What is your most valuable business asset? Many would say it’s the office building or machinery owned by the business or maybe the product they are developing. The reality is that the most valuable asset in your business is not found on your balance sheet but are rather are found on your pay roll; your staff. Employees are the most important part of any business. In the busy startup years, entrepreneurs often focus on trying to build their business and neglect their employees. The reality is, if you build your team, your team will build your business. Hiring the right employees and choosing the right business partners, mentors or business advisors is essential for business growth and success. Your team can make or break your business.
Darlene Menzies, CEO of SMEasy, gives us some top tips on team selection.
T is for Teammate / Business Partner: While it is often best to go it alone in the initial years of building business at some stage it may be necessary to take on a business partner to raise growth capital or to introduce key skills. Partnering has huge benefits but it also has its challenges. Choosing a business partner is like choosing the right marriage partner, the wrong person could destroy your business. Before committing to a prospective partner you should ensure you ‘walk all four seasons’ with them. People may be fun to work with in the easy months but it’s the hard ‘winter’ months that reveal the truth about who you are going to be teaming with. Importantly, once you agree to partner, make sure you document what will happen if the partnership doesn’t work out. Plan for the worst and then give it your best.
E is for Employees: Employing the right people is one of the most critical aspects of growing your business. The right people will accelerate your business’ growth while the wrong people can cripple the business. One obstructive person in a small business can have a negative impact on the whole team. The smaller the business the more important the hiring, hire slowly and always ensure a probation period to give each other time to feel each other out. It is helpful to choose people who have different skills to yours but it is very important that they share the same values as you.
A is for Advisors: An advisor or consultant is someone who is paid to provide a specific service to the business for a defined period but is not employed by the business. Advisors usually provide specialist skills that are expensive and that you can’t afford and don’t necessarily need on a full time basis. Be careful of employing specialists on a full time basis as you may not be able to cover their large salaries in the lean months, warns Menzies, rather consider hiring an advisor as and when needed. It is important to check an advisor’s qualifications and their track record before making a decision to contract their services.
M is for Mentor: A mentor is experienced business person who has expert skills that you can benefit from and who is willing to share their time and advice with you. The fundamental difference between a mentor and an advisor is that a mentor does not charge for their time and advice. You can learn a lot from the successes and failures of experienced business people, especially those in the same industry as yours. Menzies offers some pointers on working with a mentor:
- Choose someone who you respect and you believe you can learn from
- It is important that your mentor sees potential in you and is interested in your business growth
- It is helpful that you both enjoy the time you spend together and that you are able to communicate easily with one another
- When you need advice or input, keep it brief. Busy business people don’t have time to read 30 page proposals.
- Remember to ask lots of questions, prepare for your meetings with your mentor. Make the most of the time they are willing to invest in you
- Write things down or record the meeting – honour their time and advice, remember they are volunteering to help you.
The importance of all the people that make up your team cannot be overstated. Ask any seasoned entrepreneur and they will tell you that looking after your team is looking after your business. To quote Richard Branson, “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”