As we take time to pause for Christmas I like to use this time of year to think about how far we’ve come over the year as well as the plans I have for the year ahead.
It’s been a tough twelve months if I’m honest and as our business has grown, so have our expectations of our staff. I decided to grab the bull by the horns this year and as a result we’ve had thirteen new members of staff, some of them replacing staff and some of them adding to our team. I’m really pleased to say that I still have many loyal staff members who have matured with the business adapting to the changes that were necessary to get us where we are today, but it’s not been an easy ride.
Someone once told me that having a business is a bit like having a child. You spend months excitedly dreaming of the conception, planning the birth and suggesting different names. The early years are exhausting, with lack of sleep, often working seven days a week trying to do the job of ten people. The toddler years are experimental, discovering new things, bumping your head, perhaps throwing tantrums when things don’t work; all the while testing new boundaries. The teenage years are possibly the most frightening, when you want to grow up but somehow just haven’t got all the right things in all the right places, lack all the experience and yet still feel brave enough to take a few big risks. So, after almost twelve years in business, I’d like to think we’ve just got over our spots and finally learned a few hard lessons! I guess that still leaves growth for adulthood…?
We’ve made a number of big changes this year apart from staff, starting with a change in our brand by working with a great new marketing company, to help us with the evolution from a purely Driving focused recruitment business, to one with a strong presence in the Industrial, Healthcare and Commercial sectors. It has been an expensive journey, but one which is paying dividends and we’re looking forward to further developing this brand over the years ahead.
Opening our third office in Amesbury was another significant step for us following a number of years research and after just six months, I’m hugely encouraged by the performance of this office, which I believe still has much more potential.
The healthcare division we started in September last year has flourished, with the right staff in place, and I’m really delighted to be involved in a sector which makes a positive contribution to the lives of many vulnerable people in care homes around us. I’m convinced this sector will go from strength to strength as we develop our presence in the market.
Although our business is diversifying, Driving remains close to my heart and I was honoured to be asked to speak at this year’s FTA National Driver Crisis Summit. I feel passionate about helping to raise standards in this industry and breaking down the barriers to entry as a driver is crucial if the Transport industry is to succeed. I was also delighted to be appointed as a director of TEAM driving and chair the regional meetings which have been a great source of inspiration to me.
An investment in training has been instrumental to the changes across the business and we’ve taken our focus on training much further than we ever anticipated for our staff as well as our candidates. After many years of research we found an internal recruitment training manual which finally ticks all the boxes and this is now being consistently implemented throughout the business. Combined with the internal training packages we are putting together on finance, systems and compliance I have every confidence in the team we are building.
It’s no secret that there is a massive gap of skilled workers throughout the UK so investing in training to improve the quality of candidates we supply has been a key investment for us this year. From Driver CPC Training, to Commercial testing and training on a range of office based skills as well as various certificates for our Healthcare workers, which count towards the new Care NVQ qualification, as well as launching our Frist Aid training - we have invested literally thousands of hours in training this year.
It’s important to me that staff feel equipped and have confidence in the tools they have to carry out their duties to the best of their ability. Every year we invest in new assets adapting to the needs of the business including new furniture, technology and a fresh lick of paint where it’s needed.
Having a purpose for going to work beyond money is vitally important to me and I’m very proud that we signed up to a fantastically well organised charity, Business against Poverty, this year. Making a positive change to people’s lives is at the heart of recruitment and training, so we wanted to partner with a charity that could support these values. The strategy of this charity is directly connected to affecting changes to our local community through the way we do business.BAP then invest in projects implementing long term change to pockets of poverty globally. Our partnership withBAP enables a butterfly effect through our staff, candidates and clients creating a sense of greater achievement through the work we do and we’ll be sharing more of our ambitions to work with this organisation next year.
We took some major steps forward in our finance department this year; stabilising the team with extra staff as well as changing our factoring company to improve efficiency and save costs. This team is performing exceptionally well and we still have greater aspirations for this department next year which I am currently working on.
My plans for 2016
In a world with so many problems I can’t help think how grateful I am for all the important things I have in my life. I am blessed with great physical health, a wonderful family who encourage me daily and loyal friends to share precious time with. So with this in mind, my first objective was to set a word I will abide by and this year my word is ‘Believe’.
