Recharging your batteries is the first step to redefining your leadership role
Q: I feel I have lost my passion and energy for my business. I turn up every day and work hard with my four staff however, if I am honest I am a glorified team member and feel I am not leading.
A: What you are describing to me is not that unusual. I meet scores of business owners each year who say similar things.
The pressure of business, the challenges of trying to manage cash flow and funding and the sheer exhaustion of trying to keep some businesses afloat over the last decade can take a toll.
The good news is that it is possible to step out of that space and back into the more energised owner-manager role.
Start by asking yourself do you need to take a short break and get away from the business to help you "recharge the batteries"?
That in itself can sometimes be the first step in repositioning your own role.
I would also encourage you to engage with a business coach or a mentor from your Local Enterprise Office. You would find it beneficial to have another person looking at the business with you, to see opportunities and to assess where everyone, including yourself, might improve or change their role.
Do also consider whether you would benefit from attending some short training and upskilling courses for owner managers.
It is sometimes very refreshing to be among a group of peers who probably share very similar challenges. As well as the formal learnings during these programmes, you will gain significant motivation from seeing and hearing how others in a similar situation operate.
I wish you well and don't hesitate to drop me a note with an update.
Q: I am in my 30s and for the last five years have been involved in running a successful business started by my father. My uncle has also worked in the business for decades and constantly undermines many of the decisions I make and can sometimes be rude to me in front of others. How can I solve this?
A: I have no doubt your uncle has been a key part of the firm's history, and has contributed in a major way to its success.
He is very familiar with the business and to some degree probably has not been answerable to anyone for decades. Now you have arrived and I am sure you are bringing about a lot of change.
There is a danger that after spending years in a business, an individual can become slightly 'institutionalised' and closed to new ideas.
The responses could well be a reaction to what he sees as a lessening of his role in the business.
Perhaps he mistakes your lack of time in the business to mean you have nothing of substance to contribute.
Either way, his behaviour is unacceptable and will make it extremely difficult for you to take the reins going forward as he will ultimately undermine your position.
This is a situation that you cannot resolve on your own as you are not in a legitimate position of authority.
I would recommend a twofold approach. Have a conversation with your father and set out the current situation and enlist his support if you need it, then arrange for a meeting with your uncle in a neutral location - possibly even consider going off site for lunch.
Explain how you feel and set out clearly that the situation cannot continue as you will have to potentially run the business yourself one day.
Obviously listen to what he has to say, however be very firm that the current behaviour must stop immediately.
Give that some time and see does it work. If it does not, your father would need to be prepared to intervene forcefully to put a stop to it once and for all.
These matters are always slightly unpleasant when there is a family member involved. I am sure your uncle does not mean any harm, but the important thing is that you deal with it immediately.
Q: We are a small but successful company with five staff (two sales reps) and we supply mainly to customers within a 20-30 mile radius. We are 25 years in business but we now need to up the ante sales-wise. What direction should we take?
A: So many companies contact me with a similar query to yours. A business is somewhat like a person - sometimes it needs to give itself a new challenge and re-energise its approach.
Start by reviewing the current business. Conduct a SWOT analysis and identify what is working well and where there is room for improvement. Talk to some existing customers and get their input. If you can get access to some lapsed or non-customers that would also really add to your learnings.
Once you have completed these steps you will have a pretty comprehensive picture of what is required and you should create a roadmap/business plan of where you need to go.
The role of your staff in re-energising the approach will be vital so you need to be looking at structures, targets and upskilling as part of this aspect. Your staff will also have very good ideas on what the business needs to do to grow.
In my experience, the fundamental to getting sales growth is to start with answers on where you want to be and then get daily and weekly targets in place to take you there.
These targets effectively become your boss and drive the business in the direction you need.
All other actions are designed to support the achievement of these targets. Ensure these targets and results achieved are visible to all staff and managers and that they are reviewed at weekly management meetings.
In summary, before you do anything, stand back and analyse the current situation. That will help you identify the actions required. Get targets in place and then energise the business to hit these.