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Build a winning team

Make every position count

Entrepreneurs share their thoughts on leadership, team work and balancing creativity with stability.

Founders and leaders of the UK’s fast-growing and most influential SMEs have to wear many caps as they manage all parts of their business. As the business grows, the team expands, and this brings a host of new challenges.

We spoke with 4 entrepreneurs about what it takes to build a dream team that’s always on the ball, whether tackling challenges head on or bouncing back from defeat.

Proud to wear the shirt

Building the right team is one of the most important parts of starting and scaling a business. And it’s often a huge learning curve for player-managers who are used to doing everything themselves. All 4 of the entrepreneurs we spoke to echoed this. Isabella Lane, Managing Director at Smarter, says, “Looking back, there was a very noticeable shift when growing from 12 employees to about 20, and it was a hard time. We had to learn how to shift from overseeing everything, to trusting that others can do the job without our constant input.”

While you’re letting go of the day-to-day details, you’re also trusting your new colleagues to have the same focus and dedication as you. “The greatest challenge is finding skilled, experienced people to form a core founding team, who are equally willing to make sacrifices in the early days,” says Adam Durant, CEO and Founder at Satavia. “One way to overcome this is offering team members a stake in the company. I found great people willing to take a bet on the venture, and also willing to commit for the long run.”

You’ve got to keep the dressing room

As you delegate leadership and responsibility across your team, it’s important that everyone collaborates and works together to hit company goals. Team spirit and continuity are integral. “The key is to try to create diversity and balance across your team, rather than just focus on getting the best individuals,” says Ryk Waters, CEO at TeamPro.

With different businesses vying for talent, it’s important your high performers don’t get poached by the opposite side – it’s a competitive marketplace. “It's always important to trust in your team and ensure you are investing in their personal development”, says Tom Stancliffe, Co-Founder of TRIBE, a natural performance nutrition and community of nearly 50,000 everyday athletes.

And, just like getting your players to understand the importance of the shirt they are wearing, your team culture defines who you are as much as what you do. “We all do a team marathon every year in a foreign city (last year it was Amsterdam) and we have a very rigorous 360-degree review process every 3 months,” says Tom.

It’s a results business

You’d hope the team that wins the match won’t be the most defensive team, but it’s the final score that counts and every player is important. Likewise, for your business to succeed, you’ve got to be forward thinking – and this can come in all shapes and sizes.

“I focused on growing the team by bringing areas of the business in-house,” says Isabella. “This resulted in us launching in new territories, developing new products and growing our overall business.”

Balance is key, and you need to know where you fit into the picture, too. As Ryk says, “In personal terms, I’m a thinker and a dreamer, I love coming up with new ideas and imagining a world where they are true. What I’m not very good at is working out the details – which tiny pieces are necessary to get my dream running. Luckily, there are people who thrive doing just that.”

A final word from the gaffer

Isabella: “If I had to give one piece of advice looking back, it would be that you can have a productive and structured environment without losing the friendly and warm atmosphere.”

Adam: “Get out to the customer as early as you can.”

Ryk: “Don’t only hire people because of their skill, but also because of their personality type. Not good or bad personality, positive or negative attitude, but what makes them tick, how they work.”

Tom: “It always takes longer than you think to develop the perfect product and progress, so be patient and make sure you take the time to do everything right.”

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