Charles liked to be called Charlie. That’s how he rolled. His business was friendly, everyone was a mate and they knew him on a first-name-basis. From the outside you’d think his business was a group of people who really liked hanging out with each other. Some of the guys had worked with Charlie for almost as long as he’d been running the business – well over ten years. When he and I first came together (many years ago now) he had one problem: how to hand the business down to his son Joel. Charlie owned a very successful construction company which was also handed down to him by his family. Joel was about to be the third generation business leader.
As I share this with you, I was going to describe the different business areas we talked about at our coaching sessions and every time I think back on those sessions I remember we kept discussing problem – people.
“Who’s running your operations?” “Why isn’t the sales team handling the follow-up calls?” “Why are you doing the on-site checks?” The more questions I asked the more it became apparent that Charlie running from one team member to another every day. His hours in his business was spent working in all the different parts of his business. And he wasn’t a spring chicken.
The team that he had in place were falling short on quite a few different areas like skill, aptitude, initiative and in some cases, basic know-how. I was well aware that Charlie and his team were more like a family to him, but as his Business Coach (and friend) I had to tell him that some of his people weren’t up to scratch. Charlie defended his team (as anyone would) by saying “I was handed the business from my family and this is the team that has stuck by me.” Charlie was loyal to his long-term staff, but, aside from being great mates, I explained that some members in his team weren’t allowing him to focus on growing his business and providing him the time necessary for Joel to learn the management ropes. Charlie was constantly being sucked into the day-to-day issues, problem solving across every level of his business, even down to administrational queries, sales, production and operations. And the problem with people was amplified because he kept employing more staff to make up for the short falls of the existing staff.
“A good tool for your team is to define each role,” I advised him, “it’s to help the people in the roles and to helps you find out if the people you have in those roles will thrive”. I introduced him to DiSC Performance Profiling. And he was hooked. He liked it because (a) it’s an independent measure of which person fits a role best and (b) he gets to find out his team’s natural preferences and how he can help them better.
It didn’t take long before Charlie told me “OK tell me what’s working and what isn’t in my HR, and give me a plan on how to change it”. I then went about taking him the start of the process before any person was addressed in the business. We started with Joel and his vision for the business. We created a concrete business plan, a future direction and where the business needed to go on a high level. Then we went about creating the roles that the business needed to fit that direction. Joel was very much an active participant in this process and to this day revisits this plan regularly.
When it came to people we certainly didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The original team did have some movement when we discovered how their DiSC personalities did (or in some cases – didn’t) fit the roles that they had been doing. For example a Frank was a High “I” (an “Influencer”) was in a non-people facing role in the Operations Department. I suggested perhaps a role which was customer-facing may suit Frank so Joel and Charlie promoted Frank Estimator (which he still enjoys many years later). Another staffer, Irene, we discovered was a ‘Conscientious) with a D (Dominance) and Joel offered her Project Management role. Every “t” was crossed and “i” was dotted as well as motivating the team to move forward.
The key to Joel and Charlie’s success was being careful with each role, using DiSC and building on the best in people. The real breakthrough came 6 months down the track after we had the right people in place, when Charlie found he had time on his hands. Time that he never thought he could have in his thirty years of working in his family business. Joel was such an active member of the management team now that all Charlie did was ensure he was on the Board of Management which ran each month and spend the better part of his time sharing his thoughts and assisting Joel through the Strategic Business Plan to grow the business and advise and guide.
“It’s a huge relief because it’s no longer completely up to me to execute the plan” he told me. Charlie and Joel are now focused on building his business into the next phase of growth. Joel has managed to sail the construction business into 150% growth figures which was amazing. So naturally our sessions took a whole new course which was exciting for them and for me.
This client story is a great example of how staff play such a big role in the lives of Business Leaders. When I last spoke with Charlie he wound up telling me that three out of the past eight months he spent on holiday overseas. In fact, he was just about to take off again! Well done Charlie. You deserve it.
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