When you grow a business, the prevailing advice is to draw up a business plan. When I first started to grow my business outside of my first 4×4 clinic, I focused heavily on the business strategy as to how we were going to grow and where we would get the business from. Over time, and especially in more recent times, I came to the strong realisation that without the right people, without the right tools, and without the right support to fuel the plan, I simply didn’t have a business. This is true of every service-based business I know, and plenty of other client-focused ones as well. Every business plan needs an accompanying people strategy to ensure you have the resources to carry out the future you envision.
This strategy should not only outline the skills, knowledge and experience of the people you need to fulfil the business plan, it also needs to encompass the embedding of culture and the projection of your team members’ career pathways. Do you see a chief operating officer in five years’ time? What does that transition look like? What kind of person is the COO? Do you have someone in your ranks who would make a good candidate? How might you support them to acquire the necessary skills and experience? Recognising and supporting people’s capacity for growth at all levels contributes to talent retention and a superior ability to attract staff and franchisees.
Employees come first
Employees are the key to success because that’s where the value is in business. The employees look after the clients and the business should empower them to do this well by looking after them.
In my business, we have three house rules that reflect our people plan. The first is that employees come first. Secondly, every client deserves an incredible experience – and this can only happen if the employee-first foundation has been laid. And finally, referrers are treated like royalty, which can only really follow when our clients have an incredible experience. So, success stems from the way you treat employees and enable them to succeed by giving them the tools and support to offer your clients the best possible experience.
One of the ways in which you can show this is how you value them. For example, during the initial phases of COVID lockdown, when our physio clinics were struggling, we implemented a ‘no employee left behind’ policy. We wanted to keep everyone employed as long as possible because we understood that there would be a resumption of patients returning to us once the risk had lessened. We had invested in our employees and they were valuable to us. Out of 260 employees we managed to retain 259, and now we are thriving again.
Business leaders often believe a good recruitment strategy will satisfy the human resources aspect of the business, but recruitment is just the beginning of the process. What’s important is seeing a future for people in the business and bringing them along for the journey.
Everybody has potential in a business and a leader’s job is to ensure that this potential is recognised, resourced and supported. An employee failure is a failure of the business. Either you have hired the wrong person because you didn’t articulate the role well enough, or you have the right person in the right role without the adequate support structures within the business to help them grow and develop.
Sometimes it’s the business that needs to grow to fit the person. Oftentimes I come across people who are not right for the vacancies we have at the time they apply, but, as the business expands and reshapes, a role that suits them may become available or can be created. Usually, a business opens up to new candidates, but I think we should also look into our archives and existing personnel to see if there’s someone we’ve already met, or who is already in the business who could benefit from growing in a different direction.
Satisfied employees are engaged and committed to their roles and devoted to their clients, and that comes from knowing that a business is willing to invest in their future careers, personal lives and emotional wellbeing. Understanding how business plans need an accompanying people strategy will enable you to prepare for future capacity and will give your staff the best possible chance of achieving their potential.