April 1, 2019

Implement the best succession strategy:

Develop your people


Most companies in our sector start from a passion fuelled by amazing energy and drive. After about 25 years, owners see a new challenge: How to keep their companies going after they retire. Since 70 per cent of company purchases are made by employees, developing great people is the deciding factor on the future success and longevity of your business.
It’s the owner’s role to engage, lead and coach in all areas of business performance. Developing people becomes the owner’s main focus as companies evolve. Some use proven business management practices, while most learn lessons over time, understanding this becomes the focus for future growth. Every business needs a long-term plan for personnel growth. In my personal journey this came from mentors, peer groups and much trial and error. Industry-led education gives us a benchmark and starting point for sure; real life situations prove whether or not they work. To focus forward on a path our vision must be clear, and remember, the path is never straight, as we learn most in the valleys and turns. The following points have proven to work for many toward developing people that build your company’s value as time moves forward.

It’s the owner’s role to engage, lead and coach in all areas of business performance. Developing people becomes the owner’s main focus as companies evolve. Some use proven business management practices, while most learn lessons over time, understanding this becomes the focus for future growth. Every business needs a long-term plan for personnel growth. In my personal journey this came from mentors, peer groups and much trial and error. Industry-led education gives us a benchmark and starting point for sure; real life situations prove whether or not they work. To focus forward on a path our vision must be clear, and remember, the path is never straight, as we learn most in the valleys and turns. The following points have proven to work for many toward developing people that build your company’s value as time moves forward.


Brent Ayles

 
It’s the owner’s role to engage, lead and coach in all areas of business performance. Developing people becomes the owner’s main focus as companies evolve. Some use proven business management practices, while most learn lessons over time, understanding this becomes the focus for future growth. Every business needs a long-term plan for personnel growth. In my personal journey this came from mentors, peer groups and much trial and error. Industry-led education gives us a benchmark and starting point for sure; real life situations prove whether or not they work. To focus forward on a path our vision must be clear, and remember, the path is never straight, as we learn most in the valleys and turns. The following points have proven to work for many toward developing people that build your company’s value as time moves forward.

Management
A strong management team that is well qualified in sales, operations and accounting is key to longevity, whether your company has three people or 63. Map the team out on paper, into a past/present/future organization chart to help guide growth and decision making. Assign Key Performance Indicators to keep decision-making focused on numbers, NOT feelings.

Communication
Communication tends to be an area where companies break down. Keeping open communication lines becomes very challenging as a company grows past about six employees. Ensure communication is as clear and direct to the source as possible. Whether it’s a visual scoreboard, a client share system, or regular reporting checklists, just do it! A communication process map is a great idea to help everyone understand processes and proper channels.

Education and development
Making our places of employment educational institutions is critical. At a Congress event over 10 years ago I heard a speaker say, “The largest school should be our daily workplace.” That has stuck with me for years. Now we are realizing that sharing, learning, teaching and coming together as a group is the best return on our largest investment — OUR PEOPLE. The military’s main purpose is to set clear rules and expectations through disciplined activities, and to obtain a desired outcome. I am not suggesting in any sense that green business activities are equivalent to the efforts of men and women in our Canadian Forces. It’s just that if we expect people to perform at a certain level, we had best teach them how to act and react. Former NCAA basketball coach John Wooden, one of the most-winning coaches in history, made things clear. The first thing he did with new team members was to sit them down and explain how to put on their socks and tie their shoes. Because he wanted their best and knew how to prevent injuries. We must show and tell others often how we expect them to perform. Standards really help outline clear expectations, as well as build consistency and rhythm. This is another form of communication. How do we start making our work place an educational institution? Just start! Line up chairs. Set up a white board. Schedule the meeting. Meet and communicate. Invest time in your people. I believe we have a development issue within our industry, far more than a retention problem.

Relationships
Building relationships that matter helps focus efforts forward — bankers, accountants, legal counsel, mentors, vendors, clients, customers (yes, there is a difference between the two), future managers, peer groups, other business groups, etc. all help expand our reach and potential. Exposure to these groups enhances the long-term growth and continuation of our operations.

Energy is as valuable as is time, but much more important. As leaders, knowing where to spend your energy is critical. Spend it on the area of largest return, your people.

Brent Ayles is president of Ayles Natural Landscaping, based in Riverview, N.B.