small business adviceYou might be able to get your small business off the ground quickly with a clear entrepreneurial vision and exceptional work ethic. However, without commitment and loyalty from your staff, you could fall short of achieving your long-term business goals and never reach cruising altitude.

Small business advice: Build a solid team

“Success is really based on how well employees collaborate with each other to meet a common mission or achieve a common vision,” says Barry Moltz, an entrepreneur and business consultant who has authored several books on business advice.

Whether you are piloting a handful of people from a small office space or
a larger group with some staff working remotely, it’s important to understand how to manage your employees and create a strong internal team.

Here are six management techniques that will help you build team spirit at your own company:

1. Hire new employees based on attitude.

Building a strong team can start as early as the hiring process, so it’s essential that you select the right people to add to your company. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude—and it’s nearly impossible to make someone fit in with the rest of the organization.

Before meeting with job candidates, make sure you have a strong sense of your company’s culture and work environment. If you don’t yet have a grasp on the work culture or you think it may have changed since you last hired, Moltz recommends surveying current employees and asking them to write down adjectives that accurately describe the current culture.

You might also consider having potential hires meet your current staff during the interview process to ensure that their attitudes mesh.

2. Be slow to hire.

Even as your business grows and your workforce expands, you still want to maintain collaboration and teamwork among your employees.

To avoid turbulence with existing employees when bringing in new staff, Moltz recommends being slow to hire new employees. This way, you’ll be able to gauge whether new staff members will be productive additions to your organization. You can also minimize friction between existing and new employees by ensuring new hires are properly trained.

3. Encourage collaboration among team members.

It may seem easier to employ a top-down management style, but it could be to your benefit to allow your employees to collaborate with one another. In addition to encouraging project ownership and teamwork, which can lead to better production, this style also means you won’t have to be worried about as many day-to-day tasks.

For example, you can ask individuals working together on a project to define their responsibilities and establish the rules for how they will work with one another, Moltz says.

You can also try empowering your employees by letting those who are closest to the action make decisions, suggests Caron Beesley of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

4. Get your employees involved.

If you are working through a problem, creating a job description for a new hire, or brainstorming new ideas for your business, ask your employees for their thoughts and feedback—but only if you are really interested.

“You have to be sure that if you ask their opinion, you take action on it,” Moltz says. “You can’t just ask their opinion and then ignore it.”

5. Plan fun activities that are not work related.

It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you are bringing your team together for purposes other than work. Whether you’re creating funny videos and putting them on YouTube or getting involved with a nonprofit organization in your community, out-of-work experiences are important for team building.

Just be sure to remember that your employees have lives outside of work. If you are going to do something outside of office hours, Moltz suggests also inviting the spouses or significant others of your employees and planning events that include entire families, like picnics and bring-your-kid-to-work days.

6. Regularly assess your employees, and have them assess themselves.

To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person on your team, do a quarterly or biannual evaluation. By regularly meeting with your staff, you’ll create a space for open communication and be able to better integrate people into your team by acknowledging the contributions that they make to your business.

The way you encourage team spirit all comes down to being in tune with your company’s culture and understanding what types of activities are acceptable. But doing something for your staff is important as well.

“What’s proven is that money is only one motivation. Reward is only one motivation,” Moltz says. “What people really want is to know that they are part of a team and that they are being appreciated.”

Joslin Woods is a researcher, writer, and Web producer at Think Glink, Inc., with a background in print and digital media. Previously, Joslin worked as a news reporter for the international news agency Agence France-Presse and as a freelance reporter for the Sun-Times News Group. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in journalism.