How to build a team

A family member recently started a new job and he was lamenting the fact that he is on a team of one. Even though he works for a very large corporation, he is working on an assignment by himself. And this assignment involves a topic with which he has little experience.

My immediate thought was that this is no different from the typical small business owner. Most of us likely started our business as a team of one, and most of us gave ourself an assignment with which we had little experience–operating a business. This certainly was the case in my situation.

When I started my business, I assumed that common sense and hard work would be sufficient to address the issues that would come up. While both are important, and certainly help, they simply are not sufficient. The result was a continual process of trial and error, which was often costly, stressful, and inefficient.

On occasion I would solicit input from family or friends regarding specific issues. While their advice was often very helpful, they didn’t understand enough about contracting to provide the kind of assistance I sometimes I needed. So I continued to plod along, making slow but gradual progress (with occasional pauses to pull out large tufts of hair).

The Internet certainly helped change this. With the advent of chatrooms and forums, I suddenly had access to hundreds of other people who had “been there, done that”. I was no longer dependent on trial and error.

Of course, the quality of the advice offered on the Internet varies considerably. As I identified those individuals or organizations that offered sound advice, I slowly began to include them on my “team”. In addition, I was better able to communicate my vision to my employees and subcontractors. This too improved the quality of me team.

Every small business should have a team, even if it is a one-man shop. Obviously a smaller business will have a smaller team, but getting quality advice and input is important no matter the size of a company. Even a one-man shop will have need for occasional advice concerning legal, accounting, marketing, or other issues. Having competent professionals available–professionals who have some understanding of contracting–can help avoid costly mistakes.

Your team can also consist of others in your industry or a similar industry. While a direct competitor will not be likely to share as much information, general discussions can be beneficial. If you are in a large market, there are likely many small businesses who are not direct competitors.

Positive thinking is crucial to small business success

Lots of web sites offer a “thought for the day”. One of the best that I have found is from the Napoleon Hill Foundation. (Napoleon Hill wrote one of the best selling self-improvement books of all time, Think and Grow Rich.)

One of my favorites stated:

If you don’t want your life “messed up,” don’t fool around with those who have messed up theirs.

There is a lot of truth in this statement, and it applies in a myriad of ways. Some are more obvious that others. It is probably obvious that we should not spend our time with crooks, drug addicts, and similar types. But there are a lot of other people we should also avoid, and often it can be difficult or even painful to do so.

There are a lot of people in this world who carry a very large chip on their shoulder. For whatever reason, they think that life has been unfair to them, that everyone else gets all the breaks, that success is a matter of luck. They never realize that life is full of opportunities, that the doors we slammed shut years ago determine what doors we can open today. They never make the connection between their choices and the results that they experience. They go through life determined to drag everyone around them down to their level.

They can do this in a multitude of ways, but it always means the same thing: “Don’t dream too big, because you are going to be disappointed.” They believe that dreams are for the naive. And even if you are lucky enough to achieve your dreams, they believe that it won’t last. Something–fate, the wealthy, or some demon–will snatch it away from you.

These are the kind of people we need to avoid. Their negativity is a reflection on them, not reality. That they have never dreamed, or abandoned their dreams long ago, is a statement about their inner turmoil, not the facts. This negativity is like a verbal cancer, and if we are repeatedly exposed to it, it can be contagious. It can drag us down, it can dampen our spirit, it can kill our dreams.

People like this are not happy with their own lives, and they don’t want anyone else to be happy either. They offer nothing but discouragement. They are not a good influence. They have messed up their lives, and they can mess up yours as well.

There is ample evidence that big dreams can come true–so long as they are realistic and we put forth the necessary effort. And it is much easier to accomplish those goals if we surround ourselves with people who also dream big. It is much easier to remain positive–and successful– when we involve ourselves with positive people.

Taking the right path to small business success

If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest, would you seek advice from someone who has done it, or someone who isn’t sure which continent Everest is on? Would you want help from someone who has done it, or someone who hasn’t?

Building a small business is much like climbing a mountain. Both journeys present us with challenges, both mental and physical. Both require stamina, will power, and numerous skills. Both are filled with potential danger and the possibility of exhilarating experiences.

If you were going to climb Everest you would likely seek an experienced climber to guide you. Rather than face the unknown without assistance, you would likely desire someone to help you avoid the chasms and take the easiest route.

Similarly with your business. Why climb that mountain alone? Why venture into the wilderness without a guide? You may not be facing gale winds and Yeti, but the consequences of a business failure can be nearly as devastating.

Most small businesses fail. Business success is an uphill climb, filled with uncertainty and many potential paths to choose from. While taking the right path will not guarantee success, it will greatly increase the odds. Taking the right path is much easier with a guide by your side.

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