I'm in the process of building my third multi-million-dollar company called Profit First Professionals, a network of accountants, bookkeepers and business coaches certified in my Profit First methodology. One thing I've learned is that building effective teams can help make growing a business a much smoother experience. And right now, I have the best team I've ever assembled. My staff is strong, committed to success and more driven than any other I've had the pleasure of working with. They are genuine A-players.
Why? Because from day one, I've preached the importance of a shared vision and recognizing the impact we have on our community and world. I didn't hire people and convince them of the importance of teamwork and focus. I found the right people—and that can make all the difference in the world.
As it turns out, building effective teams doesn't just make for a warm and fuzzy work environment. It can also have a real effect on profitability.
My "Aha" Moment
Years ago, I had lunch with the co-founder of a well-known home goods chain store. We talked about his staff over our meal. He had assembled an amazing team of people who were smart, driven and enthusiastic.
We discussed just how important it is to have a team that outperforms the competition. He picked up a napkin, wrote on it and handed it to me. It said: 1A = 3B. 1B = 3C.
Puzzled, I asked him to explain. He said one great employee is worth three good employees. One good employee is worth three average employees. In effect, that means one great employee is worth nine average ones.
So even if you have to pay your A employee twice what you'd pay a B employee, you may still be getting great value for your payroll dollars. That's just how critical good staff can be to profitability.
But how do you get these A employees?
Building Effective Teams Isn't Just About the Money
Sure, your employees deserve to be paid well, but using money as your primary means of attracting and motivating top talent may backfire. You may pull in a superstar, but if she doesn't like the work, she may not be a good fit for your culture.
Offering huge salaries can sometimes attract the wrong sort of applicants—the folks who aren't looking to contribute to a team effort. I think money should be used to retain your outstanding employees, but it's also important to ensure you're hiring staff who believe in and are willing to work for your vision.
So What Really Matters?
Attracting and keeping an outstanding team can come down to your company culture and the engagement of every member of your staff. When I'm building effective teams—ones in which every member is focused on achieving common goals—I often see an effect on profitability. A team of A players—employees who are sharp and focused—may be able to outperform an army of B and C players.
The best way to find A players is through other A players. Even if you don't have one currently working for your company, you surely know of a great worker elsewhere. Consider asking them for introductions to the best people who they recommend. After all, birds of a feather flock together. Finding great talent is rarely instantaneous. Far more often it is a deliberate, ongoing process. If you stick with it, you may be able to find them.
Once I've put together my A players, I keep them happy and fulfilled by recognizing individual and shared successes. I channel team efforts toward accomplishing both short-term and long-term goals that feed the company's big picture purpose. I find staff that lifts one another up, rather than working for individual gain.
Finding Team Balance Through Hiring
When I've worked on putting together the right teams for my companies, I've always focused on balance. Every company—from a tiny partnership to a multi-million-dollar corporation—has a variety of tasks, tasks that require an array of strengths. Just as I have strengths and weaknesses, so does every member of my teams. Being an A player on an A team doesn't necessarily mean that each individual does everything equally well.
When building effective teams, you want to have team members who have complementary strengths. What I'm lousy at, one of my employees excels at. We balance one another out with perspectives, skills and mindsets that make our whole much greater than the sum of our parts. You could document the strengths of your existing team members, and then document the requirements for the position you are hiring. You may start to see where the requirements mesh with the team you already have, and where it doesn't. That last part are the strengths you can hire for.
Any time I'm tempted to rush my hiring process—to bring someone on board because I'm desperate, even though I know they're not an ideal fit—I remember my conversation with that co-founder. I think A players are worth waiting for and seeking out. I believe they're worth it because they can make companies more profitable. They can help make our customers happier. They can help make our companies better places to work and our impact and outreach even stronger. Holding out for the A player may make sense for your business, too.
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