5 things we've learned over 5 years in business
by Darren Toms | July 29, 2019
1. Speaking our language - values should be visible
Always recruit people that share your values and buy into the winning culture you are creating.
Honesty, Empathy, Positivity, Listening and Flexibility - these are our 5 core values.
They sound easy to create and they can be, with a bit of careful consideration, as they should hold true to you the business owner, rather than be conjured from business books or management theory.
However, the challenge of finding people that share these values and get as excited and passionate about putting them into practice as you are is perhaps the most challenging part.
At Clumber, we achieved this and continue to reinforce it, by making sure our values are always visible, referred to frequently, form part of the language that we use and of course are integral to our recruitment and induction processes.
I’m so proud of the team at Clumber in terms of what we have achieved together with a common purpose and these core values guiding us. I am also incredibly excited about how they are developing and what the future holds for each and everyone one of them.
2. Finance - know your numbers to build your platform for growth
The key to survival in the first 5 years is having a strong handle on your finances and mapping out clearly where the business is going.
To achieve this clarity, it is absolutely essential to create a robust financial management platform. However, as with all things, theory needs to be put into practice and that is where people, especially expert people, come in.
We were very lucky to find Serena Humphrey and the F Word (F for Finance) very early on in our business journey.
Serena helped us with this by initially putting in place a 13 week cash flow forecast (which we refer to daily), monthly management accounts (which we are accountable for if underperforming) and then a strategic financial plan of exactly how I’m going to reach my business and personal financial goals, (no finger in the air methodology).
It may sound dry but once you start to know your numbers, you really can start to plan for growth strong foundations in place and by engaging the team around the entire process becomes a LIVE company-wide mission, not a long-forgotten business plan gathering dust on the bookshelves.
3. Coming to the boil - as your team grows the demands on the kettle get even greater!
It’s lovely to see your team grow from day one but the little things might take you by surprise.
I wrote before about how creating a winning team means creating and embracing shared values. Well, 4 out of our 5 core values were in play when I asked what the team would like to celebrate the 5 year anniversary most specially ‘honesty’.
Beyond the obvious cake and champagne requests, the most emphatic reply was quite simply a new 2 litre kettle.
Going from a start-up to where we are now, our old kettle had seen it all over the years but was a lot smaller than this new behemoth the team were suggesting. However, we all know how crucial the morning cuppa can be, not to mention the 11am break and the post-lunch pick me up, so I am proud to say we have upgraded to the larger model.
Maybe measuring your growth by the size of your kettle could be THE way of measuring business success in the future! I must drop a line to Harvard Business Review.
4. Deep work days - why I DON’T have emails on my phone
Always work smarter rather than harder to achieve greater results
I really struggled with this concept when our financial consultant Serena Humphrey first asked me to do this so please bear with me.
Serena wanted me to take 2 days out of the office EVERY WEEK to have what she calls ‘Deep Work Days’ focusing on the things that really matter to you and your business. It wasn’t something I thought I could do at first, but the results are there for all to see.
For the last 3 years, I have consistently produced weekly sheets that document tasks that must get done during Deep Work Days in order to achieve our annual goals for the business but it isn’t just about the business, it goes deeper than that.
For a start, putting my health and family first enables me to be at peak performance, meaning that I am constantly lifting my head up from all the business noise to work on tasks that drive the business forward.
Without doing this, I would still be bogged down with case work and like many business owners I would still be very driven and responsive to emails which can dictate your day if you aren’t very careful.
Believe it or not, I don’t have emails on my phone, which I bet most business owners aren’t prepared to say or do! Just try it…
5. Always embrace change and look for the opportunities when it arrives
Change always happens and for many it brings fear - embrace it and discover a world of opportunity!
We work in a highly regulated industry dealing with incredibly sensitive cases in very challenging times. However, the impact of the ‘dreaded’ GDPR regulations were felt by every business.
For a small business like ours, GDPR could have been quite cumbersome, time consuming and costly.
However, our mission is ‘to be the most reputable provider to the insolvency market for pensions and employee assistance’ and to fulfil that we had to not only accept this challenge but to fully embrace this change.
By planning ahead with our Deep Work Days, we had already recognised the impact of GDPR 2 years before it was introduced but we also saw that investing in GDPR would create opportunities down the line with like minded clients that see GDPR and the Cyber Essentials qualifications as a must.
This is not about ticking boxes, it is about going the extra mile and excelling wherever possible. True to that mantra, we recently achieved the Cyber Essentials Plus award and are recognised as a leader in our sector for GDPR and data security.
Embrace change, it often comes with opportunities attached to it.