Part 2: The Challenges of Growing and Building a Team

I'm Madeleine!

I’m a small-town girl from Switzerland, rebel entrepreneur, warrior for freedom and visionary with big dreams. Passionate about: Live music, deep conversations, and desert landscapes.

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So picture this: it’s 2004. I now need to hire a whole new team, because I had to fire every single one of my team members all at once the week before.

Now, the story of all of this came about was in my last post. If you’re curious, you can head over there! 

For now, let’s hop into the second part of my series on building a team…actually having to rebuild my team!

A Brutal Test

Here’s the thing: I wasn’t totally new to building a team and hiring at this point. As a matter of fact, I was frequently supporting my clients by hiring team members for them. 

I had a system for hiring. I had long ago stopped reviewing resumes and scheduling initial interviews one by one. They always ended with too many hours wasted; instead, I had come up with this idea of doing group interviews while building a team.

So the job post was an advertisement for the group interview, and I set a date and time that I liked, and all the candidates came at once. 

The very first hurdle that I set for them was to show up on time. I would literally lock the door right on the dot and turn anyone even a minute late away. It’s such a far cry away from how our current hiring policy works; we go out of our way to make sure to treat each and every one of our candidates like we would one of our most precious clients. We take really, really good care of them.

We constantly get comments from applicants that go through our hiring process now who say that it’s the best hiring process that they’ve ever experienced. But back in the day, I was trying to figure this boss thing out on my own, trying to figure out building a team, and failing every step of the way.

The second hurdle I set up was for them to stand up and tell us why they were the perfect candidate for the job…right in front of the other candidates. 

Yikes, right? My introvert heart is still apologizing for this one. It was not easy to have to stand up in front of a room of strangers—in front of your potential boss—and tell them why you should get the job over them. 

The third hurdle they had to complete was a math, filing, and English grammar test. Not kidding. This one brought the candidates right back to their elementary school days with long, drawn-out calculations as the applicants tried to work out the math problems without a calculator.

The fourth hurdle is that they have to do a personality test. 

Talk about leaving the candidates hanging, wondering if they answered the questions right. They don’t even know what the results should be or could be or what it even means when they’re filling it out. 

Lastly, we literally timed them filling out the different tests. They only have a certain amount of time. So if they couldn’t finish it within that time, we still just collected everything, attached a resume to it, and then we sat down and went over them.

We had made a map of the room, including each chair, and then we had written their name on each one of the chairs as they came in. We even rated them as they went around and introduced themselves; we also noted how they acted in front of the group, how they showed up, and how they were dressed. 

All of that combined was literally how I arrived at the final three candidates. After that, I sent out a “You’re hired!” email to have them start the following Monday. 

Building a Team…With The Wrong Person

So Monday morning, I stood there ready with my flip chart and color pens for the new hire orientation, feeling like a total badass boss. 

Three young women showed up right on time—probably remembering the candidates that got turned away from the interview, so they knew not to be late—and we got started.

About an hour in, after I’d been standing there drawing on the flip chart and talking to them, my husband pulled me aside.

He pointed to one of the girls and said, “That’s not Maria. That’s Anna.”

I looked at him, kind of confused, and I said, “No, that’s Maria. I hired Maria.” I had rejected Anna right off the bat; she was not one of my chosen ones. Not only that, but I had been calling this new hire “Maria” all morning long. 

And my husband just looks at me and goes, “No, that is Anna,” with even more emphasis. 

Now, you don’t know Larry, so let me just explain: he’s the nice one. He has a total heart of gold. He’s also the quiet one; he doesn’t necessarily speak up and he’s the perceptive one. So if he’s insisting on this, he’s most likely right. 

All I could do was shake my head in disbelief as I came to the painful realization that I had, in fact, hired the completely wrong candidate.

Now What?

So now, twenty years later, this is a really funny story. But at the time, I just wanted to cry. I had just fired my whole team the week before and created a total mess, and here I was creating yet another mess while building a team all over again. It just wasn’t pretty.

