Q+A WITH EMILY PERRY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR

Regardless of your career background, building a business is a substantial challenge and nerve wracking experience for anyone. For many the risk will pay off and bring with it huge rewards and satisfaction – but not without a few challenges!

Emily Perry, our founding director,  discusses some key challenges she has seen with clients, and subsequently how she advised them through this.

What do you see as the biggest management challenges faced by business owners?

So many of our client’s set up businesses because they are really good or passionate about something.  For example – my brother has an amazing coffee shop, set up because he is really passionate about coffee.  He won’t mind me saying, but prior to this, he had zero experience of managing staff – in fact he was a professional athlete prior to having his business, so had never had a job!

But as a business grows, many business owners find themselves increasingly taken away from doing what they love – with time taken up dealing with ‘staff issues’.  One of our other clients said to me ‘I love my business, but I hate employing staff’.

At one time or another, most business owners have to face up to the more challenging aspect of having staff  – having the difficult conversations with staff, sorting out internal conflicts and the like.

It’s harder as it’s seems so much more personal when it is your own business, especially in small teams – but when it’s your business at stake you just have to take the plunge.

What other key challenges do you see business owners struggle with?

Every business will be different, however, communication comes up time and time again.

What I see so often is business owners really struggle to communicate clearly with their team members.  It’s sort of ‘assumed’ that because you own the business, you are going to be an amazing communicator, but that’s not always the case.

So many business owners become wrapped up in the day to day ‘dirt’ and can forget who is supposed to be doing what, and then become frustrated when things don’t get done.  Good communication really is important and shouldn’t be taken for granted!

How do you advise that business owners overcome this?

Regular catch ups are essential.  I know it’s hard when you are busy, but a weekly, scheduled  catch up to make sure everyone is on the same page, discuss ideas and iron out any problems or concerns the team have is invaluable. Don’t skip this unless it’s a life or death situation, and make sure you take the lead on making these happen.

What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned from working with small businesses?

A business cannot operate without staff – yet so many business owners take a casual or even careless attitude to planning for staff in their business.  The amount of times I have seen clients say ‘oh they will do’ when it comes to a hiring decision is quite scary.

Even though ‘strategy’ is often associated with the corporate world, a good people plan or ‘strategy’ is so important if a business wants to grow. It’s so worth thinking about things like a team structure in advance, so you are prepared and know which areas of your team to build first once the business starts growing. Also simple things like having defined job roles can make a huge difference to productivity – it seems quite obvious but make a huge difference once you’ve got them in place.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone in the process of growing their business, and building their team?

The first 10 people in your team will determine the success of your business, so make sure you get it right. You see so many people who build their team with friends and family members because it seems like the most convenient option or they like the sound of working with them – but forget that may not be the best thing for the business (particularly if they aren’t actually suited for the role). Of course this isn’t always the case! But it’s always worth taking the time to thoroughly consider every individual you add in terms of what the business needs and what’s missing from your existing team.