Build Your Team Culture by Focusing on What’s Strong (Not What’s Wrong)

Today on the Bootkik blog, we’re featuring The Italian Centre’s Teresa Spinelli. As the Owner of the Alberta-based family grocery store, Teresa has overseen the Italian Centre’s rise to 4 stores and 500+ employees province-wide.

One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do as entrepreneur or leader is look inwards and question your own abilities. It’s tough to admit your vulnerabilities, and reflection is easier said than done, but once you become self-aware, you can play to your strengths. Doing tasks that bring you no joy can lead to burnout, but acknowledging where and when you can operate at highest capacity will allow you to build a sustainable organization.

It took me years to admit that I wasn’t good at math. It’s not my thing. Back in grade school, numbers were difficult for me, but I would put my head down and get on with the task at hand. Despite operating out of my strengths, my mentality was simply to power through and do what was required of me.

Similarly, for years at the Italian Centre Shop, I did all the financial records, from data entry to payroll to pricing to inventory control. All my frustrations with math came flooding back, and I would spend hours poring over the books, trying to figure things out. In short, I was miserable; I found no joy in doing our finances. I spent several hours doing tasks that would probably take a trained professional an hour or two.

What a huge waste of my time.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s important for business owners to have a good understanding of company’s finances.

But, as was my situation, if it’s not your strength and it’s not something that you’re passionate about, it’s best to hire someone to do the job so that you can shift your energy to something that you love. The Italian Centre Shop was growing, but I was spending less and less time doing the things I loved, such as customer service, working with suppliers and HR, because I was busy wrestling with our finances. After struggling for far too long, I finally admitted to myself that it would be a good business decision to hire a CFO to do the finances, and free me up to work on the aspects of the business I was passionate about.

I’ve always known that I’m a people person and that’s my strength in the workplace. When I’m doing a job that involves working closely with people, I get energized and motivated. Anyone who has visited our shops knows it’s not uncommon to see me on the shop floor happily chatting to customers and suppliers. It’s quite the opposite feeling from when I was doing the finances.

I’ve taken this less, and incorporated into how I run my teams as well. I make sure that my employees are in roles that they’re good at, and have jobs that bring them happiness. It’s important to me that everyone feels like they belong and that they shine at what they do. If you treat your employees well, they will treat customers well too. I sit with employees regularly and engage with them about their jobs. If they are unhappy or not doing well, I look for another position in the company where they can excel.

The Italian Centre has grown to 500 staff, and I strongly believe that our culture has played a huge role in our growth. By focusing on what’s strong, rather than that’s what’s wrong, we’ve been able to build a positive and healthy workplace, and you can too.