I am very proud of my Dad. He taught me a great deal about being successful in life. He was an immigrant to the United Kingdom in 1959, arriving with only £2 in his pocket and an address in Wolverhampton.
At the time he couldn’t speak a word of English and knew nothing of the culture of this country, but what he brought was his belief that if he worked hard he could earn enough to become a valuable member of the community. He was fortunate to live in communities where the social norm was to get a job and work hard, as this fitted his hopes and wishes.
When he had earned enough money, he was able to bring my Mum to this country and eventually they both helped my brother buy our family’s first shop in York in the early 1980’s.
What I learnt from my Dad is that with hard work and the right motivation you can achieve almost anything. Of course, it did take me quite a while to become aware of this life lesson! I really noticed motivation as a key factor in how to be successful when I was told by one of my BT managers that I needed to take some time off sick as I hadn’t taken any. I thought that he was joking, but everyone else was taking days off sick and I was ‘owed’ 9 days.
They weren’t actually monitoring the reasons why their employees were taking time off. This was in the late 1990’s and needless to say by the time I had left BT they had put in place a system for collecting the statistics and were looking for patterns in employee behaviour. Monitoring raised awareness and in the time that I was a manager with BT I was able to take the information about my team and have conversations with the employees who seemed to be having high levels of sickness. In every case there was an underlying reason that could be managed.
When I moved back in to managing our family store I brought the lessons in motivation that I learned from my Dad, and the procedural aspect I learned at BT, together for the first time. I feel managing individuals is one of the most difficult things in the world. As Dale Carnegie wrote in this book ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” And yet far too often we fall into the trap of trying to communicate with others through logic.
Motivation in my business
I think that the motivation of my employees comes from getting the right team together, coupled with getting their early training right so that they know what is expected of them.
It also comes from them knowing that I will spend time trying to understand who they are and what they are interested in. We are all motivated by different things, and understanding what each member of my team wants helps us both get the best out of our time together. Some may be just looking for a part time job and no responsibilities, while others will be looking to further their careers. Knowing this helps me to tailor my conversations with each individual in a slightly different way.
My role is to recognise and understand each employees default mode, asking the right questions will always get a warm reception. Couple this with encouragement and training so that they understand what I expected them to do when they are working helps them to be comfortable with what they do.
This motivational method has enabled me to build a strong team of self-disciplined employees who my wife and I have great confidence in. We recently went on holiday and left our team to run the store. When we returned the store looked great and each member of the team told me how delighted they were with how the store ran in our absence. Maybe we should go away more often!
I should add one final thing: I don’t have managers or supervisors to manage the store for me as all my employees manage themselves!