Building a team, especially one as crucial to your company as the Board of Directors—people who have a large say in how you’ll be running your company going forward—is an essential skill to understand and learn. Without this insight, you’re entrusting the future of your company to people who might not exactly be up to the task. Solomon Ali illustrates some of the best practices you can implement when you’re building a team, and this knowledge extends far past just your Board of Directors, but to the rest of your company as well. Learn how to make strong and well-balanced teams and keep them in great shape!
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The Best Way To Build A Team
Thank you for being here and I’m glad to be here as well. I hope everyone is staying safe. Thank you for tuning into MBA, Minority Business Access. We’re going to talk about building a team and what that looks like. We’re going to speak a little bit about the team members that you need on your team, how you build a team, and what that team should be able to help you to achieve or accomplish, which should be at the end of the day, your goal, and developing and scaling your own business. One of the first things you want to do when you’re building a team is look for people that are smarter than you who understand their lane.
What I mean by that is if there are legal people that are good at what they do. What you don’t want to do is just to get anyone to be a part of your team. What do I mean by that? You don’t want to get your mom, dad, brother, sister or best friend because you trust them to be on your team. You may get their loyalty, but you’re not going to get the knowledge and the expertise to scale and to grow your business to be a little bit more proficient. What you’re going to want to do is first, let’s start with, once you’ve structured your organization, you’re going to have a shareholder’s vote and you’re going to develop what we call a board of directors. I like to call that board of directors a who’s who of the board of directors. You’re going to look for previous executives that were successful in their industry and within their companies.
What do I mean by that? I’m not going to find someone that happened to be, let’s say, in the manufacturing business. Let’s say, there are thousands of companies out there in the manufacturing business and they were number 990. That’s not the person I want to be sitting on my board to help me grow and scale my business because, at the end of the day, I’m going to be 991. We’re only as good as the people around us. I want the guy that was in the top three. That’s what I’m aiming for. Who was the number one guy? Who is the number two guy? Who’s number three guy? Who played a part in those teams? People who played on their team and that was a part of their team.
Key People In Your Board Of Directors
If I can get the number 1, 2, or 3 guys, that’s great because that means I have a better chance of ending up at least in the top ten. If not, in the top 100. I’m in the top tier and not the lower tier, so that’s extremely important. Maybe I don’t get them, maybe I get their team members, key people that were in their team that understood how they built it and what was all a part of it in the infrastructures, things, and decisions. That human capital has connections and a network of people that we can reach out, call, and talk to is important. This is the type of people I’m going to make up my board of directors with that I don’t need any money from. Please understand you don’t want any money from them. You want access to their network and brains, and you want that brainpower because that alone will make you better than everyone else.
Do not pick people just because you think you trust them.
If I learn something from someone who’s mediocre, then I’ll be mediocre too, but if I learn something from someone who’s good and who’s been proven successful in their craft, then I am going to be just as good. Maybe not as good, but as good as they are in that craft. My level of success rises based on my associations, who’s around me, those affiliations, and who they know. That is important and I can’t stress that enough. Your team, the shareholders. Once you get your company, you turn around and you have your shareholders vote. The shareholders determine the board of directors. I keep going over the same stuff and reiterating because this stuff is important. In case you missed it the first time or didn’t get it all, I’m repeating things as we go along so that you’ll be able to get it and you understand the emphasis that I’m placing on this.
Do not pick family and friends unless they are skilled and at the top of their game in their industry and in their business. Do not pick people just because you think you trust them because at the end of the day, what you’re looking for is expertise, a network, and people who can help you develop and build that company the way it should be built and designed. That’s what you’re looking for. The shareholders are going to determine the board of directors, so you’re going to need a chairman of the board. If you’re qualified to be chairman of the board, be chairman of the board. If you’re not, do not take that position. Give that position to someone who is qualified to sit on your board of directors to be chairman. You sit at their feet and learn it because sometimes you have to learn things before you can fill a position.
Everybody wants to be the head honcho, but they don’t want to do what’s required to learn the position to be head honcho and understand all the things that make up that position and why that position is critical. Don’t be the chairman of the board of your own company even though you think, “I was the founder and I’m the largest shareholder.” Are you on an ego trip? Are you looking to have a successful business? If you’re on a pride and ego trip, then do whatever the heck you want. I can promise you this. It’s going to end in disaster. If you want a thing to where you want to build a real organization, you want to build a real company, get a real team around you, and have the right players.
