Every Entrepreneur's Competitive Advantage: His or Her Team
In every business today -- large or small, public or private, mom-and-pop or corporate titan -- there is one critical and consistent point that significantly impacts success. That critical factor is the quality of the business' team.
Related: The Benefits of Learning as a Team
Every business, after all, has one. The question is whether or not its members are motivated to function as a “competitive advantage” or are just “doing the work.”
In today’s challenging marketplace, entrepreneurs must look for and use every competitive advantage they can. In many cases, their teams don't get the attention they deserve. But they should, because a basic fact of business is that your team is your primary point of contact with your customers.
If your team performs badly, your customers vote with their feet and go elsewhere. And, if this continues, eventually you lose your business. Conversely, if your team performs well, your customers will come back, will buy more often and will likely refer others to you. The result is, your business grows and prospers. This is an illustration of how your team can give you a "competitive advantage."
But having that competitive advantage won't happen by accident or the flip of a switch. It’s a process that takes time and needs to be organized around a plan. Here’s a 10-point checklist to get you started on building and motivating a winning team to give your business that significant advantage:
1. Your goal
Make sure that there is a common, specific and measurable goal, or goals, everyone is working toward. This mission should be directly related to and supportive of your vision for the business.
2. Everyone's roles
Every one of your team members should understand his or her individual role and that of others in their department, and maybe the company overall. No one should ever say, “I really don’t know what they do.”
3. Clear communication
You should communicate in the clearest means possible (so everyone understands) the “rules of the game” as they relate to how you want your business to operate. The rules should set boundaries -- as happens on a typical field of play -- where boundaries are needed. There should still be enough flexibility, however, for your team members to make decisions, on their own, which will help your business.
4. Understanding of tasks
All team members should know what they're supposed to do, how they are supposed to do it and when and why they should do it -- plus how "it” fits in. When a team's members know this information, they have a clear purpose; and that in turn helps them to stay motivated and engaged in the “task at hand.”
Next, encourage risk-taking within the boundaries you set. Nobody likes mistakes, but they are an excellent learning tool. You want your team to know where you stand on this issue. No organization will move forward without taking prudent risks.
6. Full involvement
Encourage 100 percent involvement in the work to be done. Encourage team members to ask questions, share information and identify ways to do the work better. Solicit their feedback on how things are going. Involve them to the greatest extent that's practical in all decisions impacting how they do their jobs.
7. Consistent communication
Communicate consistently to your team members to keep them informed and included in all company matters. When this happens, your team is “in the know,” and this helps them to stay engaged and focused. I like to compare communication to the oil in an engine. The oil keeps all the parts working well together and reduces friction. That’s what good communication does for your organization.
8. New skills learning
Commit yourself to providing your team members with every appropriate opportunity to maintain their skills and learn new ones, to help them and the organization continue to meet the needs of your customers, and grow.
9. Consistent quality
You should consistently make it clear that team members' primary focus must be on offering customers consistent “quality” and hassle-free transactions (service) regardless of the product or service you offer.
10. No regrets
Never encourage team members to “look back." As the leader, you need to keep their focus on the present, and on where you want to take your organization, as reflected in your vision.
So, there you have it: a checklist guide to not only help motivate your team but create and sustain the best competitive advantage your business will ever have -- your team.