Hiring, Firing & Inspiring: Advice for Ambitious Small Business Owners l Nigel Botterill


– There’s plenty of us here now that have got a few grey hairs, and we ain’t gonna suddenly be different in work or in any other aspect of that. That’s the truth of it. We’re too hard-coded now, and if there isn’t a fit,
then it isn’t gonna work, so the only sensible thing
to do in that situation is to exit them from the business. And sometimes that needs a bravery pill, but there’s some of
you here now, thinking, “Shit, I’ve got to fire
someone next week,” but you can do it, if
that’s where you’re at. You know, do it, because
you’ll be liberated. And every time I’ve done it and, you know, when there’s been
somebody actually needing to go, they need to go, and every single time, and there’s been a lot
of us over the years, you know what happens is then
someone else in the business will come to me and say
something along the lines of, “About bloody time,” or, “Thank
God, you sorted at last,” or something. You know, “Oh, why didn’t you tell me? “Oh my God,” “We all knew, I just wondered “when you’d realise,”
or whatever it might be, ’cause your people will know, the rest of your team will know, and it’s a perfect valid thing. It’s your business, and I mean there are, despite what, you know,
there are obviously, there are rules and laws and
stuff that have to be followed, but what I’ve discovered
from a people perspective is that actually you
can get rid of people. Doesn’t matter how long
they’ve been with you, you just have to prepare
to write the check, and the check in truth
is relatively modest compared to actually
what the actual costs is in terms of hassle and stress and time, and if they’ve been with
you less than two years it is much easier. You do have to be careful
and follow process but you’re inhibited from
gettin’ rid of somebody. I had someone last week who was clearly going down this process, and they’d created a
disciplinary scenario, and the minute they served the letter, the next day this person’s
played the medical stress card. Says, “Oh, I suffering, I can’t,” and it’s not true, you can do
things, you absolutely can. Especially when they hadn’t
told you before that point. You absolutely can still, you
just need to do it properly and work it through. But as employers and as business owners, we are allowed, we are
able to take control of our businesses and
the people within it, and sometimes that means exiting people. We should be in control of it. So that’s the firin’ piece. And if anyone does need
help with that at any point then you should shout,
’cause there are plenty of us within EC that can help
and guide you through, although Donna Obstfeld,
whose numbers on that article is also great place to go
to her, proper HR support. So, we’ll flick back to page 64, then we’ll do the hiring
and inspiring, there we go. That’s what we gotta cover off. So the hiring piece, my thought
process to hiring people is it is all about fit. That’s how I describe it. I’m just lookin’ for people
that fit in this business. It’s way more important to me. The skills are important,
that they bring with them. Their experience, their
knowledge, their attributes, they do matter, but if they don’t fit, I’m not gonna hire ’em. My first point when I’m looking
at the recruitment is fit. It’s not about the skills. I never look at anybody’s CV beyond, normally I’d get someone else to do a, either an agency that I’m
using or one of my team, just to see if someone
thinks I should see them, I’ll just see ’em, and I
wanna see you kinda cold. I’m not interested in what
you’ve done at this point. I’m not about to hire you on this, but I wanna just see ya
and I’m just assessin’ “Would you fit ’round here?” “Could I see fittin’ in?” You know, strengthin’ our
team, being a good part of what we are buildin’. We wanna find the right
people that fit our culture, ’cause the truth is in my business, I can teach ’em anything
they need to know. Now, as we’re gettin’, we’re
going a bit quicker now, I do care about what people are bringin’. If people come with the
how and they’re a good fit, that’s the best of all scenarios. If they come with the how
and they’re not gonna fit, (makes popping sound) there
ain’t way they’re comin’ in, and if they come with a fit but there is no the sought-on skills, well we can work with that. That’s someone we can
absolutely work with. And people, this next
bit’s really, on page 65, is really interesting, because particularly smaller businesses, everyone gets this wrong. Everyone gets this wrong. And when it comes to
understandin’ the costs properly. And I do recognise that people cost money, and although one of the
things I’ve also discovered is that there is little,
just because someone’s got a high expectation on salary doesn’t mean they’ll be any good, and similarly some of my best people have come to me for a lot less money than they were worth in the market. So the price that people are in the market tells you nothin’ at all in truth, although if you’re gonna get