It’s because you’re at a certain place or a certain spot, what you want to do is this, “If I am qualified to be chairman, then I’m going to be the chairman. If I am not qualified to be chairman, then let me place someone in that position which is qualified to be the chairman of the board. They can turn around and do the things that they need to do to help guide and run our company the way it needs to be guided and run.” That’s important. That’s maybe someone that I’m not even familiar with that I have to elect to be chairman of the board of my own company. That person is going to bring knowledge and expertise on the structure. He’s going to bring a network and access to different accounting firms and different legal firms. He’s going to have a good grasp and understanding of what it is that we need from all the different things and different divisions.
I’m calling divisions but they’re positions within the company as we begin its structure and building from the top down. He’s going to understand all those things. He’s going to be able to have conversations that you’re not going to be able to have because you don’t even know how to have the conversation. He’s going to ask questions that you wouldn’t even know to ask. That’s extremely important. The other thing is if you don’t have a strategic consultant, you need a strategic consultant. You need someone like Solomon Ali that can help and ask those questions and be able to keep you abreast. Although you’re sitting there, he’s not on your board, so I wouldn’t be on your board of directors. I would be attending your meetings and I will consult with you and ask certain questions that also you may not think about and maybe the rest of your board don’t think about. By me asking those questions, it will help your board to understand where you’re going, what you want to do, and it will allow them to pull into their bag of tricks and network and get certain things done.
Another position you’re going to want is someone on your board of directors who have a legal background. We’re going for someone who’s at the top of their game in their industry. Don’t go get, “My sister’s husband’s cousin is an attorney. Let me go and hire him.” No, if he’s just an attorney and he’s not at the top of the game. Top of the game means you’re in the top 10% within your industry and you’re in the top 1 or 2 in your own company or in someone else’s company, your senior partner, or whatever. I wouldn’t get him because that’s my sister’s husband’s cousin and he happens to be an attorney and he’s close enough where we can make a couple of phone calls. I’m going to seek out people and say, “Do you know any good attorneys?” I’m going to look in the journal or in the industry and see who are the top attorneys out there. Who’s the top law firm out there?
I’m going to go get someone from one of the big boys, one of the big law firms, and say, “I’m putting a new venture together and this is what I’m looking to do. We’re looking for legal representation and we also want an attorney to sit on our board of directors.” A lot of times, you will be surprised that they want to do that to help you out, but it helps them as well. That’s what you’re going to be looking for in an attorney. That attorney is going to be able to help you to draft a lot of the paperwork. What he’s going to say is simple. Let’s say, “Steve, we’re going to get this done and I’m going to send it over to my law firm to get it done. We’re going even to give you a reduced price a lot of the time,” and that’s important because you’re getting a lot of value. Not only do you get to look at who you’re getting the value from, but you’re also getting the value from someone who’s at the top of their game, not just anyone that says, “I’m an attorney,” and that’s it.
You’re getting it from someone who’s at the top of the game, so that means the quality of work is solid. That means that reputation is solid. When people see that you’re coming to do a deal and they look at the who’s who on your board of directors, that’s a lot of credibility. They take it seriously at that time, but if you come up there talking about, “Here’s my board of directors and this is what we’re looking to do,” or “Here’s my team.” They don’t know any of the people and they don’t even know who you are, they’re not going to take it too seriously and they’re not going to take you too seriously either. “Solomon Ali got a whole bunch of money. He’s got tens of millions of dollars.” It doesn’t matter. No one’s going to take you too seriously. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can buy the company. It’s credibility. Do you have credibility? Do I want to sell my company to you? Can I see you managing and running my baby? Can I see you growing my baby so that I can say, “I own that company. I sold that company to them?”
Let your key people do what they do. Don’t micromanage them.
