5 Reasons Entrepreneurs should focus on Team Building

Even if you’ve created a team and put people on staff already, the decision-making (and ultimate responsibility) falls onto one person. And that’s you.

Climbing solo is exhilarating, but scary too. When I left the corporate environment where I spent 20 years, I left behind a “peer-group” of brilliant, like-minded professionals. When you are part of a corporate team, that team is (mostly!) focused on the same goals, and the team is (hopefully – but not always!) single-minded about achieving them. I was a strong collaborator, and I loved working in an ideas-rich environment where the whole project benefitted from each of it’s diverse participants.


Although I was “ready” to launch my own business, and had acquired the skills, experience, instinct and ambition to do it – I suddenly found myself without a support network to bounce ideas off. It was a bit of a shock to my system! All the conversations I used to have around a table with other smart people, were now going on inside my own head! I would come up with an idea. I kicked it around with myself. I questioned it. I wrote it down and drew it out. I expanded it and refined it. I validated it. Planned it. And then executed it. All on my own…. All me…. Just me…. All the time.

The feeling of accomplishment at that stage was enormous, of course. And I had a positive result – so the goal was ultimately accomplished. But, I wondered how much more quickly I would have arrived at that successful outcome if I had had collaborators along the way to support me. Certainly, the process would have been less stressful, and more fun, with much less angst and second-guessing. And maybe the results would have been even better with the right input from the right people at the right time.
I do believe that “None of us is as smart of ALL of us”, as Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote in “High Five – the magic of working together”. (And if you have not read this book – YOU MUST!)
But, as Business Independents and Entrepreneurs, how can we build a team of collaborators? From where? With whom? And isn’t that contrary to everything Entrepreneurialism is about?
Here’s 5 reasons how and why you should do it.
1. Identify the right people.
They say that you are the average of the people you spend most time with – so choose wisely! Negative  behaviours are highly contagious. Entrepreneurs have no room for pessimism, self-pity, entitlement, ego, laziness, insincerity, envy or flattery. People who behave like this are to be avoided (unless you are forced into their company at a wedding, or a family reunion – in which case we advise staying at the bar).
But, if you are lucky enough to find optimists, visionaries, enthusiasts, listeners, realists, planners, innovators, dreamers and radicals amongst your inner circle – then hold on to them tightly, talk to them often, and hope they will rub off on you.
2. Find a business mentor
Look at the companies or businesses you admire who have already achieved success. This does not have be within a parallel business, and success does not always mean accomplishing double-digit growth or opening 10 new branches or going public. There are a lot of businesses in your local environment who are quietly working miracles every day. Maybe they achieved success just by keeping their doors open through a brutal recession, or maybe they reinvented themselves in response to a changing market. These experienced individuals have been tested in ways you haven’t even dreamt of yet. They have a lot to teach us, and most of them – having weathered their own storms, are happy to share their experience with the ones starting out on the bottom rung of the ladder.
Ask for a chance to interview them, and tell them why you want to learn from them. Demonstrate that you’ve done some homework to understand their accomplishments. Prepare some questions ahead of time so you are not wasting theirs. You could ask about their strategy, their planning process, the skills the most rely on, their biggest challenges, their average day, how they recover from failure, or how they handled pivotal moments of change for their companies. Really listen to the answers. Consider this a business Masterclass, and don’t waste the opportunity you have been given. End the interview by thanking them and asking if you can stay in touch. Then do so. Send a thank you card highlighting something specific which you learned from them. From here, you can build on your relationship. Sometimes, reach out to keep them appraised of your activities. Sometimes, congratulate them on theirs. Sometimes, comment on some news items that impacts the business world. And now that you have a relationship, sometimes – you can ask for advice. Boom – you’ve found yourself a business mentor.
3. Take what’s going.
There are many resources out there for start up companies in Ireland, ranging from subsidised training and 1/1 mentoring, to financial advice and funding. Mostly the providers are highly experienced, skilled, fully vetted experts and you get to “pick their brains” either for free, or for cheap. Start with the excellent resources at your Local Enterprise Office, and they will direct you from there.
4. Learn from those who went before you
(Unless you plan to actually re-invent the wheel, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel).
Imagine if you could get a few hours with Seth Godin, or Richard Branson, or Fergal Quinn….You’d learn so much from them!

Well, guess what? YOU CAN! Visit a bookshop, or download the Kindle on your device, and invite the best business thinkers in the world, into your little business. Here are some of my favourites:

Leaders are Readers. And you need to keep your mind open and growing. Set yourself a goal of reading AT LEAST one new business book a month – more if you have time. Take notes. Identify the 3 big learnings from each book and try to adopt them in your business. Harness the brightest minds in the universe, and put them to work for you too.

Build the team that will build your business.

– Elaine, Ireland 3/10/2016



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