good people and keep them, you are gonna have to pay
them appropriately but, so people get concerned. So one of the first obstacles that we come across is people, well there isn’t sufficient
profit in the business today to afford to hire another person. And there’s a fundamental
flaw in that way, ’cause you don’t use your profit to pay for people to work for ya. People have to come in to
make the business better and more profitable. There has to be cash to
pay them, I do get that, and I’ll come onto that in a minute, but don’t work really hard
with you and your existing team to generate enough profit
so you can spend that profit on another person, ’cause their job, when the new person when you bring them is to make the business bigger and better. You have to grow it and
you have to stretch it, and so the profitability
of the business right now is actually a really small factor in whether you should
be hiring at this point. Having access to the cash
is a much more pragmatic way of looking at it. And if you’re small and
just starting to grow out then any hire has to facilitate
the growth of the business. So they have to do one of two things. They either have to come
in, into a sales role and bring in new business themselves, ’cause that’s the job that
you are hiring them for, or they have to come in and do work that will free up you or
someone in the business, so you can go out there
and bring in more business. But there has to be a direct linkage between the hire of a person, when the business is
small, the direct purchase, this person’s coming in and as a result the business has to grow,
either because they’re bringing in the customers or they’re freein’ up someone else to bring in the customers. No other scenario is
feasible or acceptable. But that liberates you then, because it means, well
so how long will it take for the new revenue to start flowin’ from the new customers
that are gonna come in? Either from them directly or from you if you’ve been freed up, or
whoever else has been freed up, and you’ll know how long
your sales cycle is, so it might, it could
happen fairly quickly in a couple of weeks. It could be a couple of months, you know what your sales cycle is. But all we’ve then got
to do is fund the person for that period of time. So if you bring someone in
on 30,000 pounds a year, then their cash cost to you is just over two and a half
thousand pounds a month. Now if your sales cycle
is four to six weeks, then the worse scenario you’re
in for is two months’ salary, so it’s a five-grand punt. Now, in truth it’s not even five grand, because you’re gonna know, you
don’t have to wait two months to know whether they’re
gonna cut the mustard. You’re gonna know much quicker. But the worst-case scenario
is you have to pay them two months’ salary before
the increased revenue’s started to come in. So it’s a five-grand spend. Now, as a business
owner, in a lotta cases, the right thing to do is
just get the five grand. I mean, genuinely, just get it. Borrow it, put it on a credit card. I don’t wanna sell somethin’
if the cash is that tight, but if the right thing to
do is to bring somebody in, get the five grand. Now the five grand create
the added impetus and focus on your part to ensure that you bring this new person properly and equip them so that they can start to deliver, either directly or through
facilitating someone else to go out there and get it, so that the money’s coming in, ’cause the minute they’re
bringing in business that covers their own
salary, they’re free to you, and you’re now growin’
the business, you know, and then the repeat comes
in and everything else and works through, and so many businesses wait too long before they
start to build the team to branch out, and it because
they don’t think properly about the costs. So the costs are typically two, sometimes it’s three months’ salary that you’re looking to
bring in an extra person, but you’re bringing that in not to, it’s not an indulgence, it’s like ya Don’t look at it as an expense, ’cause when your business is small there has be a direct
linkage with their arrival and the growth of the business. That’s what has to happen. Then you get to point number two on here which is the opportunity cost, and this is the stuff
that you could be doing with the business, that you
are not currently able to do, because you’re doin’ work
that someone else could do. I’m amazed how many people’s
lives and lifestyles are compromised on a daily basis because of their failure, their reluctance to bring somebody in to do the work, to bring somebody else in to do it. You know, even if it’s
with ya bookkeeping, if you’re one of these people, and I know you’re out there still, who’s still doin’ their own bookkeeping despite everythin’ that you’ve heard and all nods that you’ve given me, I know that some people in this room who are still doin’ their own bookkeepin’, and that is, I mean it
is certifiably insane. You can’t be ’round EC
