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.
How To Listen To Your Employees Better So You Can Improve Your Business
Create ‘Hero relationships’ with your workers so you foster a team environment that helps fix mistakes and makes your business stronger.
Years ago, I was in a business where we were shipping product constantly to get things out on time: “Get the stuff out the door so we can make revenue and meet our quotas now.” With our Operational Excellence seemingly hanging in the balance, we did what we were told.
We forgot about our dedication to quality and our promise to do the best for our customers. We also forgot about what it was doing to our people, from the top of the organisation to the floor. Concerns about what was going on were acknowledged, but never pursued. Head down, pedal to the metal, nothing to see here.
We’ve all lost our way like this at some point. The question is, does anyone have the courage to speak up, and will anyone listen before it brings the culture and the company down? Our company culture had been good up to this point. We were a “Good Co.” But no one was listening to our people anymore. We were now “Bottom Liners,” and if we kept going, we would soon be sliding toward “Zero.”
Then we had a company meeting with the CEO, and I watched as the senior leaders turned on their people and told the CEO what they thought he wanted to hear. They spoke about how great things were going and how everyone was stepping up. That’s when one of our people – an hourly worker – had the courage to speak up. He said things weren’t great — that we were breaking our brand promise and cheating our customers:
“We’re not doing the right things, and we might be putting a product out that’s not quite ready or not checked for quality in packaging and shipping. Is that OK if I raise my hand and say, ‘No, that’s not acceptable’?”
Related: The Value Of Employee Growth
The senior leaders were shocked, and I wondered what the CEO was going to say. He had to be surprised, given this was the first he had heard of this. I wondered: Would he be willing to listen, really listen to what this person had to say? “Absolutely, that’s OK,” our CEO said, looking around the room at everyone but focusing hard on the leaders. “Does that mean we’re going to lose revenue and make customers unhappy short term? Yes. But we’re going to fix this. And in the end, we’ll get a better customer for any we lose, because we did the right thing.”
Our CEO was right. The company took a hit but recovered within the year to achieve record revenue and profits. And what if we hadn’t recovered? Well, at least it wouldn’t be because we failed to do the right thing and listened.
What can you do to listen? Start by doing what that hourly worker had the guts to do:
Speak up and ask questions. Get your butt out of your chair, walk over to a desk, and ask a question to someone’s face.
Not a demand, like, “Where’s the report I asked for?” or a yes/ no question. One that opens people up and requires a thoughtful answer – the more personal and less work-driven, the better. Anything that shows you care about their well-being. Maybe try to find out one thing you don’t know about them:
- What did you do this weekend?
- Who’s that in the picture on your desk?
- Where do you like to eat dinner when you go out?
Then listen to the answer and ask at least two more follow-up questions before saying anything about you. This is what’s called “active listening.” But it only works if you stop thinking about yourself and genuinely care about others – and let them ask questions of you, too.
A big part of listening is asking questions to understand. You want your people to do that, so you need to model this behaviour, which is why I’m always happy for my people to ask good, thoughtful questions when we launch a new program so they can execute better.
Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct
The more you do that, the more you not only show your people you care but also connect and begin to form real relationships with them. When an employee feels that connection, it makes them want to work harder to serve you and deliver better results. By listening to others, you also learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to ask bigger and more important questions, like:
- What does this potential customer want?
- How can I help my boss do more?
- What is the other party in our joint venture or partnership trying to accomplish?
Of course, questioning can cross a line. Leaders can never tolerate questions designed to undermine authority, prove what they don’t know, or make excuses. I’m intolerant when my people keep questioning why the company is doing what we’re doing and attacking it, as if I didn’t consider all sides before making the decision. Any question like that sounds like it’s really saying, “Jeff, you know that makes you an idiot, right?” is the worst kind of entitlement: Thinking you know better.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Make Your Team Feel Safe Bringing You Problems
Advertising an ‘open door’ isn’t enough.Team members need to truly believe that you’ll hear them out and take action.
Plenty of leaders say they offer an “open door policy” to encourage employees to bring them problems or concerns. Many of these leaders also ask that employees voicing concerns come prepared with solutions in order to take responsibility for the problem rather than just “dump” or “vent.”
