The seven steps to building a highly effective leadership team

business exit planning leadership value building
7 steps to building a highly effective leadership team

Build a strong leadership team and your business will be able to thrive without you. 

Once you’ve got the right people in place, you can remove yourself from the day-to-day running of your business instead of working around the clock. 

And when you’re no longer the bottleneck to getting anything done, you’ve got a scalable business that can grow when you’re not even around.  

What’s more, you’ll prove to potential buyers your business can run without you – which will dramatically increase its price should you choose to sell.

In this article, I’ll run through the seven steps to building a highly effective leadership team so you can start reaping the rewards that a talented team of leaders will bring to your business.  

1. Start with yourself

If you want to build a formidable leadership team around you then you need to start with yourself. 

Here’s the thing us entrepreneurs often forget:

You don't have every skill it takes to run a business.

And you definitely don't have every skill it takes to run a thriving business you could sell at a premium.

In fact, until you have a strong leadership team in place you’ll be stuck banging your head against your growth ceiling. 

You'll find yourself stretched a mile wide and an inch deep, just not finding the traction you need to get results. 

Oh, and you’ll be stressed as hell the whole time as well.

To escape this trap and increase your business’s value, you need to figure out what you are great at – as well as what you're not so great at.

You might excel at selling things, negotiating deals, and envisaging a product. This is your zone of competence – stay in it and you’ll get great results. 

Don’t hire somebody else to do this work. Keep that for yourself. 

Instead, hire people to do the rest – the things you're middling or plain bad at. 

Keep in mind that a recent AAA survey revealed that 73% of US drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers.

I wonder how many entrepreneurs would say that they’re better-than-average managers, salespeople, and public speakers?

Make sure you don’t fall into the overconfidence trap by taking the time to honestly assess what you aren’t great at. 

And I'm not just talking about the hard skills, but also the soft skills. If you're not good at creating a vision or working on values or dealing with HR, you need to take all of that into consideration. 

Once you have a solid grasp of what you bring to the table, you’ve got a roadmap for assembling your leadership team. 

And if you can spend all your time on your strengths and find competent people to handle the rest you’ll have the foundations in place to build a valuable business.

2.  Sell your leadership team on your vision

If you want to pull together an all-star team that’s capable of overdelivering on what needs to be done, you need to sell them on your vision. 

And most entrepreneurs aren’t good at this. 

The biggest stumbling block they hit is the fact they don’t have a vision to sell anyone on.

You’re not going to attract top talent to come and join your cause unless you can point towards where you want to be a year, three years, and even a decade from now. 

If you don’t have a vision in place, don’t worry. That might be a blessing in disguise. 

Here’s why:

The best way to get your team excited to execute your vision is to involve them in creating it. Then it’s their vision as well. 

I promise you: this will transform their performance and your company culture

So, make it a priority to gather your team and build the vision of what you want to stand for and where you want to go. 

It's going to be one of the greatest assets that you have going into the future.

3.  Build your leadership team for the future  

One thing I wish I learned a lot earlier in my entrepreneurial journey is that the people who got you here might not get you where you need to go

Once you’ve got your vision in place, you’ve got a North Star to aim for. 

And as you move closer to your goals, your business is going to evolve and what’s required of you and your team is going to change. 

For the best results, you need to build a team that’s going to be able to thrive in the years to come – not just meet your business’s needs today. 

So as you sit down and plan out what you want to achieve over the coming years, you need to take a long, hard look at your existing leadership team and the managers you have. 

You've got to be brutally honest with yourself and ask: “Are these the people who are going to be able to get me to where I need to be in three years’ time?”

If they are then great. Your job is to coach and invest in them. 

If not, you need to start building a team that will be able to navigate the challenges that lie ahead. Think about what hurdles your team is going to need to overcome to get to where you’re going and bring in people with a track record of similar results.   

It’s also important to map out exactly what your leadership team is going to look like. What departments need a seat at the table?  

You might not need to fill these roles now, but once you’re clear on what it’s going to need to look like you can start laying the foundations of that corporate structure today. 

