Owning a business takes you through the highest highs and the lowest 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. But there are huge rewards to reap, remember? That’s why you got into this. The long and short of it though, is that it starts and ends with you and the way you build and lead your business, and you can always, always, improve on that. Here are some easy tips I discussed recently with my good mate Andy Smith from Lifestyle Tradie.
Put structure, systems and policies in place
Someone once said to me that a leader is only as good as the structure, systems and policies they put in place in a company. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, I was running my business perfectly well (I thought) and we didn’t have much of that. The problem with that attitude is that: a) it doesn’t last and b) your business will never grow like that.
A big reason tradies 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, for example: your materials management policy, your customer service promise, your company values and so on. If anything goes wrong in a business it’s usually because there’s an issue with the systems or the structure or procedure that business is built on, and that’s what needs your attention.
Invest in your team
The first step here is hiring the right people with the right attitude. If you’re hiring guys who are a few stubbies short of a six pack 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’ll probably resent you for it.
The next step is to onboard them properly and make sure they understand your systems, processes and values. If Damo turns up on a weekend job and he hasn’t really slept but he didn’t know that your company values are safety and high-performance, is that your fault or his? The answer is probably both.
The last step is to train them. Training is a great way to show that you care about their mental and professional well being 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 them, you’re never going to get the best out of them.
Have confidence in yourself and try new things
If you doubt yourself sometimes and you’re not often confident about running or managing your business, here’s a tip: practically no one is. Most tradies 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 as hell they won’t pan out.
The main problem with self-doubt though is that it stinks, and everyone in the business can smell it. 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 though - 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 mates, talk to other business owners who’ve been through the same things. You’ll be blown away by how many other people like you have been through the same problems and found a way around it.
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 (especially if like me, you’re a bit of a perfectionist). But if someone slips up again and 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, say sayonara.
Know your numbers, know your business
Most tradies will hate this one, because most of us know it’s something we should be doing but it will never be more relevant than it is today. Too often we shuffle a P&L or a cash flow 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.
But if you don’t know where your ship is, how can you navigate your crew?
The reality is, I can promise you 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 this cash flow forecast template and watch this video on how to 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.