But employees in those scenarios may get the idea that it’s unacceptable to raise problems in the business if they don’t know how to fix them. In fact, in a study of a phenomenon they dubbed “employee silence,” professors from New York University’s Stern School of Business demonstrated that 85 percent of their respondents felt they couldn’t raise important issues to their management at all.
Is this happening at your company? If you’re not regularly hearing about your team members’ challenges and frustrations, you can’t conclude that all is well: In fact, you might be missing out on vital information that could help you make crucial decisions about your business. You might also end up losing employees who would otherwise be able to make significant contributions.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce these risks. Try the following techniques to encourage employees to speak their minds and feel confident that you’ll take their comments into account.
Tell them why you need to hear from them as a matter of business
Emphasise that your openness isn’t because you’re nice or merely want to placate them. Instead, explain that you recognise the downside of not understanding employees’ opinions or acknowledging the risks of having a disengaged workforce, i.e., high turnover.
Research backs up this concern: A Harvard Business Review study by James R. Detert and Ethan R. Burris found that”
“When employees can voice their concerns freely, organisations see increased retention and stronger performance.”
Teach employees to use code words
These will signal to you when they’re coming in with an important matter and want you to hear them out. For example, many of my clients now tell one other to “put their seatbelts on” to signal that they need to have a tough conversation and want to cue the other party that it’s important to keep cool and maintain an open mind on the issue.
Research from Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace found that although about half of employees studied didn’t speak up regularly, the employees who always or almost always “speak their minds reported being more engaged at work than those who said they never or almost never did so.”
A mutually agreed-on process for ensuring attentiveness goes a long way toward helping employees speak up.
Go and seek them out
If you haven’t heard from crucial individuals for a while, or you suspect there’s an issue brewing no one has talked to you about, create the forum for a discussion yourself.
This doesn’t have to mean summoning people to your office. One of the CEOs I work with says, “I don’t know what I don’t know,” and periodically walks the floor, chatting with everyone and lingering longer and probing more deeply with influencers and opinion leaders to learn what’s really going on.
Show that you act on their input
Refer to times when you took someone’s opinion and were able to improve a situation. Be explicit, so that the participants and other employees can tell you mean it. You could say something like, “Once Sally told me what was going on, it got me thinking. So I reevaluated that supplier’s performance, and asked them to improve their level of service. Now we’ve got a better deal.”
Use a meeting and report structure
One of my clients was slow about taking action on employee concerns. As a result, her employees stopped informing her of problems altogether, and instead ratcheted up the conflict among themselves.
This outcome matched the findings of the Journal of Business Ethics study, When Employees Stop Talking and Start Fighting, whose authors wrote that:
“Negative consequences are particularly likely to occur when employees perceive the opportunity to voice opinions to be … given by managers who do not have the intention to actually consider employee input.”
To correct the problem, this leader started holding weekly meetings to ask employees what was new or bothersome and to make public lists of the issues that needed attention.
Create an advisory group or process
Another of my clients knew he wasn’t hearing enough candid feedback from his team. He created an advisory council that collected concerns from the entire group and met with the leader quarterly to share them. This felt less risky personally to the individual employees and helped create a consistent feedback loop.
Overall, employees may always have some nervousness about raising tough topics to their leaders. But if you take the time and trouble to make clear that you care about their feedback and intend to take it seriously, they’ll be much more likely to share their concerns and deepen their commitment to you and the company.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Reduce Turnover Of Hourly Workers With These 7 Tips
Employee turnover can be costly for businesses that rely on hourly workers.
Hourly workers play a significant role in today’s economy – from running operations at restaurants, to transporting goods from one place to another, to getting people to their destinations. Companies from Amazon, Uber and Instacart to local retail, food and logistics businesses are raising wages and offering better benefits in order to attract and retain hourly workers. At the same time, the demand for hourly workers has increased significantly, as the number of job openings in the United States has exceeded the number of job seekers.
