Building an All Star Team & Culture: The Stephen King Interview
Stephen King, CEO of GrowthForce, probably spends as much time working on accounting as he does building an all star team.
Stephen’s started out at Ernst & Young before founding a startup where he raised $43 million. Now, he’s built GrowthForce, an outsourced accounting company. He’s been so successful because of his talent of building an all star team.
In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Stephen King discuss:
- The pillars of building an all star team (and the questions you need to answer when doing so)
- How to define your mission and create your vision
- How to communicate and align a team member’s personal goals with the firms mission and vision
- How to hire (and empower) a great team that will accelerate your growth
- How to manage bad hires, facilitate communication, and much, much more.
- LINKEDIN – Stephen King
- The Accounting Firm’s Blueprint for building a world class team (interview)
Selling Won’t Build Your Business:
Stephen King knows how to build businesses and knows about building an all star team. That’s actually the secret to a great business, Stephen says. Having a great team.
You can sell all you want, but if you don’t deliver great service in this day-and-age that make businesses thrive. Quality service actually makes your business profitable.
You get quality service by building an all star team. An incredible team creates an incredible culture and “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Culture is what happens when you put people into roles.
If you don’t create a culture, a culture will form for you.
Controlling the culture improves the quality of your business and retaining clients. That’s why you must maintain and prune the culture like a garden. Stephen always makes sure to remove toxic members. One toxic member could destroy a team.
The problem for many firms — their toxic member brings in business or they add something else to the firm.
But that’s not as important as maintaining an incredible culture. Again, the culture feeds into the rest of the business. If you can make the hard decision to cut a toxic team member, everyone else in the organization will see your commitment to the firm.
Mission, Vision, Values, & Culture:
To start building an all star team, you start with four key pieces: Your mission, vision, values and culture.
Mission: Why do you exist? Why did you start the company? Why does someone want to work with you?
When you recruit to build your team, start with your mission. Don’t recruit for the skills, start with behaviors and problem-solving skills first. When you interview, listen for the interviewee to be onboard with the mission not with salary, career expectations, or skills. Your mission is the heart of a killer culture.
Vision: Paint picture of where you’re going.
The only way to keep your vision top of mind is to communicate it day-in and day-out. Some firms even put their vision on their walls for clients to see. If you lay out the goal you’re 70-80% more likely to hit your vision.
Value: What’s important to each team member?
Each team member needs the right values. Wrong values create toxic team members.
Culture: We want people who do X, Y, Z everyday!
These four pieces are key to building an all star team. It all comes down to how you hire. Firms spend so much time focusing on work and not about the people doing the work.
When you’re hiring, you must have the mindset of finding the “right person” and not the “first person.”
A wrong “first person” can kill profits fast.
Stephen King recommends taking at least 2-3 months for upper accountants and even longer for higher-ups.
In a culture, it’s important to never create a culture-of-fear. This means you should never fire someone without warning or just cause. Instead, you need to set a 3-strike rule for anyone being let go.
- Verbal warning —> Sit down with the disruptive team member. Discuss a problem you see arising. Ask the team member questions and get to the bottom of problems. Make questions go 6-questions deep. Don’t accept the first answer you hear. Rather, after a team member answers, dig deep another 5-times to get to the real reasons for problems
- Training —> Sit down with the team member again. Again, discuss issues and set up training for the troubled employee. They must provide regular progress reports and finish tasks at specific times.
- Final warning —> The last talk. If you don’t feel anything is improving, you come clean and tell them a change is needed. If slight improvement is seen, it might be worth another round of training and questioning.
Building an all star team requires pruning (again like a garden). If you fire someone, it’s to build up your team not tear them down. If a team member quits on you, essentially they’re firing you.
Money usually doesn’t motivate someone to look for another job. It normally boils down to career development opportunities.
Goals + Rewards + Coaching = Success
Break down each of these points:
- Goals: Not just the vision of the firm, but ask about the vision for each employee. What drives them?
- Rewards: Not just monetary, also look for ways to reward team members in front of everyone. For Stephen’s team, when he catches someone doing something good, emails get sent to a general email inbox. They are then read in front of the rest of the team. Another way to reward is to do so in front of the team member’s family. Send something to their house so their spouse and kids can see the worker is doing a great job.
- Coaching: Help each employee get better professionally. But, coaching also allows you 1-on-1 time and makes the employee feel special.
These are just the first steps as building an all star team can time a lot of time. Work at it every week. It’s how you can build a faster, profitable firm.