In the early days of running your own business, it’s natural to try to do as much as possible yourself. It’s the most cost-effective, comfortable, sensible way to do things in the beginning. But as your enterprise grows, you’ll find yourself stretched thinner and thinner. Eventually, you’ll find you just can’t continue to oversee operations, sales, accounting, fulfillment and marketing – and hope to continue to grow your business.
When you reach this point, it’s time to think about bringing other high-level managers on board to help you out. You need to build a senior team that’s able to manage all the critical areas ofyour business to take it to the next level.
Building your team demands matching jobs to people’s strengths. That means giving people responsibilities according to skill level, not based on how close a friend they are, or how closely related they are to you, or whether you just like their sunny personality. That includes you as well – don’t give yourself an impressive title and job unless you’re right for the job. The fact is, many smart entrepreneurs hire their own boss when they realise their skills lie elsewhere in the company.
When the time comes to hire an executive team, you’ll need to find people to fill the following roles:
1. Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The fact of the matter is that the CEO is the boss of everyone and responsible for everything. They determine the company’s strategy. They hire and build the senior team. They make the final call on how resources (read: money) get divvied up.
The CEO’s skills must include strategic thinking, the ability to rise above the daily details and decide where the industry and business are headed. They must then be able to decide the company’s best route for navigating the future market conditions. They have to be able to make good bets.
The CEO’s key skill, however, is in hiring and firing. The right management team can cover a CEO’s shortcomings. A CEO maybe able to set strategy, predict the future and control the budget, but if they don’t hire the right team, they have to master it all themselves. So they need to be able to identify and hire the best, fire the ones who don’t work out, and run the show in between.
You know you need a professional CEO when you’re mired in the details for way too long and can’t pull yourself out. CEOs think about where the organisation is going, the people and processes needed to get there, and how they’ll work in the current market. If you like details rather than strategy, either shift your thinking or hire a CEO to do the job for you.
2. Chief Operating Officer (COO).
A COO handles a company’s complex operational details. Think about UPS moving three billion packages in the two weeks before Christmas: The company’s COO insures the business can deliver day after day. He figures out just what needs to be measured so he can tell if things are going well. Then his team creates the systems to track the measurements and takes action when the company isn’t delivering. In a one-location retail business, the store manager is effectively the COO. When you expand to multiple locations or when ensuring smooth operations becomes a big part of your business, it’s time to hire someone who revels in measurements, operations and details.
3. Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Plain and simple, your CFO handles the money. They create budgets and financing strategies. They figure out if it’sbetter for your business to lease or buy. Then they build the control systems that monitor your company’s financial health. The CFO is the “bad guy” who won’t let you buy that really cool video conferencing equipment and makes you settle a commercial loan instead. While you mope about it in your office, the CFO will be busy figuring out which customers, business lines and products are profitable, so next year you can afford the really cool video conferencing equipment.
Believe me, you’ll know when you need a CFO. Do you lie awake at night dreaming about numbers? No? Then you need to bring someone on board who does. You want a person whose dream birthday gift is a calculator and a blank book of ledger paper. Money is your business’s blood,and in entrepreneurship, cash flow is everything. You don’t know the difference between cash flow and profit? Run – don’t walk – to the nearest head hunter and find yourself a CFO.
4. Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
Recently, companies have been bringing in a marketing expert at the C-level rather than as just a vice chairman. The reason is simple: Many current business battles are battles of marketing, so corporate strategy often hinges on marketing strategy. The CMO owns the marketing strategy – and that often includes the sales strategy – and oversees its implementation. The CMO will know (or learn) your industry inside out and helps you position your product, differentiate it from your competitors’ products, enlist distributors, and make sure customers learn to crave your product.
If your business’s success depends mainly on marketing, you need a CMO. That might be you – but only if you have time to keep up with competitors, oversee the marketing implementation, and still do the rest of your job – and do it well. Otherwise, you need to look for the person with the sunny disposition, Blackberry in hand, keeping up with what’s hot and what’s not.
5. Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
I’m a techie from way back, so I’m pretty opinionated about CTOs: Many of them just don’t belong in the C-suite A CTO should keep up with technology trends, integrate those trends into the company’s strategy, and make sure the company keeps current when it’s necessary. They should not be buying new toys and leading-edge technology just because it’s the latest, greatest thing out there. You need a CTO if technology impacts your business or industry strategically. (If you’re in tech yourself, or your industry relies heavily on technology, that means you.) Here’s a quick test to find out if your CTO can link technology and strategy: Ask your CTO how a company’s chosen programming language choice affects strategy. If the answer sounds more sophisticated than “It makes it easier to find programmers,” your CTO just might know how to think strategically.
Finding Your Team Members
Unfortunately, good executives don’t grow on trees (and you wouldn’t want to hire the ones that do). Since their decisions can make or break your business, you want the best. Newspapers, classified ads and internet bulletin boards are not the way to go. And mass-market ads will attract exactly that – the mass market, people who have no other job prospects.
If you have the funds available, executive search firms are a good choice. Although they charge through the nose to find candidates, they do due diligence and present you with pre-screened candidates, so when you’re running around handling the emergency of the day, they can be a huge time-saver. They also monitor the pool of executive talent and are likely to reach candidates you couldn’t approach on your own. Search firms may specialise by industry, function, geography and level of job, so if you decide to hire one, make sure you know what you’re getting.
Networking is a time-honoured way to find new hires. Let your professional and personal networks know what kind of person you’re looking for. Then get one-on-one introductions, and take the candidate to lunch to test the chemistry.
When networking, avoid specific “networking forums.” Go straight for what you want. If you want a lawfirm CMO, spend a weekend at the Legal Sales and Service Organisation’s Raindance conference, which attracts senior marketing folk from law firms. Network, network, network – but make sure it’s targeted.
Once you’ve got a potential candidate, how will you know for sure they can do the job? Executives have great impact – on employees, on systems, on profits – so it’s worth your time to check them out thoroughly. Call each of their references, and listen between the lines (with labour law today, recommendations always glow). A CFO may have embezzled from his last company, but the employer still says “They did a good job”. This grade inflation means you need to listen for less-than-glowing opinions.
When you sit down with your potential C-suite candidate, there are a few things that will make your job a little easier:
- Make sure your candidate really knows the job. If your CMO-to-be doesn’t know the difference between marketing and sales or your CFO can’t tell you the difference between LIFO and FIFO, pass ’emby.
- Interview for chemistry. Do you trust this candidate? Do you want to spend time with them? Believe me when I say youdon’t want an abrasive team member, no matter how talented they may be. One COOI know, scared to make the hard decision, reorganised his entire company arounda highly talented, incredibly obnoxious executive that everyone despised. The exec’s talent got to shine – but everyone within 100 metres quietly subdued theirs.
- Talk to people from your candidate’s former company. Are the candidate’s claims of divine brilliance reflected in what their former peers and subordinates have to say about them? Find out if they got the work done and also how they contributed to the company’s culture. In a small business, cultural issues can be every bit as important as getting things done.
- Always hire really smart people. Here’s a good guideline to follow: Every new hire should increase your company’s average IQ. That means they should all be smarter than you. Get used to it.
- Look for evidence of learning ability.Will your candidate repeat mistakes they’ve made in the past? Or will they learn from those errors and adapt that knowledge to your company?
- Use “behaviour description interviewing” techniques. Don’t ask about principles, knowledge or “what if” stories. Instead, ask your potential executive team memberto share specific past events. Their stories will reveal their values, skills and abilities. For example, you might ask a CFO to describe a budget they setup and how they handled it when a manager exceeded their budget and asked for more.
One word of caution.
Be wary of hiring friends or family members. They’ll expect you to trust them and just assume they have a high skill level. What’s worse, you may trust them and assume they have a high skill level without any evidence to the contrary until after you’ve hired them. And unless you take care to be very clear about the boundaries between friendship and work, you may find your friendship in ruins over workplace disagreements.
Delegating to New Executives
Once the new members of your team are onboard, it’s time for the truly hard part: trusting them. Your gut will fight you every step of the way. You’ll assume your instructions are clear and misunderstandings are their fault. You’ll assume when you disagree that you’re right and they’re wrong. But you’ll sometimes be wrong. The key to successful executive relationships is changing what your gut tells you.
