A Trade Magazine for New Age Retailers

4 Pillars of a Successful Business, Part 2




Fostering a team of “A” players in your business is the second article in a four-part series that explores the four pillars of a successful business. These pillars, based on the book, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, helped me increase my revenue and profits tenfold. It’s business magic! With the business roller coaster ride of the past three years combined with the unsteady retail economy, this is the perfect time to get back to basics, and I am bringing you with me.

The African proverb “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is the core to the secret to unlocking new levels of business success. In other words, creating a successful team will take you farther than trying to build your business on your own. “A” players are not the people you quickly hire to fill an immediate need. These exceptional individuals possess a unique blend of qualities that can transform an ordinary company into an extraordinary one. Diving into the people process in Harnish’s book, , there is a clear guide that reveals three elements to fostering your own high quality team and using that talent to propel your business towards unprecedented growth: Leadership, team, and managers (coaches).

Leadership – Defining the culture, relationship goals, and accountability for your dream team


Values, Culture, and Accountability

There is a culture in your business and if you don’t define and foster what you want it to be, the lowest form of it will become your default culture. Leadership is the heart of your company and the heart of how you foster a team. This is also where you have to step outside of your comfort zone and become a vulnerable leader.


Your culture is driven by your core values, which we dug into in the previous article, “Living Your Business Strategy.” When you apply this to the team you are cultivating, it looks a little different and drives your definition of an “A” player.

Think about it this way, you are manifesting your future thought your team. Your team members are not just employees. They are the heart and soul of a high-performing team. Harnish defines these individuals as people who exhibit exceptional performance, unwavering commitment, and alignment with the company’s values. These are also the people who will carry out your vision and define your future. Making sure they are in alignment with the culture you are creating, helps ensure your path to manifesting is the one you envision.


When you lead with culture, you are also leading with your vulnerability showing because you are coming from your heart and deepest desires for the company.  Without these things leading the way, you may hire great employees that are a terrible fit for your desired culture.

Define your culture before you define the positions that you want to fill. The OPPP (One Page Personal Plan) worksheet Harnish writes about takes you through defining the relationships you want in your life. Then you target the non-monetary achievements that will make an impact through your business. To manifest these achievements, you define the rituals or routines that will get your there and finally you define the wealth or financial goals as a resource for supporting this plan. Through this personal plan you define the culture that you envision and how to align your team. You want them to work with you and not against you.

Define what a quality team member looks like by defining what additional qualities you need in your business for it to grow. This goal is to fill in the gaps on where you are not strong. When you are manifesting something you don’t have, you use new tools and ideas. The same advice goes for the team you are creating.


Each position you are filling will have a unique makeup. Your sales floor team looks very different than your financial and marketing teams. When you build a FACe (Function Accountability Chart) the qualities that will make the best fit in each position become clear.

In small businesses, there is often the same name in many positions of that chart and that’s normal. The power of the list and chart is that it helps you step out of certain roles as you grow. It also helps you see when you have overloaded yourself to the point of failure. Determine who sits in each of the positions below, what defines success in each role and what results you want each role to achieve.

  • Head of company –sets the direction and vision for the company and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the organization.
  • Marketing –clarifies the message of your company for external and internal audiences.
  • R&D/Innovation –tracks trends and innovation as well as finding new products to keep your business at the top of their competition.
  • Sales operations –is responsible for growing sales through repeatable processes in your business.
  • Finances –is responsible for tracking your cash flow, profitability, and accurate accounting as well as interacting with your accountant.
  • Information technology –is responsible for designing and maintaining your IT footprint, protecting your digital assets, organize your file storage and ensuring it is working and protected.
  • Human resources – makes sure you are in compliance with all applicable laws, manages your payroll, and supports the needs of your team.
  • Talent development/Learning –ensures all training is effective, productive and helps grow the talent within your organization, keeping your team engaged.
  • Customer advocacy –is the person who ensures the customer experience is in alignment with your culture, goals, and values.

Starting any internal job description with the qualities of the  ideal fit clarifies what the accountability for that position will be. The key roles of your company may seem easier to define, and don’t forget about the supporting roles that get the work done. Your store clerks, inventory, maintenance, and more. Finding the people who align with these roles will bring positive energy and exceptional work ethic, thus creating a harmonious work environment that leads to increased productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction. This ripple effect touches the entire organization, fostering innovation, promoting effective teamwork, and cultivating resilience in the face of challenges.

