How do you build a team? Focus on the people

If 2022 had a headline, it would be “Help Wanted.”

There’s no question the strong labor market makes it more challenging than ever to recruit and retain top talent, but building a team of great people is one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – CEOs face in any economy. While job seekers have more options and greater leverage than in recent years, one fundamental truth for business leaders hasn’t changed.

Surrounding yourself with great people, from early-career employees to the corporate board, has always been the foundation for building a successful company.

With an intentional focus on putting people first, our team at TimelyMD – the leading virtual health and well-being solution in higher education and fastest-growing company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – has doubled its size over the last year, despite hiring trends and recruitment headwinds.

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After Inc. Magazine named TimelyMD to its annual Best Workplaces list, I have been asked repeatedly how our five-year-old company headquartered in Fort Worth’s Near Southside has achieved national recognition for its corporate culture. Embracing three, people-focused practices will help leaders attract and motivate top talent, no matter what the job market has to offer.

Establish trust with your team

Trust starts at the top, and it must flow both ways. Like the founders of Microsoft, Ben & Jerry’s and Airbnb, I turned to longtime friends Chris Clark and Alan Dennington when starting TimelyMD in 2017. Not all friendships are well-suited for co-founding a company, but when your professional experiences complement each other and you share a collective vision, it’s easy to model trust as a cornerstone.

Even when the C-suite is on solid ground, it can be difficult to trust others to help grow the business, particularly in a remote or hybrid environment. Trust starts with being diligent in your recruitment and hiring processes and emphasizing core values in the first conversation. Once new people come on board, leaders must empower them to chart their own journey to achieving company objectives – even, and sometimes especially, when it pushes you outside your comfort zone.

For example, when we were in the startup phase, we dreamed of building our own technology rather than partnering with a third-party platform to deliver virtual medical and mental health care to college students. Timing it right from a growth and investment standpoint was challenging.

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Our chief technology officer Noel Geren pushed to do it earlier than planned, and was a great partner in showing our team, our board and our investors how meaningful it could be. Having our own tech is now fueling innovation and leading to continued growth. A healthy nudge like his starts with finding people you can trust to get the job done.

Give people the resources they need

One of the primary jobs of a CEO is to make sure that everyone has the resources they need to be successful, which can mean any number of things. Capital is the most important one, of course. Another is having the right organizational structure and capacity, with the right people on the right teams.

But CEOs can’t always see existing or emerging needs at the team or individual levels. Colleagues must feel empowered to ask for resources, and it’s on leadership to remind people to ask. Whether the solution is making new hires, bringing in a consultant to help navigate a rapid growth period, or suggesting better ways to do something, we must invite these conversations with our teams – and then act on them. One of my mentors once told me that company leaders need to say this all the time: Come ask me for whatever resources you need. If you hire great people and constantly encourage them to do this, reasonable investments typically pay dividends.

Incentivize your people to win and reward them when you do

Competitive salaries are a big motivator, but it’s not the only factor for recruiting and retaining all-star talent. It’s important to compensate colleagues well, of course, and it’s also important that the whole team wins as the company succeeds and grows.

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With team success in mind, TimelyMD rewards team members with company-wide growth incentives tied to business goals rather than individual performance bonuses. The message it sends is clear and compelling: If we achieve these goals as a company, we all win together. By the end of our first year doing this, we outpaced our stretch goal by 89%, which meant every employee got spot- and double end-of-year bonuses. Our employees are the most valuable asset we have and we do everything we can to treat them accordingly.

While the war for talent shows no sign of cooling off any time soon, companies that recruit and retain great people will be the ones poised for growth and success in the years to come. As leaders in the Fort Worth business community, let’s resolve to focus as much on building our teams as boosting our bottom lines. This way, everyone wins.

Luke Hejl is co-founder and CEO of Fort Worth-based TimelyMD, a 24/7 virtual extension of campus health and counseling center resources providing mental health and medical care to 200 college and university campuses and about one million students across the country.