Ready to grow

Build a team focused on growth goals with these 5 tips.
employees building growth teams

When it comes to business growth, your employees are a very powerful lever. Startup companies and their founders have become obsessed with building growth teams, defined as a small team of employees with a fanatical focus on growth goals. Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, authors of the book “Hacking Growth,” describe a growth team as a cross-functional and collaborative team made of experts not just in marketing and sales but also analytics, technology and product management.

The concept of a growth team, while frequently used in the tech startup world, may seem like a stretch for the green industry. But the basics of building a growth team can be applied to any organization and any group of employees, whether they be software developers or landscape contractors.

Here are five steps to build your own growth team to help your company thrive:

1. Create a foundation for growth

Building a growth team assumes you have a strategy and goals in place for growth. Without a strategy in place, you have nothing to aim at or use to frame the direction of your organization and the required skills and abilities of your team. As the old saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Once you have your growth strategy and goals in place, communicate those to the entire organization. Rally your team around these objectives and make sure they are clear to all the stakeholders. Employees are more engaged when they are clear on how the role they play contributes to the overall growth and success of the company.

2. Hire or develop a team for growth

When you review your growth strategy, identify what key skill sets are needed to meet these goals. Does your team currently possess the skills required to achieve your growth plans? If not, how are you going to acquire these skills? The choices are usually buy, build or borrow. You’ll either buy the talent you need through hiring; build by developing your current team and augmenting their skills, or borrow by looking outside your firm to partner with external resources, consultants or vendors to supplement these missing skills.

When evaluating your organization’s skill gap, consider both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are typically acquired through technical knowledge and are more measurable, such as certifications or qualifications. These skills provide a competitive edge and credibility for organizations looking to grow. Industry associations have a broad range of professional development opportunities to consider for multiple specialties in landscaping and irrigation.

Soft skills are harder to measure and considered more subjective. These are personal habits and traits that shape how you work, whether independently or with others. Examples of these include leadership, communication, creativity and innovation. In the past, soft skills were not considered as important as hard skills — note the terminology. However, there is compelling research that shows soft skills are now equally if not more important for growth and success in the workplace as hard skills. Furthermore, customer service depends upon strong soft skills. This can truly be a game changer for companies looking to lead in a service industry.

3. Build a growth culture

A company’s culture is defined by strongly held and widely shared beliefs that reinforce positive and negative behaviors. These are the bedrock of company culture rather than a set of principles or values hung on an office wall or posted on a website. The intersection of culture and behavior is captured in this quote by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker, “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

When it comes to creating a company culture of growth, leaders need to define the behaviors that support this environment and align those behaviors with their business processes. Creativity and innovation are critical to growth. Creating a culture that fosters these values among others will empower employees to find better ways of doing things when it comes to cost and speed.

Be intentional about hiring new employees that embrace your company values and add to your culture of growth. This will help perpetuate a vibrant and authentic culture that is embodied across the organization, especially at the top.

4. Reward behaviors that foster growth

If culture is defined by the worst behaviors a company tolerates, it can be changed by rewarding the right behaviors. By consistently reinforcing growth-positive behaviors, employees will emulate these desired traits. Research shows that recognition programs are one of the top drivers of engagement. According to research by Quantum Workplace, when employees believe they will be recognized, they are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged.

By having a growth plan with clear goals and values, it is easier to identify and reward behaviors that successfully drive growth. Creating a rewards and recognition program doesn’t have to be a million-dollar campaign. Small gestures, recognition by peers and on-the-spot bonuses can have a big impact.

5. Watch out for overload and burnout

Driving growth doesn’t mean working harder and longer hours. On the contrary, growth is often created through innovation, less waste and more efficiencies. With an increased focus on growth, employers need to keep an eye out for overload and employee burnout that can crater progress.

The myth that working longer hours leads to great productivity is just that! Studies across the gamut show that working more than 40 hours consistently isn’t more productive but reduces productivity.

Researchers at Stanford University found that the total output produced during a 60-hour week was two-thirds of what it was when 40-hour weeks were worked. Additionally, as overtime increased so did mistakes and oversights that took longer to fix.

When it comes to success stories of corporate growth and development, the headlines are often filled with flashy tales of startups with groundbreaking innovations or “moonshot” products. The reality is that any company can be a growth company by harnessing the resources at your disposal including the products, processes, marketing, technology and most importantly, the people!

This column originally appeared in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine.
Kate Kjeell is president of TalentWell, a recruiting firm that specializes in helping small and midsized businesses thrive by finding and hiring the right people. The firm’s approach can be described in three words: find, fit, flourish. She can be reached at

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