Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a brand new ‘ask an expert’ style event with a fabulous group that I am a long time member of. As I jumped into different virtual rooms I was prepared to answer any question about teams, staff, hiring, firing and everything in between. The rooms were full of businesswomen who all are running successful businesses that they are looking to scale, so all at different stages on the process.
Here’s what was interesting, in almost every room, one of the questions had me recommending an exercise that I call the ‘Clean Slate Exercise’ – I recommended it to someone who was just starting out with building her team, to someone else who has a team but was finding things weren’t flowing as they should, and to someone else who was preparing for the next phase of growth and wanted to narrow down which role next. For all of these women, who were all in very different stages of growing their team, the lightbulb moment that came when I explained to them how to do this exercise, was super exciting to see.
So, how and why does this work?
I really believe in the value of a clean slate, and the clarity this can bring to understanding what you need in your team and how you can go about creating this mix, and potentially making positive change in your business.
Having a solid organisational structure is critical to being able to grow your business and in my opinion being able to create a clean slate from which to build is so important, and yet so many business owners struggle with this, I created a super simple 8 step framework which I call my ‘clean slate exercise’.
Step 1: - Forget the Now
I’ll be honest, this is the hardest step and is the part most businesses owners, leaders and managers struggle with, and it’s why they never get started with this. The ability to really create a clean slate requires you to completely put out of your mind the team members you have now, the roles they do, the skills they have, the energy they bring to the team, all of it. Until you can put this out of your mind, temporarily, you will not be able to really create the future vision with the right clarity.
I am not for a second suggesting that we are going to remove these people from the organisaiton, not at all, but in order to see where your best team members fit and can contribute to your future vision you must be able to temporarily forget about them.
Step 2: The Blank Page
This is where you create a space to really explore the current and ideal structure. Whether it’s a computer screen, Word or Google doc, white board or literally a piece of paper, this is one of those processes that requires you to create the space to create the vision.
Step 3: Your Future Vision
At this stage you want to start considering what it is you want your business structure to look like. Do not think too far ahead hear, or it will be too hard to pull it back to the now, but think about 12 months out, and what it is that you want your structure to look like. Do you want to be leading? What products, services and deliverables do you want to be providing to your customers, what do you want your business to be ‘doing’?
Step 4: Your Role
Before anything else it’s imperative to consider what role you want to play here, and there is no right or wrong answer! I know business owners who love working with customers, and didn’t want to give this up to run the operations, so hire someone else to do this. Others want to be the leader of all things, and others want to be the visionary coming up with the ideas but not responsible for the delivery of these concepts. Whatever you want, now is the time to decide and map this out. This can absolutely change over time, but for the next 12 months what is it that you’ll be doing in the business. Critically here you also need to consider the things that you absolutely do not want to be doing – we know as the leader we are often doing more than the ideal, but the things that we absolutely don’t want to do, or don’t have the skills to do, should be clearly noted now.
Step 5: Resourcing Needs
Now that you are super clear on what services, products and offerings your business will be delivering, and what your role will be, we get into the nitty gritty of what other resources you need to make this happen. This is about tasks and skills at this stage, not people. For example, if you know you will have customer orders coming in, what will you need resourcing wise to handle this? Will it be a customer service person to liaise with the customers on order details, will one full time person be enough, too much or too little? In this step you really spend some time on the detail of the resourcing and map this out on your screen, paper or wherever you are recording this.
Step 6: Bring Back Your Team:
This is where you get to consider who you have already in your business and whether they in fact fit into the resourcing needs you have just identified. The warning here is to be very very careful not to put square pegs in round holes. No matter how much you love one of your team, think about skills only here – and see who fits where, but don’t feel like you have to find a ‘home’ for everyone right now. At this stage you may find some ‘perfect fits’ and that’s great, but you may also identify that you are over and under resourced in various places, and that is perfectly ok!
Step 7: The Leftovers
After completing Step 6 you may quite likely have some existing team members who are ‘leftover’ who don’t quite fit into the resourcing needs you have, or their hours aren’t maximised or they don’t have the skills you need to fulfill the resourcing needs. When considering these people I want you to focus on one thing, and that is the values match. Do their values match the values of the business, and are they are a strong cultural fit. If the answer is no then you should absolutely be looking at an appropriate exit strategy for these people, they are no longer right for your business and will not be a good fit moving forward.
Step 8: Identify the Gaps
After you have brought back your team and layered their skills over the newly created resourcing structure, you will most likely have some gaps. You might be 10 hours per week short of the resourcing needs you require to deliver your customer service, you may be missing graphic design skills all together, you may have no one with the bookkeeping experience you need. Identifying the gaps is super important as it helps you get really clear on what you need.
Once you’ve identified the gaps you will be able to work towards filling them. This may mean cross training or up skilling some of your existing team. The team members who may be have been ‘leftover’ but who are a great values and cultural match for your business, these are the team members who I would suggest you look at retraining, developing or cross training. If the fit is right, the skills can be acquired, and this is where I would start. If not you may be looking an external recruitment, which is totally fine, but look at who you have first and then look externally as the next option.
This is of course simplifying what is naturally a more complex process, and this may take time to work through and create, but creating a clean slate provides you, the business owner, leader or manager with a great opportunity to really consider what structure and resources you need to create a successful business into the future.