Stories by UFOMBA UZUEGBU, Asst News Editor
•Identifying tasks, assessing the team and communicating are vital in the team building process.
By Steve Schmidt
“I can do it better.” This is what most entrepreneurs are thinking when they start, or buy, a business. And most can! A successful small business owner usually has the skills required to sell and provide good customer service. If they are good enough, the excellent service they provide leads to even more work. Sooner or later though, the workload becomes too much and they need help.
When you work by yourself, you’re able to keep an eye on every aspect of your job, the way work is performed and how customers are handled. As soon as you hire your first employee, the whole game changes: you start to lose hold of that precious thing called “control.”
Enter the Team
Team building can be a challenging concept. Some business owners are in denial that it needs attention, or that it even exists. Whenever you have more than one person working toward a common goal, you have a team. Pretending it does not exist is counter-productive. Building and maintaining a team is vital for good customer service.
Team building is based on identifying and separating tasks, then assigning those tasks to the individuals who are best trained and skilled to perform them. In my experience, there are three keys to building and maintaining a valuable team.
1. Identifying tasks
The first step to effective team building is identifying the tasks that need to be performed. These tasks can include answering the phone, scheduling, running service calls, running sales calls, installing equipment, administrative duties, and marketing to get the phone to ring in the first place. In order to find out what tasks need to be performed and who is best suited to perform them, someone has to sit down, think this through, and then communicate the plan to others involved.
Identifying tasks requires an experienced person who knows all aspects of the job and can take the time to figure out how each task will be carried out from start to finish. There’s a lot to consider during this step: how much time is required, what tools and resources are needed, and how much will be charged for the service. It may be helpful to make a list of what needs to be done and to put in writing what materials or resources are needed, as well as what skills are required to perform the work.
2. Assessing the team
The next step is to look at who is part of the team and assess what skills they possess. This step involves answering some critical questions. Are the proper people assembled to get the job done? Does some additional training need to be supplied? Do you need to add to the team? All of these questions need real answers. Obviously, the person who is out running service calls cannot physically be in the office answering phone calls at the same time. Some people need to be available to perform some parts of the process while others are supplying the rest of the job.
Communication is a key element to successful team building. Of course, the foundation of communication is transferring ideas, generally by getting together and having a conversation. This may require setting up a time where interested parties gather in a common place to discuss issues. Yes, a meeting. Why is it that the mere mention of the word ‘meeting’ conjures up such dreaded emotion? I believe it is because most leaders do not place the proper importance on regular meetings.
If meetings are not held on a regular basis, the tendency is to only meet when there is a problem. This is a recipe for disaster. If you only meet when there is something bad or stressful to discuss, everyone arrives at the meeting anticipating trouble. When you are expecting the worst, it usually is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a better way.
Hold meetings on a regular basis. At Frederick Air, we have a company-wide meeting every two weeks. During the two weeks between meetings, we are building the agenda for the next meeting. We keep a dry-erase white board in our meeting room. As we have conversations or discuss issues every day, we note any decisions or resolutions on the white board. By the end of the two weeks, we usually have a short list of issues that came up and needed to be resolved. When the company comes together to meet, we have a quick discussion of each point. This way, people in the field are aware of discussions that occurred and when and why decisions were made.
Everyone knows what is expected in different situations and why. In addition, all departments remain aware of what’s going on in other departments. We all remain on the same team, and we have a company of people working together toward a common goal. Everyone needs to know why things are happening and how it may affect their job or area of responsibility.
Sometimes the situations discussed in our meetings are stressful or unpleasant. When this occurs, we are able to include everyone’s input and take it under consideration. In our meetings, I try to keep the discussions upbeat and positive. In fact, we joke around a bit and try to have a little fun when we can. This way, when a difficult topic comes up, it’s the exception, not the rule, and it’s handled in a professional manner without a lot of emotional baggage being thrown around.
Whether you are just starting to add to a small company, or your larger and more established company has become overwhelming, it’s never too early or too late to start implementing the team concept. Don’t let years of inefficiency or frustration keep you from forging a new path. The key is to identify what needs to be done or changed and start getting it done or changed.