You’ve got to look at how the nature of people works. If I come with a superstar team, one, you’re going to be a little intimidated. Two, you’re going to know, “All these people are working with them, they must be the real deal.” That’s instant credibility. No one gets instant credibility, but you get the meaning of what I’m saying. Credibility and respect are always earned, so you still always have to earn it and that starts with picking your team because first, that’s where it’s going to start. You’re going to have to earn the respect of your team, sell them on the vision of what it is you’re trying to achieve, and why they should be a part of it. If I’m able to sell a bunch of superstars on being a part of my team, I’m going to have their respect and they have my respect. That’s why I went out and got them. Eagles fly together. I am trying to fly with no chickens. I’m trying to soar. That’s what you want to do.
You want to pick and find you some eagles. Some of you are going to say, “I have a whole lot of money to pick this superstar team.” You’re not looking to pick a board of directors for them to give you money. You’re looking to pick a board of directors where you’re going to use the credibility and their network. Here’s what you’re going to offer your board of directors. You’re going to offer them a piece of the pie. Not necessarily offering them money. I’m all for my piece of the pie. That could be a small percent of 3% to 5% or something of that nature. As we talked about the guy that’s sitting there, that senior partner in the legal firm, he was getting more billable hours for his company. We’re paying his company to do the acquisition documents. We’re paying his company to do the organizational documents or transactional documents or whatever the documents may be to help us to stay under all our different covenants and things like that.
Making sure that we don’t breach, let’s say any financial covenant, any contractual obligations, and things like that we may have. Making sure the financial contracts that we enter into are favorable for us and won’t harm us down the road. The same with other types of contracts or obligations. That’s where they benefit. They’re able to bring more business to their companies, but you’re going to give them a piece of the pie. That’s how you do that. When it comes to the accounting profession, you’re going to want to get a solid person that understands a CFO role accounting. It’s preferred there has been a CPA or above that understands the auditing process and things like that. You can’t compensate them for that unless they’re totally retired and independent because, under the rules of GAAP, there has to be total independence.
What you can do is hire someone who is retired, understands the rules, still has a network, and can reach out and say, “Call Jim over here. Jim is a good auditor. Call on Carlos over here. Carlos has a nice sized CPA firm that will be able to put our books and records together. Jim and Carlos work well together and make sure we have credible financials.” That’s how it works, guys and ladies. There’s no other way that this works other than that. We’ll move on. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that. You go to your marketing person. Who’s going to be marketing? You want somebody that understands marketing and operations within your industry and your business. You want someone on your board who understands operations. You want someone who understands how to scale a business. You also want someone who understands finance.
A lot of you are going to sit back and say, “The CPA and the finance are the same.” They’re two totally different people with different mindsets and ways they do things. A finance guy may understand the numbers and how the numbers get put together but he doesn’t understand those numbers like a CPA would. A CPA may understand what the finance guy did to structure a deal and how he structured it but he doesn’t think strategically the way that finance guy thinks. Let’s say, “We’re going to use warrants or options or this or that.” Your finance guy should be someone that has an investment banking background or that’s been successful in raising capital and funds before for many different companies. We’re looking for people at the top of the industry. We’re not looking for people who just do it. We’re looking for people who have a network that has access to other people. This is how you build a team. This is how you become successful.
Picking A CEO
You have your board of directors. We didn’t go over every single position, but you get the meaning of what we’re talking about and how we do this. The next thing you’re going to do is your board of directors is going to pick a CEO. They’re going to select and hire a CEO and give some rules. I’m sure you as the largest shareholder and the founder of the company may want to be the CEO and think that’s your job and that you should do that. Are you on an ego pride trip? If you are, you’re not going to be successful. If you’re on a thing to where you want to make and create an awesome business, sustainable wealth, and grow a nice sized company, then follow what I’m saying. If you’re capable of being the CEO, wonderful. You may not be and don’t be offended. Sit at the CEO’s feet. If the board of directors thinks that there’s somebody that’s better that could do that job, let the board of directors hire that person to do that job and place them under a contract while you sit at his feet and you learn the business.
It’s the difference between running a business and making hamburgers. There are two different skillsets and you must begin to understand that, “It’s because I can make hamburgers or I can design a widget, doesn’t mean I can run a business.” You’ve got to understand that you’ve got to get out of your own way. A lot of people, including myself into my early years, I was in my own way. I thought I could do it all. I thought I knew because I created and founded the business. I made the business go from $0 to a few million or whatever in sales and I had it all under control, and I did it. If I had gotten out of my own way, the business wouldn’t have gone just to a few million. It would have gone to many millions of dollars. Are you starting to get and understand what I’m saying now? That’s important and that’s why I’m saying, is it ego? Is it pride? Get yourself about the way because it should be about growing a business and making money. Everyone around you has to make money. Everyone around me is smart and successful. They don’t need me.
At the same time, I’m at a level where I may not need them either because we’re all egos so we can all do our own things. If you’ve got a bunch of little chickens running around with you, the chickens need you to eat, so the chickens are doing what they need to do to try to keep their jobs. They’re giving you some half-truths to keep their jobs and doing what we call professional stalls. Projects are taking twice or thrice as long as a project should take because they don’t have the skillset. They’re trying to learn it and figure it out as they go and you’re paying for that. That’s not what you want to be paying for. That cost you way more money in the long run. Stop and follow what I’m saying. Please stop. Get the best people that you can possibly get from the onset. Don’t get those chickens because you think those chickens are cheap. They’re not. They’re going to cost your arm and leg and then they’re going to cost you your second arm and leg and then you’re going to lose your business. Trust me on this. You will lose your business.
We’re only as good as the people around us.
Do not hire somebody or have people around you who are chickens and you’re just paying them. You think it’s a little bit more frugal, inexpensive, cheap, or however you want to say it. Get you some eagles. Eagles will get your job done and they will get the work done. They’re strong enough and independent enough. They know and you know that they don’t need to be there. They can do their own thing at any given time, but they’re there to achieve a mission and a task. Those are the kind of people you want around you. You want a team of superstars. If you’re not a superstar at the time, you will become a superstar. You better believe that because you’re going to understand the work ethic and access to all the different people or how to utilize that access. If we don’t call on people to be calling on, let’s say, “I’m not going to call on certain people to help even my daughter or my grandson or myself unless it’s a deserving and worthy project that everyone can benefit from.”
It’s got to be a deserving and worthy project when you start calling on your access or network. If I’m calling for a friend or my daughter, the project’s got to be worthy, deserving, and beneficial for everyone involved. Before I turn around and I vouch for someone, I’m going to vet out that project myself because that’s my credibility. I am not going to say, “Steve, I’m bringing Mike over here. I want you guys to talk.” Why would I waste Steve’s time like that? I have more respect for Steve. I know Steve’s ego, so I’m not going to disrespect his time. I am going to vet out Mike and what Mike wants to do. If it’s not up to par and be like, “Mike, you’re not ready to meet some of the people that I can give you access to but when you get ready, I would be more than glad to help you and to assist you in that area.” I’m keeping this 100 for you as young people like to say because that’s real. I’m not taking you to arrange any financing or anything like that for you if your deal doesn’t make sense.
If you’re not ready to be CEO, be brutally honest with yourself. Do not take it personally. Sit at the feet of whoever the board would like to hire as CEO to get the company up and going, operational, and learn from them. Put your pride aside. Learning may take anywhere from about 3 to 5 years where you’re sitting at that person’s feet and you’re learning. No matter what, you’re going to have to resist that temptation that you can do the job better because you’re on the outside looking in on how he’s making decisions and why. What you want to do is learn as much information and learn how to do that position effectively.
You’ve got your CEO. The CEO is going to start hiring his different division heads, senior vice presidents. He’s going to hire a finance guy, marketing guy, sales guy and operations guy. He’s going to begin to hire all these different people that it takes to run a department and then it’s going to continue to go down. Those individual people are going to be able to start hiring the right people that are going to take to work within that department and they’re going to get the best of the best that they possibly know. This is how you become successful. What’s happening is if you look at it, everyone is going from one level to the next and they’re accessing their networks based on what positions that they have held and how successful they have been in those positions.
