Episode 10

Why Are So Many Of Us Choosing To Be Our Own Boss?

Extolling the virtues of being your own boss is this week’s Oven-Ready HR guest. Carl Reader is a prolific investor and serial entrepreneur who left school at the age of 15 to become an apprentice hairdresser. Whilst his career in hair design was short-lived, his innate nose for business, entrepreneurship and sheer force of will has seen him build and scale numerous businesses and allowed him to control his own destiny.

About my guest

How we work, where we work and when we work is changing fast. The old industrial paradigm of the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, office based role, appears increasingly outdated and anachronistic.

The changes have in part been driven by Covid, but there are other, more subtle and more powerful phenomena in play. Advances in technology, shifting cultural norms and the values held by those leaving education and joining the workforce are having the biggest impact on the future of work and leaving many of us to consider whether being our own boss is a genuine option.

Extolling the virtues of being your own boss is this week’s Oven-Ready HR guest. Carl Reader is a prolific investor and serial entrepreneur who left school at the age of 15 to become an apprentice hairdresser. Whilst his career in hair design was short-lived, his innate nose for business, entrepreneurship and sheer force of will has seen him build and scale numerous businesses and allowed him to control his own destiny.

As the author of the wildly successful and bestselling book “Boss It” , Carl Reader gives an honest, robust and vivid blueprint of how to become your own boss. His mission is to ensure that being your own boss is as natural a career choice as any other.

Lastly, there are plenty of HR takeaways from this interview:

How to build a high-performing culture;
The mistakes commonly made when hiring employees;
His preference for employing “attitude” over “skills” every time.

Transcript

[Chris]: If you’re enjoying the Oven-Ready HR Podcast, please do rate and review us and feel free to share with your network. To find out more about Chris Taylor, your host, visit OvenReadyHR.com and follow us on Twitter too @OvenHR. Thank you.

Working practices based on old industrial paradigms of work, time, location, reward, skills, and hierarchy are being replaced, driven, yes, in part by the dreaded c-word, but driven mainly by technological, cultural societal phenomena. Today, our values are different. We want work that engages us, excites us, challenges us, and, yes, rewards us. Yet, at the same time, we want work that reflects our personal values, provides balance, and allows us to realise our full potential, which is why so many of us, young and old, consider being our own boss.

What was once a route only open to the few is now open to the many, and my guest this week, who left school aged fifteen to start work as an apprentice hairdresser, is testament to that. Although Carl Reader’s time in hairdressing was the equivalent of a short back and sides. His nose for business and a desire to take control of his own destiny has seen it become a prolific entrepreneur, public speaker, commentator, and author of the hugely successful BOSS IT, a book that shares his lessons he’s learnt about being your own boss.

Carl, likes us to thinks about being our own boss as genuine and valid as any other life choice. This isn’t to say that he advocates flunking exams or resigning tomorrow. His belief instead is that setting up a business and being your own boss should be as natural and as equal to joining an employer. Carl, welcome to Oven-Ready. How are you doing?

[Carl]: Hey, Chris, thank you so much, and what a wonderful intro. I just need to say that the short back and sides comment. During my time in hairdressing, I was lucky to even get that far. They wouldn’t let me close to a pair of scissors. However, anyone who’s seen my profile picture now would know that a short back and sides would be gratefully appreciated. When you’re a bald man, you’re kind of envious of those haircuts.

[Chris]: This is true, but you know what? Actually, lockdown has worked for you because you don’t have to worry about going to the bar, but whereas I look like a haystack at the moment, but you know, that’s kind of where we are with it, I guess.

Now, with all my guests, I like to conduct a fair amount of research, but the trouble I found with you is it because you’ve achieved so much. I didn’t really know where to start. I mean, your LinkedIn profile is perhaps the longest I’ve ever seen. Give me a flavour of where you are and what you’re doing now.

[Carl]: Yeah, sure. So, it is quite difficult, I guess, to find out exactly what I’m up to, and that’s because I wear a number of hats. So, I guess if I start with the longest-serving and work backward from there.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: My core business DMT, I fell into accountancy quite early on in my life, completely by accident. You know, most people who go into accountancy will go through A-levels and degrees and have a determination to be involved in the profession in some way. For me, it was a case of, it was a job, it paid money, and it paid for bills. So, that accountancy business, I serve as joint chairman. However, that’s on a non-executive role.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: So, I also have a lot of time to do other stuff, and I try to keep myself busy. So, I serve as a brand ambassador for a number of corporates, including the likes of Mercedes Benz, American Express, and so on. I help them amplify what they do to the B2B community.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Carl]: One of the brands I serve as a consultant, as well as a brand ambassador, and that’s a very exciting and FinTech start-up. It’s currently Series B funding, and really exciting to see some of the stuff they’re doing to use tech to make business easier for professional services. I serve as a—I’ve just become a trustee of Young Enterprise. I serve as B Practitioners, chair Panama ACCA, and there’s quite a few other bits and pieces. I’ve got investments in some other businesses and so on. But as you said, Chris, it’s all on my LinkedIn profile, which is very long, very boring. But yeah, one thing’s for certain, each workday’s a different day.