for more than a few months without recognizin’ the
futility and genuine stupidity of you doin’ your own bookkeepin’, because first of all
you’re not skilled enough, so it takes you longer, and
you make mistakes, by the way, and cock things up, but
the time it takes you, it might just be a few hours a month, but if you put that time, that two or three or four
or five hours a month, if you put that time into
business development, you would get more customers,
and you’d get more business, and you can hire a bookkeeper
for 15 pound an hour and in less hours to the
work that you do, by the way, and they do it better,
and the opportunity costs has been liberated, ’cause now you’ve got four or five hours a month
where you can be doin’ the business developments
in what format takes or the marketing, but either way, the bookkeeper is paid for quickly, because of the growth of the business. And you can join the
dots absolutely directly, and if you’re sensible
that’s what you do, right. I’m gonna buy a bookkeeper,
and I’m buying a bookkeeper so I can grow the business,
’cause it’s gonna give me six hours a month back,
and six hours a month I can get two new customers, and two customers are worth
500 pound a month to me, so the bookkeeper’s paid
for by the end of the third, and I’m gonna fuckin’ let that happen, because that’s what I’m buildin’. And until you do and
get out of the kind of, the kinda swamp of kinda mediocrity that you are in to have those
thoughts in the first place, you have to break out
of it, and it’s your job as a business, part of the
leadership of your business to recognise that you have to get there are jobs that are out there which you can hire people to
do for 15, 20 pounds a hour, and you are obligated. It’s behaviour. If you don’t do it, it’s
behaviour that is non-congruent with what you’re sayin’
you want to achieve. You can’t on the one hand
sit here for two days and talk about your plans to
build this excellent business, and drive the ambition,
and not on the other hand hire a bookkeeper for six hours a month for 15 pound an hour. Those two things are
completely non-congruent, and until you resolve that
conflict in your head, you’re gonna stay stuck where you are. That’s the reality of it. That’s why it needs, we can use this to flick it and break it through. And then you’ve got the live costs. And the live costs, I mean genuinely, that’s the price you pay
for carrying all the weight on your shoulders for
not havin’ the support and the help that you need around there, and I’ve taught many, many
times at these events and others ’bout all the support that I put in place, ’cause I’ve got three roles in life. I’ve got to be, and
these are not in order, I’ve got to be a good CEO of my business, it matters a lot to me
for all sorts of reasons. I’ve got to be the best
dad I can possibly be to my four children, and I
want to be the best husband I can be for Sue. And I used to, long, long time ago, I used to think I had to good
at all those three things all the time. And what I learnt, quite a while ago now, is that that’s not the
case, and it’s impossible, and no one can be good at all
those things all the time, and I have now a very
different philosophy, and now I just try not to be bad at any one of them for too long. No, but it’s liberatin’,
it’s genuinely liberatin’. I’ve not seen Sue this week. It’s been a really, really busy week. You know, we’ve communicated
by text and stuff, I mean, I didn’t even see Sue, she was at Wimbledon yesterday, and then she was one a late train back, and I was fast asleep, I
didn’t even hear her come in. And I was out this morning
before she’s woken up, but we had a few texts and stuff, but I’m lookin’ forward to a nice weekend, so I’m gonna make up, I’ll
be a much better husband this weekend than I’ve been this week, but she understands that, and
that’s what we have to be. But I also have a housekeeper. I don’t do any chores
around my house at all. I have a gardener, you know. These people are there because
they facilitate my life, and it means that when
I have got free time I don’t have to worry about
even cleaning me shoes or takin’ the dry cleaning
in or whatever it might be, let alone doing the washin’
or scrubbin’ the bathroom, because it’s hard to build a business that’s meaningful and makes
an impact on the world. It is hard leadin’ a team of 50-odd people with all the challenge that that inveils, you know, all of us do hard stuff. It’s not about me, it’s about
all of us as entrepreneurs, but we have the opportunity,
the one thing that we’ve got that other people haven’t got is it’s all within our control. So we don’t have to do the stuff that A, we don’t want to do, or B, that we can afford
to pay other people to do. And your time, wherever you’re at, wherever your business is at right now, even some of you in the room where there’s only you in business and it’s relatively embryonic, but even at that stage
your time is worth more than 15 pound an hour. You know, for 15 pound an hour, you can get a housekeeper,