Team – Attracting and Hiring your A Players

Topgrade, Market and Test Drive

The journey to building your team begins with the hiring process. It is crucial to seek individuals who not only possess the necessary skills, but also align with the values and culture you have defined. Before you write that job listing, Harnish recommends you define the job first, he calls this topgrading. Once that is fine-tuned, the job posting writes itself and helps you understand how to market the position in today’s environment where there are more job openings than candidates. A well marketed posting will attract those who already feel aligned with your business and then you are in a position to test drive applicants before committing to the hire. Harnish says, “the cost of a bad hire is 15x (their) annual salary… so it’s important to get the recruiting and selection process right.”

Job Scorecard

This tool is a part of Brad and Geoff Smart’s topgrading How to Hire, Coach and Keep “A” Playersprocess. They start with a job scorecard where you define the mission or purpose of the job, accountability, metrics, and key components of the position you are filling. You then use this scorecard in the interview process, assessing and rating the candidate’s ability to meet and exceed the measurables.

Once you have the job scorecard, you are ready to write your job posting and start marketing the job. If you already have someone in that position, this is a great time to get their input on the topgrading job scorecard so everyone is in alignment and future reviews are easier.

POSITION: Simple name for the role
MISSION/PURPOSE: Short paragraph of the goal of this position.
“The mission of ________ is to ___________. The ____(role)____ will be expected to _______ with t __(Resources)____ and __________ results.
3 or 4 Core Accountabilities for the positionMeasurable that defines successA, B, C
Floor Salesperson
*$50 per hour average sale

within 1st three months

*$100 per hour average sales

within 12 months

Customer Support*Greets every customer that enters the store within 2 minutes of them arriving
*Knows the product lines to be able to guide the customer

*Can ring up sales, returns, gift certificates, etc.

KEY COMPETENCIES: Bullet pointed list of the qualities and competencies of an “A” player in this position requires

·      Integrity

·      Results oriented

·      Customer focus

·      Problem solver

·      Self-directed




The times of the Sunday classified job postings are gone. Today’s best hires want to know why he/she should commit to your business and what they will get outside of a paycheck for that commitment. To find your perfect fit, marketing is required. When you default to hiring who comes along, you inevitably compromise on the quality of the hire and hope for the best.

How the job posting is worded can make the difference between attracting two B or C grade candidates and attracting 100 “A” players. Getting your marketing team involved in this process ensures your message not only fits the job and is enticing, but it also communicated the values and mission of your business. When you are writing the job posting make sure to address the following information your best candidate will be looking for:

  • Job title to hook the candidate that is clear, upbeat, to the point and catchy.
  • Company overview that will create a picture of your work culture
  • Position summary that is three to five lines to give an overview of the tasks they will encounter on the job.
  • List of the benefits of the role. This is not only the salary, but product discounts, vacation time, and other non-cash benefits awarded for working with you.
  • Job description in bullet points. A list of all the duties your potential employee will perform.
  • List of qualifications of the ideal candidate. A bulleted list where some qualifications can be mandatory, and some can be preferred.
  • Additional information to get your potential candidates all the tools they need to choose to apply to your company.
  • You contact information is critical. Be transparent with an email address, website, phone number and other contact info with clear instructions on how you want them to apply.

Test Drive

Many companies are expanding upon the traditional interview and inviting the top candidates for a test drive in the position they are hiring for. Harnish talks about executive management positions in his examples, but in the case of a smaller independent retailer, your test drives may be a bit lower stress and less of a time commitment. What could a second interview/test drive look like for the position you are hiring for?

In our business, we invite candidates in for a paid two-hour test pour of our candles. This allows us to see the dexterity and ability to pay attention to the details needed in making candles. When we hired a marketing team member, we asked them to create a fake pitch on a new product. When we hire the office or sales staff, we have them answer the phone, take an order, and call on a customer.

Managers (Coaches) – Keeping and growing the team

Engaging & Growing

“People leave managers, not companies”– Marcus Buckingham

For many of the independent retailers, the owner is the manager as well. The owner is concerned about the bottom line, inventory level, customer traffic, cash flow, strategy, etc. To add in coaching your staff can often mean something else will not get the attention it requires.

Servant leadership is the hot topic in management training and simply put, that means you are engaging and growing your team from the moment they are onboarded in your business. As your business grows and evolves, having an engaged team will put you in a position to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you.


Scaling up has five best practices to keeping your team engaged. In descending order of importance:

  1. Hire fewer people, but pay them more
  2. Give recognition and show appreciation
  3. Set clear expectations and give employees a clear line of sight
  4. Don’t demotivate, “de-hassle,” and
  5. Help people play to their strengths.

