One of the most exciting things I was able to do in my career was growing a marketing team from 2.5 people to a group of almost 40 professionals across 4 different yet complementary departments. It certainly wasn't easy and I learned a lot along the way that I was able to take to other roles and situations. Here are some keys to building your marketing team regardless of whether you are starting from scratch or inheriting a sizable force:
- If you can think incrementally - building a department is like building a wall. The best way to do it is brick by brick and step by step. Think about where you want to go and what steps you need to take to get there. If you have consensus at the top about what marketing needs to do for the organization you can begin to think about the foundational pieces. That way you can make sure what you ultimately build will be stable and sustainable and then add layer upon layer as each one sets.
- Make course corrections early - continuing the building analogy, soon into your build you may realize you need to take down part of that wall or move something around. With your department, it may be the reorganization of the team or personnel changes. One thing I can say from experience is that you need to make these changes as soon as you know they need to be made - not from a reactive state but a planful one. It's easier to get them done as things are getting built and it will help cement the plan in place.
- Don't be afraid to blow things up if needed - unfortunately, no one ever pitches a perfect game in the hiring game. Even with guidance and development sometimes you end up with a dysfunctional team or function. If it's not people it could be your processes or misalignment of resources, but regardless if it's not working you have to have the courage to get to the root causes and pull them up. Steering into it is much easier than having to react to senior management issues and concerns.
- Let leaders emerge - I've always been a big proponent of promoting from within since it allows your leaders to learn the company and how to be successful in it before assuming leadership positions. This may place more of a burden on your current management and may yield some "learning moments" but in the long run, your team will be stronger and more able to generate the next group of leaders as they assume even larger roles.
- Create a culture worth defending - I knew I was in a good place with my teams when the culture would support the people that were doing a good job and fitting with the mission and more importantly spit out those that were not. When people like where they are working and who they are working with they will police themselves and want to keep all the great things that have been created during the evolution. This is not the inmates running the asylum - it's protecting what you and they care about from all sides and not just the officer chair.
Even if you don't have the chance to do this right away, these steps are great ones to think about as you are building your team day by day and project by project. If you continue to take care of the small things and satisfy your clients these kinds of opportunities will come and you will get to do something that is truly transformational.