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Starting from scratch: how to build successful teams

I’ve consistently found that there are three things you’ll need to get your business off the ground: team, team and team. As your business begins to grow, having an engaged and passionate team behind it is critical to success. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent, so getting the right leadership mix on board is absolutely crucial. Building a team is not an easy task — as an entrepreneur, making your first hire is one of the most difficult decisions you’ll make. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that apply for any new team.

Start with You

To build a team that truly makes sense for the business, you need to have a brutal sense of self-awareness. What are you good at, and why do you want to be doing what you are doing? I believe it’s important to honestly understand both your strong and weak points. Don’t be blind to your own weaknesses, and maintain focus on developing your strengths as a leader. Think about it this way: If you spend a majority of your time working on your strengths instead of splitting your time evenly addressing weaknesses, your strong points will grow and propel you forward. Then find people with complementary strengths and weaknesses to balance out your own. In other words, put people on your team who are really good at what you’re really bad at — that will be the beginning of a well-balanced team.

Who’s Your ‘Two’?

Your one-two team dynamic is incredibly important, as are your first five hires. Find someone hardworking and honest that you get along with, but also someone who you can see becoming an extension of your business. Tap your network for trusted recommendations and don’t be afraid to reach out to people who may not seem to be a perfect fit on the surface. People tend to be passionate about what they’re good at — find someone who shares your passions. From there, make a list of other types of people you want on the team. Make sure you’re not stacking the team with the same personalities, skill sets, etc. It’s tempting to want to surround yourself with others who are similar to you, but variety can be a powerful advantage for a leadership team.

Learn to Let Go

Leadership roles shift as your business grows and you will need to transition an increasing amount of work to your team members. In the beginning of any business venture, you operate at all levels and are involved in nearly every decision. That simply cannot be the case as the business grows. Remember why you brought these people onto your team in the first place. It was because you felt that you could trust them to make important decisions. Establish ground rules, define clear roles and responsibilities, empower your team by giving them the best resources, and then move aside.

Celebrate the Wins

The secret to morale is celebrating wins — big and small. Work can be a stressful environment and it’s important for people to feel like they are contributing to something larger then themselves. Show appreciation for the efforts of the team as a whole, along with individual contributions. The team will want to build on previous successes. Perpetuate a positive culture that makes people enjoy coming to work each day and you will develop a self-fulling prophecy of success.

Keep an Open Mind

As an entrepreneur and business leader, it’s important to remember you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Sometimes the best ideas are heard in passing, and come from the quietest member of the team. Keep your mind open, and good ideas will follow.

Great companies are built by great teams. Chase A-players the way you would any business venture, tapping all of your networks and never settling for mediocrity. Identify the pools where talent congregates, whether that’s a company, city or social network, and make your way into those circles to secure star team members. From there, give the roadmap to your team of drivers and build something great.