6 Key Steps for Building Your Small Business Dream Team

Published February 17, 2023

Whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, solopreneur or small business owner, the key to growing a successful company depends on more than getting the right person in the right place at the right time. Although finding one great hire to bring onboard is a good place to start, you should aim higher. Your ultimate goal should be to assemble a dream team made up of employees, vendors, and contractors capable of efficiently and effectively maximizing the work, enjoying the process, and growing your company.

The good news is that, when you’re building a business, less can be more. Lack of time, money and people can ultimately drive you to be more successful–IF you’re strategic about how you approach your talent acquisition strategy, make connections and build relationships. Following a series of carefully calculated steps makes a great deal of difference and avoids the frustration of making hiring mistakes, especially in your early years.

STEP 1: Look in the mirror

You’ve obviously got skills. Start by taking a hard look at them. What are your personal strengths? What are the things only you as the business owner can do? What can you let go of? If you’re a do-everything-yourselfer, you may need to reimagine yourself as a delegator. Look to potential hires to complement your strengths, not look just like you, think just like you, or duplicate your skills.

Does changing tech and information technology make you crazy? Find someone who loves it. If crunching numbers and worrying about receivables and balance sheets zap your brain, hire a full-time finance person. You should strive to offload responsibilities that dilute your ability to realize the power of your vision, ideas and leadership.

Basically, your dream team should follow the lead of sports teams. As in the major leagues, an effective team is made up of focused players who effectively cover all the bases together.

STEP 2: Understand your company culture and vision

As you look for talented people who complement your strengths, think about the specific types of employees you would like on your team.

Target potential hires that fit your company culture, defined as “the behaviors and beliefs employees and management of a company adhere to when conducting business.” Company culture shows up in:

    • A company’s values, mission, and vision statements
    • The way things get done at all levels of the company
    • Communication and language used between management and employees and among team members
    • The level of openness and collaboration the business supports

As you grow your business, there are tactics you should consider to make sure you understand your company’s culture. You might hire a consultant, hold focus groups with employees, or make a concerted effort to watch how employees interact with each other.

STEP 3: Find the Right Person with the Right Attitude

If you already have a core team in place, but are ready to hire more players, identify people in your organization whose characteristics and traits you’d like to clone. Your dream hires will have more than the right skills and experience. They will have the right attitude for your company culture. Skills can be taught, but attitude is ingrained. Having a compatible attitude means potential hires will be able to easily adopt company culture traits as their own.

Thinking in terms of “mental matching” may be a concept you haven’t thought of before at any stage of team development. When you shortlist your candidates for an interview, think of the recruitment process as a way to determine how well each candidate will fit in with your company culture. Ask them: Which company values do you feel are most important? What does your ideal workplace look like? What best practices did you experience in other workplaces? Which of your past workplaces proved to be a misfit for you and why? This mental matching can have great results, enabling you to build a dream team that goes far beyond job descriptions.

STEP 4: “Audition” Top Players on Site
If a potential employee will be in your office environment most of the time, invite them on a tour or to sit in on a meeting. Do they seem comfortable and fit in? You might even have the person who looks like a really amazing hire shadow someone who already works in your office. This host employee can give you impressions and feedback of the candidate you might not have seen on your own. Can everyone the potential hire comes in contact with (including the receptionist who greets them at the door) see the person doing well in a role on your dream team? You can learn a great deal by getting the perceptions of people who understand your business and whose opinions you trust.
STEP 5: Broaden Your Network

As you grow your small business and build your dream team, relying solely on job board postings and staffing agencies simply won’t secure the best hires. The groundwork for your hiring process happens as you build a strong network of people who are in your immediate sphere and beyond. Who do you turn to help you out in business now? How do you broaden that? How do you bring in other people to help you achieve your goals?

A strong network is critical to building an effective and early team, as well as crafting your dream team. Typically, business owners have three kinds of networks:

Operational networks – Talented people who help you get things done–peers, direct reports, and the vendors you work with.

Developmental networks—Effective people who help you personally learn and grow as an entrepreneur–advisors, coaches, and mentors.

Strategic networks –The future-minded leaders that are helping your business to grow.

The people in these networks become connectors for you, and you become connectors for them, which is invaluable at every stage of team development.

Think about this too. There are always direct and indirect competitors that are doing better than us or have become thought leaders or players in the space. Maybe your dream hires are people who work or have been leaders at those companies in the past. They are people who know what they are doing and have consistently and successfully driven growth for those companies.

STEP 6: Evolve to a Talent Optimization Strategy

Think of this one as a “future step.” It will not happen immediately, today or tomorrow, for a small business, but it should be on your radar. The Wall Street Journal Bestseller, THE SCIENCE OF DREAM TEAMS: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness (McGraw-Hill Education; July 6, 2021) addresses the most common challenges leaders face when developing a talent strategy, including hiring, motivating, and managing people more efficiently and effectively.

Mike Zani, author, and CEO of Predictive Index, details a data-driven approach and introduces the science of talent optimization a new discipline that offers a far more reliable way to manage people than emotional or impulsive decisions. Talent optimization uses data and analytics to ensure that a business leader’s path to success is informed and purposeful. It allows an organization to encompass a people strategy that guides the hiring process, building of teams, and designing of the company culture.

And don’t forget the non-data driven aspects of being a true leader, a future-minded leader. Are your employees responding well to their daily work environment? Or is it full of stress, confusion, and dissatisfaction? Would simply delegating work more effectively to mitigate the stress of meeting deadlines and requirements affect lasting change?

Is it time to reevaluate employee happiness, a key factor in employee turnover? Maybe employee recognition has been overlooked. Or maybe you need to devote more time and resources to employee engagement. Could flexible work options make a difference? By communicating your strong sense of responsibility for the well-being of your dream team, you invigorate it.


Following these six steps to build a dream team that fits your company culture will pay great dividends for your growing small business in a variety of ways. You’ll enjoy higher retention rates, attract talented people, and make your company more resilient. Your company will also appeal to younger, fresher talent who have more room for growth, bring fewer bad habits to break, and offer new ideas and innovative perspectives in the workplace. Nurture your dream team, and you’ll be positioned to shepherd your small business in exciting new directions now and in the future.

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