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Shifting the focus to your team

Tuesday, 31 May 2011 | By Michael Fox

I was talking through Shoes of Prey's strategy with a good friend Chris Chan the other day and he made the following observation: “From where you are now, the success of Shoes of Prey is less about the founders and more about your team.”

 

This is an excellent insight and not one that had fully formed in my mind until Chris said it. We're now a team of 12 with two more starting over the coming weeks.

 

We're 22 if you count our partner offices in Japan, Russia and the Netherlands.

 

My co-founders, Mike and Jodie, and myself are becoming a smaller percentage of the overall team as we grow.

 

In our first six months, if something went wrong we could change what we were working on and handle it.

 

If we wanted to boost sales we could develop a new marketing idea, execute and watch as it tripled our sales.

 

As we grow larger, doing the same thing just isn't possible for three people. Tripling our sales now requires all of us in Sydney and our partner offices to develop ideas and execute them well.

 

If there's a manufacturing issue the scale likely means it will require all hands on deck from our team in China to resolve it.

 

Chris made the point that moving from a reliance on the founders to the broader team is where so many SME businesses fail.

 

If the founders retain the attitude that they can solve and do everything they'll not only burn themselves out, but they simply won't be able to do it and the business will flounder.

 

Fortunately, I think we've been making the right moves as we make this transition.

 

It's an easy thing to say, but I really am being honest when I say we have an amazing team.

 

Retaining such a great team is not easy, however we're making the right moves in regards to retention.

 

Our management and bonus systems will help ensure we're rewarding people appropriately for their work. Our stock options plan will mean employees can share in the success of our business financially.

 

We provide free lunch in our Sydney office, free lunch and dinner in our China office and snacks in both offices.

 

And we've recently moved into new offices in both Sydney and China – both of which we've spent a lot more money on than normal to ensure they're productive, fun and enjoyable work environments.

 

Our existing team have all been spending a lot more time on hiring recently. In the last month alone we've done 43 30-minute interviews between us, not to mention all the reviewing of CVs and co-ordinating interview times that goes along with this.

 

A thorough hiring process, while it can be difficult at the time, is critical given the people we hire will have such a large impact on our business from here on.

 

How have you seen businesses go about this transition? I'd love to hear examples of it happening both successfully and unsuccessfully.