Building Great Teams at Small Companies: Strategies for Success


A&I and belonging

March 30, 2023

Having achieved great success at one of London's most esteemed recruitment consultancies and establishing her own tech start-up, ourCo-founder, Hannah Peet, has an implicit understanding of the difficulties involved in finding and hiring exceptional individuals. In this week's article, she details some of the strategies and tactics small companies can deploy to build successful teams.


When it comes to building great teams, small companies face unique challenges because of their limited resources. Small businesses need to be especially creative and strategic in their approach to talent management; however, the rewards of building a great team can be enormous - increased productivity, higher employee engagement, and improved business outcomes.


In this article, I will share my thoughts on building great teams at small companies and provide strategies for success based on my own experiences.


Hire for Cultural Fit


One of the most important steps in building a great team is hiring for cultural fit. This means finding candidates who not only have the necessary skills and experience but also align with your company’s values and mission.


Whether recruiting for smaller businesses or my own start-up, I have always kept in mind that every employee plays a critical role- and it’s essential that everyone works together towards a common goal. A misaligned team member can have a significant impact on the team’s success, so it’s vital to invest in hiring for cultural fit.

To assess cultural fit, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your company’s values and mission. Committing your values to paper before you start hiring can feel like a tedious task but it’s something I highly recommend.


During the hiring process, ask questions that give you an insight into the candidate’s values and how they align with your company’s culture. For example, you could ask questions like “What motivates you in your work?” or “Who is someone that inspires you? It’s important to get to the root of who the person you’re interviewing is.


I’d also recommend involving other team members in the interview process to get their input on cultural fit.


Invest in Employee Development


Investing in employee development is another critical strategy for building great teams at small companies.


When employees feel that their employers are invested in their growth and development, they are more engaged and motivated to contribute to the company’s success.


At a small company, offering training and development opportunities can be a challenge due to limited resources. However, there are many low-cost or even free resources available that can be utilised.


One way to invest in employee development is by offering online training and development courses. Also, consider creating a mentorship program where more experienced employees can mentor newer team members. This can be a great way to share knowledge and skills and build a stronger team.


Throughout my business career, I have always sought mentorship from people in my network whom I aspire to be like. It’s been fundamentally important to my professional development. Showing your employees what’s achievable in their field and investing in them in this way can do wonders for their motivation.

Create a Positive Work Environment


Creating a positive work environment is another crucial strategy for building great teams at small companies. A positive work environment can increase employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. There are many ways to create a positive work environment, including offering flexible work schedules, recognising and rewarding employee achievements, and fostering open communication.


My Co-Founder, Alex Slater, recently demonstrated to me what’s possible with flexible working. Her support has allowed me to buildCandidly whilst raising my two children, Albie and Ayda. I’m now more aware than ever that being on top of my personal life allows me to perform better at work too.

At a small company, it’s essential to create a sense of community among team members. Encourage team-building activities like happy hours or team lunches. Also, consider creating a shared workspace where team members can collaborate and work together. Creating a positive work environment takes effort, but the rewards are significant.


Embrace Diversity


Embracing diversity is another crucial strategy for building great teams at small companies. Diversity brings unique perspectives and ideas to the table, which can lead to better decision-making and innovation. As the old saying goes, “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”At a small company, it’s essential to create a culture that values diversity and inclusivity.

To embrace diversity, start by diversifying your recruitment strategies. Cast a wide net when recruiting to attract a diverse pool of candidates. Also, consider implementing blind hiring practices to reduce bias in the hiring process. Shameless plug: Candidly can help you with that.


Once you have a diverse team, create a culture that values and celebrates differences. Encourage open communication and create a safe space where team members can share their perspectives and ideas.


Provide Opportunities for Feedback


Providing opportunities for feedback is another critical strategy for building great teams at small companies. Feedback is essential for employee growth and development, and it can help identify areas for improvement.


At a small company, providing regular feedback can be challenging due to limited resources, but there are many ways to provide feedback that are effective and low-cost.


One way to provide feedback is through regular check-ins with employees. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with team members to discuss their progress and goals. During these meetings, provide constructive feedback and discuss areas where they can improve.


Also, encourage employees to provide feedback on their own performance and the performance of the team as a whole.


Another way to provide feedback is through anonymous surveys. Surveys can be a great way to gather feedback on specific issues or challenges. Use surveys to gather feedback on things like team dynamics, communication, and work processes. Use the feedback you receive to identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes.


Set Clear Expectations


Setting clear expectations is another crucial strategy for building great teams at small companies. When employees know what is expected of them, they are more likely to meet those expectations. At a small company, where resources are limited, it’s especially important to have everyone on the same page.


To set clear expectations, start by creating job descriptions that clearly outline the responsibilities and expectations foreach position. During the hiring process, communicate these expectations to candidates and discuss how their role fits into the overall team.


Once employees are on board, provide regular feedback on their performance and discuss any areas where they may need to improve.


During yearly appraisals, I prefer to conduct a SWOT analysis with each team member. From the analysis results and business needs, I then create quarterly goals and monthly individual objectives that contribute to achieving quarterly targets. This approach helps to keep everyone on track, organised, and focused.



Encourage Collaboration


Encouraging collaboration is another essential strategy for building great teams at small companies. Collaboration can lead to better decision-making, increased innovation, and a stronger team dynamic. At a small company, where resources are limited, collaboration can also lead to more efficient use of resources.


To encourage collaboration, create a culture that values teamwork and open communication. Encourage team members to work together on projects and provide opportunities for team members to collaborate outside of their regular roles. On top of this, consider implementing collaborative workspaces that allow team members to work together in a shared environment.


Closing Thoughts


Building great teams at small companies requires a strategic and intentional approach. By hiring for cultural fit, investing in employee development, creating a positive work environment, embracing diversity, providing opportunities for feedback, setting clear expectations, and encouraging collaboration, small businesses can build strong and effective teams.


Building a great team takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. I can testify to that. A great team can drive success, innovation, and growth, and help small companies achieve their goals.

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