Here I am in the middle of a new hire orientation, and there’s two new other hires sitting right next to Anna—not Maria—so what should I do? Should I send her home? Should I make a big fuss that I made a mistake and hired the wrong person? How would that look in front of the other hires?

I eventually decided to just keep going, hoping that it would all somehow work out in the end. So I settled in with my new team and hoped for the best.

The Results

So fast forward about three months into the future, when I had learned a thing or two about my new team members.

Team Member #1 turned out to be married to a gang member. As a matter of fact, they got married while he was in jail. Now, of course she was innocent, but I had to send her home to change clothes one morning when she showed up to the office wearing a big sweatshirt with a big pot leaf all over it.

Team Member #2 turned out to be wanted for child support after abandoning three of her children—which, by the way, she had never once mentioned that she even had kids. I only found out because the court wanted me to garnish her wages. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared one day never to return, leaving a big mess. All the work that she had been working on was halfway done, and I had to sort it all out. On top of that, she had taken some of the work home with her, and I never found it again.

Team Member #3 was a twenty-something year old, barely out of her parents’ house, a little ditzy, kind of unfocused at times…but overall, she did okay work. Now, she would come into the office and gossip and sit around chatting about her latest haircut, her fun weekend plans, her cute boyfriend…you know, just chatty, bubbly, ditzy, cute.

Now, guess which one was Anna? Team Member #3, right? The one that I had instantly dismissed turned out to be the best one of the three. 

How Did We Get Here?

You may wonder, “How in the world did you end up with these team members, Madeleine? Did you not check them out?”

It’s a totally fair question. I get it. It sounds like a crazy Seinfeld story, not an example of building a team. 

The truth is, I couldn’t compete with the big guys while building a team. I couldn’t afford to pay fifty, sixty, seventy-thousand-plus dollars a year in salaries.

Because of this, I was building a team full of entry-level team members, hoping I could train them up. I was the typical small business owner trying to make do with the scraps when it came to the hiring pool.

My team turnover in those early entrepreneurial days was just horrible. 

I did the typical background checks while building a team. I called past employers. I called their references. But in reality, the real test came when they were hired and in my business. I didn’t have unlimited resources or unlimited time to vet people and find just the right people to fill the positions while I was building a team. 

I had work that needed to get done, and I needed it done now; the longer I took with hiring and building a team, the more work was piling up on my to-do list. 

The Slow-Go of Scale-Up

Now, hopefully, your method for building a team is not as messy as mine was. I was in my 20s when I started out on my entrepreneurial journey and started building a team for the first time.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I was making it all up. Nobody has ever shown me how to be a good boss. The bosses I had worked for were not that great either, to be totally honest. 

In some ways, I think this is sometimes one of the biggest reasons why some CEOs just decide to stop growing altogether. Getting past this scale-up phase takes so much time and energy, and you’re almost certain to burn out along the way. I certainly did.

Just this week, I’ve had clients come to me and say, “Dude, I am so over this project. I just want this done.” or, “I don’t know what to do. We’ve been trying to build these processes and systems for the last nine to ten months.” 

It’s slow. It’s cumbersome. It’s painful. But without those systems in place, you end up building a house of cards, and it’s even messier.

Stay Tuned…

By the time I was burnt out in this messy part, I had so many must-get-done demands on me and my business that I just couldn’t stop doing all the things. I had to stick it out and to stay with it. 

I rode this way for at least a decade before I stumbled across something that changed everything, and it’s still the way that I build teams to this day. 

Stay with me. We’re going to continue this series all about building a team and learning how to be a boss over the next couple weeks, because believe me…I’m not out of stories yet.

If you want to make sure you never miss an episode, come follow the 7 Figure Freedom Podcast on Spotify, subscribe on Google, or head over to Apple Podcasts. In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or in the 7 Figure Freedom Club Facebook group so we can chat about what you got out of this episode!

Are you wondering if you’re ready to take the next step in your business? Curious about whether you’re a good fit for our services? Take the free business assessment quiz to find out! And if you want to learn more, you can visit my website or schedule a call with me today. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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