- Empowering your teams and investing in the number one asset of your business (3: 57)
- Don't stop at knowing your customer, put them at the center of your company ( 7:24)
- Why mentors can help founders add a valuable perspective to their work and help them continue to develop their strategy and grow their business (13:35)
Listen to Episode 5
Luis: Welcome to Building Teams, with TEAMES & CO. I'm Luis Wilson, and for today's episode, I'm sitting down with Tracey Eames to discuss seven ways to learn from our first year. This is a podcast that is especially relevant for founders, and I believe really can be useful for any leader in an organization. Thank you for sharing your story, Tracy.
Tracy: Morning, Luis. I'm really excited to share the story. I think it'll be a great discussion around not only what we've learned in our first year, and obviously it's been a little bit longer than that now. Also what we've learned from folks along the way as we've been having conversations with various types of businesses.
Luis: Great. I know that there are numerable things that founders wish they knew before they jumped in. For today's episode, we've distilled it down to seven key lessons that you've learned. Let's jump right in and start out with the first lesson. Here that is, time is your most important resource. Can you tell us more about that?
Tracy: It really is your most important resource. I think when you start a business, you wish you knew everything. Right? It's a natural inclination. You're thinking, okay, I'm going to do this really big thing. I'm really ready. Or maybe I'm not so ready, but I wish I had all these new learnings. But time really becomes the most critical piece of your success. You're obviously having to do a lot of things. One of the biggest things when you start your own business versus working within another organization is you're responsible for everything all of a sudden. While your functional expertise might be sales or marketing or finance, you're now responsible for the entire business.
You're finding yourself spending time on customer acquisition and marketing and sales, but also on building the business and building out operational processes, HR and hiring and very quickly you're networking and you're going to coffees and you're trying to go to the latest industry meetings and conferences. What you really need to be prepared for and kind of take stock of are, are the things that I'm doing actually providing a return on the investment in my time? ROI is not just about money all of the time. Time is an inflexible resource, right? We only have so many hours in the day.
We want to make sure that as we're using our time, especially as a founder or a president, leader of an organization, that we're investing our time in all the right ways. So that way, we can make sure that our day is spent making sure that our customers are front and center, that our team has what they need to be prepared and empowered. And then ultimately, that we're tracking metrics and we're making sure our team is able to stay on track.
Luis: I see. We need to make sure that our focus during our days and our activities, really are driving results for the clients in our organizations ultimately. Looking at what your agenda is for the day, all of the activities, and making sure they align with the goals of the organization.
Tracy: Exactly. One of the things that sometimes we forget as leaders is, we're ultimately responsible for mapping out that vision and that strategy. If we're packing our days so tightly, we don't have a lot of that time to think through that vision and think through that strategy. You do want to make sure that you're making time and space for that downtime that really allows you to not only deliver on what you need to deliver on for today's results, but you're also preparing your organization for the future. We can't lose sight of that. We have to dedicate time to that.
Luis: I see. Lesson number two, I see that we have empower your teams. Can you talk about that?
Tracy: Well obviously, this one's our favorite. Time is important, because it is so limited. But time is our most important resource. The team that you build will be your company's most important investment. This is really critical to think about, because organizations are built on people. They're built around people. They're built around serving our customers. They're built around our teams and the efforts our teams put in. Obviously here at TEAMES & CO, team is front and center. It always is for us. But for all organizations, we want to make sure that our teams have that shared purpose. We want to make sure they're empowered to be able to achieve their goals. And they're enabled, right?
We want to make sure they're enabled. We need to make sure that those go hand in hand. I could be really excited about the purpose of my company. I could feel really empowered in terms of I know which decisions to make. But I'm also not enabled with the right tools and the right resources to be successful. I'm going to fall short of my goals. As leaders, we need to be constantly making sure that our team members have what they need to be successful. They know what success looks like, so they have clear goals that they can align behind. That they have ultimately our support and our feedback to help them continuously improve.
Luis: I see. Then our third lesson plans right into that, right? As far as the empowered team having that shared purpose, or lesson number three is setting, reviewing, revising our goals and success metrics. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Tracy: Exactly. We, as I just mentioned, if you don't know what success looks like, it's hard to achieve success, right? We talk about this often here at TEAMES & CO. You've heard this a few times. But we really want to make sure that we all know what the goal is, and we all want to know how we're getting there. As a part of a team, if we want to deliver success, we have to know what that destination is, and we have to know what our roadmap is to get there. Goals aren't simply a way to see what am I responsible for? They're a way to understand how are we going to achieve this thing that we're trying to achieve together?
It's not a question of, am I only achieving my goals? But my goals should hopefully ladder into the team goals, which ladder into the company goals, which all should be aligned around creating that exceptional customer experience. If I'm able to achieve my goals, I also am hopefully helping my team achieve our shared goals and it's a cascading effect up the organization. Our customers will really feel that. They'll feel that they're a part of their success, and that's a reinforcing proposition. We all want to be part of a successful team. The way that we know we're part of a successful team is that we have goals and we have metrics that we're reviewing.
