Starting a Business
Getting the teamwork rightStarting a business can be risky, stressful and difficult. There can be many problems, such as finding good sources of advice, or if you find plentiful advice, knowing what you should focus on in the limited time you have available. The experts you consult will tell you to focus on their area of interest, and there seems an overwhelming pressure to get everything right. So where does "teamwork" fit in to the priority list when you are starting a business?
Starting a business: the prioritiesAlthough team work is a principal interest of ours, in our view when you are starting a business it is something that you shouldn't worry about.
Most new businesses (in the UK, at least) are started by entrepreneurs and initially involve a small number of people. How they work together is important, yes, but the excitement of the new business, and the immediate goals, are sufficiently clear and motivating to create good working relationships between those involved. A new business is very fragile, and long-term success depends primarily on short-term survival - so the priorities should be things like business plans and cash flow.
Starting a business vs business growthNew businesses that remain small often find that working relationships are naturally good (though this isn't automatically the case). If problems arise, they tend to arise as the business grows.
There seems to be a water shed, that we have encountered on several occasions, at around a dozen employees. Below this number, the company can usually operate on an informal basis, with face-to-face communication and procedures that are based on personal experience rather than documentation.
Business growth is a different matter to start up. Once the company starts to grow beyond a dozen people, the size of the business begins to create new problems: of communication, consistency of approach, co-ordination and ownership. Small business owners can sometimes feel that something is going wrong, as new employees don't seem to have the same degree of commitment and the 'family feel' starts to slip away. The company starts to depart from the ethos they created, and new employees seem to place their own interests higher than the company's.
Growth is therefore a difficult period, and the nature of working relationships changes dramatically. In a new company, everything usually falls into place. But as the company grows, teamwork can become a problem issue - eg: distribution of shares, ownership and profits become points of contention, and it needs a significant investment of time and emotional effort to sort out.
Whereas starting a business brings everyone together, growing a business can start to pull it apart. In a start up situation the quality of working relationships is a very low priority, and our recommendation is to forget about it - concentrate on what really matters. But once the company has become established and starts to expand, that is when teamwork may need to be developed - and it may become a vital component to future business success.