you can get a gardener, you can get a bookkeeper. You can get someone to answer your phone. And the trick for you
is to turn those hours that you get back into productive
business development hours that grow the business. You can’t piss those
hours away, I get that. I completely get how
you can’t write checks for people to do stuff, and
you just put your feet up, watch your Netflix or
watchin’ the football, I get that completely. So in the early days,
she’d write the checks to free you up, so you
can focus on the things that’ll make the biggest difference. So you can start to
recruit the right people, so you can start to
demonstrate proper leadership in the team, ’cause your
worklist isn’t anything like as full as it used to be. You can spend time
makin’ the conversations, doin’ the follow-ups,
drivin’ the marketin’, that needs to be done to
bring in the customers that takes the business to another level. All the stuff that you
know you should be doin’, but you never have time to do ’cause you’re doin’ shitty
little 15-pound-an-hour jobs that you can write a check
for now, like next week. You know, start with a
cleaner for Christ’s sake! You know, it’s 60 quid a week. You know, you have
someone come in yer house, and make it look beautiful on
a Thursday night or whatever. Now all of a sudden you’ve
got no bathrooms to clean, no toilets to clean, no sinks to scrub, you don’t have to vacuum. All the shit’s gone,
then put the ironin’ out, and use that time instead to
develop and drive your business ’cause it’s put one foot
in front of the other, and all of a sudden, oh my God
we’re 10 foot up in the air, but you can’t get 10 foot up in the air, you got no blocks to build on. The biggest blockers for
some many people in EC at the smaller end of businesses
is just not seein’ this. And they’re too slow to hire, ’cause they don’t understand the costs. You know, they fit the hourly cost for the day-to-day routine work both, and I’m not just talking
about the business either, I’m genuinely talking about, ’cause for all of us our businesses, it’s an integral part of lives. You know, we don’t switch
off when we go home. We do wake in the night
thinking, it’s part of our lives. Well, not havin’ to go
shopping is bloody brilliant, I promise ya. Not even havin’ to sort the
Internet shoppin’ is brilliant, I promise ya. Never ironin’ a shirt ever
again, it’s fuckin’ liberatin’. And it’s not ’cause I can’t do it, it’s not the right thing to do. It would stupid. You know, pick any successful person that you admire in business who has Do you think Alan Sugar
irons his own shirts? Genuinely, d’you know what I’m sayin’? How does it work? And whatever ya think about,
about Trump as a president, look what he’s achieved in business. You know, look what,
d’you think Donald Trump’s knockin’ down Sainsbury’s
to get the groceries in? Is he cuttin’ his own grass? Well, it’s stupid! But hang on, if you’ve got ambitions, you wanna build a bigger business, but those things are gonna
stop you gettin’ there. And yes, by the way, if cuttin’ your own grass is therapeutic, and you genuinely enjoy it, then do it. I recognise that, that’s fine, go and have a couple of
hours on your sit-on mower, I get that, ’cause we’ve all
got to recharge somewhere, but the minute it’s a chore
at all, get rid of it. I take a lot of pleasure from my garden. I have never lifted a fork
or a spade or done anythin’, you know pulled a weed in my garden ever, and my garden’s beautiful. You know, and I write a
decent-sized check to my gardener every single month and I love him for it, ’cause I get all the
pleasure and none of the pain ’cause I write the check. I don’t have to worry about it, and the same around the house. And you know, and then that
enriches your relationship, by the way, ’cause my
wife has a lovely life, but she doesn’t have to
do the chores either, so it means she can focus on me. So when I do get home she’s not, you know, we’re not watchin’ telly while she’s on the ironin’ board, we can have a snuggle up or whatever, but things can happen, but life’s better, and in the position as entrepreneurs where we can make it so. But we’ve gotta start
buildin’ people around us, and the longer you hang on to everythin’ bein’ on your shoulders, the longer you’ll have to
wait to get anywhere close to where you wanna be. And you’ve gotta start breakin’ it out, and it requires a bit of a bravery pill and sometimes cash is short, but start with the
obvious, the easy stuff, and sometimes the easy stuff, the bookkeepin’ definitely an easy one, and after that then it’s
probably the cleanin’ and the gardenin’ in truth, that can start to free up time. ‘Cause if you’re spendin’
two hours of a weekend doin’ domestic chores,
and instead you spend two hours of a weekend
with your head clear on some proper business development, in a month’s time you’ll
have some new customers that you didn’t have before,