If we do fall short, because we're all human, right? We're not going to meet every single goal we set for ourselves, at least we know how to adjust. We have a shared concept that we want to go to this place together. If we fall short every once in a while, we say, okay. We were going for A, but how do we get to B? That's great. That's a good way for all of us to stay aligned and keep moving forward together. Even as the landscape changes, as new things come our way, we're able to take that feedback, adjust our metrics, and really define that new destination or that new vision of success.
Luis: I know that building that shared purpose is key to everything that we do here. And it also starts to lead us into lesson number four, which is don't stop at knowing your customer, put them at the center of your company. That's something that's critical to us, here at TEAMES & CO, at the center of everything that we do. Could you tell us more about that?
Tracy: Yeah. I think you did a really good job on our previous podcast outlining, how do you get to know your customers? We talked about the interview process that you went through, and how do you really gain some of those customer insights, and outline a roadmap of what your core customers look like and how we can deliver value to them. A lot of companies, unfortunately, stop there. They say, "Okay, I know my customer's generally X or Y. I know that they're looking for these types of products and these types of values." But they don't take those extra steps to really make that customer feel like not only am I your customer, but I'm your focal point and I'm at the center of your company.
The example I used in the article was really around how do you go that extra mile? I believe I've mentioned this in a previous podcast. If it's a bit receptive for some of our weekly listeners, I apologize. But I think it kind of goes to that notion of taking that extra step for our customers, and truly making them feel and believe that they're at the center of what we do, right? We've all had the experience where we're ordering a gift for somebody, right? We go online or we call a shop and we say, "Hey, I need a gift for my friend. To be honest, I'm kind of late and I need it rushed there because I want to still meet the time."
At least I know, I'm always a little bit late on these things. I'm often the person calling and saying, "Hey, what does same day or next day delivery look like?" But you know, as an organization, I could rush that delivery. I could get it there on time for your friend, and everybody's really happy and satisfied with the experience. Or I could rush that delivery to you, I could also include gift wrapping and a blank note that you could fill out for your friend, and I can add a handwritten note myself saying, "Yeah, I know you're crunched for time, I wanted to make this a little bit easier. We wrapped your gift and we included a complimentary gift card so you could write that."
Now, I'm like, wow. I am blown away by the customer experience here. I'm going to tell all of my friends about it. I'm going to recommend it. And I'm also probably going to come back to that organization every single time I'm running a little bit late and I need a last minute gift, right? Because I know not only are they going to get it to me on time, they're going to take that extra step to put me front and center. I think as an organization, obviously that example doesn't fit all of our organizations. But we want to constantly be thinking about what can we be doing better to wow our customers and really brighten their day in unexpected ways, right?
It doesn't have to be big. I just ordered some stuff online for my dog and I got a handwritten note in the package. It was just a very unexpected, nice touch. It doesn't have to be a huge time or cost investment. But just something small to show your customers that you are taking that extra step is really important as you build an organization and build loyalty and relationships with your customers.
Luis: Thank you. I know that's a big focus for us, ensuring that our clients are always focused on delivering an exceptional experience to their customers. Lesson number five, we have co-founders can provide ... Tracy?
Tracy: I will start this one by saying co-founders are not necessary, but they are vital. TEAMES & CO, and full disclosure, I founded as a solo entrepreneur. As I speak to a lot of startups, a co-founder's really important and it goes back to our love of teams. I will also fully admit that in the beginning when it was only me, it's hard to get a little bit of an outside perspective. Being a part of a team, for me, is incredibly important. I hear that from a lot of startups and a lot of small businesses is, as a founder, you're going to have long days, you're going to have lots of decisions to be making. You're going to also have a core skillset and a functional area expertise.
Having a co-founder who has a different expertise or a different perspective can be really helpful, right? Not only are you sharing the workload of starting the company, but you're able to get that real and honest feedback by bouncing ideas off of each other continually. You're leveraging a different set of expertise from somebody else who has a different perspective. That can be incredibly valuable. You have two networks of people that you can draw from on mentors, which is our next point, which we'll get to. You have doubled, basically, your capacity with a co-founder.
Again, it's not necessary. There's a lot of organizations like TEAMES & CO that start with solo founders. But it really is one of those things, if you're not going to have a co-founder, you really want to cultivate a group of friends or family or people you trust that you can kind of bounce ideas off of. Because it's always good to pressure test your ideas as a leader, and make sure you're not getting tunnel vision, but you're really taking that step back and broadening your viewpoint. Also, you'll want to identify some folks in your network that have different expertises than you have. That way if you do have a question that comes up, if you're a marketing leader and you have a question around sales or IT, you have people to go to.
