The Importance of Growing Your Company First, Individuals Second

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My premise is simple: A company cannot offer growth opportunities for its employees if it isn’t growing strongly and competitively itself, or at least heading with intent in a growth direction. As a leader, your focus must always be on growing the company. To do so, you must assemble a dynamic team that is also locked into growing the company. Of course, you must recruit and cultivate new talent as well, but your job is not to grow individuals in ways that compromise the culture and integrity of the company.

One could argue that if you grow individuals, you grow the company. Although I agree that growing individuals grows the company, the question is how a leader approaches this process. There is an inherent problem when systems focus an individual’s effort to grow at the expense of the company, the team and the culture. It is for this very reason that I have never been a fan of commission compensation based on “individual sales” rather than overall performance and behaviors. I would never pay for a bad attitude, resistance to change, ignoring rules, lack of teamwork, poor client retention and other issues that commission pay can’t address.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to maintain a proper balance between growing the company and individuals:


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  • Superstars can become meteors: Superstars are super talented and driven to succeed. It’s a beautiful thing to see when they put their energies and focus on serving the company and their teammates first. It’s a pretty ugly thing to see when it becomes “all about me” and their “I/me/mine” thinking starts contaminating the company’s teamwork culture. Keep your superstars team-focused by preparing them to be mentors rather than allowing them to become tormentors. Because they get out of control quickly, address superstar issues when they surface. If you can’t contain the superstar’s ego and behavior, cut them loose before you have a major mess to clean up.
  • Systems create outcomes: Dissect and bulletproof your systems to ensure that they focus on and drive company growth first. You want to empower employees by encouraging thinking, behavior and performance that support a team culture. Purge the stuff that fuels the “I/me/mine” behavior and the double standards that destroy teamwork cultures.
  • No entitlements here: Past performance is no guarantee of future success. Sorry, it’s a fundamental law of business and it will bite you in the butt if you violate it. Success is earned every step of the way. Success means taking on new challenges and stretching until you feel the burn that accompanies true achievement. Promotions and advancement based on past performance simply means that individuals have earned the right to prove themselves once again at a higher level. Entitlement thinking is toxic. It means, “give it to me, I’m not going for it.” Banish entitlement thinking.
  • Pay for what the company needs: “What gets rewarded gets repeated” is the foundation that all compensation systems are built on. If your compensation system is built heavily around rewarding individual performance, as is common with commission systems, your pay system may be contaminating your culture by rewarding the wrong behavior. It also creates “silos” of independent entities that put self before team – the haves versus the have-nots. I’ve been called the guru of Team-Based Pay. Well, I’m not sure about the “guru” part, but after 30+ years of building and teaching the Team-Based Pay system, I know what drives teamwork, company growth, career opportunities and profitability. Pay for the thinking, behavior and performance that your company needs. No compromise.

About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the professional beauty industry. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker, an award-winning author, and the creator of the Team-Based Pay System. Neil is the author of Fast Forward, the definitive business resource book for salons and spas, and No-Compromise Leadership, winner of the 2010 IPPY Award for Business. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to