Focus on the core

Focus on the core

Starting a new year full of goals and resolutions always makes me think. I find myself reflecting on what worked in the past to achieve similar goals OR what stood in the way of me accomplishing them. With a fresh new slate, a lesson has come to mind that will not only help us accomplish our current goals, but also might spark some ideas for some of you.

We often hear about the importance of focus in all aspects of life, and while that might seem obvious, the true magic is in the execution. How do we actually focus on something that matters – in my case, my business – and put all of our energy into improving it?

Here’s what we came to realize after 5 years in business and managing a team. For a long time, we tried different approaches and management styles where we would hire, coach, and grow all types of talent, from seniors to juniors. It seems that a mixed team – juniors, seniors, execs – is the most common model for most organizations. At the end of the day, you need a variety of skill sets to get the job done, so it’s logical to build a management structure that can develop talent at every level.

Before the pandemic hit, we were already faced with the challenge of growing a team with very varied talent. Specifically, it required time and focus to coach and grow our junior talent: you need a specific mindset and dedication to bring someone with less experience into the fold and provide them with the tools they need to excel. When a company’s structure is pyramid-shaped, with seniors at the top and a larger cohort of juniors supporting them, it definitely impacts how your time is managed and how much focus you can give to business growth.

Back when we were still operating as a pyramid, retention became an ongoing challenge that was impacting not only our juniors, but also our senior talent. Our time was split between addressing our accelerated growth and coaching new talent, which left no time to focus on developing the executive team. 

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The good news is, you always have options, and you can always try a different approach. We inverted the pyramid model and instead of hiring juniors, we chose to only retain, hire, grow, and coach our top senior talent. We were still busy managing and leading a team, but our focus was now clear: investing in these top-level resources was the key to growing our business.

For the past 2+ years, we have exclusively been hiring senior talent and working alongside them. It’s been a real game-changing experience. We have the luxury of dedicating ourselves to solving business problems on a daily basis, instead of managing a large talent pool.

Don’t get me wrong – we do work with young, savvy, ambitious junior talent, and we enjoy it! We need their expertise for lots of different mandates. The difference is, we contract their work on an ad-hoc basis. We understood that when you are building your career from the ground up, you can really benefit from trying out different roles, industries, and teams. The culture, fit, or perks a company can provide matter less – a younger resource would always fly away within 12-15 months tops, (understandably) in search of new and diverse experiences. So, for their benefit and ours, we now choose to collaborate with them in a way that never creates bad blood or slows down our momentum if they need to pivot professionally.

As a managing partner, this reorientation has allowed me to deepen my understanding of what motivates my team and how I can support them in their work. It has alleviated the burden of a different type of management that is not necessarily for everyone. For our business, hiring full-time junior resources simply wasn’t aligned with our business objectives.

As we are building not only a business but multiple businesses (hint: stay tuned for the official launch of our venture studio!), we believe in working with a team that can stick around long enough to see those businesses be born and grow. 

I’m happy to have been working with the same faces for 3+ years now, and knowing that we are all focusing on our business and growth because we dared to venture away from what seemed to be the common way of building a team.

If what you just read seems like something that could fit your team or organization, here are my quick takeaways from switching my focus to core team management:

  1. Less is more: a smaller core team can be infinitely more powerful than a big shallow one. Don’t think that bigger is better. Focused and aligned will always be better.
  2. Put your money where your mouth is: if you are dedicating yourself to managing a core team, then focus on it and get deep into what each person needs to excel at their job. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you need the desire to try and find them.
  3. Switching your focus doesn’t mean locking out other talent: having a team of seniors doesn’t mean we don’t work with more junior resources. We need them! The difference is that we contract their work instead of hiring full-time so we can both enjoy a greater degree of flexibility.

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