LeadershipLeading TeamsProductivity

Making the Most of a Small Team

Recently, several of our BusinessAccelerator® clients have asked the same question: How can I grow my business without growing my team?

Their customer base is growing, but they feel hesitant to take on the expense of extra team members with the possibility of a recession. They want to manage risks while simultaneously leveraging opportunities. To achieve both, you’ll need focus and automation. I recommend leaders begin by implementing four tactics.

Tactic 1: Clarify Your Vision

Vision is most valuable during uncertainty. It’s a compass to keep you on track. And it’s something only leaders can provide. Start with the most basic questions. 

  • Who do you serve? 
  • How do you meet their needs? 
  • And what sets you apart from the rest?

Next, consider where you want to be three years from now. 

  • How will you have grown? 
  • What will your team look like? 
  • What products will you offer? 

Designing the future of your business will allow you to separate opportunities from distractions. You’ll be better equipped to respond instead of react.

Strategically planning your future is more important than ever. If you don’t know where to begin, this blog and this podcast episode will help you get started.

Once you have your vision, it’s time to bring your team on board. Communicating your vision to your team will calm their anxiety and direct their efforts. They’ll be reassured by knowing you have a plan and empowered to make better decisions to turn your vision into reality.

Tactic 2: Cut Unprofitable Products

The key to scaling isn’t addition but subtraction. Instead of expanding your offerings, begin by cutting the least profitable parts of your business. Sit down with your CFO or accountant to identify the segments of your business and how much each contributes to your bottom line. Once you identify the lowest-contributing products or services, cut them.

You’ll need to use good judgment. There are products that might be your future but take time to develop. But there are also products that have become pet projects we don’t want to give up even when they show no sign of making good on our investment. Be willing to be patient. And be willing to be ruthless.

Cutting unprofitable products doesn’t mean you must cut the members of your team focused on those products. You can, but you can also provide them an opportunity to contribute to another more profitable part of your business—or to invest in an emerging product built into your vision.

Tactic 3: Create Constraints

Constraints encourage productivity. Eliminating product lines is a kind of constraint, forcing focus on more profitable lines. Another kind of constraint involves constraining the workday.

During economic uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into the Hustle Fallacy. We believe we must work harder and longer than everyone else. But expecting any team, especially a small team, to work in overdrive for an unknown period of time is a recipe for burnout

Instead, get serious about minimizing overtime. Request your team to come to you if their workload is impossible. Treat these conversations as an opportunity to provide even further focus, cutting away everything that isn’t absolutely essential to your vision. Continue to prioritize unplugged vacations, and encourage your team to rest while not at the office. 

You can also rethink constraints around projects, altering timelines or rethinking the key features of your products. Earlier this year, our team reimagined our BusinessAccelerator coaching program. This process led to a program better suited to the needs and requests of our clients while simultaneously reducing its cost. Focusing on what’s most important always improves results.

Tactic 4: Leverage Processes

Automations and processes are absolutely essential for big teams. Since small teams can get by without them—at least for a little while—many fail to establish good processes early on. Processes will save your team time today and eliminate many of the growing pains of scaling down the road.

How can you leverage processes?

  • Build templates used across the company.
  • Document repeated processes, and standardize the procedures.
  • Rely on written communication more than conversation.
  • Implement a formal delegation strategy or form.
  • Explore options for project management.
  • Clarify criteria for evaluating new ideas.

Processes prevent needless double work. They consolidate necessary information into single locations. They clarify expectations and keep your team aligned.

Expanding your team isn’t the only option to scale your business. Vision, subtraction, constraints, and processes can provide the focus you need to improve productivity—and profits.

Last modified on October 3rd, 2022 at 1:33 pm

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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