Rachel Klaver passes on lessons learnt while build­ing a team from scratch.


The learn­ing curves busi­ness own­ers go through can feel like a per­ma­nent roller-coaster.

For those of us grow­ing busi­nesses, there’s a plethora of de­ci­sions and choices to make.

One of the big­gest de­ci­sions is in whether to grow your team, build a cul­ture, and max­imise the in­vest­ment made ev­ery pay­day in peo­ple who are the face of your busi­ness.

In my third year at Iden­tify Mar­ket­ing, in some ways we’re still in­fants at de­vel­op­ing a team and cul­ture. But of­ten we learn the most in the early days; we cer­tainly have!

My busi­ness ini­tially ac­cu­mu­lated a team almost by ac­ci­dent, with un­ex­pected growth and mas­sive holes in what I could per­son­ally do for my clients. Ac­ci­den­tal team growth comes with chal­lenges – I was not con­fi­dent in of­fer­ing full-time roles. I was a lean busi­ness with no of­fice, and I wasn’t sure where the busi­ness was head­ing or how fast.

In the past six months, with steady clients and a proper of­fice, it’s be­come easy to say, “We need some­one full-time” and of­fer salaried roles. But it’s also been a tricky tran­si­tion from a team of con­trac­tors to a team of staff.

The learn­ing curve has been huge, es­pe­cially around en­sur­ing our cul­ture is main­tained, and new­com­ers are on boarded. Great team dy­nam­ics are hard won but de­liver ex­cep­tional re­sults, drop time wastage, and pro­vide the best so­lu­tion for your clients.

