James Chillman, UK Country Manager for Fergus, gives PE readers five ultimate leadership tips for trade business owners.
Owning a business takes you through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You’re taking huge personal risk on a daily basis and on top of that you’re responsible for the actions of everyone in your company. Of course, there can be huge rewards to reap, but the long and short of it is that it starts and ends with you, the way you build and lead your business, and you can always improve on that.
2023 could be another difficult year for businesses, but here are five tips that can help you to be a better business manager:
1. Put structure, systems and policies in place
Without good structure, systems and policies your business has little chance to grow. A big reason trade business owners ‘burn out’ is that it’s easy to fall prey to the false perception that you need to be everywhere at once: quotes and invoices can’t be sent out without you checking over them, the job can’t be finished without you looking over it, and so on. What you should be doing is building a business that works for you, not the other way around.
The way to do this is by setting up policies, systems and processes that are black and white and leave little room for interpretation. These include your materials management policy, your customer service promise, your company values etc. If anything goes wrong in a business it’s usually because there’s an issue with the systems or the structure or procedure that the business is built on, and that’s what needs your attention.
2. Invest in your team
The first step here is hiring the right people with the right attitude. If you’re hiring individuals who are not up to scratch because they were a bit cheaper and the rest of your team have to pick up the slack, it hurts the productivity of the team as a whole and they will probably resent you for it.
The next step is to onboard them properly and make sure they understand your systems, processes and values. For instance, if one of them turns up on a job and he/she hasn’t really slept but didn’t know that your company values are safety and high-performance, is that your fault or theirs? The answer is probably both.
The last step is to train them. Training is a great way to show that you care about employees’ mental and professional wellbeing on a personal level and also to show that you’re going out of your way to help them grow. Moreover, if you don’t train your people, you’re never going to get the best out of them.
3. Have confidence in yourself and try new things
If you doubt yourself sometimes and you’re not overly confident about running or managing your business, here’s a tip: practically no one is. Most tradespeople don’t have a business background and even those who do are never really 100% sure things are going to work out. But if your default is to doubt things will work, you can be sure they won’t pan out.
If you don’t believe in yourself and your business, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll see it affect your staff, your productivity and your profitability. Having said that, everyone goes through periods of self-doubt, it’s in our nature. So if you are feeling down on the company, don’t let your staff see it and definitely don’t take it out on them. Talk to your friends or other business owners who’ve been through the same things. You’ll be blown away by how many other people have been through the same problems and found a way around it.
4. Accept responsibility for everything that happens in your business
This is an easy one. If someone makes a grave error in your business, you have to be ok with that. Delegation is an essential part of growing your business and other people are rarely going to do things exactly the way you want it. But, if someone slips up again and again, the consequences are on you. It sounds tough but if the process is broken, fix it and if the person can’t be helped, let them go.
5. Know your numbers, know your business
Most business owners will hate this one, because most of us know it’s something we should be doing and it will never be more relevant than it is today. Too often, we shuffle a Profit/Loss or cashflow forecast to the back of our minds and convince ourselves that we have more important things to do. If we’re being honest, most of us are just a bit scared to look or don’t know what to look at.
The reality is nothing is more empowering for a business leader than getting a firm grip on your finances because it gives you the ability to make strategic decisions for your company. If you’re a little bit in the dark on where your numbers are, download a free cashflow forecast template from the internet and fill it out.
In summary, you don’t need to be the best at everything to be a better leader. The most effective leaders largely achieve results because of the people and structures they place around them. But you do need to look after your team, be someone they can respect and, more than anything, you need to back yourself.
To get more business help and advice from Fergus, click here