Build that Team

It has been a tough couple of years. Joe made the decision two years ago to transform his business from his dad’s “My way or the highway” autocratic management style to something different. During his leadership/management transition quest, he came across Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great and took to heart Chapter Three: “First Who . . . Then What.”

Collins’ research on great companies came as a surprise to Collins and others. It showed that great companies “did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.” Additionally, you have to not only have the right people, but also have them in the right seats.

Joe was confident and comfortable with the large remodeling jobs his company currently did, but with changes on the horizon, he realized that he wasn’t as comfortable about who was on his remodeling bus and was not sure whether they were in the right seats. Unfortunately, he had inherited many of his “key” players who were men older than he, comfortable in their positions, and did not, shall we say, respond well to his efforts to do things differently. Particularly, when in the past, the company had a reputation for never firing anyone.

He decided to follow Collins’ lead and address these human resource issues before he took on any of the new things he wanted to explore for his business. It turned out to be a long and arduous project.

His first realization was that one of his “key” players, Sam, a project manager, wouldn’t fit on the bus anyway or anywhere. Sam’s attitude was too entrenched in the old ways of doing business. He was not open to change, and his behavior often bordered on insubordinate. With much hand-holding by labor attorneys, Sam was “asked” to leave the company. He did so, taking with him years of experience, proprietary information and lots of hard feelings.

It’s turned out that this position was a very difficult one to fill. Nonetheless, Joe still gave a huge sigh of relief when Sam left, and has no regrets for making this change. It took two years to find the right person for this seat on the bus. Was it difficult and frustrating at times? Yes! But no more difficult than keeping the wrong person on the bus, and the person he finally found is a great fit for the job and the company.

Meanwhile, Joe continued his human resource evaluation process. He determined that Rodger, his leadman, was definitely a keeper. Rodger was knowledgeable, loyal, smart, willing to learn, and willing to do whatever the company needed him to do. But, Rodger was in the wrong seat on the bus. Joe created a new position that gave Rodger more responsibility, and more important, the authority to get the job done in the field.

Continuing the process, Joe was happy to discover that Mike, his controller, was not only a keeper, but actually in the right seat on the bus. Phew! But, instead of being mired in the daily bookkeeping operations of the business, Mike needed to have his time freed up so that he could contribute more of his CFO type skills to the company. A billing position was created, and Mike is now free to provide the high-level analysis and financial expertise the company needs to thrive.

These three people have joined Joe on a newly created management team. The first task of this group is to figure out where to drive the bus.

Getting the right people on the bus took a lot of Joe’s time and effort, and it’s not like the “bus” stopped chugging down the road during this transformational work. But now, Joe and his company have the team they need to take the company down any road they choose.

Linda francis, author of Run Your Business So It Doesn’t Run You, trains and consults in the remodeling industry. She is based in Northern California; Phone: (707) 485-0162 or