This three-article series is a Think and Grow Rich-type exposé that draws from the experiences of entrepreneurs in the "expert arena" (coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, online marketers) who have successfully grown their businesses to 6 figures or 7 figures in income. After several months of interviewing a select group of such entrepreneurs, I have teased out some threads regarding productivity that are important to note and emulate if you desire to achieve a similar level of revenue generation.
The following business owners (most of whom are solopreneurs) graciously consented to be interviewed for this series:
Christine Gallagher - She's Got Clients
Milana Leshinsky - Milana, JV Insider Circle
Sue Rice - Master the New Net, The Midway Cafe
Alzay Calhoun - Coveted Consultant
Rhonda Hess - Prosperous Coach
Kim Clausen - Ready2Go Marketing Solutions
Tim Paulson - Tim Paulson
Julie Flippin - Make Your Success Real
Mara Glazer - Mara Glazer
Jeanna Gabellini - MasterPeace Coaching
Pamela Bruner - Make Your Success Real
They have shared their definitions of productivity, their self-assessment of their personal level of productivity, their current greatest productivity challenge and its importance, their sources of inspiration and training regarding productivity, and more.
This article focuses on the impact that building and maintaining a productive team has on moving up the revenue scale.
Working with a Team
Working with a team is THE biggest factor in growing a business to six figures of revenue and beyond. Not surprisingly, the productivity of the team and the quality of its work is crucial to the process.
Before launching into this topic, it is important to define the word "team" as the interviewees see it. Based on their responses to my interview questions, most of the entrepreneurs interviewed define a team as persons hired as employees and / or persons to whom work is outsourced (ex. virtual assistants, online business managers [OBMs], consultants). Only one person defined a team strictly as staff (employees).
Nine of the eleven participants stated that they currently work with a team. Most of them have teams that are entirely virtual - the largest one reported consists of at least 12 persons at any given time. The entrepreneur who defines "team" as "staff" has let all personnel go, but still outsources work such as Web design, editing, and accounting.
Another entrepreneur originally built a small team with a wide variety of capabilities as opposed to a large team of specialists. Because she is considerably downsizing her business, she has released her OBM and will only do minimal outsourcing for the foreseeable future.
Team Productivity Rating
Two people ranked their team as a "10" on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. Most others ranked their team as an "8" on this scale, with one person saying "7-8" and another saying "8-9."
Many participants expressed the idea that the productivity of their team was dependent on how well they interact with and instruct the team as leaders. They indicated that if they have a problem with their team's productivity, it is usually their fault - they are the "bottleneck" or the "limiting factor." As an example, one person said that she has a tendency to overwhelm her team members with e-mail and knows that she has to manage herself to get the best work from them. Another said "Any productivity issues for the team come from the top."
Handling Team Productivity Challenges
Three major themes emerged as participants answered the question of how they would handle things if a member of their team had a productivity challenge. They are:
• good communication
• the hiring process, and
Most participants indicated that they would first communicate with the team member to determine the cause of the problem. One entrepreneur believes that a lack of productivity indicates a lack of clarity. Another said that strong internal communication is such a large part of his company's culture that he should never be surprised by a productivity challenge. If confronted with such an issue, the first thing that he would do is ask questions such as "Did you understand the training?", "Can you fix the process?", and "What do you need from me to help you fix it?"
Other responses regarding how to handle a team member's productivity issue included:
Let him/her know of my concern about their lack of productivity, outline changes expected, and give them the tools to help them implement the changes.
Find out what the challenge is and work with them to find a viable solution by creating a plan . . . supporting them in their effort
Have a conversation and help as best as I can.
Would consider possibly bringing in help [a coach or trainer]
One participant's team is composed of four employees and three part-time consultants. Additionally, she engages the services of three associate coaches for her business. She holds brief daily team meetings so that she can assess what has been accomplished each day. In this way, any challenges become quickly evident. The participant who is downsizing her virtual team reported that she used to hold weekly meetings with her OBM and monthly meetings with her Webmaster and that she found these critical to keeping things organized.
A couple of interviewees indicated that they would try to find responsibilities for the team member that were more in line with what that person likes to do instead of releasing her / him outright. One of them said that "you have to have the right person for the right job." This brings us to the second major theme that emerged from the question about team productivity challenges: how to effectively hire someone.
One entrepreneur said flatly, "People often don't have a clue how to hire a person." Another said that the axiom "Slow to hire, quick to fire" is his guiding principle, adding that "You must be very clear on the work to be done and what you want the result to look like." Yet another said that she tests ahead of time to screen candidates before hiring them.
A few interviewees indicated that while it is important to understand a team member's work style preferences, ultimately, that person must be a good fit for the business. If this proves not to be the case, they would sever the working relationship. Some of the reasons cited for releasing the person from service were:
Lack of communication on an on-going basis - this is a "deal breaker"
Team member's lifestyle was incompatible with the business
Work is extremely sloppy and reflects poorly on the company
The third major theme was taking a look at the systems in the business. One participant said that in the event that a team member had a productivity challenge, she would ask the person if she / he thought that creating a system would resolve the issue. Another said that she would ask the team member how she or he is approaching the problematic task to see if the appropriate process is being followed. She said that she and her team are always developing new SOPs (standard operating procedures) to become more efficient and more effective at their work.
One participant reported that she creates her own systems, makes sure that she understands them well, and then teaches them to her team. Contrary to the productivity dogma that says you should put together a team of people to do what you don't know how to do, she learns how to do everything that she wants others to do for her business, then delegates tasks as she deems appropriate.
To read additional articles in the "Six-Figure to Seven-Figure Entrepreneur Productivity Evolution" series and other articles by Monique, click here.