How do you build a successful company? There are many answers to this question, but the one that offers the most longevity and continued success is to build a company with depth. You see, having the best talent on your team TODAY does not guarantee that you will have the caliber of talent in the FUTURE. You always have to be thinking one step ahead. People do change companies. People retire. People change departments. People get sick. These things are inevitable.

I have seen it all too often. Companies are HOT one minute and the next, they are floundering wondering what went wrong. They get complacent. They have everything in place and everything seems to just “click”. THEN.. SOMETHING HAPPENS. Let me do a sports analogy. The Indianapolis Colts went to the Super Bowl in 2009. Although they lost to the New Orleans Saints, they were at the top of their game. In 2011, Peyton didn’t play one game and the Colts went on to have a 2-14 record. He got injured. The Colts never thought about “What if” the star player gets hurt.

A similar situation happened in San Francisco in 1991. After Joe Montana led the 49ers to a a regular season best 14-2 he missed the 1991 and most of the 1992 season. The 49ers however were ready. Steve Young was being groomed to take over for the 49ers and stepped right in. There was a plan. In 1995 the 49ers won the Super Bowl with Steve Young.

Jack Welch gets this concept. He ALWAYS identified people EARLY and always had DEPTH with GE. He was always looking for his replacement and a second and a third replacement. He groomed leaders.

How do you build a successful bench? Here are 5 Ways that you can do it:

  1. Find the Right Culture Fit – You could find the absolute best candidate out there with all of the right skills, but if he doesn’t “fit” within your organization, then it will never work out. Let’s look at Terrell Owens. Terrell is strong, fast, and a great football player. He is however, a mess. He is not a leader. He is always complaining and always finds himself in the center of controversy. If you find someone like this to lead your organization, you are in trouble. Look harder for someone who you can groom the can be a good fit for the company.
  2. Identify your Strengths and Weaknesses – This is a must! Your company has to know where it is strongest and weakest. If you are strong in one area, what will you do if they leave? Who do you have identified to take over when something happens? Who is your Steve Young? If you are weak in one area, start building now. A baseball team is not successful overnight. (That is, of course, if you aren’t the Yankees and have tons of money.) You have to draft players and develop them. Bench players have to have some battle wounds. They must go through the farm system of A, AA, AAA. It takes time! Start thinking ahead NOW!
  3. Identify Leaders That Are Adaptable – The market changes. Technology changes. People change. The direction of the company must change. Remember the Run and Shoot offense that the Houston Oilers ran with Warren Moon? Talk about something completely something different that defenses have seen. Entire defensive strategies had to be changed to adapt to this kind of offense. Be ready because a curve ball like this could be thrown at your company.
  4. Identify Leaders that are Contrarians – Find people who are not just “yes” people. Find leaders that challenge the way things are done today. Find innovative people. These individuals SHOULD NOT be seen as a negative, but something as a POSITIVE. Imagine if some of the leaders in our history listened to all the naysayers. The iPad sure did a number of the sale of PC’s and Laptops. Leaders have to be ready for this and hire bright minds to combat and think ahead. Thanks Steve Jobs for NOT listening.
  5. Realize that Building a Bench is a Continual Process – Recruiting and building teams is a NEVER ENDING process. Don’t stop when you are ahead. Work harder on thinking about the future. I love watching great college basketball programs like Duke. Year after year they are always in the top 25. Why? They NEVER stop recruiting!