In this blog post, I’m going to be talking about team formation and my football team analogy (bear with me, okay?). It’s not a top-down org chart here at Stada Media – we’re all on the same playing field, it’s a team effort all round and it’s how I grow the team and business. I’ll be delving deeper into that shortly.
Plus, collaboration is key to any business. I’ll be talking about how our team collaborates right now, the effect it has on our business and my vision for the future – where my team owns a little more of the running of the business.
So, let’s get started with the Diary of an Entrepreneur!
Part 1: Team Formation
I’m not a fan of the traditional org chart. This is where you have the big wig at the top and all their minions dangling underneath them in rows of line, authority and protocol. Subsequently, there are lots of red tape disasters that happen in org charts.
So, I decided a long time ago to squash the traditional org chart and replace it with a more collaborative system – based on football, for my own internal purposes!
The football team analogy
Now, I’ve been a lover of football all my life. I played it at a young age, supported it for most of my life and one of my career ambitions is to eventually own a football team. That seems a long way off at the moment – I’d struggle to buy a Sunday League team right now! – but that’s the big goal. I’m a big fan of football manager games and I used to play those a lot, becoming obsessed with all the data involved. Anyway, I digress!
So, my team is structured just like a football team. The entire team is playing the same game, we’re all on the same football pitch and we wear the same team colours. Most importantly, we all have the same goal: to take the business to the next level.
Who’s on my football team?
First, we have a goalkeeper. This is me, by the way, as I’m a player-manager right now. So, I’m the last line of defence in the business – the buck stops with me. In front of me, the team’s role is to stop that ball getting anywhere near me. My role is to find the right kind of talent that can do that effectively to help us grow. Are you following so far?
Then we have the defensive line, which is account and project managers, sales, business development, etc.
The midfield is made up of marketing, the head of production and similar roles – there’s more of a creative slant in this area.
Then there’s the attackers, responsible for creating content that will score many goals for the business. They direct eyeballs to what our business is producing. More importantly, the attackers keep the ‘fans’ (clients) happy and keep them cheering our name out loud, being an advocate for our business and supporting us along the way.
Finally, the substitutes’ bench is made up of our extended family of freelancers who help us out with various specialist skills.
Everyone has a role to play
Basically, no matter who you are or what role you play in the business, we are a team. It’s not at an angle and it’s not top-down – it’s a flat playing pitch and we’re all playing the same game.
What’s more, that team all know their roles within this game of football – the things they need to do to enable us to win and keep the crowds happy. Is it all making sense? Hopefully it is!
So, my job is to work with each individual, remind them of just how important their part in the team is and develop and nurture their skills to get the best out of them.
Teamwork on the pitch
Then, I need to make sure the individuals can all work together as a team. It’s alright finding the right talent, but if their personality clashes with the rest of the team, it will cause friction and office politics – which could be disastrous and rot for the business. I talk more about good hires vs bad hires here.
My role as the business owner is to see that, and sometimes you have to compromise on certain things to get the right fit for the team. That way, the whole team works better as a unit. Therefore, having that football or ‘team’ mindset while you’re growing and developing the business definitely helps – it certainly does for me and the way my brain operates.
This metaphor works a treat – and it’s so true! There will be many more metaphors out there, but this one really does help me develop the individuals and, indeed, the team.
I’ve also found it useful for explaining my vision, my goals and the impact every single member of the team can have on our results. The team probably think it’s crazy and are probably sick of hearing me talk about football analogies and team formations, but at least they understand the principles. Plus, it’s clearer – I’m painting a picture and telling a story instead of drowning them in corporate speak.
Business is a team sport
Of course it is – and we all have a very important role to play. There are similar personalities in business to football. Every business has a David Beckham, a Lionel Messi, a Gary Lineker, a Paul Gascoigne – those big personalities that could potentially disrupt a team, but their talent is moving the needle for the business. You just need to know how to get them to work within the team.
Football team management
Furthermore, modern day football managers, more now than ever before, have data on their players and team performance. I have something very similar for my team formation – scores and measurables for each team member and measurables for the team as a whole. This might be performance-related metrics during appraisals, it might be revenue, it might be customer feedback… and so on and so forth. All of those need to be relevant to the particular person, and then at a glance, I can see what and who is working in the team and what isn’t.
Now, there are times where we have to move people to different positions on the pitch, even just temporarily because of an increase in workload, sickness or someone leaving the business. There are going to be times where people have to play slightly out of position to enable us to stay together as a single unit.
