Top tips to coach your small business into a winning team

Sylvia Pennington

The opening of the Rio 2016 Games represents crunch time for thousands of the world’s elite athletes who’ve put their heart and soul into preparing themselves for a shot at Olympic glory – but it’s very easy to forget about the coaches who’ve pushed them to give it their all, and then some.

Start-up founders and small business owners who want to inspire and encourage staff to perform at their peak experience similar challenges to the coaches who stand behind the swimmers, riders, runners and cyclists going for Gold this month.

So what does it take to become a top coach to a fast-growing new business team that – like any sports team – just wants to come out on top? Three of Australia’s most successful young start-up founders share their secrets for getting their staff to put on a winning effort.

Gen George

For Gen George, founder of Skilld and OneShift, the online subscription service which connects local talent with local businesses, becoming a good coach doesn’t mean blowing the whistle or cracking the whip. Rather, she says, it’s about encouraging the whole team to become leaders and problem solvers.

“Don’t try to have the whole business funnelled through you,” George says.

“Listen and understand what drives people as individuals – and have the patience and courage to step back and let your team stuff it up a few times, so they’re continually learning.”

Many heads are better than one and focusing on collaboration and transparency is key to harnessing the potential and power of all staff, George says.

“Drawing on so many different backgrounds and experiences allows us to figure out better strategies and processes for doing things cheaper, faster and better.”

Fred Schebesta

Understanding that a good leader leads by example and is quick to recognise staff who go over and above are key lessons for founders who hope to push their teams to pole position, according to Fred Schebesta, co-founder and CEO of comparison sites Finder and

It helps to work on becoming an attentive listener who encourages employees to be straight-up and speak their minds about issues and ideas as they arise, Schebesta says.

His top tip for building a team of winners? Take on folk who are highly motivated from the outset.

“As your business grows, invest in a human resources department which is committed to hiring people who are not only talented but also a good fit with the company,” Schebesta says.

Ross Fastuca

Want to really inspire the team you’ve hired to turn your bright idea into a booming business? Work at building a genuine connection with them, advises Ross Fastuca, co-founder of corporate travel platform Locomote.

“It’s about creating a bond based on honesty and trust and this is only possible if you care about them,” Fastuca says.

Succeed at that and it becomes easier to encourage staff to succeed for you, he believes.

“Allow them to make decisions and support them in that process,” Fastuca says.

“You need to have absolute loyalty to, and trust in, your team and be always thinking of the big picture.”

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

There’s plenty of advice on how to boost team performance, keep them productive and immersed in innovation. And don’t forget the all-important culture; that’s half of the game.