Remember how you interviewed for trust? That’s important because once you hire an executive team, you must let them take their responsibilities and run with them. That means agreeing with them about what their roles are, what deliverables they’re responsible for and on what time frame.
It’s also worth deciding in advance how you’ll handle disagreements. You hired this person assuming their judgement was better than yours. So when you disagree, if you did your job right, chances are that they’re right and you’re wrong. Discuss early on about how you’ll make the call, so you get the most benefit from constructive conflict. Just remember: If you agree on everything, one of you is redundant.
Entrepreneurship is about going for the things that are much bigger than what you could do alone. Your job isn’t to reach the goal; it’s to build a team that will reach the goal. If you really want to reach your goals, you’ll need to bring on others to help, and creating a good executive team means knowing what you need them to do, finding good candidates, and giving them what they need to do their jobs. If you choose well, they’ll be successful and make you successful as well.
3 Ways You Can Help Your New Hires To Succeed
Filling a vacant position is expensive, and unless you do these three things, it’s liable to be an expensive waste of time.
Let’s face it – the hiring process is painful, and not just because you have to look through reams of résumés. From posting job listings to conducting several rounds of candidate interviews to ultimately making a selection and then training a new employee, the time and money required to fill a vacant role add up quickly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs an average of $4,129 to hire a new employee. Considering this process takes an average of 42 days, it’s clear that you want to get it right the first time.
And just because you’ve made a candidate an offer and he or she has accepted it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. In fact, Tinypulse reports that 22 percent of turnovers occur within the first 45 days of an employee starting a new job. Without an effective onboarding process, you’re setting your business – and your new hire – up for failure. On the other hand, an effective and engaging onboarding programme allows companies to retain 91 percent of new hires for at least a year, according to the same research.
Successful training makes for successful employees, which in turn makes for a successful organisation. If your new employee onboarding and training programme is strong, your confused newbies are more likely to turn into productive contributors, and this transformation will take less time.
Don’t overlook these three key areas when training your new hire.
1. Teach trainees to identify basic cyber security threats
Cyber attacks are increasingly common, and they’re a threat to businesses of all shapes and sizes. While some hackers are conducting extremely sophisticated attacks, research by Cofense revealed that 91 percent of security breaches still stem from basic phishing emails. Because they’re unaware of their new company’s common practices, new hires are particularly susceptible to social engineering attacks. The most successful scammers start by gaining access to an executive’s actual email account; after all, who’s going to say no to a request from the CEO?
As David Wagner, president and CEO of email security firm Zix, explains, “Any messages then sent out automatically bypass authentication tools, making unsuspecting recipients the last line of defense.” If you’ve trained your employees on what they should and shouldn’t send over email – and can and can’t expect to receive via email – your organisation has a decent shot at escaping unscathed. If not, the oversight could cost you a fortune. Make sure your training materials show your new hires examples of phishing emails and provide a list of the types of company information that should never be shared via email.
2. Help them to buddy up
Relationships are an important part of employee engagement. Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report found that workplace friendships drive employee engagement and performance. In fact, the report determined that organisations can better engage customers and increase profits by increasing the number of their employees who feel they have a close friend at work. So include your new employees in the social circle at work and provide get-to-know-you opportunities so they can quickly feel like they’re part of the team.
Encouraging new employee assimilation could be as simple as making sure newcomers have someone to eat lunch with for the first few weeks. An even more effective way to promote engagement involves pairing up a new employee with a peer mentor for the first few months on the job. Mentorship programmes have seen great success, and they’re utilised by around 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies, according to the Association of Talent Development.
Ask the veterans on your team to sign up as mentors and set clear parameters for what that entails. Will they be an as-needed resource for new employees, check in on them weekly, or be integrally involved in their training? Decide what works best for your team.
3. Give your training materials a makeover
Nothing causes employees to tune out faster than sitting them down in front of a computer screen with an employee manual and training videos that clearly should have been left back in the ’90s. If your onboarding materials quote Ferris Bueller or reference the original “MacGyver,” it’s probably time to freshen things up. When you upgrade your training materials, incorporate interactive elements that encourage active participation.
