“The common thread was the importance of culture, people and strong leadership”

 Last month our members joined together for a panel discussion on how to start the year with a game-changing approach to business and building a team.

Our panelists included experts from the industry, Bridie Cunningham, Director at Portman Scott, Baiju Solanki, Author & Business Coach, and Paula Ruane, Stress & Wellness Expert.

Whilst our three panelists come from different industries and areas of specialism, the common thread that tied the discussion together was the importance of culture, people and strong leadership.


Bridie Cunningham on the role of recruitment

After years in the industry, Bridie co-founded the recruitment company Portman Scott, as she became fascinated by the role that efficient recruitment could play in a company’s success.

How to recruit a game-changing team:

Understand why you need a team first.

  • Hiring employees is more than just a solution to extra volumes of work. Hiring a team requires an understanding of what your business needs and an acceptance that you cannot serve these needs alone.

Align your leadership team.

  • Before starting the recruitment process, identify what type of person you want for your business. At Portman Scott, Bridie shares, an important first step in the process is ensuring the leadership is aligned.

Identify your core values.

  • Hiring is not just about finding someone who has the right skill set, but about finding people that share your vision for the company. The right culture fit is just as important in creating a strong team.

Communicate clearly.

  • You might understand your company mission, but your potential employees don’t, especially if you are a smaller business. It is your job to communicate this clearly in order to create a team that fits.
  • Clarity is key for employee retention. The biggest reason people leave a job early is that the role is not the role they thought and the company is not the company they expected.

Allow enough time.

  • When asked what the biggest mistake companies make during the recruitment process is, Bridie answers: “They don’t leave enough time”. Employers often say people are the most important part of their company but don’t allow time for this critical process.


“The three most common issues businesses face are communication, accountability and listening”


Baiju Solanki on how to create a game plan

Now we have the team, our facilitator invites Baiju Solanki, a psychologist as well as author and business coach, to share his expertise on how to create a happy, healthy team.

Common issues that arise in teams:
Baiju plays out a few scenarios provided by our audience questions and works through them in real-time to understand the root of the problem.

  • In one instance the problem from the audience member boils down to their employee’s inability to say no. Baiju asks: “Do you as the employer say no to set an example?”

If there is a say-yes culture, first explore how this culture was cultivated. “No” is not the problem. The problem is the fear of the consequence of saying “no”.

  • In another example, a member asks about working in a pressure, results-focused culture. Both examples derive from a culture that has been created, and culture, Baiju reminds us, is made up of single behaviours and reinforced actions.

The three most common issues businesses face are communication, accountability and listening. And through Baiju’s experience, employees want three things: acceptance, security, freedom.

With this knowledge, identifying the top values of your workforce and working to serve these based on where their needs lie will set you up to create an aligned team with a strong game plan.


Paula Ruane on how to manage stress and harness resilience

Once you have managed the game and are in play, what happens when you hit a wall?

Paula brings us back to people and reminds us that we all make up our team so, as a leader, you should think about what impacts you daily, and address these for your team.

Mental health and how to mitigate stress drivers
Paula shares that 74% of us suffer from chronic stress, and often we can’t see mental health struggles.

So how do we look after employee mental health?

  • ​​Invest in different forms of training
  • Use a stress & well-being assessment to identify causes
  • Harness resilience and adaptability. Stresses are inevitable and will occur, so being able to flex and bounce back is just as important as mitigation.

How do we convince seniority to prioritize mental health?

When there are very real-time pressures, client expectations and financial considerations, how does mental health remain an important consideration?

  • Often the deterrent to prioritizing mental health is that it means easing work. Baiju shares that this is not necessarily the answer and often people just want to be listened to and assured that there is a supportive environment around them.
  • Highlighting that higher stress means lower productivity and that a happy workforce performs better can be helpful.

How do we return to the office?

The panel finishes by answering the question of how to transition back into an office whilst not losing sight of the principles discussed in the session.

  • Communication is key. Ask your workforce what they would like to do. Open up the conversation and listen to your staff framing it that their input is valid, rather than instructing a mandate.
  • Identify your why. Make sure you have a clear reason to change your hybrid model, firstly so you are returning with purpose but also because your employees will want to know.
  • A company’s hybrid model is now an important consideration for those on the job hunt, so as a company if you hire employees with a model in place that could change, this should be communicated clearly.




If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.