And when that’s all mapped out, you’ll have a much easier job spotting and developing the leaders you’ll need for each of these functions. 

4.  Hire leaders who take action

You don’t increase the value of your business through ideas alone. It's the execution of your ideas that drives value.

The more effectively your leadership team turns ideas into reality, the more valuable your business will be. 

Again, take a look at your existing team. Are they the kind of people who are really good at executing? 

If not, you’ll be well advised to look for people who possess the skills to execute on your vision. 

That means people with a track record of generating the kind of results you need to take your business to the next level.   

It also means people with the agility and resourcefulness to deal with the challenges that are going to pop up at every turn as your business grows. 

And you want people who’ve been around the block enough times to be able to see around the corners and nip problems in the bud before they become disasters. 

After you’ve assembled a team of people like this comes the hard part: actually listening to them.

Put your ego aside a little bit once you've hired these good folks, listen to the experience that they have, and step out of the way so they can do their jobs.

That’s what you’re paying them for, after all – although us entrepreneurs often forget that and fall back into the bad habit of trying to do everything ourselves.

But, remember – you’re not going to increase what your business is worth and avoid an earn out unless you build a talented team to increase its value for you. 

5.  Hire leaders who put the customer first  

Want to know what all thriving companies have in common? 

Exceptional customer service.

If you want to succeed in the long-run, you need to build a leadership team that understands the importance of creating a first-class customer experience. 

It's easy to get caught up in the bottom line. But building a leadership team that places your customers front and center is going to give you the best possible chances of building a business you can sell at a premium

Want to know whether your customer service is up to scratch at the moment? Ask yourself: How easy is it to get a testimonial out of your customers? If it’s like pulling teeth then I’m afraid you have a customer experience problem.

If that’s the case then it’s a clear sign you need to build a leadership team that puts your customers first. 

6.  Be the CEO, not the owner-operator

If you want your business to be as valuable as possible you need to remove yourself from its daily operations.

Which means you need to have a plan in place to hand over control to your leadership team. 

The best approach is to ease into your new role as CEO rather than continue on as the owner-operator.

Start with not checking your emails after 5 pm. Then stepping away for a long weekend. Then a week. 

Ultimately, your end goal here is to get your leadership team used to the fact you’re no longer running the show on a daily basis. 

So, be sure to empower them to make decisions in your absence at the same time. 

Follow this up by being far less present in the office. 

This will hammer the point home to your team that you want them to take the wheel.  

And it will also make it clear to investors that your business isn’t owner-dependant. 

7.  Conduct the orchestra

Think of your leadership team as being like The Avengers – completely different characters with their own unique sets of strengths and weaknesses.

And that’s a great thing. You need a leadership team that brings a diversity of opinions and temperaments to the table rather than a handful of yes men and women. 

But arguments and personality clashes are going to come with the territory. 

It’s your job to bring those people together to deliver magic. 

The same way Phil Jackson had personalities as big as Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Scottie Pippin singing from the same hymn sheet for the all-conquering Chicago Bulls. 

And to achieve this, you need each of your department leaders to not only take ownership of their own division’s success – but also play their part in making sure the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Get this right and you’re practically guaranteed success.

So, as you step away from the daily operations, make maintaining your team’s rapport your priority. 

And whatever you do, don’t bring abrasive personalities into the team. No matter how good they are at what they do, if they’re unpleasant to work with they could drive your top talent out the door.  

Final thoughts

Follow these seven steps to build a talented team of leaders equipped to grow your business when you’re not even around. 

Once you’ve got this team in place, you’re in a perfect position to execute the rest of the Core Four start thinking about an exit strategy or reap the rewards of running your business like you plan to sell it

No matter what route you take, you’ll be able to say goodbye to spending your days putting out fires and instead step away from your business whenever you want. 

Subscribe to The Freedom Experience podcast for more advice on how to build a valuable business that runs without you. 

And if you’d like help making the transition from workaholic zombie to the owner of a profitable business that thrives without you, find out how you can work with me.

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