Don’t let geography or adaptation get in your way.
5 min read
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You need a successful team to create a successful product, and a successful team achieves its goals at a high level without constantly feeling stressed, swamped or unhappy within its work environment. There should be an emphasis on productivity, but it doesn’t have to come from a boss yelling at people or forcing them to work overtime. Instead, success and productivity should be byproducts of putting the right people together in the right environment. If you’ve ever worked on an effective team, you know there’s something different about how it operates, something intangible that keeps people motivated but composed, happy but focused.
But a great team doesn’t build itself. It’s a direct reflection of your hiring practices and your leadership’s ability to foster a strong company culture. These are the three biggest challenges you’ll face while building a successful team.
1. Finding people who are independent, but not too independent.
The best employees can walk that delicate line. For instance, I happen to have an entrepreneurial mindset, which is usually associated with a strong independent streak. For a CEO, that’s pretty normal. But managing a company full of entrepreneurs is like herding cats. When an entrepreneurial type gets an idea in their head, they’re generally tough to rein in, and they don’t always make the best team players. On the other hand, people who can’t take the initiative to get work done without constant direction will eat up too much of your time. As your company grows, there’s only so much one-on-one time you can devote. You need employees who are self-motivated without being impossible to manage.
Over the years, I’ve found you can often identify self-motivated people by asking them about their hobbies. People who work on side projects, volunteer or explore their interests outside of work are usually intrinsically motivated. I’m not suggesting you start requiring every candidate to have extracurricular activities, but you can usually get an idea of someone’s resourcefulness from what they do on their own time.
2. Overcoming relocation hesitancies.
Not every company can be headquartered in Silicon Valley, L.A. or NYC. If yours isn’t, it may feel like a challenge getting talented people to relocate. My company, ShipChain, is located in Greenville, SC. When people first hear the name of the city, they’re a little uncertain. They tend to think it’s a small town, even though it’s really not. Greenville’s metro population is approaching 1,000,000 people, and it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
I’ve realized the easiest way to get people past their initial hesitancy is to let them see the city in person. Prospective employees fly in, we show them around, take them out to lunch and expose them to the quality of life. We then suggest they take time to check out the area for themselves.
Moving to a new city is a huge decision, and it’s important to give prospective employees a chance to feel out the area before committing. But you’ll find that the characteristics of a mid-size city — like the low cost of living and affordable housing — are actually extremely important to many of the people you’d like to bring onto your team.
3. Fostering culture as the company grows.
One of the biggest challenges a successful team will come up against is growth. The larger your company gets, the more difficult it is to maintain the culture and environment you had in the beginning. I learned this the hard way at my previous company. We went from a handful of employees to 300 people very quickly, and we didn’t have the luxury of thoroughly vetting every new hire as a cultural fit. We just needed people who could do the job.
It was tough, but we were able to maintain a good environment by keeping our core group of team members on board. They spread the culture to the new hires at all levels. So if you want to have any hope of maintaining your company’s reputation as a great place to work as you grow, then you need to have people who embody the organization’s values, from senior management down to individual contributors. If you communicate with these teammates regularly, you can make sure your ideas and directions will be spread among the rest of the company.
Putting together a successful team — and keeping it together — means everything to your company. Because without a great team, you have no shot at creating a great product or service. And without a great product or service, your business won’t be around for very long.