Interview with Two Business Leaders: Developing People in Your Company

Dream with me. You opened your business two years ago. Your cash flow situation is simply amazing. Clients are knocking down your door to give you business. The surrounding community is praising your efforts in meeting their felt needs. Local leaders see your business as an asset to the city. You have plenty of time to put your feet up due to your amazing staff. You have all the right people doing all the right jobs.

OK, now you can wake up. That was just a dream! It’s actually pretty much every business owner’s dream.

How do you begin to make that dream a reality? Whether you are a new business owner beginning to write your plan, or a seasoned BAMer re-evaluating your plans, don’t forget to include ‘people development’. Your people are potentially the most valuable asset you have.

Jim Collins famously wrote about making sure you have “the right people on the bus“. While this is absolutely true, I believe, having a plan to further develop those people is also critical. With a focused people development plan some of your “right” people will become even more “right” – more than you could have imagined.

We interviewed two business leaders to find out about their approach to people development. We asked them each the same three questions about how they intentionality grow their people and what they have learned about staff development.

What vision do you have for your staff?

Business Leader A:

The primary purpose of our business is to share with our staff and interns about God, as they don’t have a framework for a Creator in their lives (most of them have never heard about the gospel). We also desire to create an environment where each person can live up to their greatest God-given potential. We want to see people grow skills-wise, career-wise, and in character traits, such as, loyalty, honesty, and kindness. 

Our work is worship unto the Lord and we see them as God’s staff, not ours. That means when there are problems, they are God’s problems! We are happy for Him to carry the weight as we work with Him to develop those He has created.

Business Leader B:

I look at our Kingdom vision through the lens of ‘profit, purpose, people, and planet’. When employing people in a hard-to-reach location, it is a core piece of the mission of the company to intentionally develop them. They deserve attention, energy and focus.

My vision for all those around me is for everyone to become more like Christ and to reach their God-given potential. For people who don’t know Jesus, to be introduced to him, to draw near Him, and be inspired by Him. I hope His character is on display in my life and the lives of other staff who know Him. For people who do know the Lord, my hope is that they grow in sanctification, develop their gifts, and that they grow a missional mindset.

Start with the end in mind. Ask the employee about their personal long-term dreams. Connect the long-term plan with the unique person. Put people in the right roles according to their gifting, aptitude and skills.


What is your vision for future leadership of the company?

Business Leader A:

Eventually everyone needs to be disposable, including myself. The company might not ever be completely independent of the owners, but to build in that direction is our goal. We are seeking to build a strong leadership team, although right at this point in time the company leadership is all on our shoulders. It’s hard to find good people but we are trying to grow good people. We trust that God is bringing the right people to help us grow His business. 

Business Leader B:

As my staff work in a cross-cultural work environment, my hope is for them to develop into humble, third culture leaders. A third culture leader is one who is aware of the strengths and weakness of their own culture, as well as the culture of their colleagues. This kind of leader is able to operate and lead from the third culture position, relating to all cultures with respect and helping those around them grow to do the same.

I coached a local woman on my team in how to operate as a woman from the host culture with bosses who are men from foreign culture. She took on the challenge and has stepped into more and more leadership roles. With a non host culture intern, I asked, “As a foreigner, with a male power position and deeper connections with the foreign leader bosses, how do you operate as a humble leader in the host culture? You know how to leverage foreign culture leaders, but will you serve the local leadership in a way that they feel served?”

My goal is to see local staff to be in as high a leadership position as possible and expat staff ready to stay or go knowing that the local staff is well prepared.

Begin with the end in mind. Have a built in exit plan. That requires building into the people who can hold the weight of the leadership on their shoulders. What’s your plan for increasingly stepping away and handing off to local leadership? If you aren’t going to leave, then how much leadership are you willing to share with locals? Be honest with yourself. Share it with your board, put it in writing so they can keep you accountable. You can change your mind in time, but at least you will be forced to have the conversation.

What are some practical ways that you develop your staff?

Business Leader A: 

We set aside work hours for staff development within our normal 40 hour work week. We’ve made it priority, our billable time is 36 hours and we then set aside about 10% of our staff’s time for growing them. 

Once a week we have a Principles Class, these are small groups that use materials such as or lessons we have created in-house. The curriculum includes values and Kingdom principles such topics as hard work, money, social issues, respect, etc. We have discussions in the small groups and talk about the topics in the context of their own culture. At the end of lesson each person rates themselves according to the value and gives an action item for growth in that area. This class gives opportunity to introduce God and what the Bible says about various topics. 

We now have an ESL teacher who works in-house, helps develop our soft skills training and spiritual impact plan and helps coordinate our community outreach. 

We’ve started a personal and career development “Buddy Program”. We take in 6 to 10 interns and partner them with our newer staff members. The newer staff mentor the interns and this helps to develop both parties. 

One Friday a month, we have “Campfire Fridays” as a time for staff to present a topic they are interested in. This provides a place for them to practice public speaking, presentation and English skills. 

We have a staff-run volunteer program that connects us with the local community. We want staff to be self-motivated in serving and building long term relationships in our city so the staff give ideas about what to do. Currently we have three different events per week with staff leaders organizing them. Two examples are, visiting elderly people with a meal and tutoring orphans and lower income children. 

We provide a lunch and eat altogether everyday. It’s not just eating; it’s bonding, it’s belonging. We strive towards a family feel in our company. 

We were once challenged by a mentor to “keep on listening to the needs of your staff and meet those needs to the capacity you can”. Our staff want a better work-life balance than they had in their previous companies so we help to create that.

Business Leader B:

My staff and I created a two year development plan with objective benchmarks that are revisited every month, with a more in-depth evaluation every six months. I tie these benchmarks to financial incentives.

Examples of objective benchmarks for my team include: how many presentations given, how many effective analyses they have done, how many problems they have solved on their own, sales numbers up or down, how well is the team functioning on its own without boss intervention, etc.

I really appreciate a “360 Review” for all team members, including myself. This is when each person asks other team members to evaluate them. We do this every six months. It is a good eye-opener to see how we have grown and need to keep growing.

As you begin or review your business plan, take the time to pray and think through your strategy for people development. It may seem a side issue and not as important as your financials, but the people in your business will make or break it. If you don’t have developed people doing the right things in your company, then that dream you were having about your successful business will most likely stay just that, a dream.

People development is as important as any other bottom line. It is a strategic investment in the company, in the person and also in the Kingdom. We hope you will believe that, just as these two business leaders have done, and will take time grow your people.

Amy is a regular contributor for The BAM Review, in conversation with two BAM practitioners.


Join us for our Business Planning Part 3 series on The BAM Review Blog, looking at financial planning and people planning. Have your say on social media on this topic by following us on Twitter or Facebook.


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