What I know about building a solid team: Khaled Helioui

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Khaled Helioui left his job as CEO of the German video game company Bigpoint last May.

He had joined the company at the age of 29 years old, as chief game developer,  managing the whole department of videogames development which consisted of 400 employees. He then became head of the firm and started changing things around. As a business angel, he was also among the first investors in Uber and Deliveroo.

When he started looking at the numbers of profit, he realized that the games have been made for short term profitability, to prepare the company for its introduction into the stock market, rather than a long term vision about the future of the growth of the company. After a short growth, the profitability disappeared and the company started losing money. Helioui was named CEO in January 2013 at the low point and started moving things around.

After four years in the company, which was sold in May 2016 after recovering its losses and start achieving a steady revenue under Helioui’s helm, he spoke to Wamda about what he learnt as a CEO but also as a young entrepreneur who had to deal with every part of the company system from HR to management skills.

Take a step back. Look at the work’s pipeline and see what you can cut back on producing. If a team has no enthusiasm for a certain product, stop them making it, get them to focus on things they have faith in.

Change the teams if they are not working well. Hire a new management team from scratch when you have to, especially when the teams are built with no real expertise or experience, there is no good process in the development, and the direction can become arbitrary.

Review your marketing spendings. Do not spend more money than necessary on marketing unless you are certain that the product would be very profitable in less than 12 months. The turnover will go down but the profitability of your company will go up.

Review the workforce and the investments. If you have a lot of employees but very few of them are in departments or teams which could impact the growth or the profitability of the company, it is a problem. Review the teams and close the offices that are not efficient. Delegate the task of laying off unqualified personnel to heads of each department.

An employee can be more resilient than you think. Never mislead your teams even if driven by good intentions such as hiding a difficult reality.Don’t fear telling your employees the problems that the company is having. When people are aware about the issues, they can become responsible and more involved, and try to change things on their own. Even if it is hard to explain that the former positioning of your company is not working anymore, show how you are going to change this and why. Not everyone will accept this new positioning but it is important to explain it. Some people will leave the company, but others will stay and will work harder because they will believe in it.

Bring a new vision. You have to either change the vision of the group or bring one if there was no clear vision before. One of the ways to reorganize a company is to get people realize that they are not here just to keep their jobs and also involves commitment. They have to think about why they are working there, if they are willing to sacrifice a raise for instance during the restructuring, and if they believe in the company.

Actions speak louder than words. If you were appointed to head a team with internal and behavioral difficulties, rely on proper actions rather on formalities such as communicating through emails that pinpoint mistakes, in order to change the team’s interactions and performance.

Learn to say ‘no’. If you do not agree with an investor, don’t be afraid to say no. It will reflect your credibility and business strength to your employees and customers.

Feature image via Khaled Helioui

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