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Developing your Business: Creating your Core Team 1

Linda Pollitt asked:

Although many small businesses begin with only one or two members of staff – the founders – most growing businesses quickly recognise the need to create a larger team. Not only can this spread the workload but a well-selected team can bring in more energy, creativity, drive and knowledge than the founder alone might possess. A small, closely-knit, highly motivated team can be an unstoppable driving force.

The authors of The Beermat Entrepreneur call the members of this core team ‘cornerstones’. They suggest that the ideal mix is one entrepreneur providing strong leadership, surrounded by four ‘cornerstones’ – one for sale, one for finance, one for product development and one for project delivery and customer service. In real terms, most small businesses cannot afford such a big team, and don’t really need it to begin with. However, even bringing one other person in to the business can make a huge difference to its success during the first year or so.

In many cases, the original team will be composed of the founder, or founders, and one or two relatives or friends who have been roped in along the way. This works well if everyone is committed to the success of the business and prepared to work hard. As we’ve seen the early days of a business are defined by long hours and a painfully demanding workload – there is no room for the half-hearted or unenthusiastic. Not only will they not pull their weight, but they will sap everyone else’s enthusiasm too.

I’ve heard it said ‘never work with friends or relatives’ and it’s true that in some cases this leads to disaster. However, a team who like each other – and have a friendship beyond the business – can also be extremely efficient and powerful.

Jude, Business adviser

Remember that just because you enjoy spending time with someone socially it doesn’t mean you will like working with them. Ask yourself what they would be like to work with. Are they hardworking? Enthusiastic? What do they have to offer your business? Try to find people whose skills compliment yours, who can bring something to the business that fills ‘gaps’. For instance, if you are fantastic on the finances but weak on marketing, you need to find someone who can bring something extra to the marketing side of the business.

A recent London Business School survey of CEOs found that they considered the major factor that had contributed to the success of their businesses was ‘selecting the right people with good attitudes who are loyal to the company and who want to excel in their careers’.

Defining Roles

Whether you decide to go into business with others as equals or you employ them as part of your original team, it is very important to define roles carefully. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and where the boundaries of their ‘area’ lie. In businesses with two or more equal partners a lack of clarity about roles can be a major source of conflict, taking up valuable time that might be better spent focused on other aspects of the business. If you have a management team, you need to give them space to fulfil their roles and feel that their contribution is valued. This doesn’t mean handing over control, final decisions will still rest with you (or if they don’t you need to be clear about exactly who is the boss – only one person should take this position or squabbling and infighting can result).

Consider the following key roles and divide them between your core team. You should all be clear on who is going to take each role.

Business leader – who takes the final decisions? In other words, the boss.

Sales person – who sells to your customers? Identifies customers and carries out your customer research?

Finance person – who manages the money and the associated administrative work?

Supply management – who locates suppliers, negotiates with them and maintains adequate supply levels.

Core business – who does the core tasks of your business, by which we mean the things that your business is actually about? This might mean making a product, providing a service or something else.

Marketing and PR person – who promotes your business to potential customers and raises the profile of your business?

Some of these roles overlap, so good communication is also of key importance to your business.

Importance of Role Clarification

People do either one of two things in a business – they either add value or they add cost. There are no grey areas.

One of the most important ways to ensure that your core team members are all adding value is to help them clarify their roles.

There are a number of different aspects to role clarification:

Prescribed role – This is what the business uses to set down the individual’s overall goals and objectives. It is usually called a ‘job description’ or something similar and it sets out the person’s responsibilities, authority, and key tasks, as well as their position in the business hierarchy.

While this is a useful starting point, it does not take account of personal differences and changes in circumstances such as growth of the business or the need to cover weak performances by others.

Personalised role – the prescribed role is only part of the picture. These are factors internal to the individual which will affect the way he or she performs in the role.

This includes their abilities, skills and strengths, as well as their expectations of the role, their assumptions (about the role, the business, the sector. etc.), their values and ambitions.

Perceived role – the perceptions and expectations of others in the business will have an impact on the individual. For example, they will have their own views on what the priorities of the role should be as well as the boundaries: ‘I don’t think Sales Managers should…’; ‘I expect you to…’ These can limit or restrict the way a person performs, but if expectations are high and positive they can raise the person’s game, enabling them to perform to their full potential within their current role.

From the Business Team at Learning Curve; offering a range of unique development programmes for small businesses.


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