Fun activities like a scavenger hunt will help new employees learn their way around the office, and interviews with other members of the company will help familiarise them with their colleagues. Before you plan training for your new hires, make sure you understand their learning styles and offer training activities that best meet their needs. You could even have them fill out a learning styles questionnaire and use that information to personalise aspects of their training. If your new hires learn best by doing, include opportunities for them to jump into a task. Or if your new employees are visual learners, focus more written materials than oral presentations or in-person chats to ensure the information sticks.
It takes time to get a new employee up to speed, but there are steps you can take to accelerate their training. If your onboarding process hasn’t changed in years, be sure to prioritise these three things in your next update. They’ll protect your organisation, improve engagement and put new hires on the fast track to success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Small Teams Get It Done Better, Faster And Under Budget
How is a project delivered four months ahead of schedule and R2 million under budget? Because small teams deliver work within significantly shorter time frames and with smaller budgets. Here’s how.
We will focus on teams that are given tasks that must be completed within a specific time frame, for instance a set number of items by close of business or objectives to be reached by a specific date, and we will also investigate the difference in performance between larger and smaller teams. Our case studies are based on client interventions by a management consulting company that co-author Anton Burger worked for. During these client interventions he worked with and managed teams ranging from two to 110 people across various industries.
An interesting truth was revealed during two such client interventions several years apart when two teams, one large and one small, had to deliver the same type of solution. The smaller team delivered the work within a significantly shorter time frame and with a smaller budget.
Over the 19-year period that our co-author Anton Burger worked with and managed teams, the question was often asked, why are smaller teams able to achieve so much more? Let’s look at the following example.
A big life insurance company wanted to computerise their business processes to improve operational efficiencies. This would not only bring down operational cost but also improve customer experience.
The management team of the organisation approached Victor Pereira (pseudonym), a management consultant, to assist with the selection of suitable software to computerise the business and to put a team together to implement the system. A system was soon selected and a seven-member team was established.
The team consisted of a team leader, a two-man development team, an IT expert and a three-man business analysis (to determine the needs of the business) and testing team. The members of the team were all specialists in their fields and had much experience.
Besides the normal challenges that go with a project of this nature, there was one additional challenge — the version of the software in question had never before been implemented anywhere in the world. The client would be the first.
Adding to this challenge was the fact that, should any software code issues come up, they could only be resolved by the software provider based in the United States. This meant the team needed to be flexible and had to work after hours in South Africa to coincide with the working hours of the software provider.
However, the project team took ownership of the challenges and was determined to solve the issues and implement the system. The relatively small size of the team made communication and decision-making easier.
Large teams heighten complexity
Each team member was adaptable, committed to the project goals, and took ownership. This insured effective and high-quality deliverables. A combination of factors, such as the size of the team, the right people with the right skills and their commitment to the goals, ensured that the project was delivered four months ahead of schedule and R2 million under budget.
After the successful completion of the project, Victor was approached by the life insurance company to salvage a project to replace their outdated and disparate transactional systems (that had already been computerised) with a single modern system. The company had already spent some time and money trying to implement a new transactional system but little progress had been made. As project director, Victor was confronted with the challenge to restart the project and complete it within the original time frame with a smaller budget.
Given the time pressure, the company believed throwing a big team at the problem would help solve it. Up until this point in his career, Victor had predominantly worked with smaller teams and had never experienced the challenges surrounding teamwork in a team of this size.
A mixture of existing and new teams was assigned to the project. This overall team, totalling 110, was made up of multiple sub-teams ranging between four and 12, each with their own team leader. Multiple vendors supplied software components, which had to be integrated with each other and existing interfaces.
The multiple teams and vendors, combined with a highly regulated financial services environment, created an extremely complex project. The size of the greater team posed a significant challenge in terms of communication and co-ordination. Teams started planning their respective deliverables, sometimes without consulting or planning with other teams that were involved. Some team leaders excluded team members from the planning process, which meant that team members could not commit to time frames. This led to a lack of commitment with team members not taking ownership.
Consequently, the project struggled to gain momentum. A project of this scale requires careful planning and coordination between the different teams involved. Teams depended on deliverables from other teams to meet deadlines. For example, the development team could not start development unless the business analysis team had completed their business needs specifications.
