Those of you that have kids know quite well the stages you go through in raising them. Our oldest son graduated college last May, our second son is getting ready to graduate high school in a month and start college in the fall. Then finally our daughter is four years away from that transition in life.
Looking back on those years it amazes me the correlation between raising kids and developing your internal bench of employees to carry on your companies initiatives. When your kids are 3-5 years old you start the process of teaching them to make their own bed, clean their room and pick up their toys. As they age to the 6-12 year old range, they begin to take out the trash, load the dishwasher and help wash the cars. Then they finally reach teenage years where they can do all of the above, plus mow the yard, do the laundry and help run the younger ones around when they get their license. The parents are practicing the art of coaching and delegation while supervising all the activities to make sure the home is kept in proper order. When the older one finishes high school and heads out to college, the tasks move down to the next kid in line. Unfortunately, in the family setting you eventually run out of kids and all those chores come back to the parents!
Building your sales organizational structure is much the same, but you don’t need to clear the bench. You need people that aspire to grow, take on new challenges, move up in the organization and maybe move to other functional areas of the business. Imagine for a moment that you know in advance that a seasoned outside sales person will be retiring within the next 6-12 months. What if you re-purposed one of your administrative support positions into an “inside sales trainee” role. For those 6-12 months this person could be assisting with the administrative duties and learning the inside sales responsibilities. Now imagine you had 50% of your inside sales people that wanted to go into outside sales and they have been following a career development track to do it. When the day comes for the person to retire you move the top candidate from the inside to outside sales and the inside sales trainee into the inside sales role. Those moves can be made as fast as you can complete the H.R. paperwork. You then fill the open trainee role with another person with the same goal in mind and repeat as needed. When building this type of an organization you have in essence stacked your bench with well trained, qualified internal candidates to execute your initiatives, quite possibly allowing you to meet the growth objectives earlier.
Just like parents having to let their kids go, it’s just as hard for a manager to let their top performers move up or on, but its the right thing to do. All of this is healthy for the individual, the manager and the organization. You will still have the need to attract candidates from the marketplace, that to is healthy when a specific a skill set or specialized training you may be looking for is required. But, when you have a strong bench, the employees see it as opportunities for advancement, the manager has well trained, solid internal candidates and the customers have well qualified representatives from your company supporting them. In business that is called a win-win-win!