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I woke up the other morning and found myself still thinking about ideas and opinions that had been flying across the boardroom table the day before. That’s the sign of a great meeting — and a healthy mix of personalities in the leadership team.

It made me think about how business owners can proactively generate these types of conversations on a weekly, if not daily, basis. What is the secret to maintaining a pipeline of fresh thinking?

Changing nature of business leadership

I regularly talk to owners about how they can improve the flow of information and ideas in and out of their management team. And what I have seen, again and again, is that it’s the person at the top who is the blocker – and most of the time, they don’t realise it.

Smaller companies are often founded by individuals with a strong personality and a distinct entrepreneurial spirit, but as the entity evolves, this can become a barrier to its success. Yet as an organisation grows, so does the complexity of its management.

Once a start-up becomes an established SME, one person can no longer make informed decisions across every part of the business or maintain a continuous stream of new ideas to drive innovation and growth long-term.

Surround yourself with good people

The obvious solution is to build a robust leadership team to support you as your business grows. But this is also a risky transitional process that’s easy to get wrong. Here are the four main risks and how to avoid them

  1. Don’t look for a ‘mini me’: if you hire someone just like you, there can only be two outcomes. They’ll either mirror you or they will clash with you – and neither benefits your business. Seek people who compliment your management style but bring fresh perspective with them. Then give them the freedom to voice their opinions.
  2. Find someone to lead you: you may be a business leader, but you still need to be challenged, pushed, inspired and guided. Look for someone who can give you the chance to step outside your role as the business owner once in a while and be the mentee.
  3. Put your business in the frame: you want to set your people free to achieve big things, but you still need to provide a strong framework, so everyone is working to the same objectives. Your business plan is a great place to start, but it’s also important to cascade this message throughout the business – what’s your purpose, where did you come from and where are you heading next? And how can everyone contribute to the future of the business?
  4. Put blame back in its box: your management style will guide how all your employees conduct themselves at work. So, to promote a culture of openness about ideas and opinions means building trust that everyone is encouraged to share, and to take measured risks within your framework. When things go wrong, learn and move forward in a positive way. Nothing shuts down communication, innovation and investment in the future of your company like a blame culture.

How did you find the right balance of personalities for your leadership team?

Find and contact your local Haines Watts office

About the author

Chris Timms

Chris has been Managing Director of our South East Midlands region since 2013 and a member of the Haines Watts National Strategic Board since 2016. He’s led the expansion of client services, recruitment of the regional board and many of the senior management team, all of whom play a pivotal role in the current direction and leadership of the business. This in turn has seen the business grow from £1m turnover to £10m in the last 5 years, leading plans to double the market share in the next 3 years.

Aged 37, he’s been fortunate to have been mentored closely by senior leaders in the National Group and has benefited from observing them in action over the last 10 years. This has inspired him to support the next generation of talent and allows for individual innovation and freedom, something that’s very close to Chris’ heart. He believes strongly in allowing people to get on with what they’re good at, recognising and rewarding their expertise and providing them with as much, or as little framework as they need, to be the best they can and in doing so, this helps ensure clients get the best out of our business.

Chris trained as a chartered certified accountant, working in Audit & Accounting in the early 2000’s. Having achieved his first management role in 2005, it quickly became apparent to him that developing people was one of the most critical aspects any business should address. This remains a core focus of his working week, along with the growth and overall development of the business, the continued expansion of advisory services in the owner managed business space and building successful, lucrative relationships both internally and externally.

“Nothing beats the adrenalin of the business world; the increasingly fast paced environment, day to day challenges, learning from clients as well as giving them advice and working with people who’ve now become close friends. Behind this all is my young family, who of course help me make the hard decisions and everything more rewarding.”

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