The answer is YES – but why is that important to you?
The business/sporting team analogy works on many levels.
There are extremely few elite level high performing sport teams that don’t have quality skilled people in the roles of coach, captain and key positional players.
Likewise, those high performing teams invariably have all the players on the field working to a clear and consistent game plan, each player knowing exactly what role they have to play as individuals and how they are to interact with all the other players.
Similarly, the captain, coach and players will be surrounded by their support team – doctors, physios, selectors, board of directors, administration, finance, sales and marketing to name a few.
What’s more, all these people are crystal clear on the objectives of the team in the short, medium and long term. Indeed, these objectives are clarified and set at the beginning of each of the timeframes, building on the past performance of the team, responding to the changes in their own personnel and to changes in the nature of the game as a whole.
And to round out the circle of success they communicate with clarity to their supporters.
Let’s compare this with the small business world.
From my observations, most businesses start with the owner who is effectively a key positional player – they have great technical skills to provide a particular good or service. Rather than continuing to be a key positional player in a larger team they decide to set up their own team.
Initially the new team might be very small, in which case they suddenly find themselves needing to be responsible for a whole swag of non-technical tasks they were often blissfully unaware even existed when in their previous key positional role in a larger team. An obvious example of this is bookkeeping. How many plumbers, electricians, builders, lawyers etc do you know who have a working knowledge of debits and credits, accounting software packages, payroll processes and how to prepare a Business Activity Statement?
Initially they may work the extra hours and do the bookkeeping themselves or get their (usually also untrained) spouse to take on these roles. These options are often counter-productive as it takes an untrained person a lot longer to get the right result, is often the last thing to be done, is stressful and ultimately isn’t satisfying. So, unless they want to burn the midnight oil they need to engage a bookkeeper who can do the work promptly to a high quality and on time.
The business is now growing and some new employees/team mates are required. Showing my colours I’m going to use an Australian Rules example.
The club is going to be constantly looking at their positional needs and recruiting to those needs.
You don’t sign up a 180cm 85kg fast running midfielder if the team needs a 205cm 105kg ruckman.
Sounds obvious doesn’t it?
So why do so many businesses employ pretty much the first person who appears on the scene – family member or friend of a friend sound familiar here?
In the same context, the better performing clubs are going to test via extensive discussion and research that the prospective ruckman is a good fit with the team culture and will work his hardest towards the club objectives, both now and for future seasons. Doesn’t matter how good a player he is, the end result is not going to be pretty if he is say a drug taker, doesn’t train or play as hard as his peers or is going to constantly be rude to the supporters.
Once again, we compare that to the normal small business scenario where at best there is lip service paid to these issues at the time of the staff interview and diminishing performance from then on is often condoned. The sporting club is going to drop this sort of player pretty quickly, and yet so many businesses allow this type of employee performance to continue, often with the result that other staff get frustrated and either leave or reduce their own performance levels.
Let’s now think about the founder of the business. With a growing team and growing list of responsibilities he or she is now the coach, captain, key positional player and support player. I’ll also venture that because the business is their baby they will have difficulties in delegating some roles to the rest of the players. That assumes of course that they have already articulated and documented their objectives – a rarity from my experience.
The outcome is we now have a business owner who is ridiculously busy, stressed and trying to work with a team which is underperforming.
What to do?
The business owner has to start thinking about the business the same way a coach of an elite sporting team thinks.
They need to have clearly defined objectives for the business and specific documented roles and responsibilities (with performance measurements and accountability processes in place) for all the internal team members and external support team.
Of course, the next challenge is how to get the fresh air and time for the owner to be able to make these changes.
That’s where an external independent person comes into play – somebody who isn’t necessarily an expert in your particular good or service but who is an expert in understanding business as a whole.