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Today marks my seventh year in business. Has being a business owner turned out like I expected? Definitely not! It’s been an amazing journey but seven years ago I certainly couldn’t have imagined this is what Inspire HQ would look like. I’m sure most business owners would agree that there are incredible high’s, extremely challenging low’s and everything in between on any given day. Chatting with my team and reflecting on the last seven years got me thinking about what I wish I had of known seven years ago when Inspire HQ officially opened its doors. There have been so many learnings that this blog could become a novel if I detailed even just half of them so for today’s blog I’ve picked the top 3 things I wish I knew about running a business seven years ago. If you are starting your journey as a business owner, are a recent start up or even a business with growing pains hopefully my learnings can help you on your business journey.
Planning for success is more important than planning for failure
Starting out in business, there were plenty of critics that were only too willing to let me know my chances of failing; how competitive and flooded the market was with recruiters and how risky it was leaving a well paid secure job. What was I thinking! Therefore, I made sure I had a detailed plan of what failing looked like. I knew the exact day I had to start being able to draw a wage from the business because I knew the exact day I would run out of money and that would mean renting out my house and moving home with parents. Not an appealing thought at the age of 30 (it was pretty good motivation to make it work). I had planned every week of that first 3 months on knowing the warning signs that things weren’t going well.
What I didn’t plan for was if things actually went well. I had no plan for when I’d need to employ my first staff member if business grew or no plan for when I would outgrow my serviced office and need a bigger home. When business did go well and I survived the first 6 months then twelve months not having a plan for growth became a challenge because I didn’t have clarity on when I’d need to make some big decisions about supporting the business to grow. By this stage I was too busy head down, stuck in the doing. Delivering the services to keep growing the business. What I quickly learnt with the support of my business mentor Graham McMahon and my accountant, Jason Cunningham at The Practice (without these two people I’m not sure I’d be here today) was that I needed to plan for success and growth. Now I have a detailed plan for success and no plan for failure.
Employing people doesn’t necessarily ease the workload
You would think that by employing staff your workload as the business owner would ease. Well, this is what I thought when I started employing new team members. I know many other business owners fall into this trap as well as I often talk to them about it through the delivery of our HR services. Before I’d put on another team member I’d make sure that we had the work for them, I’d be stretched to over-capacity, working big hours so I could be relatively confident we could sustain the additional salary. The new team member would commence, they’d be up and running yet my workload didn’t seem to change. This pattern repeated itself every time I put on a new team member.
What I wasn’t taking into consideration at the time was how much time it takes to build and manage a team. Regardless of how great your team might be, managing people takes time every day, it’s not a set and forget. The more people you have the more team meetings you need, the more one on one sessions you have, the more on the floor coaching and training you need to provide and the more time you need to invest in developing the culture. What I wish I knew when I started out was I needed a strategy for growing my team that factored in the appropriate resources to manage and support that team. More team members (growth) doesn’t always equal easing the workload nor does it mean more profit if you don’t have the right strategy; it’s unsustainable growth.
The importance of systems and processes
I’m not a systems and processes person. I’d be the worst team member at Inspire HQ for following the systems and processes that we do have documented. I think it comes back to my natural inclination to innovate and try different things; not wanting to be bound by a set way to do something. The reality is though that it is an excuse and when building a business and employing team members, systems and processes become critical.
I was inducting and training a new team member that has joined us in the last couple of weeks and she was asking me about what the process/system was performing a task and where she could find that system to follow. After 7 years in business I’m sad to say that I pointed to my head and advised her that it was all in my head. This is a conversation that has been repeated hundreds of times at Inspire HQ over the last seven years. We have got a lot better but we still have a long way to go. If I’m honest the thought of documenting these systems and processes bores me to death but I have also learnt the hard way that it is absolutely necessary if I want to set my team up for success and to help us continue to grow.
Instead, I didn’t plan for growth and never stopped to think about what systems and processes I’d need if I ended up with a team of people. This issue really ties back in with the lack of planning for growth. I remember hearing business people talk about how McDonald’s were focused on ensuring that no matter what McDonald’s you went to you’d get exactly the same cheeseburger or big mac but at the time I didn’t understand that what they really meant was the awesome systems that McDonald’s had in place to make sure the customer got exactly the same product no matter the location of the venue or the staff member on that particular shift. Now I get that our Inspire HQ systems aren’t about restricting me from innovating but they are about ensuring our customers get the exact same service and outcome from me or any one of our team members. I’m happy to admit I’ve been a slow learner with this one and we are a long way off having strong systems and processes but we are well on our way. I just wish I realised the importance of them earlier in my business journey.
Have you got a business learning to share with us? I love hearing about other people business journey and the lessons they’ve learnt along the way. If you are happy to share please leave a comment below or email me at [email protected]
Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.