As entrepreneurs, we hunger for big opportunities that have the potential to take our companies to the next level. But for many of us running small- to mid-sized businesses, those truly pivotal opportunities don't always fit neatly into the day-to-day operations. I learned this fact the hard way.
In the early days of my own company, our sanity was tested by a client that grew at lightning speed. We built up internal resources to help foster the relationship and properly deliver against client demands. Then, when the client represented half of our business, we lost it. This loss was difficult, emotionally and financially. We had to continue to keep our remaining clients thriving, while making difficult decisions about layoffs, our company structure and overall path forward.
Fortunately, we maintained the viability of the company through fiscal prudence, grit and pure determination. But I knew there had to be a better way to build a team and a process that could deliver the outstanding results my clients expected and deserved, without putting my team in the same high-risk position.
I have learned that developing the right external partnerships can lower risk by helping a business scale up or down efficiently. It can also lower stress on the system by allowing leaders to focus on what they do best, while adding new skills to the team. And the good news is that you don't need to be an HR professional or have an MBA to source it. You simply have to be dedicated to building smart partnerships and creating a process that is specific to your organization's needs.
Here are a few tips I use to build prosperous teams that minimize headaches, maximize returns and allow us to feel comfortable stretching ourselves to go after big opportunities:
Expand your partner prospects. So often, people say it is who you know, not what you know. The same wisdom applies here. Make a point of hiring talent that brings with them a small army of strong relationships and first-class connections by asking about their networks during the interview process. Whenever you are in need of a capability or partner not in your personal network, consider polling your people before going to Google. My team has been an invaluable resource for expanding our network with trusted, vetted people and companies, creating an instant talent pool when pivotal business comes our way.
Build a partnership that sells. When you bring in an outside resource to supplement skills, it is critical to ensure that person or company isn't subverting existing (and winning) team qualities. Values and energy dynamics are essential to not only presenting well, but also showing how seamlessly you will work together with prospective clients. If your team has an amazing track record of paying attention to detail or bringing big ideas and big personalities to the table, make sure your strategic partner offers a similar or, at least, complementary approach. Set a "chemistry" meeting early on to discuss your agency approach and the processes you employ to ensure a successful outcome. Get granular and talk through the details - how you respond to clients, your general communication style and what the client can expect week-to-week.
Find people who keep it real. If you are an optimist who believes in your organization, sometimes it can be hard to see weaknesses. Consider bringing in a mentor or someone else outside of your leadership team to help you take a long, hard look in the mirror. Tap the business owners you respect and admire within the local business community - those who have the knowledge and will to provide blunt but constructive counsel. An outside, objective third party can help identify what your team does best, reveal opportunities for expansion and potentially provide additional talent connections when needed.
It may seem counterintuitive, but foregoing some revenue to bring in a qualified partner is absolutely integral to growing your company. Not only does it increase your chances of securing at least a portion of the business, but doing so demonstrates your understanding of the prospect's needs and challenges. It also shows your connections to and ability to work with the greater business community.
Most important, you will establish your commitment to providing the best offering for the client- even if it means a smaller portion of the revenue.
Sometimes sharing a piece of the business with the right partner can be the best way to grow your business.