I will not announce all my personal goals publically in detail, but here are a few that I want to achieve: -
- To laugh every day and ensure people around me laugh too
- Not to drink alcohol for three months of the year
- To be home by 6:30pm and eat dinner with my family
- To see the Northern lights over New Year…with a bit of luck!
- Help my youngest son learn to drive and pass his test
- After completing Land’s End to John O’Groats, I’ve got the bug and want to do more cycling challenges; starting with clocking up another 5000 miles this year.
- Learn to fly my new Mac and complete a photo shop course at Bath College, exploiting my creative side much more!
- Research the investment of an apartment in Cornwall for family and staff to use for holidays
- No mobile between 6:30pm-9pm setting boundaries for quality family time
- Take my wife away for one child free weekend, after all 22 years is something to celebrate these days.
My business goals for 2016
Goal #1: Going from ‘me’ to’ we’
Any leader will tell you that they are only as good as the team around them because together we can do a lot more then I can ever do on my own. As the challenge of the business escalates the need for team work elevates. I truly believe that team work, makes the dream work. So my challenge this year is to ask myself everyday what I can do to make the team stronger and then do everything in my power to help develop them.
Goal #2: Career Development Plan
I’ve already talked about the investment in training we’ve made over the last twelve months and remain committed to this ensuring we set time aside to ensure this training is delivered by identifying skills gaps within the team then putting plans in place to address them. This goes hand in hand with a new ‘Career Development Plan’ I am look forward to implementing as I believe this will lead the way for future staff promotions. I want to foster a culture of mentoring within the business, so as I invest my time in those around me, so they too invest their time in their colleagues.
Goal #3: Setting Boundaries
There are different times and different ways in which boundaries are tested when running a business. I have discovered there are times when staff and clients think they are immune to terms of business or rules we have in place, which actually exist for the protection of the business and the team within it. This year I will be gently but firmly reminding people of those boundaries whether it’s around the temp to perm of a candidate we’ve introduced, staff holidays or contracts for training services. Because believe me, if you’re fair with me, I will always be fair with you.
Goal #4: Strong IT controls
It’s easy to get comfortable with suppliers in business, but reviewing service level agreements on a regular basis is important to ensure we stay ahead of the competition. I did exactly that with our IT supplier this year and was amazed to discover some new technologies available to us and disappointed that our existing supplier opted not to offer us these options. As a consequence we’ll be changing suppliers after ten years in the early part of the year, I believe this will stream line our processes and systems as well as eliminate a number of IT problems we’ve suffered with in the past.
Goal #5: The devil is in the detail
I believe that robust finance systems are at the heart of a healthy company and while I’m pleased with the way we operate, there is always room for improvement. This year we’ll be working with a specialist supplier to put in place much more detailed long term forecasting, stronger management information and analysis, whilst taking advice on areas we need to tighten up on. Being clear on what we need more of and what we need less of so we can build a fighting fit financial heart within the Company.
Goal #6: Money Motivates
While money isn’t everything, it certainly pays the bills and helps to maintain motivation for the extra things we want in life. I’ve been working on a new bonus structure for a while now and excited about revealing this to the team at the start of our new financial year in April. I believe the new structure fairly rewards individuals who drive the sales across the business as well as recognising team efforts per branch and within the company as a whole.
Goal #7: Persistence, persistence, persistence
Of all the areas within business, ‘sales’ is without a doubt my most favourite. I love meeting new clients as well as catching up with loyal clients we’ve been working with since we started in 2004. There are of course, clients I’ve been chasing since we started trading but well and truly believe that persistence pays off. This year we’ve been invited to tender for a few clients I’ve always wanted to work with and I’m looking forward to closely nurturing these relationships in the future. I’m also delighted that we’ve brought on over 50 new clients between us this year!
Goal #8: Candidate is King
- Staff can literally make or break a business and it’s true that the right staff are hard to find. A sound recruitment process can take an infinite amount of time and money to get right. Therefore, listening to and looking after our candidates is the absolute key to satisfying the needs within our clients businesses. We’ll be asking more questions, listening more closely and keeping in touch more often ensuring we get it right; because if we have happy candidates, then I believe we’ll have happy clients.