Now, I’m also football manager-minded when it comes to recruitment. I’m always keeping an eye out for potential talent that would fit in well with our team formation. The ‘transfer market’, you might say, plays a part in how I recruit.
Healthy body, healthy mind
In addition, just like football, it’s important that each member of the team looks after their body and mind. It astounds me that sport seems to be the only place where your physical health is deemed really important. I think it’s just as important in business, but is often overlooked.
You need to be fit and healthy to be able to perform at your best, both physically and mentally. So, I’m doing as much as I can in the coming months and years to encourage and help with this in the business. Healthy body, healthy mind, as they say.
I don’t know what that’s going to look like – we can’t force people to eat certain things or exercise X amount of days a week (like you can in sport, because it’s in the contract). However, we can encourage and help people to do things that make them feel healthier, physically and mentally.
Part 2: Celebrate collaboration and let ideas in
One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur is to let go and allow people in. I’ve been here in the early days, and it was really difficult. You can read about my experience hiring my very first employee here, and the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from recruitment here.
When it’s just you in the early stages, doing it all on your own, coming up with all the ideas, taking all the risk – the business becomes your baby. It’s your possession.
As a result, business owners can become very single-minded and possessive over their baby. Letting go and allowing other people into your world is one of the toughest things to do – especially when they are going to influence or change certain things, and all you want is for it to run how you want it to run.
However, the moment I really started to see my business take off and grow was when I did exactly that: I let people in. I gave people an opportunity and I trusted others with what was a massive part of my world – and that isn’t an easy task to undertake. However, it’s something that you have to do. If you’re going to grow a business, you need people.
Manage your expectations and embrace collaboration
You also need to understand that no one will ever be as dedicated and enthusiastic towards the business as you are – ever. The minute you can come to terms with this and manage your own expectations, you can start the next phase of growth and truly take your business to the next level: collaboration.
Surround yourself with people more talented than you are, remove pride and ego and you’ll catapult the business forward. I’ve seen this firsthand many times throughout my professional life.
One shared goal
Going back to my football analogy, business is a team sport. Your job is to find the best talent and to get the whole team working together towards one big picture goal.
Choosing another analogy, it’s like being the director of a movie. This is a great example of the power of collaboration, from the person who had the idea, the scriptwriter, the producers, the financers, the crew, the actors, the editors, the distributors… and so on. All have one thing in mind: to create the best possible cinema experience for their customers. This is a collaborative effort.
Don’t be the firewall blocking innovation
It doesn’t matter if it’s the electrician, the receptionist, the accountant, the account executive, a member of the board or the customer themselves: some of the best ideas, changes and development thoughts come from the most unexpected of places. Sometimes, you really don’t want to be the firewall blocking any of that innovation or development.
I’ve learned so much about myself, my business, my clients and my team through collaboration. It’s essential to give your team power to express themselves, show interest beyond their job title and to make them feel like a part of something special – not just clocking in, clocking out and following orders.
There’s a method to the madness
So, there you go – I hope there’s a few takeaways you can get from this. There’s some interesting little insights in there that I’ve never really shared previously. There’s a method in running a business and, in fact, doing most things – whether it’s work projects or DIY.
I have a very organised, analytical data-driven mindset, so my analogy of football and collaboration is all part of my CEO operating system. I’m not saying it’s the way you should do it and I’m not saying it’s the way it should be done. After all, it may be a little unorthodox in parts. However, it gets me through, keeps me focused and helps us grow, and we’re not doing a bad job so far!
Hopefully this has opened your eyes to a few things (it may have potentially even closed your eyes to a few things, I don’t know!).
- Managing and developing a team to help you grow a business can be quite a complex thing. Depending on your style of management, you can get as granular as you want with it. I’m all about the finer details – the data, performance and team formation. I think it’s essential.
- Letting go, allowing people in and collaborating as soon as you possibly can will be the catalyst for growth. It will also be a fantastic foundation from which your company culture can grow and, indeed, thrive.
Thank you for reading this chapter of the Diary of an Entrepreneur. I must stress, I’m not trying to teach you anything. I’m just sharing my journey, and if it motivates you, then great – job done!
If you want to hear more about my entrepreneurial journey, check out the Diary of an Entrepreneur podcast on all available platforms – I talk all things business in terms of my OWN journey and experience. It’s not one to miss!