The problems were exacerbated by the fact that team leaders did not have the right authority levels to make decisions on the spot and this also hampered progress. One of the key teams started missing critical deliverables, which had a negative impact on all the other teams.
The moment non-delivery becomes a reality, pressure mounts for all parties involved. At times like these the level of trust among team members is the glue that holds things together. However, in this case there was a breakdown in trust among some members of the overall leadership team.
At this point Victor realised that at the current rate of progress the team would not reach the project goals. An intervention was needed. He red-flagged it with the managing director of the company and it was decided that a different approach to coordination was urgently needed.
The project was stopped and the approach reevaluated. The entire project was re-planned but this time with all the team leaders and team members involved. Victor was astounded by the complete about-turn in the team morale. This resulted in more realistic timelines and commitment from all team members, which fostered a sense of ownership.
The project made good progress but sadly, due to the significant delays, the original launch dates could not be achieved and the project was over budget. Surprisingly (or not), the small team that was incorporated into the bigger team made excellent progress and delivered on their scope of work, on time.
Small teams achieve better teamwork
The value of teamwork, the importance of managing teams well and even the effectiveness of smaller teams have been well documented and developed over the past 70 years. In the 1950s a more scientific approach was introduced to the concept of teamwork when two American engineers, Joseph M. Juran and W. Edwards Deming, took their philosophy on quality to Japan. They were invited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers to do something about the perceived poor quality of Japanese products.
Their thinking gave birth to the concept of Quality Circles — a system in which small teams of employees voluntarily come together to define and solve a quality or performance-related problem. Secondly, it led to Total Quality Management — a system of managerial, statistical and technological concepts and techniques aimed at achieving quality objectives throughout an organisation.
This system expanded into teams with the relevant authority (at low levels) to make decisions. During the late 1980s and early 1990s organisations across the globe were dominated by self-managing teams, relatively small and highly autonomous work teams that take responsibility for a product, project or service, and self-directed teams, small groups of employees who have day-to-day responsibility for managing themselves and their work.
Another type of team that is often used to improve organisational performance is a mission-directed work team. The aim of mission-directed work teams is to provide leaders and their teams with the skills to:
- Achieve high and continually improving levels of quality, speed and cost effectiveness
- Establish goal alignment and business focus
- Benchmark themselves against best leadership and workplace practices to identify and address high leverage areas for improvement in a systematic manner
- Create a visual workplace (the use of pictures, graphics and other images to convey information and meaning quickly and simply) to simplify the management
- of objectives
- Achieve teamwork, participation and continuous learning.
- Work teams have gained worldwide acceptance in organisations. However, while teamwork is essential to organisational performance, effective teamwork is often elusive.
A decline in effectiveness is often caused by teams that are too big, teams that do not have a clear purpose or a structured plan or are made up of the wrong members. Teams that are not trusted with great responsibility and are not allowed much freedom to make their own decisions may also fail. Conflict, mistrust and poor leadership are often the leading causes of poor performance by a team.
Professors Martin Hoegl, head of the Institute of Leadership and Organisation at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Hans Georg Gemuenden, of BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo and K. Praveen Parboteeah of University of Wisconsin–Whitewater investigated the effects of team size on teamwork quality among 58 software development projects. They found that the top five teams, in terms of teamwork quality, ranged in size from three to six members and the bottom five from seven to nine members. More significantly, on average, teams of three members achieved 63% of the teamwork quality of the best team, which is in stark contrast to teams of nine members which only achieved 28%.
7 Simple Steps To Strategise For 2019’s Success
To make that happen you will need to start strategising soon. So let’s talk about how all of us can create effective team strategies for 2019.
With the buzz and hoopla in full swing this holiday season, as managers and business owners it’s good to remember that the new year is right around the corner. We all want next year to be better than this one, and you probably have a few improvements in mind that you want to see come to fruition.
To make that happen you will need to start strategising soon. So let’s talk about how all of us can create effective team strategies for 2019.
1. First, clarify your goals
To know what the new year should look like, start by understanding what this year was like. Pull reports now while data is fresh, and look at this year’s performance. Identify the changes you’d like to see in the upcoming year.
