Recently, I conducted an all-day seminar for one of my clients.
The company is a small kitchen and bath dealership with revenues of
$2 million in 2002; the firm has been in business 12 years and has
The owners said that they currently had the best group of
employees they’d ever had experienced, hard-working individuals.
However, there was a problem: The group was lacking a sense of
teamwork. Everyone, including the owners (a husband and wife), did
their own thing their own way.
Though this is a problem I’ve witnessed before, it’s one that
can be solved by employing a number of ideas to reinforce the
notion that, in a small business, if everyone works together as a
team, then each employee and the group (or team) will be better for
The need for a team
Teamwork can work wonders when it comes to pushing your company
forward. A well-functioning team will make all of your employees
feel more important and empowered. In addition, they’ll develop an
unusually strong and productive working relationship with their
Building a team is a simple concept once you recognize that
teams are made up of individuals with diverse skills and talents.
Each team member will have a clearly-defined set of skills that
needs to be identified and measured against the skills of other
team members. Once each team member recognizes what he or she can
best accomplish for the team, achieving the goal or objective
becomes not only attainable, but also eagerly anticipated.
Managers and supervisors who direct and influence teams are
encouraged to consider the diverse strengths of each participant.
The team leader (boss) is responsible for tapping into the
strengths and abilities of each team member and using those
strengths to achieve an overall objective.
Team goals and objectives should be set by the team not merely
dictated by the boss. This will generate more positive
participation, as well as a conscious effort to achieve the goals
that have been set.
Teams offer the company the opportunity to achieve results in a
more efficient manner. Because teams are more flexible, they’ll
leverage resources more effectively and can respond more rapidly to
constantly changing market conditions. Teams will also allow
individual employees to learn from each other, thus increasing
their competence and broadening their experience.
BUILDING A team
Let’s paint a portrait of today’s average kitchen and bath
dealership. The business is 10 years old, the owner is a CKD/CBD
and accounts for 60% of the company’s $1.5 million in annual
revenue. The owner/boss is very good at designing and selling, but
falls short in the important areas of financial and human resource
management due to time constraints.
The staff at this firm has grown to six employees. The main
training experience has been OJT (on-the-job training). Each
employee is pretty good in his or her own right, but there’s no
real teamwork. The “boss” either doesn’t know how to build a team,
or just has been too busy producing designs and sales.
But, now, the “boss” has decided that the firm needs to get more
organized, more professional, more productive and, yes, more
profitable. Building a team is how he or she wants to make this
What follows are some of the questions and answers the “boss”
1. Why should I develop a team?
Teams are a powerful management tool that you can use to
strengthen your company. Teams have the potential to improve the
speed and accuracy of setting goals and resolving problems. You can
create an atmosphere that generates fewer mistakes and better
customer service which, in turn, creates happier clients and
2. What will be the greatest challenge I’ll face in developing a
The greatest challenge will be the temptation to change the rules
and expectations for performance once the team starts working. You
cannot change the rules and still have a productive, efficient
team. Only the team can change the rules.
3. What is the role of the company leader?
The “boss” must be able to identify and articulate the team
objectives in a manner that will generate passion and commitment by
the team members. The team leader should serve as the mentor and
facilitator and will have to furnish the resources to allow the
team to be successful.
4. Why is it important for the team to have guidelines for a
To insure optimum input and performance, each team member must
feel comfortable working with other team members. Everyone must
have a clear sense that ideas and comments will be received and
heard in an open, responsive and respectful manner at all times.
Doing weekly staff meetings at the same hour and same day each
week, with an agenda that everyone contributes to, is a great
format to get started.
5. What if there is conflict within the team?
If the conflict is personality-driven or because of petty
jealousies, the boss will have to address these. If it’s in some
other area, then a difference of opinion or ideas demonstrates that
the creative process of problem-solving is working. Team members
should be comfortable challenging each other. The manager’s job as
facilitator is to maintain and encourage positive and respectful
6. How do you assess the strengths and weaknesses of team
This is where clearly written and defined job descriptions for
each team member are important. Couple this with twice-a-year
formal job performance evaluations.
7. How do you establish team objectives?
Having clear, concise, measurable objectives is a key to team
success. You should establish: (a) team, and individual, sales and
profit goals; (b) customer service satisfaction goals; (c) training
goals; (d) showroom presentation goals; (e) close ratio goals, and
(f) any other goals that will be important to team and company
success. All goals should be well defined, fair, achievable,
consistent and rewardable (see example on Page 28).
Company employees who make up a team can be likened to a chain:
the team, or chain, will only be as strong as its weakest link.
And, a good “boss” will continually be striving to develop the
strongest chain of employees possible.
Teamwork is fun and it’s rewarding. Start putting it to work for