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3 Compelling Scalability Lessons for Business Owners
Sean: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the show, my name is Sean, and I’m here today with Jan Cavelle, and she’s all the way from the UK. And we are so privileged to have her here. She is an author. She wrote the book Scale for Success: Expert Insights into Growing Your Business, which launched last July 2, 2021. So you most probably haven’t had that book yet. Get a copy for yourself or head on over to her website jancavelle.co.uk. We’re going to have that in the show notes on this episode, go to leadershipstack.com. We’re going to have the link there. She is also a speaker and we are going to be hearing her speak today about entrepreneurship, leadership, and management. Hey, Jan, thank you so much for being here on the show.
Jan: Sean, thank you for a wonderful invitation to be here. I’m so excited to be here. I’m really thrilled and thank you.
Sean: I assure you; the pleasure and honor are ours and we’re happy to learn from you today. The first thing that we’re so interested to learn, I’m personally super interested to learn is, how did you start off your business? What’s the story behind it?
Jan: Well, my big business first ran for most of my career. I fell into a little bit of an accident, Sean it must be said, because I was a single mom and I had two kids that were still quite young, but sort of five and seven. So I didn’t want to leave them and go to work. So we’re all ready to start an office from a divorce and one thing in another. So I thought the only answer was to work at home, but I had absolutely zero money. You know, I was on social security social support. So I went to them and I said, look a bit more flexible these days. And I said, look, “you can do one or two things you can keep on Social Security forever, or you can let me start a business while I am on Social Security and still pay me something.” And after a while, I get it all scrunched. And as I say, they were a bit more flexible.
Jan: And they let me do it with a slightly different sort of setup of support I got just enough to get us by. I had a tiny bit left on an old credit card from my marriage days. A tiny bit of leeway when I got a really, really sort of tackiest leaflet printed on some goods I could sell. I’d never make them. I couldn’t possibly afford to actually get prototypes or anything. So these were sketches and that’s complimentary of what it looked like, honestly. But there it was I had a leaflet, so I was able to go and I set up an office with these children.
Jan: Literally on, because I had a tiny, tiny cottage and I set up an office on a shelf under the stairs. I had a fax phone because it was pre-anything else days and a card index box. And I bought phone directories because again, it was a pre-computer so I could not get contacts any other way.
Jan: And my telephone sold. It was all I thought I could do working from home, was get on my phone and hustle like hell. Excuse the language? But goodness, it took some doing. So I mean yeah, I just sat on that phone for all the hours that my children would tolerate, really.
Jan: You know, trading I’ll ask them if you know, you go and play with them for a while and then I will make phone calls, and then we will go to the park. And very slowly, very, very slowly, it got off the ground.
Sean: That’s awesome.
Jan: That was a start. And from there it ended up going to manufacturing because I had supply chain issues later on, and the actual thing did begin to grow and take off. And I ended up with two factory units with 40 something people working for me.
Sean: That’s amazing. That is amazing. Hands down and you were a single mom as well. That’s very, very difficult to do. And what were some of the things that maybe give me the top three things that you learned during that startup phase all the way to having two factories and 40 people?
Sean: That’s a pretty good scale. It’s actually a very good scale. You can live off of that. But from Point A where a lot of people are, you know, a lot of people are starting out, they have no idea, they’re clueless where to go, what to do, it’s too difficult. It’s so difficult to start a business all the way to growing your business, making it more stable. What are the top three things that you could tell us?
Jan: I think one of the things that I would say is don’t let that lack of knowledge hold you back. Because so many of us are really ignorant when we start, and even people who’ve gone to colleges and got book learning, it doesn’t totally prepare you for the experience, I don’t think, you know.
Jan: And so don’t let that lack of knowledge, don’t let anything that frightens you hold you back, you’re only going to start and at worst you’ll fail, but at least you’ll have tried. But it’s really true that you’ve got to start. So I think don’t let that lack of knowledge make you feel worse than anybody else. You’re just as good as everybody else. So that’s number one.
Jan: Number two, I think it’s really important to decide where you’re going and why you’re doing it because I think that focuses on being passionate. I mean, in my case, initially, it was literally putting food on the table for the children, which is a real push. You know, it does focus you quite well, but if you’ve got a drive, it can be for your kids, it can be to change the world or to build a huge business or whatever that is pushing you on, be really clear about it and be really determined that that’s what you’re going to achieve. And then when you have a bad day, you want to stay in bed and we all get them, you know, it doesn’t matter because that drive is enough to get you right down and keep you going. So I think that’s really important.
