monthly barbecues and field trips to ball games are terrific but make sure you pay special attention to the little day-to-day communication. It’s so much better to over communicate than under communicate, especially with a small team.
Get others in on the act
Share these tips with your colleagues.
- Ask your boss to purchase carbon offsets for corporate travel by car and plane.
- Arrange an office carpool or group bike commute.
- Trade shifts and job duties so that you can work four long days instead of five short ones.
- Ask the office manager to get fair trade coffee for the break room and make sure everyone has a small recycling bin so that recycling is just as easy as throwing paper away.
- Ask everyone to bring in a mug or glass from home and keep some handy for visitors so that you reduce or eliminate use of paper cups.
Green tips for your business are provided by treehugger.com, a leading resource for all things “green”!
On Your Own? Get a Mentor
If you are a sole proprietor it is essential that you recruit a mentor to give advice, offer moral support, and break up the routine. A mentor is someone who can offer you wisdom, creativity, connections, accountability, credibility, and fresh thinking about your business. Meet with your mentor at least once a quarter to discuss your business and make certain that your mentor is willing to challenge you.
If your mentor has experience in your industry she/he can certainly provide you with specific in-the-trenches insight, but it is not necessary that a mentor have a similar background to you. In fact, it is often more valuable if a mentor has a different set of skills and background to bring that fresh perspective.
Expanded Mentor Strategy:
As you grow your business, step up from a single individual to a multi-member advisory board. This will give you the opportunity to broaden even further the backgrounds and demographics of your advisors. Mentors and people you ask to be on your board will be honored to play that role and enjoy networking with each other too.