I have seen it where we’ve gone out and we were looking for a CEO. He brought 15 to 20 people with him and he wouldn’t come without those 15 to 20 people. He was like, “I have to bring my team.” We had to pay millions of dollars for that team. I’ve seen key senior vice presidents do the same thing and say, “I’m willing to come but I need to bring these five people with me as well. This is what they’re accustomed to making.” If you have to do that, do it in a heartbeat. Don’t sit back and question it. Don’t sit back and think about it. You figure out, “How do I pay these people and get them paid?” Because what it’s bringing you is a complete infrastructure of people who have done it, can get it done, and know how to work together, so they don’t have to learn how to vibe together. They already know, so they’re able to hit the ground running a lot faster.
That’s what you want. Time is money. If we can get it done in half the time, we’re saving way more money and it’s not as costly as you think. If I had to pay a person $10,000 a month and it takes them four years to get the job done, that’s a lot of money. If I can pay a guy $15,000 a month and it takes him four months to get it done, it appears to be a lot of money monthly, but he did cut that time all the way down to four months. It’s well worth me paying him that $15,000 a month versus trying to pay a guy $4,000 a month and it’s going to take him four years. I don’t have four years and I may not be around in four years. I need to get this business up and going as quickly as possible. I need to minimize as much risk all the way around. That’s what we’re going always to try to do. We’re going to try to put the right people around us to be able to achieve that end goal.
How To Execute Plans
I got my team, board of directors, and management team starting with my CEO. What do we do? We begin to execute our plan. That’s what we begin to do. We start to have our meetings and we start to talk about how to execute the plans. The next thing you have to do is let your key people do what they do. You can’t micromanage them. You need to understand what it is and here’s why we keep saying. If you’re not ready to sit in that seat because your understanding or skillset is not there yet, please don’t sit in that seat. All you’re going to do is slow the team down from achieving what they need to achieve. In school, we learned there’s no such thing as a dumb question. I believe that, but that’s bullcrap. I’m being honest with you because if I’m sitting in a classroom with a guy who can do calculus and all I can do is third-grade arithmetic, my questions are going to be unnerving to him.
He’s doing calculus. I’m barely being able to add and do arithmetic. My questions are going to be unnerving and not only are they unnerving, but they’re going to be downright stupid. That’s why it’s important that if you’re not ready to sit in the seat, don’t sit in the seat. Hire the best of the best because when he’s talking calculus, everybody else already understands what the heck it is he’s talking about. They’re already at that level. They’re thinking along those lines. Here you come asking some questions from your little bitty understanding. How do you think things should work? How do you think things should go? Get out of here with that bullcrap. Forgive me for the language, but I’m passionate about this because I don’t like people wasting my time and I don’t want to waste anybody else’s time. I’ve been there, done that and when I don’t know something, I take the back seat.
The first thing of a great leader is you must be a great follower. You will never ever be a great leader if you’re not a great follower. You must be willing and able to take orders from other people and you must be humble. You must get rid of all of that false pride and say, “I don’t know. Let me learn and keep my mouth shut and follow.” I’m reminded of a movie, The Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off. The little kid wants to know why. “Why am I doing this? This is stupid. It doesn’t make any sense.” Until it was time to apply the applications that he realized what it was that he learned. It’s the same way in business. No one has time if they’re doing calculus and you’re still in arithmetic to be answering your dumb questions, and they are dumb. It’s not that the teachers that always told us there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but that applies when you’re in the right setting.
Credibility and respect are always earned, and that starts with picking your team.
There’s no such thing as a dumb question if you’re in arithmetic, you’re doing basic math, and you’re in a classroom with people doing basic math. If you’re over in a classroom with people doing calculus and you’re trying to do arithmetic and you’re asking a dumb question, you’re taking up people’s valuable time and you’re keeping them from getting the things done that you want them to get done. Please understand that. You’re going to have employees who are going to try to manipulate you and are going to try to convince you that they’re doing a great job. I’m going to tell you a personal story here. I have an employee and she’s taken two years to do a project. I step in and I get it done in a couple of weeks. She had the audacity to say, “The reason you got it done in a couple of weeks was because of the work I put in for the two years.” I said, “No, it wasn’t. The reason I got it done in a couple of weeks was that I understood what they were asking for and why they were asking for it. When you didn’t understand that, you walked away from it and then came back from time-to-time and had to keep starting over.”
