Your “bench strength” is the value of the team behind you when you’re the one up at bat. For example, can you attend an industry conference and feel confident that your team will step up to manage the day-to-day while you’re away over a long weekend? I want to talk about how to boost your bench strength today…
Bench strength is a crucial factor to consider for any business that plans to scale up, so that existing employees can step in to fill larger shoes as the situation requires it. As the “OnDemand CMO”, I’m often called upon to provide the expertise of a CMO for a company that doesn’t have the role formally defined or filled, or who need support managing the overflow of a large project. Bench strength, by the way, can absolutely refer to a network of freelancers or collaborators as much as to team members. If you don’t have strong people behind you supporting you, you will always be anchored to the ground performing middle-management tasks instead of innovating and growing your company.
To boost your bench strength, one of the most simple but often neglected things you can do is to network within your industry. If you don’t have the time or specific expertise to take on a potential client, one of the best things you can do for your business is to recommend someone else who can fill their needs. Not only will the client appreciate it, and possibly remember you down the line when they need more work done, but the beneficiary of your recommendation will often respond in kind down the road. I have mutually beneficial relationships with many people who do what I do, which is the perfect complement to my rock solid team. At industry events, instead of scoping the room while shooting daggers at potential competition, you should be looking for opportunities to collaborate or partner.
Bench strength is also tied in to the industries adjacent to your own. I personally specialize in marketing strategy, so I need a ready list of names full of copywriters, graphic designers, SEO experts, print shops, and PR professionals to operate my business effectively. A world-class sushi chef had better have a great fishmonger on his speed dial, and a wedding planner won’t get far without plenty of stellar relationships with reputable vendors. This is why I like to attend networking meetups and conferences with a broader focus, which will draw a more diverse audience of professionals.
Of course, the most important factor for a firm with an in-house team is to have a reliable way to find and keep great talent, and to groom them for greater responsibility as the business grows. You can’t always hit home runs, so you need three competent batters behind you at all times to make sure you make it past home plate.