At the same time, companies face the challenge of high turnover of hourly workers for their businesses. In a survey of 1,200 hourly workers by FSG and Hart Research Associates, the majority of respondents wanted to leave their current positions within less than 12 months. The average cost of a turnover in the company includes the cost of interviewing and screening, the cost of on-boarding, cost of training and lost productivity and engagement of current employees, which can be significant.
Therefore, it is important for business owners and entrepreneurs to recognise the importance of engaging hourly workers, to reduce turnover and to increase productivity. Therefore, in this publication, I hope to offer some tips to reduce the turnover of hourly workers for your business.
1. Start with a great onboarding process
Onboarding is a prime opportunity for employers to win the hearts and minds of new employees. It is important to have a well-structured onboarding process to provide employees with the information to succeed in their work, and to also integrate them into the culture of the company. The few weeks before employees start and after employees join is the best time to engage with new hourly workers, as they are most receptive to new structure, processes and ideas.
As an employer, it is important to come up with a well-structure onboarding process to share the values, mission and processes of the company and to ensure that each manager reinforces them. Hourly workers who experienced a robust onboarding process are more likely to stay with the company for a longer period of time and also exhibit higher productivity.
2. Offer professional development opportunities
Many hourly workers may only have finished high school or community colleges and are often eager to learn new skills, obtain new knowledge and broaden their horizons. One example is Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan, which was introduced in June 2014 in partnership with Arizona State University, to create an opportunity for all eligible employees in United States to earn their bachelor’s degree with full tuition covered.
On a smaller scale, local businesses can offer mentoring sessions with managers, or provide opportunities for hourly workers to go to community classes on sales, marketing or communication skills. They could also turn to online courses such as Coursera or Khan Academy, where employees will be able to access resources from leading universities at minimal or no cost.
3. Offer flexibility in work scheduling
With the growth of on-demand companies like Uber, DoorDash, Instacart and more, it has become increasingly important for companies to be able to offer the flexibility that the gig economy presents. Uber drivers are able to have complete flexibility in their schedule with a few clicks on the mobile app, and hence the trend has evolved that employees value their control over their time allocation. Therefore, business owners and entrepreneurs should adopt scheduling software to increase efficiency and allow employees to readily select the time slots that may best fit their weekly schedule, increasing loyalty and engagement.
4. Work toward inclusion, not just diversity
Hourly workers come from many different backgrounds and having a more inclusive work environment and hiring for a more diverse team will benefit the company significantly. In order to attract more talent and reduce turnover, it is important to work toward both inclusion and diversity to better engage hourly workers.
One of the leaders in this is Gap, which created a program called “This Way Ahead,” which helps younger workers who face employment challenges. Coming up with programs and career initiatives focused on a wider range of people is also an effective talent strategy for companies as different demographics of workers may have lower turnover rate, and hence be a better source of talent pipeline.
5. Communicate with your team by having periodic check-ins
It is important for managers and owners to have periodic check-ins with their employees of all levels and backgrounds. Hourly workers increasingly seek engagement and having a clear line of communication is essential. Many hourly workers are not satisfied with their work because they do not feel supported or recognised in their workplace. In a Randstad report, 27 percent of employees surveyed said that a lack of recognition is what causes they to leave the company. The more engaged workers are, the more committed they will, in turn reducing the turnover of hourly workers for companies.
6. Provide a clear path to progression and promotion
Local businesses should have an employee of the month in place to increase competition, to motivate employees and to reward the ones who excel. Hourly workers want to have a clear path to progression and promotion, and there should be a clear career road map. In the case of a restaurant, hourly workers should have the opportunity to progress from a server, to team lead, to manager and to other functions within the company.
Employers can further break down the different role hierarchies to allow more space for employees to progress in their work. Companies can also tie annual bonuses to the performance of employees, and incentive schemes like this can greatly motivate hourly workers.
High turnover for a business is detrimental and can significantly impact the morale, productivity and operations of any company. As the competition for good hourly workers increases, it has become ever more important for companies to focus on increasing engagement for their entry-level workers, to further motivate them and to reduce the turnover for workers. Companies need to take a more structured approach to communicating with entry-level workers, to better onboard them and to better reward them. Lower turnover will lead to a higher output for businesses, and benefits created from reducing turnover will surely outweigh the costs and resources allocated to it.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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