Better Business Bytes: How to build an agile company and team

Agility and small business

The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” refers to being stuck in the way things are done. If we didn’t know change is imperative, the COVID-19 pandemic drove the point home.

Words like “agility” and “mindset” have become commonplace when referencing employee training. But what do those terms really mean? Is it only for larger companies? Can small businesses apply agile concepts to their model?

Any company, regardless of size, is capable of adopting an agile mindset. Implementing it into your workforce just requires some understanding.

Definition of agility in business

Agility is the ability to adapt, change or respond to an outer stimulus in a speedy, yet effective, manner. For example, COVID-19 has been an outer stimulus pushing many businesses to adapt to an e-commerce format. Companies able to adapt quickly, even in the face of government shutdowns, cash flow constraints and other obstacles, have mostly been able to keep their doors open.

Definition of mindset

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.” His quote showcases mindset, which is an established set of attitudes held by someone. That someone could be a business owner, employee or customer and their mindset will help determine the success of any change.

Reasons to adapt

The pace of business has changed a little since Ford’s time. The birth of the internet has greatly expanded businesses’ reach and accelerated their timeline for responding to customer needs.


Consumers now demand immediate turnarounds. When a business is unable to meet those expectations, the customer will look to another company. This is where agility comes in.

How do you train yourself to be more agile and change your mindset?

  • First, you need to understand it won’t happen overnight. Mistakes will be made.
  • Adapting quickly means the new idea likely won’t be completely thought out. Planning and executing will happen simultaneously.
  • If it is apparent the idea isn’t working, you need to pivot or completely end the project.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you don’t try anything new, you will not grow.
  • Ideas and communication need to come from all employees, not just from the upper rungs of management. Listening to your team’s ideas allows for innovation and motivates your employees to take ownership of a project.

How do you train your employees to be agile and encourage a growth mindset?

  • Empower your team to try new things. An employee stepping out of their comfort zone is a risk, and one the employer should encourage. Remember, not all ideas will be perfect. However, they will lead to creativity and innovation.
  • Don’t punish an employee for a mistake when they are trying to innovate. Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow for the team.
  • Don’t micromanage. Trust your employee to do the job right. If an employee feels you are going to change what they have done, they will not be motivated to grow professionally.
  • Encourage employees to lead and take ownership of their work.
  • Reward independent thinkers and encourage experimentation. Embolden your team to discover new products, services and processes for your business. Schedule reoccurring brainstorming sessions to exchange ideas and encourage collaboration.

Here’s a few tips to generate ideas for employee engagement.

The need for your business to adapt and pivot quickly is here to stay. The idea of an agile workforce is a continuous process of encouragement, risk and reliance on team members to employ their expertise. We can all learn a new trick if we put our minds to it.

Additional resource: Management Study Guide

Sheron Patrick is the Communications Manager for the Better Business Bureau of Northwest + Pacific serving Alaska. He lives in in Anchorage, where he and his team write articles and alerts on tips to help keep Alaskan consumers safe.