First get the right team on board, then tackle strategy

There are four primary decisions that every company must get right if it is going to successfully scale up – people, strategy, execution and cash.

Without question, getting the right people (team) trumps any other decision by the company. In other words, first get the “who” then do the “what.”

A team is simply a group of people who believe in a common set of principles (core values) and are committed to a common purpose (core purpose).

Lou Stallman’s children’s song, “Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” describes a bus traveling through town, with everything and everyone in unison. It all works.

This is what we are looking for in businesses. Get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seat (their strengths) so they can help make it the best ride possible.

Oh, and get the wrong people off the bus, because they will mess up the rhythm and the wheels won’t go “round and round.” It will feel like you have a flat or lost a wheel.

It intuitively sounds pretty basic, yet many companies struggle with this. And when the wrong people are allowed to stay on the bus, a toxic culture emerges.

As it’s been said many times, culture eats strategy’s lunch everyday.


Wrong people fall into two categories: lack of competency and nonalignment to your core values.

Let’s start with incompetency. These folks simply do not have the necessary skills to be successful in their position.

Whether they plateaued in their existing position or could not grow into a new position, you have three options:

< Coach them to improve to a level where they can be successful in their existing role.

< Move them to another seat – the right seat – where they do have the right competencies to contribute.

< Have a heart-to-heart and “free up their future” so they can find success elsewhere.

Don’t let incompetency slow the bus. It’s that simple.


The second type of wrong person involves nonalignment – an employee who does not share or project the company’s core values. This is by far the more dangerous of the two categories.

Core values are the handful of rules you have as a company that describe the guiding principles, behaviors and conduct with each other and the outside world. They are not right or wrong, they’re just yours. If want to play on the team, this is how we play. Don’t like them, no problem – don’t come to work here.

Core values don’t change. They are a little bit like corporate DNA. When the people on the bus are behaving contrary to core values, unhealthy conflict within the team starts to bubble up.

Bad culture equals poor results, and most A-players will bolt. They just won’t tolerate the nonsense.


Where do business owners go wrong with people and alignment?

One place is hiring. Uncovering whether the applicant aligns to your core values or not is absolutely the most important piece of hiring.

You can teach skills and processes. But it is extremely difficult to teach or change someone’s values.

That’s why it so important to get this right from the start to avoid a lot of headaches.


The other situation is more challenging because it often involves a high performer. Owners trade long-standing core values for short-term results.

Many smart business owners turn a blind eye to poor behavior and actions because the person is a top producer, has been with the company from day one or – the stickiest of situations – is a family member. The longer the issue is ignored, the more this person becomes a cancer, creating fear, anger and frustration.

Leaders need to step in. Otherwise, you might as well sit back and watch these folks tear apart your company.

(There are no exceptions to this – it’s one of the few absolutes in management.)


A-players want to play with other A-players. They won’t tolerate poor performers for long.

They will just leave. You need A-players on your team to win.

Get the right people – people who share your core values.

Get them in the right seats – let the “rock stars” shine in their positions.


And invest in your people.

Chief financial officer to the CEO: “What if we invest in our people and they leave us?”

CEO’s response: “What if we don’t invest in them, and they stay?”

You have just set up the company for a smoother ride to success.

Tom Garrity is managing partner of Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He can be reached at 610-336-0514 or

< Compass Point and Legacy Planning will present a “Private Equity and Exit Planning” workshop from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Lehigh Country Club. For information or to register, visit

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