Testimonial from Kathryn Kennedy – PM Kennedy Land Surveyors
My father, Paul Kennedy, started this business over 30 years ago. When he passed away in 2008, he left the business to several family members and some employees too. We were thrown together as an ad hoc ownership group. Someone needed to run the business, so I stepped up.
The problem was that we didn’t chose to be in business with each other. From the get go, each shareholder has wanted different things from the business, so that creates conflict. And each shareholder puts different effort into the business so that adds complications too.
Inherited a mish mash of people and processes
When I came to the business, it had a small team of 5 people. The processes in the business had been cobbled together over time, a kind of “sticky tape and string” approach.
The people and processes stayed when I took the helm and then the volume of work grew. In order to keep up with the work, I took on more people. I would pretty much take on anyone who was qualified. The team grew from 5 to 20-30. There was a fair bit of churn which happens when you don’t have time to be really selective.
The cost of growing a business
Inefficiencies came with the growth. The original processes weren’t keeping up with the volume of work. There were bottlenecks, projects were bogged down, invoicing got stalled, all of which impacted cash flow. To be honest, I had never been able to get a handle on that. We were chasing our tails to get the processes right to run a business this size.
It’s fair to say that it’s been a challenge. It had been an uphill battle that I’d been struggling with on my own for so long. Then someone recommended I speak with a business coach at Tenfold. I looked into it and Tenfold have a good reputation for working with family businesses so I was confident that they could understand the nuances of our situation.
I started coaching with Tenfold in January 2018.
A fresh set of eyes and new direction
Coaching was useful straight off the bat. My Tenfold coach is like having a business partner, but even better. The advantage of having a Tenfold business coach is that they are not emotionally tied to the business. My coach can see things clearly because he’s not looking at the business through a personal bias.
With that clarity, our business coach, Ash, started mapping out the workflow for the ideal way the business should operate. We identified the roadblocks, chunked them down and worked out how to make jobs more efficient. As a result, we have better systems for collecting client information, which means each job starts better, is streamlined and is more effective for our staff and clients.
Those changes have improved our reputation with clients and also within our industry. Surveying is a small field; most people know each other and the businesses in the sector. We had been pigeon-holed as a “backwards” company but with the improvements we made with our coach, people now see us as progressive and innovative.
Attracting the best talent
Because we have been implementing the strategy to build a better business, we now attract the calibre of people we want. We used to try to headhunt, but now the ideal candidates are coming to us. And the improvements we’ve made are definitely going to help the best people transition more easily into our business.
My Tenfold coach, Ash, always talks about the “A-team”. That’s our ideal team of surveyors who will help us achieve the growth plans for the business. Through coaching, I’ve learned better ways to recruit, including interview techniques and when to cut an applicant loose if they’re not the right fit for our team and our goals.
A really important thing I’ve learnt from my Tenfold coach about recruiting is to not hire for the sake of it. Where I used to take on anyone who was available at the time, now I’m confident to set the pace. If we don’t get a candidate who’s the perfect fit, I’m prepared to wait. I’m in control.
By recruiting and retaining the best talent, we’re building a high-quality team and that makes the business easier to run.
Leading from the front
Running a fast-growing business can be pretty full on. My brain races at a million miles, and it can feel like I’m pulled in all directions. I enjoy getting involved in projects and working with the team. To be honest, I struggled to be hands-off, and that’s mostly because I love collaborating. I never wanted to be a sole director, I always wanted to have a strong business partnership. That’s what I’ve now got with my business coach at Tenfold.
My coach is mentoring me on minimising the hours I work in the business. I’m learning to delegate, and has coached me to set up framework to set up my team so they know how to do the work to the right standards. We have put in place the targets to hit, and we now have the processes and procedures support those targets. I’m still part of the team, but now I’m leading from the front.
I used to work 7 days a week and don’t know how many hours, at least 70. These days I only work between 45-50 hours a week, and the work I do is more focused on the bigger picture.
The big picture
For a long time it was hard to create that big picture. The other shareholders don’t have the same passion to grow and run the business the way I do so it was always put in the “too hard” basket. My business coach’s advice enabled me to get clear on my big picture for the business. We’re still refining it but having something to work towards is motivating.
There are times when I can get caught up worry about the little things. My Tenfold coach is really good at bringing it back to that bigger picture and getting me to see all the things that have all come together. That shows me the significant progress we’ve made in the time I’ve been coached.
The clarity and direction I get from my business coach makes me more confident about the future of the business and myself as the leader.
Coaching provided clarity and direction during COVID
It was invaluable to have my coach on my side through COVID. He helped identify grants and calculate our eligibility even when we thought we might not get in. I got updates from Ash that were specific to our industry and how to interpret the lockdown rules so that we could keep operating and keep our team employed and engaged. As part of Tenfold business coaching best practice, every business gets their own customised financial model. We used that model to assess the changes to our pipeline of work, grants and subsidies and costs. Knowing that information gives you confidence that you have options to get through.
The best business coach is like a business partner
My Tenfold coach is the business partner that I never had. We are both committed to the future growth of the business. While I focus on day to day, my coach is looking several months and years ahead. I have worked with other coaches in the past so I know from experience that Tenfold are the best business coaches in Australia.
For more success stories from other businesses in professional services, see: