Building an elite team

Does your team push the envelope?

The S.A.S (Special Air Service) is an elite team in the Australian Military Defence Force. Its motto is telling: “Who Dares Wins”. Team members constantly push “the envelope”. That is, go beyond set parameters.

In business, countless parallel elite companies, entities and individuals strive for and achieve high performance goals. Many embrace the underlying principle and belief, “Think, believe, then do”.

Elite sportspeople repeatedly refer to visualisation, in which they see themselves being “in the zone” and fulfilling their own high standards. “P.B.” – Personal Best, is both a goal and a badge of honour. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that “elite” is a way of thinking, before it is a way of doing.

Countless parallels exist in business. Companies, entities and individuals strive for high performance goals, just like an elite athlete works towards getting a P.B. or dominating the competition.

Competitive advantages are natural consequences for businesses which can and are effectively positioned in the marketplace and within professional and trading groupings as being “elite”.

Competitive advantage is a natural want for any small business and staff have significant impact on when, how and if you achieve that goal.

Here are the four cornerstones of building an elite small business team:

  1. Recruit selectively

Always remember the adage: “Recruit for attitude, train for aptitude”.

When hiring, each job description should be complemented with a well-documented “job specification” that details the human characteristics the applicant requires to meet the expectations of you, your staff, clients and customers.

Such documents are effective in the self-screening of applicants and promote confidence and pride, while also contributing to workforce stability.

  1. Induct people into company values

An integrated induction process exposes new recruits to the values and beliefs which are important to the entity and its people.

Understanding philosophies, corporate cultures, mission statements and driving forces ensures adherence to the elite standards and expectations.

The need for supervision is minimised when team members comprehend the statement:

“Why we do the things we do”.

Elitism does not tolerate shortcuts or compromises. This should be made clear in the induction process.

  1. Conduct ongoing training sessions

In the military, in the sporting arena and in business, high performers inevitably “go the extra mile”.

Tiger Woods is a world champion golfer because, reportedly, he hit more than 30,000 golf balls before he won his first major tournament.

There is a lesson in that for business people: practice makes perfect.

Training needs to be scheduled, formal, informal and extensive, utilising internal and external resources and sources.

  1. Plan to plan

To aspire to optimal performance, whether it’s scaling Mount Everest or reaching business key performance indicators (KPIs), planning is imperative. Remember to plan to plan.

Plans set benchmarks, enable measurement of performance, monitor progress and provide the framework to identify the need for contingency initiatives. Unforeseen contingencies do arise. So too do innovations and creativity.

Less than 16 per cent, that is one in six small businesses, have an updated, integrated and documented business plan.

It is important to involve all team members in the planning process, for they think they have much to contribute and usually they do.


Undertaking these four essential steps will help remove you and your business from the “norm,” to the elite.

Barry Urquhart

About Barry Urquhart Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

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