No Woman is an Island: Building a Strong Team in and Around Your Business
Ellie Kassner, WE NYC Mentor

Diversifying and strengthening the teams you surround yourself with will undoubtedly benefit your business both socially and financially.

Ellie Kassner

Entrepreneurship is an incredibly rewarding endeavor, but it can also be isolating, especially without a supportive community around you. The best way to incubate strong operations and growth is to surround yourself with a strong team, both internally and externally, to provide support and a sense of community.

Your Internal Team
A strong staff to support you and your business is essential to achieving success. Start with your existing staff. Is everyone performing in the best interest of the business? Work to reset your employees’ attitudes and focus by taking the team to lunch, giving earned unsolicited compliments or bonuses, engaging in a professionally led team building exercise or giving everyone a summer Friday afternoon off. No matter how you choose to show your appreciation, your employees will respond positively. From there, as an owner and leader, you can start shaping your business environment to reflect your mission.

When hiring, it’s important to challenge yourself as well as your potential new hire during the interview process. Start thinking through the position before putting the job description out there. What tasks could someone else take on that would free you to do what you are passionate about in your business? What kind of person would not only fit into your existing business environment and team but also add to and elevate the team? 

Be sure to ask the kinds of interview questions that get at the core of these criteria. Asking questions that don’t commonly come up in interviews will encourage candidates to think on the spot, elicit outside-the-box ideas, and probably yield the most honest answers. 

Most importantly, don’t look to hire another “you.” Hiring team members who have a different approach to problem solving and their own pleasant but individual personalities is the key to developing the much-needed respect and appreciation for the different jobs team members perform.

Refocusing your team may also mean letting certain people go. While this is by no means an easy task, employees who are holding back others are toxic to your whole organization, not just for obvious reasons but also because of opportunity costs.

Ellie Kassner


Your External Team
Work/life balance, anyone? Your external team can help you achieve this elusive state. Family, friends, colleagues, mentors and professional networks can be part of this group.

Beloved family and friends may lend a helpful ear or dispense sound business advice. This is great, but make sure their advice is what is best for your business before acting on it. It’s also important not to discount this advice just because it’s personal. As an entrepreneur, many of your professional practices may mirror your personal lifestyle. Remembering that the two are blended but at times must be weighed separately is difficult to do.

Colleagues are another great source of counsel. They can offer wise insight because they are engaged in similar professional roles and environments or have similar backgrounds. Often, however, we as entrepreneurs may not seek this advice because we are caught up in our own analyses. Colleagues bring their particular experiences and learning to the table to inform your decisions. Don’t leave them untapped!

Mentors are invaluable members of your external team not only because they believe in you and your business, but also because they have followed a professional trajectory you respect. Mentors often give some of the best advice. They are willing to let their guard down to tell you how something really is, not just what you want to hear.

Professional networks have gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Participating in communal organizations allows us to keep up with industry standards and challenges us to stay fresh. I recommend becoming involved with an organization that is generally related to your business (like women business owners) and one that is closer to your niche (such as women in construction).

Start Benefiting from a Strong Team
Assemble a stellar internal team by approaching hiring thoughtfully and take advantage of the many external team resources already around you. Not only will this help you achieve and maintain a work/life balance, it also will provide a strong foundation of informed outside perspectives that can help you grow your business responsibly. Diversifying and strengthening the teams you surround yourself with will undoubtedly benefit your business both socially and financially.