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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How to Use Your Team Without Abusing Them

The first articles written about Amazon told about this guy who moved to Bellvue, Washington, to open an online bookstore. Google a young Jeff Bezos and then imagine him sitting in his garage with piles of books and boxes around him and spray-painted on the wall next to him. He is a perfect example of starting with nothing and scaling a business to one of the largest in the world.

Can you imagine what the company would be like today if he still did everything himself or with just a small team? I can tell you, it wouldn’t be even close to what it is today. Bezos had a vision and the foresight to give up the grunt work and let his team handle the day-to-day operations.

Congratulations on entering the second phase of scaling your quilt shop! This is where you get to take all the clarity you gained in the Align phase and start integrating it into your daily operations. You now know your Top Customers, the Big Promise you offer them, and the Queen Bee Role that will help you deliver on that promise. It's time to step out of your hustle-and-grind role and into the role of a true leader who will guide your company to greatness. This is where the fun really begins!

My name is Jacob Curtis. I am a CPA and Profit First Professional. I started Curtis Accounting Solutions to remove the stress of doing the bookkeeping and taxes for small business owners and to provide practical business advice to help quilt shops piece together financial freedom.

Before we start the Integrate phase, let's take a quick test to make sure your Big Promise and QBR are in sync. For instance, I teach Profit First to help quilt shops achieve financial freedom, and Mike Michalowicz writes books to simplify entrepreneurship. What's your Big Promise and QBR? Let's plug them in and make sure they make perfect sense together!

Maybe your Big Promise is to teach people how to sew, and your QBR is creating simple kits. Your “to” test would be, “I create simple kits to teach people how to sew.”

Or maybe your Big Promise is to have a two-week turnaround time, and your QBR is never letting the longarm machines stop. Your “to” test would be, “I never let the longarm machines stop to have a two-week turnaround time.”

Now that your Big Promise and QBR are aligned, it's time to rally the troops and work together to protect and serve that QBR like it's your own baby. You're all in this together, and each and every team member has a vital role to play.

Take our longarm quilting team, for example - their job is to make sure those machines never stop churning out beautiful quilts, directly serving our QBR and fulfilling our Big Promise. And the rest of the team members are protecting it by doing their Primary Jobs, whether that means providing top-notch customer service, answering the phone, restocking inventory, or keeping the store looking clean. But also, when needed, stepping up to the plate when our longarm quilting team needs a hand. We're a team, and we're going to make sure that our QBR is served and protected.

It's important to understand the difference between the QBR and Primary Job. The QBR is the most important activity to fulfill your Big Promise, but it can and should be more than one person's job. Multiple people and systems should serve the QBR. It's about the role, not the person. Even the bee hive has designated queen-slayers if the queen does not perform well enough, proving it's not about a single individual.

So, now we need to determine everyone’s Primary Job. This is easiest done using the KRA job description. KRA stands for Key Results Areas.

In a KRA you define each team member's Primary Job and other responsibilities. You clearly define what winning looks like. A KRA helps you and each team member get on the same page so their role and responsibilities are crystal clear.

A clear and effective KRA serves as a communication guide and reminder to team members about what is necessary to succeed in their roles. Failure to adhere to the KRA means not achieving success and requires adjustments to be made.

When writing KRAs, it's best to follow these simple rules:

1. Don't make it complicated. KRAs should be clear and only outline a team member's responsibilities and results. Avoid adding growth paths or company missions to it.

2. Keep it short. Limit the KRA to one page. Remember, it's meant to outline key responsibilities, not every task the team member does.

3. Be realistic. Keep in mind that team members have other commitments and rhythms, like staff meetings and standups. Creating a KRA might even reveal that a role requires more than one person.

4. Remember that KRAs change. This document sets the pace for what winning looks like now, but it will change as the role or person in the role changes. Be flexible.

The best way to learn how to create a KRA is to start with your own! Pull out a sheet of paper, and at the top of the page, fill in your name and title.

Next, summarize your Primary Job. This should be a basic overview of what you’re responsible for. Finish this sentence: My Primary Job is _______. Try and keep it to one sentence and be concise. For example, a quilt shop owner with one or two employees might write, “My Primary Job is serving our QBR is being served and managing the business.”

Next, add three to five key responsibilities, explaining these responsibilities in a few words. For example, “share the company mission and annual goals,” “keep the longarms sewing,” “maintain a clean and tidy store,” or “train team members.” Leave enough space between each for the next piece–what winning looks like.

Next, figure out what winning looks like in this role for each responsibility. How will you know if you’re succeeding? How will you hold yourself accountable? Define some specific activities you must engage in to succeed. These should be simple and action-oriented. For example, “explain to team members the mission at the weekly team meetings,” “track the running time of the longarm machine,” or “each hour walk through the store.”

Last, sign and date your KRA. A KRA is a formal acknowledgment that says I understand my responsibilities and take ownership of them. For team members' KRAs, both of you should sign and date.

Remember to keep all this information on one page. Anything longer is too much. Keep it to one page.

So you may think that you need to be the one to build all of your team members’ KRAs, but that doesn’t work very well, and it can be time-consuming and overwhelming if you have more than just a few employees.

A more effective way to get team members aligned and integrated is to share your KRA as a guide so your team can see how to make one and that you have one too!

Give each of your direct reports an editable template and ask them to fill out what they think the KRA for their role would look like.

Regroup and compare notes in your next one-on-one with each direct report. Remember, this is a conversation. The key to getting buy-in is allowing your team members to speak into their KRA and then refine it together. Who knows, they might surprise you and reveal something they do in their role you didn’t even know about.

Create the final draft and sign it together as an acknowledgment that both of you are clear on the expectations for the role.

Build KRAs into your rhythms. Occasionally, use them as a checkpoint in your ongoing one-on-one meetings to see if team members are on track or if adjustments need to be made.

In summary, your Big Promise is your number one commitment to your customers. It’s what they most value you for.

The Queen Bee Role or QBR is the highest priority activity that ensures you keep your Big Promise, and it should be served by multiple team members and systems when possible. Everyone in the company knows what the company’s QBR is and knows what to do if the QBR is not being served.

The Primary Job for any individual is the most important function they serve within the scope of their responsibilities. For some team members, their primary job directly serves the QBR. For other team members, their Primary Job protects the QBR.

Using the Key Results Areas method, create a KRA for yourself and each team member, making sure to define their Primary Job.

Please let me know what your Primary Job is in the comments section below or send me an email at I look forward to hearing from you! And remember to follow me at Curtis Accounting Solutions on FB, IG, Pin, and YT.

KRA document:


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