Lesson #5: Build a Great Team

“Good employees will energize you and your business,” says Stewart. With over 650 people working for MSLO, Stewart has become a bonafide expert in the realm of human resources. Some have been with her from the very beginning and some have joined along the way, but all of Stewart’s employees share the talent, energy, passion and optimism that Stewart herself has for her businesses.

“As an entrepreneur, it is most gratifying to watch a group of intelligent, talented people be transformed from employees working for a paycheck into an energetic staff that collaborates day and night to achieve a common goal,” she says. While she admits to having made a number of hiring mistakes throughout her career, she recognizes the importance of finding employees who have the right ‘fit’ with her company. This was precisely the premise of The Apprentice, where she regularly made the difficult decision to let someone go because they “just didn’t fit in.”

Stewart claims that there are two commonalities between all of the workers that she has fired in the past – they misread what the customer wanted or they simply did not work hard enough. In order to avoid making similar mistakes, Stewart now follows a more stringent hiring process; she considers numerous candidates even if the first one she met seems perfect for the job; she carefully checks references to find out the true nature of a person’s character; and she introduces the candidates to all her employees who they will be working with to examine how well they ‘fit’.

She also stresses the importance of choosing the right partners and advisors for your business. While partners can remove some of the stress of decision-making and provide invaluable advice, Stewart notes that the decision as to who to go into business with must be made with an objective mind. Entrepreneurs who go into business with friends often find that while their friendship might be strong, it is not enough to sustain a business relationship. Instead, advisors must be people who both understand your goals and complement your skills.

Once a team has been assembled, Stewart maintains a hands-on approach, going to photo shoots, on sales calls and out into the field in order to ensure she is personally involved in the development of her staff and her business. “I view these as important opportunities to share my thought process and to help good employees become great,” she says. Stewart also maintains weekly discussion forums with her staff in order to evaluate the business culture and critique each other’s work. While many in her own company have criticized this management style, Stewart feels that it is necessary to change and grow as a company. Otherwise, “when you are through changing, you’re through,” she warns.

As an entrepreneur, Stewart advises that you need to be willing to adapt to the times. “What worked well last month may suddenly not be working at all,” she says. People change, companies change and it is only the successful manager that is able to reconcile the two.

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