This seems like a lot to integrate in your already busy week! Hang in there with me and let’s review what this can look like in a smaller business. It’s not as daunting as it looks.


Hire fewer people, but pay them more. Ignore the cost of products at the moment and think about what an amazing salesperson on your floor will gain for your business. Or a crack social media guru. What salary would you be willing to pay a person who can increase your average sales by 50 percent? Do the math and when you find that person, make that a part of their goal. An ideal hire will come in with ideas they can execute and now they are excited about how they can have an impact on the business.

Give recognition and show appreciation. This one is easy. Say thank you when things go right, take them to lunch every now and again. Employee of the month is easy, as is putting a powerful bio of them on your website or social media.  You can easily incorporate this in your week or month by setting a digital calendar notice to remind you to do something for someone.

Set clear expectations and give employees a clear line of sight. This is where you have to do the pre-work. If you created the job scorecard, that is the anchor of the clear expectations for your team. When your staff knows what is expected of them, when it is due, where you want them to demonstrate it, how you want it done, and what the reward is you can clarify 90 percent of their job. Knowing that there is a line of sight for promotions and increased pay, can get employees excited about their future with you. The return on investment for this can be tenfold. As the team grows in their job, you can delegate more to them and get a little more space in your own brain.

Don’t demotivate, “de-hassle.” One of your main jobs as a servant leader is to keep the path to success clear for your team. That means not allowing customers to abuse them, making sure you have a team of high level performers and not allowing a B and C player to make their day miserable, making sure they have appropriate tools in working order, and making sure they have the resources to do their job. A weekly one-on-one with a repeating agenda and time to chitchat gives you insight into your business that you could otherwise overlook.

Help people play to their strengths. This is the most important thing you can do for your staff.  Make sure your team is in the right seat to take advantage of their strengths. The time this takes is already accounted for in the one-on-one coaching sessions you are already having. You can see what your employees excel at when you talk to them and keep them accountable for their work.

Grow Your Talent

Staff enrichment is a benefit the average company does not invest in, and it can be the activity that takes you from a demotivating culture into an empowering one. Growing your talent does not need to kill your profits if you start with the basics and watch your bottom line grow. These basics are onboarding, orientation, coaching, and continuing education. All growth companies are training companies. The only way to grow a company is to grow the people first according to Harnish.

Onboarding. It’s like throwing a party when people start, rather than when they leave. Onboarding is an opportunity to get the first impression of your business right. This is where you control the narrative of your culture, mission, vision, and values. This is also the time where you celebrate the arrival of your new high quality hire and start them out as a welcomed member of your team.

Orientation. As an extension of the onboarding process can be looked at as the first 30 to 90 days. This is where you share the details of the position, the training, accountability, who they report to and any other employee handbook things that are critical for the success of the job. Many businesses look at this part of the hiring process as the business and rules only. Instead, turn this part of your onboarding into a game of rewards as the new hire progresses through your training process. Oh… and a training process is critical here. Expecting your hire to build the plane as they are flying it can scare off an excellent candidate by giving the impression that you are disorganized and have unreasonable expectations.


We talked earlier about the one on one sessions with your top employees as the foundation for a coaching mindset. Expand upon this with giving a bit of autonomy and coaching them into success. When a team member feels heard and valued, loyalty grows.


Continuing education. You can do online learning as a team, have your staff search YouTube for specific information, watch TED talks together, take advantage of your local SBA office or chamber of commerce offerings. Nurturing a specific talent in a team member and showing them how to grow their knowledge base give them the encouragement to do it on their own.

Growing your talent, grows your business. Don’t worry about your team member learning too much and moving on to a higher paying job.  You get the reward of that talent while they are there. Even if that star employee moves on, you have an already proven path forward for your next team member.

Building a team of “A” players is a journey and example of being dedicated to the growth of your company. It does require dedication, and intention. It can also be made a bit easier with the guidance of Verne Harnish’s “Scaling Up.” By embracing the power of “A” players, businesses can create a culture of high-performance that propels them towards growth that makes your life easier. As you embark on this magical endeavor, remember the importance of leadership, effective communication, hiring for cultural fit, empowerment, training, recognition, and feedback. Allow the magic of players to transform your business and watch as your organization thrives in ways you never thought possible. Embrace the magic of people, unleash the power of a stellar team, and let your business soar to new heights of success.

Jacki Smith
Author: Jacki Smith

Jacki Smith is the co-owner of Coventry Creations. Her passion for personal empowerment and small business has been the driving force in her success and her journey of lifelong learning. Jacki is a regular contributor to the magazine and loves sharing her experience, successes and cautionary tales.