Then obviously, you'll build out your team with different expertise. But it's just helpful. It's one of those things I've heard along the way from a lot of small businesses, it's a big, important question to address early on is do I want to do this on my own? Or do I want to do this with a co-founder. There's no right or wrong answer. But we just try to give people the other side of the coin so they can think through that decision and understand what might be best for them and their organization.
Luis: Thank you. Beyond leveraging a separate skillset, you also talked a lot about getting a different perspective. Started to lead us into our next point, or lesson, which is lesson number six, mentors are invaluable.
Tracy: Mentors are incredibly, incredibly important. I have been incredibly lucky to have great mentors throughout my career. But also during this journey, it's been almost two years now. It's gone quickly. We were founded in February of 2019 and I can safely say that the mentors in my network, and in my life, are people who I really trust, and have been just incredibly, incredibly generous with their time and their advice to me. I think it's really important for startups to have this. Some small companies might say, I want to have even a mini board of directors, where they have three or four people that all have a different expertise or a different viewpoint, a different perspective that they kind of gather together for a monthly meeting or a quarterly meeting.
Others like to do it a little bit more informally. What I would suggest is identifying those people upfront, having a really open, honest conversation with them saying, here's my business, here's my customers I'm trying to serve. You want to give them enough background information that they can support you and help you. You also want to be very clear with your ask. It's hard sometimes to agree to something if you don't know what the ask is. You just want to set that expectation with them, so that way they know how they can best help you.
The one thing I will say is you really want to feel comfortable with your mentors. Because you want to make sure that these are people who hopefully are going to push you a little bit, and they're going to give you some constructive feedback. You want to make sure that you're going to be open to that feedback, and you want to make sure you have that relationship with them. I think the most important thing to remember also in this mentor relationship is, your mentors are going to definitely try to help you. Obviously, you're going to be picking mentors who you know and you trust. This is very generous of them. It's very generous for them to volunteer their time to lend you advice.
But you also want to make sure that you're very clear on the fact that you ultimately own the responsibility and the decisions for the company. You're going to get a lot of great advice. You're going to read lots of articles like this one that give you tips and tricks and ideas to think about. But ultimately at the end of the day, as the business owner and the business leader, you're going to be responsible for those decisions. But not having a mentor is a great way to, again just widen your aperture a little bit and get the insights and advice from a different perspective.
Luis: Thank you. We've talked about lesson number one, time is your most important resource. Two, empower your teams. Three, don't skip setting, reviewing, revision your goals and success metrics. Four, don't stop at knowing your customers, put them at the center of your company. Five, co-founders can be vital. Six, mentors are invaluable. We've talked a lot about what key things to keep your eye on and to avoid some pitfalls. But really the last lesson here is talking about the joy in the whole process. Lesson number seven is taking the leap is irreplaceable. Can you tell us about your experience?
Tracy: It really is. Oftentimes, friends and family will ask me, how's it going? How's business? I can safely say that it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. But also one of the greatest joys. It's really a fun feeling to be building a team, to be building an organization that helps other people build teams. And to spend your days doing the things that you really enjoy, and the things that are a passion for me in terms of helping organizations grow, and helping teams work well together. It's just such a joy. I know that sounds a little bit cliché. And every time I used to talk to founders and they would say it's the hardest thing but the best thing, I'd be like, yeah. I mean, I'm sure it's good.
It's a little bit hard to believe. But there are so many unexpected things about it. I think one of the things that I've truly enjoyed is it's a nonstop opportunity for learning. I was in the business world for a while before this, lots of different roles at lots of different companies. Public, private, family-owned. I've worked across different functional areas, marketing, sales operations. But one of the great things is you're constantly learning, as a business founder, right? There's always something new to learn about, there's always different people to talk to. You're engaging at a level that you previously haven't engaged at.
Unless you've been a CEO of a company, it's hard to imagine the breadth and depth of a lot of the decisions you're making. Especially when you're starting, you're building everything from scratch. You're building all the processes. There's a lot of different pieces to the puzzle. I would say that can feel really daunting, especially at the beginning. It can still feel daunting on certain days, depending on what you're trying to learn about. But it also is really exciting, and it's really fun to get to work with lots of other people to bring that vision to life.
At TEAMES & CO, we just really enjoy working with our clients, and we really enjoy seeing other organizations succeed. At the end of a hard day, you know it's been a long day. But to get a note from somebody saying, "Hey, that meeting or that workshop that we did really helped our team come together. Our communication has been better." Or, by taking another look at our customers, we were able to go back and figure out how we can make that experience even better, and we've gotten all this great customer feedback about our new process. Those moments are really exciting, and I think they're what drive us all. Yeah. I would say the leap is irreplaceable.
Luis: That's awesome, thank you. For our listeners, if you'd like to dive a little bit deeper into any of these topics, we have a blog post here on Medium, and we'll be sure to put the link in the description of this podcast. Thank you for your time this week, Tracy. Really appreciate it.
Tracy: Thank you, Luis. As always, it's been a pleasure and I look forward to next week.
Luis: See you next week. Take care.