4 weeks ago, I made a BIG decision. I decided to leave my job. 10 years after founding Entrée Recruitment and leading the company to it’s most successful year on record, I felt it was time …. and what better time to do it than when the business is at its peak? My decision has been met with a range of reactions – congratulations! Why? Well done! About time! Really? Are you sure? Hmmmm that’s a big risk, are you crazy?
Funny isn’t it….but setting up Entrée all those years ago was a risk too. It was late 2001 and the market was going through an interesting time with Sept 11, the HIH disaster, Ansett had collapsed and many big spending Adelaide corporates such as Fauldings were moving interstate. It was a turbulent time that did see several recruitment companies go out of business. Meanwhile, at 23 I was relishing the opportunity to start up a business from scratch with not a care in the world about the market, the economy or my competitors. I wanted to do things differently and I had a vision – the rest seemed irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.
As I have cleaned out my office this week, going through 10 years of “stuff” – I have reminisced on my journey and the highs and lows. Many lessons have been learnt, many relationships formed and many successes enjoyed. On reflection, I would summarise my 10 biggest lessons in 10 years as:
- I can’t do it all – in the early years, I subconsciously thought I could do it all. I would try and solve every problem, take on every task, talk to every client and I wanted to know everything that was going on. The result? I was close to burnout and I became a control freak. Letting go, learning to empower others and take a big picture perspective saved my leadership, long-term business success and my sanity!
- Health must be a priority – working long hours, drinking copious amounts of coffee, eating poorly and irregular exercise left my system running on empty. An adrenalin junkie going full throttle is what I thought would deliver the results I wanted. I learnt putting health 1st, family 2nd and work 3rd actually delivered better results for all three areas.
- Recruit for culture – in the early days, I had relatively high staff turnover. It would drive me crazy that I had spent so much money recruiting and then months training only for newbies to leave. I had to have a good hard look at where I was going wrong. I was recruiting on skills and experience and not on culture (see previous post who’s hot and who’s not….what the perfect resume won’t tell you). As soon as I changed this focus, my hit rate dramatically improved. I learnt that there are 5 competencies that people must demonstrate to join the Entrée team (coachability, achievement drive, negotiation, persistence and decision making). No matter how great their years of experience in recruitment, I would not hire them if they couldn’t meet these criteria.
- Goals = results – every year the team and I have set personal and business goals at an individual level that would then link to business’ overall goals. This discipline ensured that every year our results improved and people knew how they were contributing to the big picture. Without a target, people don’t know what to aim for.
- Coach on behavior, not the person – have you ever wondered why people end up in tears in your office or you think oops that didn’t come out the right way? It would happen to me and I realised the issue was in my delivery – not my intent. As soon as I change my communication to focus on observed behaviours, rather than what I thought, things changed dramatically! Suddenly performance increased, staff were motivated and driven and I wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
- Set expectations early – why is this staff member texting me that they are sick and not coming in? Why is she wearing that to work? I learnt that you should never assume. People don’t know what you want or the way you want them to do things unless you tell them. I set expectations right from the interview stage – “this is what we expect here at Entrée…” This way there is always something to go back to if behviour goes off track (see blog how to get what you expect).
- Leadership = retention – do you want people to stay? Become a better leader. Simple. My retention rate went through the roof the moment I started investing in my leadership skills. This peaked at an average rate of 6 years for consulting staff – a rate the smashes the industry average.
- Staff are number 1 – one of the first business books I read that had an instant effect on me was Richard Branson’s “loosing my virginity”. It taught me many things – the most profound being that staff must come first. When staff come first, clients get great service and the profits look after themselves. This mantra has proven true year on year in my business.
- Feedback & coaching – giving people feedback consistently is imperative to keep them learning, interested and performing. This delivered immediately with good intention tells them that you have a genuine interest and belief in their personal success. This regular coaching has easily doubled the profitability of the business. See previous post show me the money, 9 tips to profitable growth.
- Ongoing learning – the leader sets the tone. Lesson number 10 is imperative to keep the business at the cutting edge of new information, tools and technologies. If the Leader isn’t learning anything new, then neither is the business. Doing the same thing actually means the business is going backwards. I have always maintained continuous learning through coaches, mentors, conferences, business books, blogs and the like. Up to date knowledge is not only smart business, it actually makes us more inspiring and interesting to be around.
Today, 10 years later, I feel inspired with a similar energy, a new vision, and still a desire to do things differently and better. I want to work with people like me – who are driven to succeed through developing their people and leadership skills. An entrepreneur at heart, I have taken what some see as a ‘risk’, but what I see as an exciting next chapter to modernize the way things are currently done to recruit, retain and achieve optimum results through people.
My sincere gratitude to Mark Hender, the person who took the chance on me all the years ago, his belief in me was the linchpin that made the journey possible. Lastly, to all the folks who have worked with me over the years, I say a big thank you! Thank you for being patient, open, determined and loyal to me and the vision that we have achieved. It’s been quite a ride!