Then you can clearly see what you want your team to achieve in the new year:
- What specific metrics need work?
- Do you want to see an increase in overall revenues by a certain percentage?
- How about improving productivity and cutting costs?
2. Time to plan
Once you have an idea of what needs changing you can work out the details of how you will achieve it.
Consider the SMART acronym when putting your plan together. Is your plan:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
As leaders we need to lead with clarity and decisiveness, but we will do well to gain the input and ideas of those we lead.
Once you have your plan in place, you can bring in your team.
3. Book a break-away meeting
Plan your meeting after the holiday season has passed. The start of the year is a good time, as everything has calmed down, minds are fresh, and people are ready for vision. So, early in January, bring your key management team together and let them know you would like to discuss the goals for the upcoming year.
Plan a meeting away from the office so that the usual distractions are eliminated, and you can all focus on the key objectives. Sometimes we need help arranging these things, like finding a great venue, arranging food, including ice-breakers, creative starters and games to get the juices flowing, and so on. This is not your core skill set, so consider hiring an event planner and an MC to keep the day on track, so that you can focus on the main thing – getting the team focused and energised for success in 2019.
4. Setup the meeting agenda
Start the meeting by bringing everyone up to speed by reviewing last year’s stats. Show the results that you reviewed and allow them to see where the areas of success were, as well as the areas that need attention. If you haven’t already, recognise the team members who stood out in various important aspects of the business. This is tremendously motivating and encouraging.
Get a conversation going either in small teams, or around the table where ideas are brainstormed for how to solve the areas that need improvement. Find out from the team why they think the business struggled in these areas, and how they think improvements can be made.
Your agenda could cover these conversation starters:
- What are the three most important objectives for this year. Think “big picture” here, things that touch on profit and future achievement.
- Who is responsible for each of these?
- What will you do?
- How will you do it?
- By when will you do it?
- Break the year up into monthly metrics and put quarterly goal-planning reviews on your calendar. This commits you to pause and measure every 90 days, while keeping a close eye on profits, clients, projects, revenue in 30-day intervals.
- Link up. Remember, lone wolves starve to death. Think about who can you partner with in 2019 to reach your goals – who are your advocates, allies, referral sources, and potential joint venture partners who can help you leapfrog over obstacles and who complement your own products and services. Get contact details and build your relationship with them so you can collaborate more closely – starting right now.
Remember to take breaks that are fun and creative in order to unhook from this intense deep dive into strategy. You don’t want to burn out your team right at the start of the year. Keep snacks, water, and activities going so that they have fuel to keep on but start the year motivated and positive.
5. Draw up the final plan
Once done, it is time to go through all of the input you have received to supplement your strategies, and draw up the final plan. When your final plan is ready, bring the remainder of your team together and lay out the plan for 2019. This can be done via a video recording, Skype, an email, a meeting, or one-on-one conversations, depending on the size and locations of your team. Be clear about what they need to bring to the table in 2019 and how it will be measured. Then ask for a commitment from each team member to work toward the improvement in the coming year.
6. Tracking and Measuring
Once the team is committed and bought into the 2019 strategy, you’ve only just begun. Set policies and procedures in place to track progress, provide updates, and hold people accountable to their commitments. Some managers might opt to check the metrics daily and send out weekly updates, while others may check weekly and send out monthly updates. Whatever you decide, consistency is key to ensure you stay on track to achieve your goals in 2019.
7. Invest in resources for success in 2019
As this year winds down, commit yourself to leading, motivating, and inspiring your team to work together towards your common goal. Plan how you can come alongside your managers to ensure their success by offering mentoring, support, training, and whatever resources they need to achieve these goals.Their success is ultimately your success.
Similarly it might be a good time to invest more into your own growth – consider a mentor for the year ahead who can help take you past your own limitations and rutted thinking. Read books on leadership and other’s business successes; plan three mini-holidays in the year to keep you sharp and focused. Remember you can only give to others what you yourself have.
This simple yet effective strategy can be applied to whatever type of business you are in, and can help you gain the buy-in of your vision by your team and make 2019 a year of achievable success.
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