Employees: the ultimate partners

How smart alliances lend a hand to help midmarket growth.

By Melanie Haiken, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- It's easy to forget that the most important allies your company has are the ones who come to work every day. Executives at successful companies are quick to tell you that finding and retaining top talent is the key to growth. This is particularly true for midsize firms, which have to compete with larger - and richer - companies for management and entrepreneurial expertise.

"Great companies and leaders have started to understand the connection between employee satisfaction, high levels of productivity, and the bottom line," says Patrick Lencioni, a business consultant whose book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is a business best-seller.

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The secret, Lencioni says, is creating a team-based culture of connectedness in which employees feel that their input is respected and rewarded. "You have to build trust among team members so that people feel free to admit what they don't know, make mistakes, ask for help if they need it, apologize when necessary, and not hold back their opinions."

In other words, just say no to yes-men.

The result? A company in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Stanford University management professor Robert Burgelman advocates "internal corporate venturing." Developing new ideas is integral to growing any company, but too many executives wait until a crisis occurs before putting resources into fostering innovation, Burgelman says.

Instead, successful companies make innovation an ongoing strategy, committing resources and management from the top down.

Snapshot: 1-800-Got-Junk

Patrick Lencioni teaches managers in his team-building seminars to strengthen trust by admitting vulnerability. It worked for Brian Scudamore, the 36-year-old founder of the hauling and cleanup service 1-800-Got-Junk.

"As soon as I stopped trying to be the CEO who's got everything under control, there was an instant shift," he says. "My managers started seeing me as someone they could disagree with - and that makes all of us stronger."

Teamwork is at the core of the operation based in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has expanded to 278 North American cities and has outposts in Australia and the United Kingdom. Its revenue was $67 million in 2005, almost double the previous year, and the company is on target to nearly double it again this year.

Next: Partnership with the community: the power of corporate citizenship

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4 ways to successful partnering:

Melanie Haiken is a San Rafael, Calif., writer and a frequent contributor to Business 2.0. Top of page

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