Jan: I would say, let’s chuck in a practical one. I think learning your figures is really important. I was terrible at Math at school, you know. It wasn’t something that interested me at all. I loved words, and ended up a writer after all. So, Math was a horrible subject, but you know, of course, I had to do it when I had a business. And actually, it didn’t matter that I was bad about it. I had a calculator and I began to see that money and business is about patterns. That began to intrigue me how you work the patterns, you know, so don’t let fear of money go and find out how to reach your own money. Don’t give it to somebody else to tell you what’s going on in your business. I think really, it’s so important in those early stages to learn everything yourself about the financial workings of your business.
Sean: That’s very interesting. A lot of people would say that you should hire an accountant at some point. What do you think about that?
Jan: I think later, the better. I think you will always run it better the more you know about finances yourself, you know.
Jan: And you know, again you get problems later on because, you know, you’ll get to a size that you might have an in-house accountant? And of course, you know, or at least an in-house bookkeeper. And if you don’t know how to work with figures, I regret to say but human nature is what is facing almost the amount of fraud in the accountancy industry. And you know, if you don’t know, or can’t read it yourself, you’re setting yourself up for a huge fall. But I do think it makes you build a better business if you understand it.
Sean: For sure. Speaking about fraud and human nature, has it ever happened to you that you struggled with pilferage, missing items, or theft in your team? What did you do about that? How did you solve that problem?
Jan: It was massive and we’re talking both from bookkeeping on that side of things, and also on the factories, absolutely huge. I mean, to the extent that petrol would be siphoned out the vans into people’s cars at night, you know.
Jan: It was hard, you know, the police are not going to be able to help because there’s a certain amount they can do. You know, you can protect yourself for sensible commerce and what have you. You know, you can certainly track your vans.
Jan: But if the culture is – once it started and particularly if you’ve got a manager involved, as I had at that point in time who was also, you know, going, “Oh, don’t worry, everybody, I’m going to take this. Yeah, let’s all do it.” It’s very hard to reverse. It takes a long while, so be very aware of it. If you’ve got that sort of business with the shop floor, it’s tough.
Jan: Yeah, I hear ya.
Sean: So speaking of these things that where you have a – wow, a manager also being involved in unethical things or theft and pilferage in your company, that’s no joke. A lot of people, a lot of companies here in the Philippines also struggle with that where you have a supervisor level person who’s watching out after everyone else who’s, you know, filling in their own pockets at your expense. Let me know. What are some of the tips and advice that you could give to those who are struggling with that as well right now? And maybe they’re thinking, “Oh, but you know that supervisor has been with us for X number of years, it’s hard to train a person like that, it’s hard to replace this person.” Those are the things that go into the head of these business owners. What did you do to whip that around?
Jan: I get entirely that sort of, you know, it takes us a year to train, but actually, I think during the end, you have to talk about how it went out even if it means going back to just you and a couple of other people. If you can’t trust your senior staff, you’re never going to go all on that and build that business further in the end. And you know, because financially, you can’t make all this and you will actually be so destroyed by it, but it’ll destroy the work culture of your team.
Jan: I had a business coach at one time who used to call a certain type of person in your business, an internal terrorist. And I think it’s a very good description of someone who may be doing things like stealing from you. But also, is culture destructive? You know, from the moment you get somebody who works against the culture of your business, it spreads like wildfire and even the good people start to join, and they start to think I have to be the same as somebody else. I can’t stand up to that or everybody saying “that maybe it’s true. Maybe he is or she is awful or whatever. And, you know, it just attacks everything that your business stands for. Without a really good culture, you haven’t got a good business. It’s as simple as that.
Sean: Get rid of the leader. Yeah, I completely agree. Whenever there is something wrong with a team, it’s to look at the leader. So in our team, that’s also what I do. I try to figure out what the leader is doing, why is the culture like this in this specific team? And usually, I change the leader if they show themselves at the door. That’s all the better if they show themselves at the door. Don’t need to get rid of them.
Jan: Oh, yes, ideal
Sean: Yeah, that is ideal.