08/09/2014

By John Holden, Tinderbox Working Capital

An innovative idea or a fantastic product is a great start, but to develop that into a successful business you’ll need the right team of people around you. It’s a stumbling block for many entrepreneurs. Great ideas people don’t always make the best employers, and many founders fail to attract the right people or keep them on board as they grow.

Getting the right team in place, and keeping them, isn’t down to luck, it takes time and effort. It’s as much about thinking what your employees will get out of the experience as what you need from them:

• The first step is to give some thought to the type of people you need to take your business in the right direction. It’s not just about finding someone with the right skills and experience but also the best fit for the culture and values of your company. If you want to keep a team long term, they need to feel happy and comfortable in their working environment. The recruitment process will play a part in this. First off, don’t be blindsided by impressive CVs and gushing cover letters, look beyond the surface to really work out if that person is right for you and vice versa. Take the time to interview properly and consonsider asking someone else to sit in on the interview process too –it’s good to get another perspective.

• Don’t just try to replicate yourself. It’s natural to be attracted to people who reflect your own way of doing things but if you are a loud, enthusiastic go getter perhaps it makes sense to have someone on board who is a little more reflective and can offer a different perspective when issues arise. Remember you’ll need a good mix of skills and personalities to create a good team.

• Let it go!: Once you have your team on board, don’t leave them twiddling their thumbs while you rush around trying to have a finger in every pie. If you hire people with specific skills let them use them. Actively show that you trust in and appreciate the individual skills and experience that your team bring to the business. Creating a sense of ownership for each employee will ensure they remain engaged and happy, this creates a more rewarding experience and a more productive working environment.. And don’t forget to listen to those around you create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration.

• Don’t take your team for granted: good employees are an asset so treat them as such. Investing in your team is as important as investing in your product or service development. Take time to have regular catch ups to make sure that employees have the skills and support they need to do their jobs as well as possible. Try to make yourself accessible too outside of formal reviews, you might be very busy but don’t miss out on vital feedback from the team.

• Take them with you: keep staff updated on the progress of the business, thank them when things go well and make it clear how they are contributing to the success of the business. And if things aren’t going so well avoid creating a culture of blame, and focus again on creating that sense of co-operation and collaboration to get things back on track – working as a team keeps people motivated and engaged

• It’s not just about the skills: creating a successful and happy team can also help make your business a more attractive proposition to potential investors who will be investing as much in your business as a whole as they are your idea, or market potential. And the same goes for clients and suppliers whose opinion of your business will be shaped by all those they have dealings with.