Entrepreneurs notoriously are an independent lot. Most of us relish the autonomy of making our own decisions about virtually every aspect of business. Yet we all know that working for ourselves doesn’t actually mean working alone. Far from it. In fact, small business owners need to build strong, trust-based relationships with countless people who each play a different – and, often, critical – role in helping their business grow and thrive.
To find out more about the value and benefit of shifting from “me” thinking to “we” thinking in business, we turned to seasoned client-agency “relationship” experts Diggi Thomson and Gene Tiernan. Together, Diggi and Gene (QB Community username @TheDotConnector) run The Dot Connectors, a company that guides client and agency marketing/creative teams work together to live up to the promise of their combined ambition, talent and experience. As a result, those client-agency teams produce better, more creative and more effective results.
Here, Diggi and Gene share four key strategies for playing (and working!) nicely with others and for revving up your business with the exponential power of “we.”
Tip #1: Start right
Whether you’re working with a team of two, twenty or some other number, the best time to gather your key players is at the very start of any project. Imagine you’re adding a new collection of earrings to your jewelry line, kicking off new marketing campaign about your landscaping service or gearing up to open a second café on the other side of town. No matter scope of the project or task, you’ll accomplish more when you have the full attention and support of your team.
“Get everyone involved at the outset, even if the work won't affect some team members until further down the road,” says Diggi. “When everyone fully understands the effort from day one, unexpected perspectives come into view early-on which could help you avoid pain later.”
Diggi explains that “starting right” means giving everyone a deep sense of ownership over the process and the outcome of any business venture. He shares three more tips:
Explain both how you want to approach the new initiative and what great things it ultimately will help you accomplish. Example: “The goal for this new marketing campaign is to boost our revenue by 25% in six months. If we succeed, I’ll be able to hire a new employee for next summer’s busy landscaping season.”
Align expectations to be clear about the details – define roles and responsibilities, discuss the start-to-finish timeframe, map out ongoing- and milestone deadlines and clearly articulate the deliverables and expectations from and for everyone on the team.
Give each person the tools and information they need to succeed, and establish all the necessary communication channels. Clear pathways of communication between individuals and across the entire team are essential for success.
Tip #2: One team, one dream
It’s important that everyone on your team feels integral to achieving the “big picture” business goals, not simply completing the tasks they are directly responsible for. When your employee, contractor, vendor, marketing consultant and/or your accountant fully understand how his or her efforts contribute to your business, they feel engaged and empowered.
“You get the best out people when you make each member of the team feel valued and valuable to achieving the long-term goal,” says Gene. “Celebrate the successes of every individual contributor and the team as a whole, and you’ll remove any sense of ‘you vs. them.’” This approach is critical for building a dream team that’s got your back when it comes to helping you set and achieve your company goals. When your business wins, everyone wins.
Tip #3: Relationships require effort
As the leader of your business team, your job is to motivate and inspire the people around you to do their very best work. That happens when your crew members clearly understand their individual role and are wholeheartedly respected for their contributions to the team. To tap into the “X factor” that drives people to always bring their best self to the table, Diggi recommends that you:
Communicate openly and honestly across the entire team
Show your respect for individuals and acknowledge how their strengths and skills are essential to achieving the overarching goal
Welcome a variety of input and be open to different types of contributions (for example, strategic or tactical vs. high-level and visionary)
Build and strengthen the “web” of relationships – between you and your team members and between the team members themselves
Monitor those relationships to make sure they thrive
Tip #4: Reflect and evolve
You set a business goal, enlisted the support and help of key people on your team and then put the plan in motion. Congratulations! Once the effort is complete (however you choose to define it!), it’s really important that you take the time to honestly explore what worked and what didn't along the way. This is not a fault-finding mission – rather, it ensures everyone (including you, the team leader) figures out how to work together even more efficiently and effectively in the future.
As you reflect on what you achieved and how you did it, collect honest, detailed input from everyone involved. Ask yourself, what will I do differently next time? Gene points out that “thoughtful feedback and reflection will help you learn from every business initiative so the next one is your most successful yet.”
As you grow your business, inevitably you will need others to help you get to the next level. When you forge strong, trust-based relationships with the people who regularly contribute to your entrepreneurial success, you ensure that although you work for yourself, you never have to go it alone.
Now it’s your turn!
QB Community members, tell us about your experience building a strong team (of any size) to help you achieve a business goal. What worked? What didn’t? Will you approach things differently next time? Thanks for sharing your insights!
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Love this! Developing a strong team does take work. I once hired someone to assist with a particularly time-consuming task. For the first couple months she did GREAT, but then a personal situation took a toll on her work. The trust and rapport we had built up gave me confidence that her spotty performance was indeed related to a specific life event, and sure enough with a bit of support she was able to pick up where she left off and I'm very glad I stuck with her. It really helps to take the time to get to know your employees and their personal circumstances.