HOW TO GROW YOUR TEAM
This post is part of a series that explores the behind the business scenes of El Camino Travel. As a company led by a young woman entrepreneur, we often get emails from individuals asking us how we turned our passion into our full time job. We are humbled beyond belief that so many people are turning to us for advice and wanted to answer some of those questions. Along with our usual travel content, we wanted to start a series shining light on the business side of starting a travel company. Hint: it is not as glamorous as it seems, but it is completely rewarding.
In this this post our founder and CEO, Katalina Mayorga, explores what it is like to grow your team from a team of one to multiple travel coordinators, photographers, interns, and travel hosts.
I am not going to sugar coat it and lie, but growing your team is scary. My initial thoughts — will we ever find anyone that will be as excited about this company as those who founded it ?!?! Will we ever find anyone that will lead our travel groups with as much attention to detail as we have??! My answer — — yes and no. We probably will never find anyone that will care as much as those who founded El Camino Travel, but we realize that we can find individuals who are deeply passionate about our mission and whose values align with our own. The reality is that there are few people that will probably understand the amount of dedication, sweat, thought, heart, tequila shots, and dance moves you have put into this business and that is okay, because you can come pretty darn close. Below are a few lessons I have learned when trying to grow a team.
IDENTIFY YOUR COMPANY VALUES AND USE THOSE VALUES TO GUIDE YOUR HIRING PROCESS.
Figure out what is important to you and your company. Write them down and make sure that those values are part of the job description and the interview process. For example, when hiring an intern, I listed out in the job description that I was looking for an individual who has an entrepreneurial spirit, an interest in seeing what it takes to get a business off the ground, a desire to make the world a better place through tourism, an intense curiosity, a creative mind and the ability to think outside of the box. These values are critical to the DNA and fabric of the El Camino spirit and I needed to make sure whomever I work with holds these same values, because their success at our startup would depend on it.
HIRE FOLKS MORE CAPABLE THAN YOU TO GROW THE COMPANY.
This is pretty straight- forward. It is impossible to know everything about your business, so surrounding yourself with people better, smarter, and more experienced than you is beneficial. Identify the gaps in your team and bring on people that can fill those roles. Identify your own personal strengths and weaknesses so that you can better surround yourself with the right people who can make you a better leader, which in turn can create a stronger foundation for your team. .
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS.
When you grow your team, it is crucial for you, as a leader, to understand that you are responsible for setting your team up for success. My good friend often says, you are only as strong as your weakest link. As a founder, you need to ask yourself how are you ensuring that you are setting up an environment that allows everyone to grow and contribute. You need to think about the opportunities you are providing them so that they come everyday excited about their job. It can feel overwhelming, at times, because on top of the day to day, you have to actively be thinking about your colleagues and their well being in the company. That is your job. When your colleagues know you care and they can see you leading with purpose, that type of thoughtfulness will seep into the company culture and will trickle down to inspire your team to work hard and take ownership of their work within the company.
CREATE A LEARNING PLAN AND CHECK IN.
Once you hire someone new, the first thing you should do is sit down and create a learning and growth plan with that employee. Ask them why they were interested in this job, what did they want to learn, what do they want more exposure to, and if there are any side projects they want to take on. For example, the entrepreneurial spirit is what I value most and I want our team to feel like they can come up with an idea and run with it. I want them to feel like they have the freedom to do that. Once they put into writing the things they want to accomplish, we check in often to see if we are headed towards the right direction in their development. We hash out their ideas from their findings to road blocks they are encountering and helping them turn the idea into something tangible. Have goals in writing helps with these check-ins when we have them. It helps us figure out what is and isn’t working and let’s your employee know that it’s a flexible work plan as we develop as a team and as they develop as an individual.
DON’T ALWAYS TALK ABOUT WORK.
Don’t. Know your people beyond their job description. Know about their hobbies and what they care about. Show interest and actually be interested. Again, this may be hard, because you have so much to think about and to grab a cup of coffee to shoot the sh*t may seem like you are wasting precious time, but this all goes back to what type of team atmosphere you want to create and what you see as important within your company. We genuinely care about our travelers, their aspirations, their passions, and if that is important to us, it is important to us to care about those same things for our employees. We treat everyone in the El Camino eco-system with the same respect. How have I done this? I know the Tinder nightmares and fortunes of some. I went and did 6AM rooftop yoga and a morning dance party with another. I often do field trips where we get out of the “office” (aka my dining room) and we head out of the city, work from a new and inspiring space, and go explore something new in our city.
These are a few lessons that help me with how I grow the El Camino team. As always, I am open to other suggestions,pushback, thoughts, and comments. Hit us up at email@example.com
P.S. This is one of my favorite articles on how to be a good boss → “Never say “she works for me.” Always remember that nobody works for you. They work for the job and for themselves and for a million reasons, maaaaybe if you are super awesome you are a tiny reason. But it’s always more accurate to say “we work together.” This soundsdumb but I really believe it matters, not just language-wise but as a thing to keep in mind.”