Build Your Team— or Don’t?

It’s easy to find a business expert (sometimes only a self-appointed one) to tell you that you have to build a team. Doing everything by yourself can be stressful and time consuming to be sure, but what if building a team, or even having a team, isn’t your cup of tea? Is that OK? And how can you assess whether your “next level” should include a team at all? Many of us start in business alone, all by ourselves. We may have found self-employment after getting sick of a sub-professional boss or decided that we wanted more freedom of schedule. Others realized they wanted to make much more money than working for someone else was ever going to pay. All of these are great reasons to be self-employed.

Whatever your reason for being self-employed, I applaud you and support you in whichever way you want to run your company. I’m not here to tell you, “You have to build a team.” Maybe you’re not that guy. But maybe you are. I’m here to help you figure that out.

Should you build a team?

This discussion of building teams often begins and ends in the wrong place. This topic usually starts with you must and too often ends with why, but it’s much more complex. The question of building a team beyond the one- or two-man show is not a yes or no issue. Businesses should be tailored to their individual owner’s goals and talents.

Not everyone in business should have a team. Some people have incredible cleaning skills, and this is what makes them feel fulfilled. Some enjoy working alone. A person with decent self-discipline can make a fair living cleaning carpet and doing occasional dry outs or adding other services to their menu to keep busy. There is plenty of great training available in the technical areas of our industry to allow you to grow all on your own.

If this is you, just stay up to speed on things and continue to work your magic. It is perfectly acceptable for you to run a successful business that is also small.

There are, however, owners running one-man shows, still on the truck, who see the financial benefits of having more than one truck and/or by adding other services that could generate profitable revenue. For the person toying with the idea of building a larger company, the need for a team becomes real.

You’re the boss

If you’re considering growth and building a team, then we should spell out what this will look like along the way. This will help you decide if building a team is a good fit for you, before you hire an empire and buy four more trucks. Underestimating the skills required to run the “business end” of a business is one of the most common reasons small businesses fail. If you’re building a team, then
management, marketing, finance, organization, motivation, and leadership all come into play. The move to build a team is built upon skills that have nothing to do with cleaning. You must build up your arsenal of business skills.

The minute you become a manager to anyone, you redefine yourself as a manager, a boss. You’re not a carpet cleaner anymore—not if you want to align your thinking to become a great manager, entrepreneur, and leader. You must re-calibrate your mind to stop thinking like a technician or expert cleaner. You move into the role of leader first, not worker first. You should guide your mind to follow you into this new role. If you want to increase your odds of success as a manager, it will serve you well to become interested in management techniques—to get excited about reading a book (or 50) on financial management for small businesses, marketing, etc. When you think of yourself as a marketer, manager, entrepreneur, it should excite you. Your eyes and ears should stay peeled to gather valuable learning in this area. These are the new tools of your new trade for growth and team building. If you like to brag about being the first one to have a certain tool or technical certification, building a team might not be an easy transition for you. To help you think differently, use the McDonald’s analogy: When the store grew to need more than one employee, the manager no longer held down a shift at the grille. You’ll have to work your way off the truck. Keep in mind, if you want anyone to stick with you, you need to provide a 40-hour work week (or something close to it).

Another way to buy into this change (if you want to work toward growth) is to consider the hourly wage an employee with your company could make. Let’s use $20 an hour for easy math. When you are trying to build a team, you shouldn’t be doing $20-an-hour work. You are in charge of providing work and direction for your team. The wand precludes growth. Time is money.

The Risky section

Let’s touch on partnerships. Some look to partnerships as a way to grow. Bringing on a partner instead of your first employee will solve little now and even less when you need a third employee. With or without a partner, someone will have to become a great entrepreneur to drive company growth. In fact, in my 29 years of business consulting, partnerships have proven to be one of the best plans for failure. A ship needs only one captain.

Does the shoe fit? There is much here to consider when making this crucial decision for your business. I hope I have given you a new way to think about whether to build a team... or not. If you aren’t the type to see fun in managing and marketing, then maybe your happy place is to stay the course as a lone wolf.f your financial goals call out for growing a bigger company, then establishing your team (and all that goes with it) is going to be necessary. It’s all about finding your fit.


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