We've just wrapped up a series on business planning where we dug into the models and tools I use for annual planning. For those who've been actively participating, you should now have a clear plan for the coming year.
But I realized there's one area we didn't really tackle: building a team. We talked a lot about lead generation, personal accountability, time management, and mindset. However, for many, growth reaches a point where more leads and more appointments aren’t going to happen without help.
If you don't have the bandwidth or the time to effectively serve new clients, you're going to drop the ball somewhere.
So, if you want to keep growing to see what you're truly capable of, you need to move away from being a solopreneur and start building a team. This instantly puts you in a completely new world of challenges and opportunities. Its a challenge but if you’re up for it, leadership is an exciting and amazing part of building a business!
What does leadership really mean? When do you know you're ready? What should you have in place in terms of mindset, expectations, and standards?
Transition to Leadership
A big problem I see with those who want to start building a team is they look at their experience in sales and think it applies to leadership. That's simply not true. Leadership requires a completely different set of skills and a different mindset.
People often think that team building, hiring, and leading is plug-and-play. Your first hire is usually an administrator, and many assume this person can just get plopped down in their office and stuff will automagically start to happen. Ideally you find someone with a little experience but the reality is you need to put in some work to get them moving in the right direction.
You need to create time for them to get the support they need, show them how to problem-solve, give them space and time to figure things out. This might mean watching them struggle a bit, knowing things won't be perfect, but understanding that through challenges, they grow stronger.
Another challenge with leadership is that it also means being a stronger leader for yourself. Hiring someone doesn't mean you can lower your personal standards. It’s actually the opposite, they are going to show up at best, at the same level you do, so you need to show up as a 10 if you want to expect high standards.
Creating a Thriving Ecosystem
Taking on the responsibility of leadership is restrictive in some ways because you need to be consistent, do what you say you're going to do, and be present. You have to pause and think through your reactions to challenges, and manage situations with patience. But the other side of this is gaining time back. This kind of structure creates freedom. You don't have to be tied down to paperwork or unwanted tasks because you have a team handling these aspects.
I often say that discipline sets you free. Through discipline, you become more effective in your work, which frees up time for you to spend doing what you want outside of work. This principle applies to teams and leadership too. The more effective you are with your team, the less cleanup you'll need to do later, giving you more time back.
It's about creating a culture where team members are willing to go the extra mile, where they care about each other and the collective goal. Finding the right people who align with your vision and goals is more important at the beginning than ever. Once you set the culture on your team it's hard to change it.
The Price of Growing a Team
Stepping into leadership, consider what your business will look like in three to five years. The people you bring in now lay the foundation for the future. When hiring your first team member, the question shouldn't just be about affordability. If you want something big, the first people you bring in are crucial for setting your business's potential, not just in skills and discipline but in their commitment and care for the business.
I also think it's crucial to consider the risks, expenses, and burdens of leadership. Often, we look at the cost of bringing someone on board without fully understanding the benefits and value they can bring to our business.
When considering the risk of bringing someone into your team, one thing everyone is concerned with is the financial burden. However, it's also vital to remember that a new team member's salary isn’t necessarily guaranteed for a long time. I typically approach new hires with a 90-day mindset, expecting to see that their contribution offsets their cost before they hit the end of their probation. This can vary a little role to role but at the very least I want to see the numbers trending in a direction that I know will guarantee the results I need to make it a win if I keep them.
This approach balances the risk with the potential for increased productivity. Instead of making a gamble on someone for their entire annual salary, it’s only a quarter of that. A $15K bet is something I don’t want to come up short on, but it’s better than a $60K bet.
When to Expand
Building a team should not be about simply wanting company or offloading work due to laziness. It should be a strategic move made when you are at a point where not bringing in support could hinder your business’s growth or direction.
Usually, it comes down primarily to bandwidth. You will be getting to the point where you just cant do more than you already are, but you know that you can continue to grow if you alleviated yourself of some responsibilities. The tricky part is that you don’t want to let it go too far. I have seen many agents get to the point that they are ready for help and can afford it, but they don’t have the time to “help the help” so the whole thing turns into a total mess when they do bring someone in.
I find the ideal point to bring in your first administrator is when you're making between three and five hundred thousand dollars in personal production. This range allows you to manage your business efficiently while having the time to find and support the right person. Remember that you are new at this too, so it’s going to be a little bumpy and you need ot have the time to slow down and fix things with them as you go.
Last thing to check is whoever you might have another way of solving the problem you have… sometimes a new tool or system is all you need and you can save a lot of money!
Casting Your Vision
Finally, before you start hiring, you need to have a clear vision for your business. Legendary CEO Jack Welch emphasized the importance of continually casting a vision. You need to know where you're going, what you're doing, and be able to articulate it clearly… over and over again. This clarity is vital for aligning your team with your business goals and ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction.
Slow down to go fast: Take the time to understand your mission and vision before you bring people in. It will create better alignment and get people excited to be part of your team.
Take the time you need to really do a gut check and make sure you are ready and this is something you want. Don’t do it just because you think it looks cool, it’s expensive and hard. The flip side to all this is that when you get it right, it’s amazing what happens…
I hope you found this insightful. If you have any questions, feel free to drop comments or reach out.
I'm grateful for your time,