Better Choices, Better Outcomes

Flexibility and agility – create the team you need. Dec 2018

2018 is nearly over. We’re in the midst of “silly season” and the dash to get as much as possible finished before the end of the year.

It’s at these times that we pressure test our systems and people. I often refer to this as the “main event” that we should’ve been training for. It’s a rich learning environment – if we stay present.

Most businesses in our industry experience their highest turnover months in October and November, followed immediately by the lows of December and January. This can be hard to manage – to keep everyone cool, calm and collected, as well as committed to the challenge. Then there are the cash flow implications of these ups and downs.

Managing toward this peak period should be a focus throughout the year, and it’s useful to refer to this when the going gets tough at other times. Generally we’re in training, with the occasional sprint, but there’s rarely the same intensity as right now. So it’s really no surprise that the pressure shows.

If a business’ fixed costs and people are set only to cope with the peak, then the overall result is poor because productivity drops in the low months and they become unprofitable. Correspondingly, if the structure and people are overwhelmed, then service, quality and profitability are compromised. Dissatisfaction sets in and the team becomes despondent. It’s too easy to get stuck in this repetitive cycle.

Very soon we’ll be taking a break, giving the opportunity to reflect about what we could do differently next year. Here are a few things to contemplate:
With the unemployment rate so low, it’s difficult enough to find experienced, skilled staff, let alone those with the right “fit” and “attitude” for our businesses. So why not invest in training and coaching your team to be match fit in time for October/November 2019? Recruiting someone who has basic skills and can be trained to be a true team player is likely more achievable than always aiming for the perfect person at the outset.

What else could you do to optimise efficiency?

• What processes and responsibilities can you adjust?
• What can you simplify?
• What skills do you need more of?
• Who is under-utilised?
• Can you organise the work so that skilled people focus as much as possible on tasks that only they can do?
• Can you develop others to take care of the simpler things?
• How much waste is there in your business? Really?
• Can you take on trainees and/or apprentices?
• Can you create an environment during the year that lets the team practise like it’s November?
• What can you do to incentivise and reward people for the commitment and effort that will be required?
• Could you create an arrangement so the team takes less time off and works more overtime in October/November 2019? Keep them healthy and fit throughout the year with health and fitness programmes , and balance work hard with play hard activities.
• How much of your own personal time will you commit for reviewing and making improvements to move away from the cycles of ups, downs, highs, lows?
I hope this helps you to start thinking about a better path for 2019 and beyond. I wish you and those close to you a safe, happy, healthy holiday season, and a rewarding year ahead.

Ian Featherstone is a business and leadership coach, and the owner of Glass Half Full. He specialises in the construction industry, particularly the joinery & cabinetry sector. For more information please visit