and they’ll have paid for the, and it’s free then for everyone. It’s free forever more. Their costs are covered and
then you’ve got that time back, and you can start to do other things, so that’s the cost proper
on the hirin’ piece, and again all this, you can’t
build a world-class team if there is no team. (laughs) If it’s just you, we gonna
break out of it somehow. So, why should I hire early
rather than late, on page 66, even when you can’t afford it? I like to create a bit of
financial stress in my business. It’s a good thing to do,
and when we’ve got clarity, a vision, and you know where you’re goin’, and you know what your
business is goin’ to look like when you get there in terms of the roles that you would have down the road, and it usually becomes pretty clear fairly quickly what the
next two or three roles that you need to bring
into the business are. I think you’re startin’ it’ll
be a bookkeeper potentially, might be a salesperson
or whatever it might be, but more likely to begin with, you would want to free up your work. Might an admin assistant to help you get rid of all the
daily, all the admin shit so you can do more sellin’
or business development. But it becomes clear where
the next roles are gonna be. And so first thing, start lookin’. The first issue is that
people wait too long to start lookin’, ’cause the
one thing I will promise you is it is difficult to
find really good people, and really good people, they’re out there but they are not straightforward to find, so it will take you time. So the best time, it’s the
classic politician’s thing, isn’t it? The best time to repair the
roof is when the sun is shinin’. Well, the best time to start lookin’ is before it’s a crisis, (laughs) yeah? So start lookin’, get ahead of yourself, and start lookin’, because
doesn’t cost you much money, if any money to start
lookin’ for new people to join your team. You only incur costs
when you hire somebody, ’cause you’ve then got their salary costs to start paying ’em, or you’ve
got an agency fee to pay, but again with most agencies, you only pay ’em money when
they’ve found you the candidate you want to employ. So start lookin’ much, much earlier than your instincts tell you to do because if you wait ’till the last minute, if you start to, if you
need somebody next week, or need someone next month, that puts you in a very poor position from
a recruitin’ perspective That’s when you start
makin’ bad decisions, ’cause you start to take people that, “Well, he’s a pulse, and he
wasn’t completely off-puttin’, “and is the only one that’s
turned up for the interview, “so maybe we’ll give him a chance,” but that’s not the way to
get a world-class team. But, well that has happened. Has that happened to you? (laughs) But it’s happened because you
didn’t start early enough, so start lookin’, ’cause there’s
no cost to start lookin’. It’s like window shoppin’,
you can go ’round, you can even browse the shop. That’s all you’re doin’,
you havin’ a look. You’re gettin’ your head ’round it. You’re not gonna actually buy today, but then you only have
to make the decision, you only gonna start
incurring cost and expense when you actually make the decision, and you only make the decision
when you’ve found someone that’s really great. And yes, it’s true that you
might find someone really great quite quickly, although
then you need to make sure that they are really great, ’cause one is not a choice, by the way. You need to be able to
compare and contrast, but most people leave it far too late. And the bit about even when
you think you can’t afford it, ’cause people think, “Oh
my God, it’s gonna cost me. “This job’s gonna be a 24-grand job, “or a 30-grand job or a 40-grand job. “That’s gonna cost me.” They think of it as a
40,000 pound decision. It’s not a 40,000 pound decision. It’s a six or seven-thousand
pound decision, ’cause you’re in for a couple of months. That really, in truth, is the
extent of your commitment, so it’s a six or
seven-thousand pound decision. That’s still a big deal,
six or seven grand, but it’s a much less of a
deal than a 40-grand deal, and even if the cost are
scarin’ ya a little bit when you’re gonna hire people, even more important that you start early, ’cause what you do not want to be, you don’t wanna be the
guy who effectively, you know, you’re shoppin’
for the wife on Christmas Eve at six o’clock in the evenin’, ’cause that’s not a
place that you wanna be, ’cause all of a sudden,
I’ve gotta get somethin’, “Argh!” So, lookin’ earlier,
bringin’ on board earlier, is a really smart thing to do. And before you start,
that also then forces ya to think about what the role actually is, and think about the role
in English, in your terms, in terms of, think about
it in terms of the work that they will do. Don’t worry at this stage,
what you gonna call it, oh what you’re gonna badge it. Don’t worry about any
of the kind of HR speak or any of the competencies that you need. Just, what they’re gonna do? What’s the work?

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