It is often said that a business’s most important asset is its people. So how come so little attention is paid to building a talented team when considering major strategic changes?
When a business owner considers how best to secure long-term growth or to prepare for an exit, the rationale invariably focuses on the Three ‘Ps’:
- Proposition (What is the business planning to do?)
- People (How do I build the right team)
- Profits (What are the sustainable profit prospects of the organisation?)
The ‘People’ Dimension merits prime attention and does not always get it. Many investments are declined because no serious investor or business buyer will invest if the management team tasked with delivering future success lacks credibility.
The position is often complicated because the business owner has a loyal and dedicated team and may find it hard to risk betraying that loyalty.
However, this is a rationale for inertia based on fear. The boss may be afraid of consequences, and may think that he lacks the necessary experience to undertake fundamental changes to his team, which could ultimately upset his best customers.
This impasse is often the main cause of business stagnation and eventual decline.
However, once the challenge is recognised and confronted, it becomes a lot easier to address and long-term prospects will improve.
How to address the challenge of attracting a good, talented team?
There are some key building bricks:
- Formal Annual Performance Appraisal of the current management team: through which, one can form a clearer perspective of the senior team and their support staff. Sometimes previously undiscovered talents and aspirations will emerge. A business leader should never assume that he knows his team inside out. There are plenty of perfectly sound Performance Appraisal templates available, but it is critical for the process to be undertaken regularly and objectively.
- Annual Business Plan and any subsequent memorandum relating to investment or sale of a business will always contain a section on key people to demonstrate strength in depth to undertake new challenges or enable a new business owner to make a successful acquisition. An Organisation Chart is usually supported by short CVs of talented team players. This is a highly important piece of information. For example, if a business seeks investment to boost exports, it may need to recruit an Export Sales specialist. Will that person be promoted from within and, if so, possess the relevant skills? If not, it will be necessary to flag the position as one to be filled as part of the investment process.
- Talk to the existing team: Once a Plan for future growth or business sale has been worked out, with its future organisational needs, it is always prudent to share this information internally so that key players are not left in the dark, and understand the reason for creating new positions, and can perhaps contribute to these plans. There is nothing worse for a Senior Manager than discovering from outside sources, or a recruitment advertisement, that he may perhaps be overlooked for a new career opportunity. This is an entirely avoidable accident.
- Operate an open recruitment plan: all vacant positions in the organisation should be made open to internal as well as external candidates, unless the requirement is for specialist skills that manifestly do not exist internally. The interview process must be thorough and consistent for all. There is nothing worse than a boss giving the impression that a certain candidate is a ‘shoe-in’, with the interviews providing a façade of objective selection criteria.
- Team mentoring: when bringing a new talented team together at a time of change, it often helps for team players to receive regular one-to-one mentoring from a third party, to help them ‘raise their game’ and make them aware of their role in a changing organisation. A third party is often able to pick up concerns or unrest, which could contribute silently to under-performance.
Any small or early-stage business will require assistance to get this right and small business owners must appreciate the need to invest in the right business advisers right from the start.
If this is a subject of interest and you want to read more about growing your business you can get more detail in this whitepaper – Growing Your Business – The People Dimension. Register to download.