Have an open door - no matter what

What does being an effective employer really mean? And is my definition of effectiveness the same as the person next door? In order to be an effective employer should you manage, lead or both and what’s the difference anyway?

Stu Martin started at entry level learning the ropes of his trade whilst completing his apprenticeship. Once qualified he honed his craft and moved up the ladder into a managerial position. Industry was pumping until one day, without warning, he was told that his position was to be made redundant.

With a new small family he had some tough decisions to make. Stu says, “Mum was freaked out Dad said ‘about bloody time, now its your time to go out and do your thing’ ”.

Taking the good and bad learnings from his previous employer, Stu set up shop in his garage and Stu Martin Joinery began - a bit like a little company called TradeMe. Eight months later he and wife Sarah found themselves comparing the ‘whys’ verses the ‘why-nots’ of branching out and took the leap. Since then he’s continued to always look back in order to move forward.

Stu says, “It’s a strong, rural-based company and we like to keep things personal. Our tagline 'Beautiful Kitchens and so much more' reflects the values and standards we believe in.

“There are challenges every day but the cool thing is that we sit around the table a couple of times a day and openly discuss how the business is going and what we can do better. Our guys know what jobs have been won, what’s coming down the pipeline and when.

“We have a large variety of work from standard to complex, which require differing skill levels. We embrace, acknowledge and respect our differences like age, experience, expertise and length of time. This creates a cool dynamic, the team are interested in each other’s jobs and enjoy sharing and learning new skills - it’s a cohesive team.

“I work on a model of working smarter, understanding our limitations and outsourcing as required.

“In-house work is strongly based around the skills of our guys. Following our processes the guys are given free reign of what they want to achieve and how they do things. Sarah and I are self-confessed promotors of enthusiasm; we’re authentic and actually really love what we do.

“For our guys it’s not 100% about the pay packet, even though we do pay well - it’s more about them feeling comfortable in their role, stretching their capabilities, enjoying their responsibilities. We’d never advocate pigeon holing - we want our guys to see their future with us!

“It’s a fully inclusive workplace from the front of shop initiating a sale, participation on trade show stands to leading a job - anyone of the guys is capable.

“Flexibility is important - one of the guys is up for retirement but his skill and knowledge is priceless - we don’t want to see that disappear with an oversized card and leaving do, so collectively we’re working on a mutually beneficial plan to secure and channel this - old blood training new!

“We all need self-development. A couple of years ago I chose to build my capability by completing the BCITO NKBA Kitchen & Bathroom Design Certificate. This fitted in well with plans to diversify by expanding into design creating opportunities for our team and business.

“Our employee ‘effectiveness’ yard stick is measured by customer comment, the quality of what the guys create, and the satisfaction our guys get from their work.

“Celebrating success is big. Each year there’s a buzz on the floor when entries are submitted for the Best Kitchen at the Master Joiners. This year we’re taking the whole team to conference so they can see and hear what’s happening outside the workshop. It’s great for the guys to be publicly recognised by industry for their work.

“It hasn’t all been a bed of roses - we’ve tread water, plateaued at times and stepped outside the box to look at different avenues. We took a chance opening our doors and minds by taking on a business mentor. Five years on, Sarah and I have a standing monthly date with Julie our mentor who helped us to strip back, spot the gaps, rebuild, reflect and grow - its hard work but the results have been amazing.”

Sarah added, “Employers need to be confident, creative, communicate, listen to feedback and your intuition, be honest, invest in your people, don’t rush and delegate. Leave your door open no matter what. A successful company is made up of effective people otherwise it is a name only.”

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