Interviews

Learning to take a step back has been great for my business

6 min read

14 February 2017

Opening new sites and growing the company meant John Savage has had no alternative but to step back at times – something he's found progressively easier.

While it is nice to have a bit of downtime and the opportunity to recharge the batteries, as an entrepreneur and businessman, it can be difficult to completely switch off and step back at times.

We’re gearing up for another big year, and hopefully a record one, in terms of revenues and employee growth, which is another reason why I have found it difficult to take a step back.

It hasn’t helped that our latest expansion, in a key northern city, has been delayed further.

I’m still excited for the year ahead, though, and we will overcome this slight hiccup and progress with our rapid expansion strategy, as planned.

Asbestos, unfortunately, was found to be in our prospective trade counter, while the authorities carried out their due diligence. Thankfully it was identified sooner rather than later and it is being dealt with, ensuring the safety of our staff who will be stationed at the branch.

The infrastructure was in place, the management of the branch, the business plan, the stock levels, etc., which was frustrating at first. But it is important, in difficult times, to keep a cool head and play the cards you have been dealt as best you can.

At the end of the day, these things happen and minor speed bumps in the road shouldn’t be reason for you to change your plans or reason to speed up the process to get to your destination quicker.

So, the expansion has been parked, briefly, in terms of stocking up the site and locating staff there, but it has allowed me to house those employees at our head office and assist with other areas of the business.

I expect the opening to take place probably three to four weeks behind schedule, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t the end of the world. It just goes to show how important it is to have contingency plans in place and to utilise employees’ unique skills in other ways.

With all this transpiring in the background, we were able to push on with our plans to expand north of the border and into Scotland, which is equally as exciting. We have experienced significant growth year-on-year since 2011, and I’m looking to increase our geographical presence throughout the region in order to continue this trend.

Fortunately, I was able to step back and recruit an experienced and respected colleague to oversee our Scotland operation, which will help with our progression in the country. Recruitment is key to scaling up – and I have found that mixing youth, including apprentices, with experience has served me well over the past six years.

So, not all was lost last month.

Admittedly, in the past, I may have rushed into a decision to progress things quickly. I may have adopted a tunnel vision mind set, where I would have to be involved in every aspect, which could have also been a hindrance.

I could have easily identified another branch to bring forward the opening process. Perhaps an inexperienced owner might have done. It can be sometimes easy to forget all the groundwork that had gone into the opening, including identifying and selecting the site. We, as a company, chose this particular area for a reason, having factored in so many different variables, carried out the business evaluation and financial forecast of it, among other things.

Ultimately, the correct decision was made in delaying the launch and utilising the talents of our colleagues to work in other areas of the business, in the interim. This also allowed the management and I the opportunity to press on with our other expansion in Scotland. Apples and oranges.

As the business has grown, so have I when shaping decisions and changing my thought process when carrying out certain initiatives. I am now in a position where I am comfortable with taking a step back, evaluating the circumstances and then delegating certain aspects of projects and day-to-day duties to other colleagues, while focusing on my own agenda. This has benefitted the business, I believe, in both the short-term and will do so in the future.

In any business, a good owner, chief executive or manager is always learning and it is important to keep your feet firmly on the ground and away from hesitation and indecision.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.