This is a time of change and growth for our business, that has given us plenty of time for reflection over our direction and how best to align it with our values. Some 18 months ago we made a decision to grow our business, and grow we did, rapidly, but with that growth came troubles. Staff, clients and subbies alike, all brought trouble to the table which while not our fault, as business owners these are our problems. At that time, being the best builder to us, was about growth and enabling us to service more clients. We thought growth would equal financial freedom and happiness, but we found the opposite to be true.
With growth, came a lack of control. It was not physically possible for us to keep the whole business in control ourselves, we needed help. Help came in the form initially of a supervisor, who could also work on the tools, from there we grew to take on someone in the office to free me up, to further assist The Builder in the many things he needed to do each day.
The opportunity came for us to take on more staff, and we did with enthusiasm. We loved the opportunity to provide a comfortable place to work with security for our young team. By the end of last year, we had grown from just The Builder, an apprentice and myself to a full staff of 8 and many more subcontractors.
This is when we really began to notice the problems. We are too nice, we are too trusting and that created problems with staff, clients and with subbies. Now subbies are less of a problem, as when mistakes are made, they are liable and if necessary we don’t need to use them again. Staff and client issues are not so easy to work with.
It is important to know, that not all our staff gave us issues, in fact we had some fantastic staff, however those who did give us issues, went on to influence some of the others. Quality, productivity and morale suffered and over the past few months, we have either let some go, or encouraged others to move on. Unfortunately we did loose 2 great staff in the process of this change.
The financial implications are without a doubt the toughest we have lived through. Without staff you cannot grow, but with staff there are times in with that growth becomes so negative, you’ll be paying for it for a long time. The mistake was ours really, we trusted and we were too kind, forgetting how important it is to run a tight ship, preferring our staff to be working in a supportive environment. This meant the boys on site were often leaving early, or not bothering to complete the work expected of them, which in turn put more pressure on other staff members and of course The Builder and myself.
I now believe that a combination of running a tight ship, and respecting our staff to be the best way to encourage productivity. Don’t get me wrong, we employed both a HR company and a business coach to help us implement the cultural changes needed for our business to succeed through this growth, but we had left it too late. Change is rarely welcomed.
At the moment, we have implemented change in the form of running our business according to our core values, and they are family first and making a difference in the lives of our clients. This will dictate everything from the type of work we will take on, to the clients we will work with. We are spending more time qualifying our clients to ensure we are a good personality match, and more time being choosy about what kind of jobs we will take on, which has recently seen us returning to smaller renovations and extensions.
It has also positioned both Adam and myself back at the front and the rear of our business. A smaller scale of work, means we can tailor our clients experiences to what they need. This is what we now understand to be working towards being the best builder we can be.
Tell me about your experiences with builders? Anything you think we can learn from?