How to Build Your “A” Team in 90 Days!

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Here you are. Middle of the year and things are in either one of two conditions:

A. You are rocking it beyond your wildest expectations!

B. You are already looking forward to next year, you just need to survive until then. 

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If you are in category A, congratulations—you may stop reading here because the rest isn’t going to apply to you. Now, if you are in category B, sit down because we need to have a talk.

Your successes and failures are due to your ability to gather and build a high-performance team around you. Sorry to break the bad news to you, but it’s hard to build a brand alone. You might think you can, yet here you are just spinning your wheels and hoping that next week (month, quarter, etc.) will be better. You have to catch a break, right? Well, hope is not a strategy for running a restaurant or bar. Hope is for suckers who play the lottery as a retirement plan.

So, what can you do? Allow me to bring out my soap box and give you a sermon on how to get your shit together and really build an A team that can save you from evil and deliver you to the promised land of profits! Can I get an amen?

Step One: Admit you suck a little as a leader.

Hey, it’s okay—this is between you and me. I’m not going to point fingers at you on social media or make you feel bad. If you can just cowboy up and admit the truth, then I can say with certainty that you are savable.

You have to know you have a problem before you can solve the problem.

Step Two: Stop making excuses for your lack of leadership.

And quit placing blame and shame on others too, while you're stopping your bad leadership habits. Without a leader, your team has run amok and does whatever they want to do. That stops now.

It stops when you say to yourself, “I am done bullshitting myself. I accept where I am and now it’s time to take action.”

Step Three: Separate your A players from the C players.

If you have a shocked look on your face right now, here are the answers to the questions floating in your head at this moment:

Yes, you have some C players on your team who are dragging your brand into the ground.

No, you don’t have an obligation to keep C players.

Yes, that might mean running short staffed.

No, you are not going to fail because you let the deadwood go to another restaurant.

Yes, your A players are going to love you for getting rid of the slackers.

Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Don’t overthink this exercise because you’ll try to rationalize things and it won’t be effective. Believe me when I say that human beings can talk themselves into pretty much anything. Be aware of this glitch in your cognitive processing and avoid it.

So, on one side are your A and B players. On the other side are the C and D players. In all honesty, you should never have any D players. However, I give you a pass since you just woke up to the fact that you’re now the leader.

Once again, without overthinking this, just start putting people in one column or the other. Your first instinct is usually right, so don’t second guess yourself. Now you should have a clear list of the people you must replace. Time to move to the next step.

Step Four: Get busy recruiting.

Recruiting isn’t placing help wanted ads on the Internet or social media—that’s job advertising. No, you’ll need to get out there and actually recruit. That means taking the first step and reaching out to people you might not know. Yes, that’s scary for some—suck it up and do it. If we’re going to get you an A team in 90 days, you need to get going…like, today.

Use your social media accounts like LinkedIn to search for people in your market who have a similar job title for what you’re looking for. Say you need to upgrade a manager who was placed on the C player side of your list. Search for “restaurant (or bar) manager” and look at the profiles. If you have a premium account, send them a short and simple message like: “I was looking at your experience and I think you could be a great fit for our team. I’m not sure if you’re looking to make a change. However, if you are, message me and we can set up a time to talk.”

Now consider that this is a numbers game. It’s a lot like digging for gold: You will have to shift through a lot of dirt to find a gold nugget. No one said recruiting was easy. Recruiting is required if you want to build a real A team of high performers. Make a commitment each week (that means schedule it) to spend time recruiting.

Top talent (A players) do not last long on the market, hence why they are A players, so you need to keep your eyes open for them before your competition snaps them up. Always have your business cards on you for when opportunity (an A player) shows presents itself. It could be anywhere, so stay sharp and keep your eyes peeled. Great candidates are people who show those soft skills that shine, like:

  • a sincere smile;
  • helping others;
  • initiative;
  • liking people;
  • being concerned with their appearance (not obsessed by it);
  • being comfortable talking to others;
  • demonstrating attention to detail;
  • moving with purpose and urgency.

There are thousands of people in your market right now who have those traits. Interestingly, many don’t work in the restaurant or bar industry. Why not recruit people with the soft skills and train for the hard skills? Many have that equation ass-backwards: they look for job experience and hard skillsets. We tend to hire for skill and then we fire them for their behavior. Flip that around and you’re on the way to building an A team.

Can you really do this in 90 days? Yes, because I’ve done it many times. If you just get rid of the poor performers, make a commitment to schedule recruiting time each week, keep your eye out for A players everywhere, and step up to be the damn leader your team is looking for (drop all the B.S.), then you will find the promised land of having an A team.