How to Build and Scale a Lean & Mean Team

It’s quite a task for any leader of a team to stay on top of all of the activities that are in play and keep ahead of the curve. Sometimes we even have to try to see the future of what is next and make sure we are delivering value to the customers and prospects we serve at every step.

Hire Exceptional Humans

Hire amazing people and then get out of their way.

One of the things our CEO Paul Emond taught me is to hire amazing people and then get out of their way. Our hiring process includes a combination of old school and new approaches to attracting, hiring, and onboarding new team members. We don’t ask the typical interview questions and focus first on cultural fit before we even dig deep on the skill set. Culture fit is mandatory, and, for the right people, skills can be taught. We typically know if someone is a “keeper” within the first 5 minutes of their interview. Look for people who will complement your team, fill a gap, or help to scale the results.

The people you hire are an extension of the company’s brand, so ask yourself: does this person align with our cultural values as well as team objectives? Don’t forget to do your due diligence though. Check references, check in with mutual connections, and fact check every resume of people you are considering bringing on board.

 

Leverage Technology to Scale

Technology keeps us focused on metrics, tuning our smooth running business machine, and runs in the background to allow our humans to concentrate on the tasks that require a human touch.

There are activities that should be done by you or members of your team, and then there are things that should be done programmatically for activities that are not the best use of your team’s talent. Every modern organization invests in technology to help them scale their efforts from the front of the house with sales and marketing, to the back of the house with support and customer success, and even up to the c-suite. Technology keeps us focused on metrics, tuning a smooth running business machine, and runs in the background to allow our humans to concentrate on the tasks that require a human touch.

Even with things like automation, bots, and AI, there is still an element of humanity in business. Tech is simply a tool we need to use to take care of the “busy” work, while we work on tactical and strategic priorities for the business. Invest in tools like marketing automation, CRM, analytics, automated billing systems, a help desk system, and a customer success platform so you can track, analyze, and measure your performance and service levels.

 

Leave Room for Experimentation

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten”
-Jessie Potter

In our industry, we are up against some age old companies who are deeply entrenched in their way of doing things. It only makes sense that our company is open to doing something different and something new. It gives us space to create a breath of fresh air in what can sometimes feel like a stuffy old room.

When we look for inspiration, we look outside of the industry. We look to the Silicon Valley, to our peers in SaaS, and also outside of technology for ideas from the best brands in the world. Having the right creative people in the building certainly helps us with creating something different that attracts our perfect fit customer. Once inspiration hits, allow team members to have ownership over projects, tasks, subject matter expertise, and essentially be the guru of their domain. This includes giving them the room to move and experiment and also puts them on the hook for the results. You never know when someone may come up with “the next big thing” that will move the needle in the right direction for your business. PLUS having a vested interest in the success and outcome of something you have created is PRICELESS!

 

Every Mistake is a Coaching Opportunity

It’s important to know and be aware when your team members are treading water, swimming, or drowning.

We have to let our team members try. As leaders you think you can do it better, and that may also be true, but if your team members never have the opportunity to try, fail, and learn, they will never grow. Not to sound “airy fairy”, but creating a safe space for failure is pretty important. Making sure people are growing and learning from their mistakes is the responsibility of the leader. It’s easy to take over, it’s harder to lead so people learn. It’s also important to know when your team members are treading water, swimming, or drowning.

No one is perfect. It is easier (not to mention more cost effective) to invest in coaching over finding a brand new person to start new in a role. While not everyone will work out and there will be times where we have to make swift and tough decisions, it is our responsibility as leaders to give our best shot, providing the tools to turn things around where it makes sense.

 

Get the Hell Out of the Building

Getting out of your day-to-day routine is enough to open your mind up to new ways of doing things.

One of the things that the Lean Startup Machine teaches is that “Nothing important happens in the building.” While we aren’t a startup any longer, we still stand by many of the things that lean methodologies teach. Want to find out more? Read Eric Ries’ book, “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”. Sometimes getting out of your day-to-day is enough to open your mind up to new ways of doing things. Take a day to go to an event or attend a retreat. Go visit your top 5 customers just to talk to them, and find out what makes them tick so they become more real to you than just a Salesforce entry. Make sure any “excursions” result in action, whether it be knowledge sharing when your team member returns, a target number of leads, or great content to share far and wide. The idea here is to get a different point of view than the one you see to every day.

 

Invest in the Future, not just the “Right Now”

When you position your company for growth, having one foot in the now and another stepping towards the future means building the framework to support and accommodate your growth as a company.

It’s easy for companies to invest in processes, technology, and people who meet the requirements for the organizational operations right now. Sometimes we are pressured to fill a gap, meet an immediate need, and get caught up in the weeds of the day-to-day that the future seems very far away. When you position your company for growth, having one foot in the now and another stepping towards the future means building the framework to support and accommodate your growth as a company.

Look for solutions that scale, are flexible, and are even “future proof” so you aren’t dropping your profits into systems and activities that will be obsolete 1-5 years from now. It is a better approach than being stuck with something that isn’t working for you simply because you bought it when you needed it. Kind of like buying a bus pass when a new car will give you the freedom and flexibility to get you where you want to be… in style!

 

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About Anastasia Valentine

Anastasia Valentine is the Chief Marketing Officer at Versature leading the marketing and sales organizations. She is an award-winning product strategist and brings a wealth of experience to the Versature team. Anastasia has a solid track record of over 20 years of experience bringing products to market from idea through to commercialization globally. Anastasia has held leadership, technical and marketing roles organizations such as Sandbox, Cognos, IBM, Jetform/Adobe and with technology startup companies. She leads the multi-disciplined marketing and sales development teams at Versature using a customer-centric and data-driven approach to provide long-term strategic vision and day to day tactical direction. Anastasia is a strong advocate for women in STEM and regular keynote speaker at industry conferences.