The risk of flying solo

There was a time when flying solo was just part of normal life for many small businesses 

Flying on a single engine jet rather than a twin engine The recession in the early 1990s marked the beginning for many as companies, big and small, stripped layer after layer out of its organization chart; and the recent economic downturn has meant that even more one-man-bands have been started. With the downsizing has come a loss of expertise, and that has led to a need for outsourcing. Large businesses have been forced to concentrate on their core business. Their non-core business, however, has become the core business of the people who were made redundant; often as independent consultants or small service and manufacturing companies. 
 
In recent years, the need for people, teams and companies that could collaborate in order to deliver a range of expertise as a one-stop-shop package for clients has arisen. In many cases, this has meant that one or more sole traders or SMEs and have banded together so that collectively they could win and fulfill larger contracts.
 
As Nick Close and Mel Chaplin of EPI International said their white paper: Consultancy In A Changing Climate; ‘As businesses niche more and more, strategic alliances will grow if standards and values match.’  

It’s important to remember what constitutes a team 

Traditionally, it was a group of people who were committed to the same ends and worked in the same place. In a groundbreaking 1993 article Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith said that if business and managers want to make better decisions about teams, they must be clear about what a team is. They re-defined a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” 
 
That definition laid down the disciplines that teams must share to be effective:
  • Common commitment and purpose
  • Performance goals
  • Complementary skills
  • Mutual accountability

It didn’t say they have to work in the same location or for the same company…

Now, virtual teams are commonplace, within large corporations and in the small business world. Virtual teams consist of a group of people who are committed to the same ends, but who work in different locations, including various countries and time zones. If they are to be a highly effective group of people, a real team, then they need to work on those four key disciplines. 

Teams do bring added strength

Despite the independence of each team member, there’s normally sufficient overlap among them that the work can still be accomplished if one has to drop out for any reason.
 
At the very least, the others can carry the fort until a suitable replacement is found. At the very best the sharing of the load with complementary skills mean they can make much greater progress. A Shire horse can normally pull between twice its own weight and up to six tons, two Shire horses together have been able to pull up to 36 tons. Not that I am calling your team a herd of horses… 

Teams are the next step up in networking for many businesses, corporate project leaders and independant consultants 

As few companies can have people on salary that are not fully utilized it is better to reach out and recruit associates that you can call on when needed to provide a total one-stop-shop solution to a client needs. In networking terms, first you connect and then if you like that person you invest time in getting to know him or her. Do you share the same values? Similar outlook on business and life? Are you committed to similar business principles and models? Do the skills sets complement each other?
 
When you invite someone to join a team, however, it’s because you’ve developed sufficient trust to want to work with him or her as well as sufficient respect that you are willing to be yoked together with a project or client. It must be said that this is only possible because you decided to connect in the first place, and so that’s one way that networking can benefit you. It establishes a foundation for creating teams; both virtual and actual. 

What is the value of teams to your business, prospects or clients? 

The main thing is that it gives the client, or senior stakeholders the degree of confidence they need to give you the contract. It helps them to believe that you can deliver as promised; your small nimble team of top guns can out punch the competition. Just as having a team around you reassures you that you will be able to deliver a high quality result and finish the work on time, they also put companies at their ease because they know that’s it unlikely that everyone in your team will become indisposed simultaneously. In other words, having a team reduces the client or stakeholder risk and increases their trust in you. 

If you were to work entirely by yourself, then it’s impossible for you to give such assurances 

You know that, and so do your prospects, clients and your competition. It’s the difference between flying a twin engine F-15E Strike Eagle and a single engine F16 Fighting Falcon. If your F16 loses an engine, all you can do is bail out. And that means that it’s less risky for you and your clients if you’re leading a squadron of top guns, than if you’re flying solo…
 
 
If you would like to know more about developing teams, virtual or real, contact me here

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