Could visualising your team help you transform your business in 2022?
Every business I have worked with has the desire to do something great; having the right people within the right structure is often holding them back.
Most businesses start small, recruitment is done on an ad-hoc basis when new skills or capacity are required. This is perfectly normal and enables the business to grow, remain flexible and be responsive.
As the business grows the loose structure creates challenges because the reporting lines and responsibilities are not clear. For example, John who was recruited initially to build a simple website is now in charge of marketing and feels out of his depth.
When businesses grow the expertise required within them changes. It is a harsh reality that some of the first people to join are not the best people to have 2 years down the line. On the flip side people are different, some of us love working in chaotic start-ups and others prefer a more established and secure environment.
What does this hiring challenge look like in practice?
The business starts with a clear vision and 2 founders who understand each other’s skill sets and go about winning and delivering work.
They have an informal business relationship because they’ve known each other for years and trust each other. They now that tasks will get done by one of them.
The First Hires:
As business picks up the founders get busier and require some support to help manage their workload. Often an admin type role is created and a couple of friends/family join and pick up a variety of tasks.
There are no job roles because they all know each other and informally agree who is responsible for what.
The Second Hires:
A new contract requires some specific skills, fortunately one of the first people hired knows someone and they bring in a friend. It is agreed they will manage this person’s workload with a reporting line directly to one of the founders to keep them in the loop.
The reality is the founder doesn’t have time to engage with them and they are left to it, often unsupervised.
The Third Hires:
Business is picking up now and one of the teams needs to grow so more people are recruited. The founders are too busy to get involved in the process and don’t want the hassle of managing more people.
There are still no defined role profiles or company handbook, this results in a messy recruitment experience and a lack of on-boarding.
The Fourth Hires:
One founder helps a friend out by recruiting their daughter, it transpires there is already someone doing a similar role but with more experience, so he is asked to manage her workload. That founder only finds out what she is doing at a dinner party one Saturday.
In a short space of time, the company has grown from 2 people to 12 and yet the founders are busier than ever. Their days seem to be taken up dealing with admin and problem solving.
They have the classic problem of being too busy working in the business to step back and work on it. If they did their lives could be so much easier.
“Surely they’re paying people to do this for them?”
At this stage the business is trading well but it wouldn’t take a lot to bring it crashing down. The symptoms of this informal ‘structure’ are easy to spot (from the outside):
– Lack of financial controls
– No defined roles and therefore limited accountability
– Confusion about best practice and reporting lines
– Disjointed customer experience
– Variable quality of product/service
– Vague pricing structure
– Etc etc
Left unchecked what started as a fun friendly culture turns into a blame game and people start leaving. Without defined roles and clear reporting lines there is no control or ownership. The business is relying on the goodwill of the team to know what to do and how to do it.
“But no-one wants to work in a rigid boring structure.”
A structure does not have to be boring or rigid. Having clearly defined roles ensures that you can create a creative and entrepreneurial environment. When the team understand what is expected, they actually have the freedom to be themselves and excel; call it ownership and accountability.
Creating a working structure means understanding what is going on currently.
This is where visualising the business is so powerful. Through mapping out:
– Who sits where?
– Who reports to whom?
– What individuals are taking responsibility for?
– Business process
– Etc etc
You can build up a map of the company, it is then a case of creating a more formal structure that delivers on the founder’s aspirations. The process looks a bit like this:
I’m not an advocate of overcomplicating things and introducing systems for the sake of it. I have however worked in SMEs where there was no structure; it is always infuriating for all involved.
If this feels familiar then I would suggest you get your leadership team together and run through the exercise yourselves.