The early, and best, employees I hired in my first small business were generalists. Flexible, skilled in different areas, they could do a little bit of everything. They were awesome, and exactly what we needed. Their willingness to try and do different things was critical in helping my little company take on new projects and grow.
But it worked. The company grew, and something changed.
As we grew we started to add more specialists to meet the increasing depth of service that our clients were expecting. We hired more people with a focused set of skills in the areas our clients wanted service.
Suddenly our generalists were becoming the cause of, not the solution to, problems. Their open, eager willingness to take things on (which I deeply valued when we first started the business), combined with their limited experience started to create conflicts with our more experienced employees, and clients. We were seeking, and selling, a higher quality outcome -- and my "generalists" were struggling to deliver.
It became clear that those early employees, the generalists, were either going to need to change themselves, or I was going to need to change the team. In the end, some changed and for others a change was provided to them.
Who Is On The Team?
Building a team require you take a critical look at who's on the team, and how they are performing.
Should they be there? How should their position be performing? How have the needs of their position changed as the business has changed?
It can be very difficult, but sometimes the answer is to move past those who helped you start the business, to those you can help you continue to build the business.
Liz Kislik's Entrepreneur article 7 Signs You May Need to Leave Your Original Team Members Behind identifies the real, and often painful reality that your business has outgrown certain employees.
The needs of every growing business will vary, but after working with privately held and family-owned businesses for 30 years, I've seen certain patterns come up again and again. If your employees aren't also growing, your business may start to suffer from operational bottlenecks, cross-functional conflicts and repeated mistakes or bad decisions, even from smart, committed people.
Kislik names seven warning signs to watch for if you're concerned your business is outgrowing original employees:
- You wonder why you're the only one who seems to be looking outward.
- You notice that there are more mistakes being made.
- You hear that employees are feeling stressed out and anxious.
- You worry that new initiatives and processes aren't taking hold quickly enough.
- You see evidence of both overperforming and underperforming.
- You observe that some employees are jockeying for status instead of looking for the next big accomplishment.
- You realize that conflicts are proliferating and persisting.
Your team is an critical part of what makes it possible for you to sell your business. But that team needs to change and grow with the business to maintain it's value to you, the business and a potential buyer.