Stop working in your business and start working on your business. These are words of advice I received when I became president of Park Bank. Key employees and a team of advisors are critical to positioning your business for growth and enabling you to focus on the end game rather than being drawn in to every business decision. Paul Stillmank, founder and CEO of 7Summits, learned this lesson early.
When Paul started his business six years ago, he was the sole employee. Presently, the Milwaukee-based online community solutions company has more than 80 employees operating in seven major metro areas in the United States. He successfully managed his high-growth company by building an internal and external team to help fulfill his vision that 7Summits will effect change in the world by improving how work gets done.
To help you maneuver your company to its next stage, consider these practices to help build your internal and external bench:
- Know your gaps and hire based on key competencies needed. You can’t be everywhere, so focus on your core strengths and hire or outsource for other critical functions. Paul was very deliberate with his first hires. He focused on key positions to deliver on the promise of his vision – looking for a smart creative/user-experience leader and operational genius who would over-deliver after the sale. The quality of your talent also increases the value of your company.
- Surround yourself with outsiders and ask lots of questions. I have found great value in organizations like TEC and the MMAC to expand my network. Paul used a variety of methods to grow his network, including a business coach, a board of directors and a group of advisors that included his banker, accountant, attorney and a business-coaching firm. It also gave him the discipline to hold himself accountable. As his business grows, he continues to identify other needed areas of expertise and advising. The learning and accountability never stops.
- Establish organizational capacity. Investing in a finance team, sales leader, recruiting director and board of directors are important considerations along the way to ensure you are building the organizational capacity and structure for growth. It’s common for the organizational structure to morph in a random, sometimes clumsy way. Take the time to reassess with your endgoals in mind and hire leaders who will shape the outcome, bringing in their own perspectives and talent.
- Continue cultivating the culture. Where your company stands today and your ability to retain a motivated workforce have a lot to do with the culture you created – and culture is as varied as the company. Park Bank’s 100-year culture emphasizes personal service, customer ease, straight answers and safety. We reinforce this internally with consistency of message and opportunities for employees to make an impact. One of the cornerstones of 7Summit’s culture is transparency, and Paul provides many opportunities to share company direction and celebrate milestones.
The decision to scale your business is a strategic one. How you define quality of life, passion, vision and priorities determine your direction. If your passion is to effect future change like Paul Stillmank, scalability is the only way to achieve your vision.
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