3 December 2017
The best way to become an expert is to teach. In my early days I moved from being a salesman at UKFast to managing a sales team. I spent years selling and all too quickly I found myself in a completely different position.
It was a huge transition and the greatest lesson I learned at that time is that success lies in preparation. Motivating a team and teaching them what I know forced me to be prepared and really think about what I have actually learned. Before I sat with a group of people I would find myself making a plan and thinking about what would be the best possible way to do each thing. Instead of running through my task list day by day, I was going through the lessons I had learned, the mistakes I had made and the best practice. Reiterating it in my mind and to my team. It became an extraordinary learning curve.
Since then, the best part of my role became watching people develop. That’s never as evident as at the Christmas party. This weekend we held our 2017 party and it is incredible when you see people coming into the business years ago as kids and now seeing them getting married and having kids of their own, buying houses and hitting their goals, and now I am watching them become the experts.
They’re training the new superstars, leading the business and I am filled with admiration.
Learning from new areas
The search for the answers to so many areas of the businesses over the years has expanded my reach into areas we would not expect. From a chance meeting with the then fifth best squash player in the world, I got the perfect opportunity to put some of the things I’ve learned along the way to the ultimate test.
I have spent the past few years getting to know Laura Massaro. Working with her is a privilege, especially when she won the World Championships and a year or so later in January 2016 as she rose through the rankings and reached her goal of becoming the World Number One.
This week, it was particularly special being interviewed on stage with Laura after the premiere screening of a programme about her which was made by British Squash. At the event, held at UKFast Campus, we talked about the successes, the hurdles we’ve overcome together; the trials and the peaks along the way. But the thing I am most proud of is listening to her talking seeing Laura passing on that knowledge and seeing the things that we’ve learned and perfected together, combined with a myriad of skills, being imparted to the Under 18 England Number One, Lucy Turmel. Listening to Laura talk to Lucy, I can hear myself in her words as she shares some of the things that we regularly talk about. This partnership is not just wonderful for the next generation, because Lucy will pass that on in years to come too, it also cements and reinforces the lessons for Laura, which are still vital to her ongoing success. As Lucy battled out some of the world’s top players last week, her progress is significant and Laura is inspiring the next generation of world-class players.
As the business grows there is no doubt that I miss the days when I was able to look after my small sales team and motivate them day in day out. However, I have learned that actually my role now is to encourage my leadership team to teach the future leaders within the team and pass on their skills and wisdom. We’ve also learned just how important culture is, and the leadership team teaching others about our values is only going to strengthen that culture as we grow.
The challenge here is that it’s natural if you are good at something to try to spend all of your time doing that thing. But there is only one of you. Time and again I have seen this holding small businesses back from expanding because finding people to pass your knowledge to, and being open to releasing the reins in an area of the business, is not easy and doesn’t come naturally at first. Recruiting people is one of the biggest difficulties a business faces. Finding people who are committed to learning and developing themselves is challenging and this conundrum grows as the business expands.
At UKFast we grow our leadership from within, we rarely recruit for a senior position externally. Finding ambitious people who are committed to learning and teaching these positions is no easy feat. I learned the value of growing a leadership team first from reading about it in Jim Collin’s books many years ago. Collins studied Fortune 500 companies like IBM and Apple to see what made them successful and homegrown leaders was one factor.
A new milestone
Seeing the entire business in the room for our Tony Robbins training last week and feeling the passion in the room was a huge honour for me. It was a vivid milestone, as big as acquiring the new offices or building our first data centre. It was clear that we have some incredible leaders within our business and we’re on the right track.
And, whether each person in the business becomes a leader or not, we’re passing on those things that make UKFast great and that equip people to live their best lives and smash their goals.
This week, so many members of the team have grabbed me to say that they’re setting their goals and getting their preparation in for a successful 2018. Whilst many businesses are now winding down for the festive season, now is the perfect time to thank and motivate your teams, and build energy – with a Christmas party for example – to get everyone ready for the new year ahead.
I’d love to hear how you get on.