Building 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 ourselves 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 my industry to provide the kind of assistance I sometimes 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 my team.

Every small business owner should have a team, even if he 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 your industry–can help avoid costly mistakes.

Your team can also consist of others in your 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 in your industry who are not direct competitors.

Running a small business can be a lonely endeavor at times. There are many ups and downs, many issues that must be addressed, and many options. Building a team can be an effective way to avoid the problems of trial and error, and build a better business.

Book review: The E-Myth

Few books can be called revolutionary. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael Gerber, is one such book.

This best seller presents a compelling argument for entrepreneurs to look at their business differently. Gerber points out that many entrepreneurs start a business doing something that they love, believing that their days will be filled with an enjoyable activity. However, as the business grows, and new employees must be hired, the owner quickly discovers problems that previously did not exist.

These new employees don’t have the experience and motivation of the owner. They don’t have the same drive and desire as the owner. While the owner recognizes the need to train his employees, it is the nature of that training which often proves inadequate.

While sitting in a McDonald’s one morning, killing time between appointments, Gerber wondered why the Golden Arches were so successful. Most of the employees were teenagers possessing few job skills. Yet the quality of the service and the product was similar in every store.

Gerber realized that the company’s success derived from its approach to the business. Each step of the process was carefully analyzed, and then procedures and policies were developed. That is, a system was developed, and when followed, the system virtually assures success. Thus, a McDonald’s in Houston operates almost identically to one in London, and with very similar results.

Throughout the book, Gerber exhorts the reader to work on his job, not at it. In other words, develop a systematic approach to each job within the organization. In the process, the success of the business is less dependent upon any one individual. As with McDonald’s, the system becomes the key to success.

Of course, this is usually easier said than done. Within any business, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tasks must be performed. Often, the owner has automatized these tasks, and performs them with little or no conscious thought. Yet, he must identify and then explain each of them clearly. Systems, and their documentation in an Operations Manual, is the key to becoming a true business owner, rather than the owner of a job.

By developing production procedures and policies, and then properly training production personnel, this transition can go smoothly. The owner can then spend his time working his business, rather than in it.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.