She didn’t believe that that was correct or accurate. You’re a disobedient person. You don’t want to follow orders and rules. Those kinds of people are going to bring correction. I don’t want to have those kinds of people on my team that are breaking the rules and not doing what they’re supposed to. Guess what’s going to happen? Correction. Obedience brings rewards. Disobedience brings correction, so I always want to follow the rules. She made her point and everything like that. I looked at her and smiled and went on my way because it wasn’t worth arguing or trying to explain. I didn’t think that much over one way or the other to give her the time of the day to explain it. If I care about you and there’s a lot of potential in you, then I’m going to sit down and have conversations with you and I’m going to explain things to you. I am going to share things with you. If I don’t and you just think you know, then there’s no need for me to take my time to explain it to you. Screw that. I’ll let you go on and fall off the bridge with your dumb self because that’s what’s going to happen.
The next situation came up. We had a person that needed to be paid. It was one of our vendors. Our company has a certain set of rules on how we pay people and the information that we require upfront for accounting purposes. That we don’t get to the end of the year scrambling and trying to figure out what this is for. Do we have their 1099 information and all that stuff? Here’s what we do know. You’re dealing with a chicken and the chicken never took the time to learn all the policies and procedures of the company. The chicken comes back and says, “Can we use this to pay them?” That’s why the chicken came back. Whereas, clear in our policy and procedures, we only pay two ways, either a wire or a check.
You understand that our policy and procedure is our bible. That’s how we guide and govern our company. Let’s add either a wire or a check and for us to send out a wire or a check, this is all the documentation we need to have about that particular vendor. Do you understand why I call the person a chicken? The chicken wouldn’t have come back and asked that question if they had taken the time like an eagle would have and read our policies and procedures, and understood how these transactions work when we have to pay vendors. They would have known that already, but the chicken comes to me, asks me that question, and wants to place me on the spot. “Why not?” Really, you’re asking me, why not? I don’t know why not. I don’t give a crap. How about it’s in our policy and procedure, so let’s do it that way.
I understand because I read the policies and procedures and probably helped draft a lot of it. The reason we do it is so that we don’t have to waste our time 6 months or 1 year looking for documentation. We don’t have to waste our time trying to figure that out. What was this bill for? What does that mean? We’re not spending and wasting money. Because we have to spend time 6 months or 1 year from now trying to figure stuff out, then we’re spending and wasting money. We’re doing the same job again, but the chicken doesn’t understand that. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. I truly believe that. However, it’s in the right setting because everybody does in basic math. If you’re all in the same room, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. If you’re over here in a calculus class and you’re asking some basic math, that’s a dumb question. Get your butt out of the class because you’re wasting everybody’s time.
It’s the same on a professional level. If you’re not at this level with executives and stuff like that, you can’t fake it. It’s none of that crap, “Fake it until you make it.” You can’t because the other people who are up there and who’ve been there know what it looks like and knows the things that have to be done. You are asking them questions and it’s unnerving. It’s disturbing to them. That’s why I’m telling you. If you’re not to be the chairman of the board, don’t try to do a job that you can’t do. Learn the job. Let someone else do that job, teach it to you, and sit at their feet. If you’re not ready to be CEO, please be honest with yourself. Don’t be CEO. Learn the job. Let someone else be CEO and sit at the feet so that you’re never considered that chicken. You don’t want to be the chicken.
There are a lot of them. There are a lot of employees who think, “I do this well and I should be promoted, do another job for you, and get more money or be vice president and things like that.” They get that job and then all of a sudden, they can’t do the job because being a great salesperson is different than being a great manager. All of a sudden, they are sitting at the table with a bunch of other managers and they’re a salesperson. They don’t understand them and are not willing to try to understand what the new position is. That doesn’t work. You’ve got a superstar and you made him a manager. All of a sudden, he becomes a chicken. Don’t place people in those situations. If they’re superstar salesperson, let them stay a superstar salesperson. If you’re looking for a superstar manager, get your superstar manager. That’s how this works. I want to thank you. I hope you found this to be informative and helpful. I know it’s helped me in my life, especially in my later years as I continue to grow, develop businesses, do deals, and stuff like that. Thank you for reading MBA, Minority Business Access. I enjoyed you and I hope you enjoyed this and take a lot from it. It will save you a lot of money and a lot of time. Thanks for joining in on the show.