Recently I was interviewed by Ingar Grev of The Strategic Business Forum. Ingar was interested to hear about what has worked for me as an entrepreneur, contributing to the success of Helios, and what advice and counsel would I give my colleagues—basic lessons learned as a CEO. How appropriate and timely as this month Helios celebrates its 12th year in business.
Launching the company from the basement of my home with just myself initially, growing by adding 1099 contractors, and then bringing W2 employees on payroll in and of itself created interesting challenges and opportunities. Moving from having our team meetings from my kitchen table to the dining room table (with more seating capacity), to moving to an executive office and then a full office lease with a 5-year commitment—has also afforded learning opportunities. Through the growth of Helios and in the HR consulting we provide our clients, there have been moments and events that stand out as significant. I’d like to share a few with you in the hopes that you find them helpful as you grow your organization.
10 Accelerators in Growing a Company
- Connect with people. Connect with your clients and with your team. Create a remarkable experience for both. At the end of the day, there are many vendors that offer similar services. It’s the experience that brings people back. It’s the way you make them feel that will have them talking about you to others.
- Be authentic. Tell people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. I made a great career in corporate by sharing feedback. High performers want to improve. Only direct feedback will give them that opportunity. Recognize too, that it’s the way the feedback is delivered that will determine whether it is heard.
- Hire and develop an exceptional team. A team that is not only capable…but willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is willingness over skills that best determines the high performers. Surround yourself with a team that you draw energy from…not one that sucks it out of you. Find out what your team is interested in learning. Give them every opportunity to learn, develop and grow. You, in turn, will be surprised at how much you learn from them.
- Avoid disruptions, danger, and disease. The single most important lesson that I have learned as both an HR executive and as CEO, is that hiring and retaining the wrong team members, is disruptive at a minimum and toxic at its worst. One way to ensure you hire the right team is to be clear that you articulate what is to be expected in the role. I have seen many organizations post Mission, Vision, and Values, but few who take the time to fully articulate the behaviors that those values portray. The words accountability, flexibility, and resourcefulness, for example, may mean very different things to people. However defining the behaviors that your culture embraces and requires for those values to be met, is the first step in ensuring alignment and fit with the corporate culture.
- Know when to delegate, but not abdicate. As the CEO or any leader of teams, yours is the ultimate accountability. We can delegate responsibility as we scale, but never abdicate accountability.
- Over communicate. Your expectations and intended outcomes to your clients and to your team. People will do the ‘what’ when they understand the ‘why’.
- Don’t underestimate the value of one on ones. Have regular one on one meetings with your direct reports and ensure they do so with their team members as well. One on ones should be used for conversations about professional development, feedback and support for your team. If a relationship is veering off track, a one on one is an easy way to catch it early on and redirect the course.
- Be intentional about your culture. As the leader, you set the corporate culture. Culture is not what your tagline states; it is what your people say it is. How they define their experience—regardless of what we may intend it to be. Ensure your culture does indeed reflect your intention. And if it doesn’t, course correct and reset.
- Develop your unique brand recognition. What culture is to the internal organization, your brand is to the external world. Your brand should be uniquely yours. What is it that you bring to market that no one in your space replicates? Develop that as your brand. At Helios, our brand signifies energy, impact, and results. The Helios Apollo Awards have further extended our brand footprint. Ultimately, it is the energy and impact that people attribute with our brand, with our team, with their experience with Helios.
- Target where you spend your time. Washington offers a plethora of opportunity to attend and join events, meetings, associations and boards. It is far more impactful to select those relationships that you develop where you can make a contribution, an impact, than to merely show up and be seen at as many events as your schedule can accommodate.
In the end, we all have the same amount of time available to us. Yet although there are no more than 24 hours in a day, there is a higher order of energy that we can apply that propels us forward creating impact. I have found that these 10 things help ensure that energy is optimized, teams and clients are engaged, and everyone enjoys what they do.