Whether it be a small, family-owned enterprise or a publicly-listed company, a great team is vital to the success of any business. But what does it take to build such a team? For Edible Blooms founder Kelly Baker-Jamieson, Karen Sheldon Catering founder, Karen Sheldon, and Shebah founder, George McEncroe, there have been a few key ingredients. Here, the women leaders share just how integral their teams have been to the success of their own businesses, as well as some practical insights on team-building for fellow business owners.
Success starts with your team
Kelly, Karen and George may come from different businesses, but they have something key in common: their enduring attentiveness to their teams. “Building an amazing team is everything and it is both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of Edible Blooms,” says Kelly, who started her retail business when she was in her twenties. “Getting it right means we can perform at our peak and deliver the most amazing service to our customers.”
In Karen’s experience, encouraging her team members’ growth and development has been key to her business’ success. Her decision to take on three of her young staff as partners more than twelve years ago was a turning point, catapulting her catering business to the next level.
“In my experience, the success of the business really comes down to the team and who you choose to put around you, because you can’t do everything by yourself if you want to grow,” George adds. Her message is clear: Building a great team is vital in order to create business growth and translate ‘big picture’ thinking into tangible outcomes.
From developing an effective recruitment process to creating a positive culture, there can be a lot to cover when it comes to building a successful team for your business. For Karen, Kelly and George, the following factors have been essential.
Karen believes that being a strong leader – or as she puts it, “leading from the front” – has been critical to her team’s continued success. “Your passion must inspire your teams through the hardest of times and you must be prepared to never give up,” she says.
Both Kelly and George argue that clear and honest communication is key. “When I started this business, meeting and arranging get-togethers with our drivers was really important,” George says. “Reassuring them, educating them, praising them, celebrating their achievements and understanding their difficulties has been essential to sustaining the team culture.”
Kelly says that the positive workplace culture at Edible Blooms starts with a shared vision and values. “Our team understand how our values translate into meaningful actions, as well as the behaviours we celebrate and those that we don’t,” she says. In George’s view, reinforcing such behaviours from the top down is vital in order to create a positive ripple effect. “It is a contagious condition and it starts with us respecting our staff, our staff respecting our drivers, and our drivers respecting our passengers,” she says.
“Creating a positive working environment is essential – [it should be] where your team wants to be,” Karen says. The business leader is also conscious of her influence on team morale. “If I visit our any of our worksites when I am having a bad day, or not feeling well, I can leave a trail of negativity behind me, and that is never good,” she says.
“We need a diverse mix of personalities in our teams, leaders and followers,” Karen argues. Kelly agrees. “Employ your opposite. Know your weaknesses and build the team around you to fill those gaps,” she says. To support gender diversity, challenging the traditional 9-5 workday can also be beneficial – both Kelly and George cite flexible working arrangements as being key to their teams’ success.
Growing pains and challenges
Many business owners experience pressure to grow their business quickly, but Kelly cautions against rushing to recruit new team members. “Building your team when you are desperate for extra sets of hands usually results in making expensive mistakes,” she warns. “Planning your team growth and hiring slowly will help you avoid pain in the future.”
And what of the recruitment process itself? “Recruitment is a really hard one,” Karen says. “I wish I could say I have successfully used all the algorithms and high-tech systems, but for us it is all about a positive attitude and likeability once the basic job criteria is ticked off… although we still get it wrong sometimes.” In the event of a mistaken hire, George believes it is important to address the elephant in the room. “If you feel like somebody is the wrong fit, you’re not doing them any favours by keeping them with you,” she says. “It’s really important to let them go on to a place where their talents will be realised.”
Karen points out that further education can also be helpful when it comes to building and managing a team. “I was really struggling as a young cook just starting my own restaurant in remote Tennant Creek, unable to keep staff because I was always stressed,” she recalls. “Then someone guided me to a four-day ‘train the trainer’ course. I had never been academic, but what I learned in those precious days (even if I did have to work every night until midnight to catch up) has stayed with me and still guides our business ethos.”
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