As a mar­ket­ing agency, we will of­ten look at team cul­ture in

a busi­ness, be­cause if a busi­ness is not grow­ing ef­fec­tively, of­ten mar­ket­ing isn’t the first thing to fix. Of­ten it comes down to al­ter­ing team cul­ture first. Here’re some learn­ings around build­ing a pos­i­tive team cul­ture, de­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and get­ting the best from your team: 1. KNOW YOUR OWN VAL­UES – TH­ESE WILL SHAPE YOUR BUSI­NESS. As the busi­ness owner, your ethics and val­ues will al­ways be re­flected in your busi­ness cul­ture. I most en­joy work­ing with peo­ple who can ‘Google first’ and work in­de­pen­dently. I re­cently worked with a busi­ness owner who has a staff of 30 and val­ues tidi­ness over in­de­pen­dence. Her work en­vi­ron­ment is im­mac­u­late, but her team are like baby birds – too scared to fly by them­selves. It’s be­come un­man­age­able and we’re now try­ing to change the cul­ture. 2. CON­SIDER US­ING PSY­CHO­ME­T­RIC TEST­ING TO FIG­URE OUT HOW BEST TO WORK WITH THEM. We use the My­ers Briggs [test]. It can give huge insight into how peo­ple process or act in dif­fer­ent ways, and how best to dis­perse in­for­ma­tion and run your team. No test should over­ride what some­one is say­ing to you di­rectly, how­ever. But it can help re­veal whether some­one wants to be in­structed in per­son or with emailed bul­let points. 3. RE­MEM­BER YOUR TEAM CAN’T READ YOUR MIND. In a fast-grow­ing busi­ness, change hap­pens fast. Bring your team along with you – if you don’t they’ll feel left out and be­come dis­il­lu­sioned. I’ve lost peo­ple due to the fact I do most of my think­ing alone; then present the so­lu­tion and make it hap­pen, of­ten with­out bring­ing ev­ery­one up to speed. I’m learn­ing to make sure ev­ery­one is on the same page be­fore we get to the next chap­ter. 4. HIRE PEO­PLE WHO GOOGLE FIRST, CHECK LATER. This sounds rather ba­sic – but you need peo­ple who can ask Google for the an­swer be­fore check­ing in with you (un­less they are a brain sur­geon). 5. TAKE TIME TO ON­BOARD. On­board­ing is not just get­ting some pretty sta­tionery, a lap­top and read­ing through all the health and safety reg­u­la­tions. In­vest time into your new team mem­ber as this is how we cre­ate cul­ture sta­bil­ity. If they are a leader, in­vest twice as much time – teach them and model what you want. Then when they are fly­ing, get them to repli­cate it to oth­ers. 6. MIS­TAKES ARE JUST LEARN­ING EX­ER­CISES. When giv­ing a task for the first time, get them to at­tempt it first alone, to work out their base line. Then cor­rect. Teach right from the be­gin­ning that there is no shame in mis­takes – as long as you learn from them! 7. BE THE ADULT. You lead the team. The weight is on your shoul­ders. Model the be­hav­iours you want, and don’t ex­pect them to ad­here to any­thing you wouldn’t do your­self. 8. HAVE REG­U­LAR MEET­INGS (THAT ARE PUR­POSE­FUL). Hold ten minute stand-up team meet­ings ev­ery morn­ing to check what ev­ery­one is doing. Then hold weekly one-on-ones with lead­er­ship to check in, set goals, and sort out nig­gles be­fore they be­come moun­tains. 9. AVOID TIME-WAST­ING MEET­INGS. Feel free to in­vite some­one for half a meet­ing; then let them get back to work. Fac­tor in how much each meet­ing is cost­ing you for ev­ery hour you have your team in it – it will turn you off wast­ing time. Each meet­ing must have a time frame, agenda, and ‘next steps’ at the end. 10. IN­VOLVE THEM IN THE BIG PIC­TURE. Be open about sales tar­gets and growth tar­gets, and cel­e­brate as a team when they’re met. We have implemented team and in­di­vid­ual goals us­ing 4Dx (Four Dis­ci­plines of Ex­e­cu­tion by Chris McCh­es­ney) around weekly mea­sur­able tasks we record in our weekly meet­ings. It cre­ates ac­count­abil­ity and fo­cus dur­ing the week 11. GROW PEO­PLE INTO THEIR NAT­U­RAL SKILLS. Sometimes peo­ple fit bet­ter into a new role in the busi­ness. Fo­cus on grow­ing the parts they love to do, or are highly com­pe­tent in. We aim for a 70/30 split – be­cause most of us must sometimes do jobs we don’t par­tic­u­larly en­joy. 12. IF YOU’VE MADE A MIS­TAKE, MOVE THEM. It’s bet­ter to ‘wear’ the cost of ex­tra spend (higher salary) and move a per­son to a role that’s bet­ter suited (but worth less) than keep some­one in a role that’s wrong for them. 13. TRUST THAT CUL­TURE WILL PRUNE AND GROW YOUR TEAM. Be­sides mak­ing sure you utilise the 90 days, and fo­cus on mak­ing sure new team mem­bers re­ally get the cul­ture dur­ing this time so they can choose to opt in or out (as you can), trust that long term a wellde­fined cul­ture will at­tract the right peo­ple and re­pel the wrong ones. It just hap­pens. 14. BE AWARE THAT SOME PEO­PLE WILL NEED MORE SUP­PORT. You can’t treat each mem­ber the same. Some per­son­al­ity types need more feed­back, and some peo­ple are at an early stage in their ca­reer. This is great, how­ever, as th­ese peo­ple are of­ten more mal­leable in terms of be­ing shaped by your cul­ture. 15. RE­WARD HOW PEO­PLE WANT TO BE RE­WARDED. Ev­ery­one is slightly dif­fer­ent. One of my team mem­bers loves lit­tle gifts. An­other re­ally likes it when I sit down with her and look over her work. I’ve learned it’s im­por­tant to her. Ask each in­di­vid­ual what makes them feel good, and do it.

I firmly be­lieve team cul­ture can be­come one of your big­gest mar­ket­ing tools. Your team is your most pow­er­ful as­set, and de­serve your time and en­ergy to be nur­tured, chal­lenged and grown. At­tract­ing growth after that will feel very sim­ple in­deed!

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