[Chris]: Very much so. I mean, how did you fit it all in?

[Carl]: I think the key to it for me was in building D&T to be a scalable business but didn’t rely on me as an individual.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: That was where I guess a lot of my mistakes have been made. A lot of my wise steps have been made as well, and also, a lot of my learnings and experience have come from.

Often when we run a business, we’re very focussed on looking after for customers that we serve or the team members because we go into it, not to set up a global enterprise, but we go into it to just do what we do—do what we enjoy doing but without the boss breathing down our neck or without the customers for the previous business worked with.

So, often people have this illusion of business owners being entrepreneurial by nature, but actually, most of us do our own thing because we want to have control over certain aspects of our life.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: Unfortunately, what happens is as the business scales up, you can rightly ask the question of, “How do you have time to do it?” Because you get to a point where you are integral to the business. You integral to every sale that’s made, every relationship, and so on.

With D&T, I was very active in creating a business but worked without me. I bought the business out in 2007, and I started back processing about 2011-2012, extracting myself away, not just from the client service activities but more importantly, from the business development, from the management, from the operations, and so on.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: Because often people will look at themselves being not involved in the business, but they’re still working 24 hours a day, running the business, and they see running the business as being a step above doing the work that the business does. But by design, I try to design the business so that it actually didn’t need me whatsoever. It was really uncomfortable, Chris. It was.

[Chris]: I can imagine.

[Carl]: Yeah, quite a leap of faith to put what is your income stream and your pension fund in other people’s hands and trust them to run it. But that’s ultimately, what has freed me up to be able to do other stuff, and then I guess the second rule that gives me the time is I try not to commit too much time to any one activity.

[Chris]: Right

[Carl]: If it looks like it’s ramping up or it looks like it’s going to be more in-depth than it perhaps should be, I try to take rapid action proactively rather than getting into that situation and then trying to extract myself, which is a whole lot tougher.

[Chris]: Yeah. Yeah, no. Okay, but in your book, so if we look at the book as it is at the moment, so you dedicate this to the next generation, and you mentioned your eldest son and that he didn’t realise that being his own boss was a route that was open to him. I’ve had a guest recently, another guest, who said that part of her mission was to normalise self-employment. Do you think that school the educational establishment careers advisors, have they caught up with this desire, do you think?

[Carl]: Not at all. Not at all. So, but yeah, the education system to one extent failed me.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: I don’t want to be disparaging towards the education system because for certain roles and for certain individuals and the two might not collide by the way, but for certain eventual jobs or professions, and for certain people in their way of learning, the academic system is amazing. However, it didn’t work out for me, and I was blessed, Chris.

You hear of school dropouts and so on, and I actually actively tried to distance myself from that because I held my hands up. I was extremely fortunate despite having humble upbringings. I was fortunate enough to win the Postcode Lottery and have a grammar school education.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: So, I saw the best of academia. However, I also saw the worst from my own experience, and that was the disconnect between business studies and the real world. I genuinely think that had I had access to true business studies, what I mean by that is learning about the fact that business is really simple. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s about taking a five-pound note at the start of the day and turning it into a tenner. Had I understood that that was business, I mean, even if I joined the docks and realised that going out and doing car washing for the neighbours and charging them a five of each and charge them an extra two quit to show me the car afterward, had I realised that that was actually business, then business studies and in turn be academic system would have been a whole lot more engaging.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: But instead, I was learning about share price valuations and PE ratios and the differences between PLCs and them to companies, which quite frankly, as a 14-year-old, just went straight over my head.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: With my son, Jordan, unfortunately, it hadn’t changed anywhere near enough, and I still don’t believe that change has taken place, which is why I’ve agreed to get on board with Young Enterprise to further the charities aims in developing an enterprising mindset amongst the youth. But the challenge that they have is that the academic world is great whilst you’re in the academic world.

I think without wanting to be too disparaging towards teachers, very few of them step outside the academic world, because from preschool through to university, very envy academic system, and they come out and then joined the academic system as a teacher. So, they have very little exposure of entrepreneurship or business ownership from a hands-on experience. The national curriculum, or whatever system it is that they use to decide what’s taught, is the Bible so far as that’s concerned.

So, I think there is a weakness, and I guess whilst the academic system is still rated on the basis of the next level, so, for example, secondary schools being based on GCSE results, and then, in turn, how many go on to A-levels and get strong A-levels, then, in turn, university placements? Whilst that’s still the [banking] system, the motivation within academia is going to be back progression, which is to say, is perfect for some jobs. I want a doctor who’s been to the very best university and has got the very best grades.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: But for many people, it’s not the right path for them or the career that they’re going to choose at the end of it.

[Chris]: No. Okay, and the media, I think, seems to portray entrepreneurship often in quite a negative light. I mean, you look at something like The Apprentice, and that just seems to be a show full of self-publicists, or you get something else, where entrepreneurs are seen as megalomaniacs.

[Carl]: Indeed.

[Chris]: Do you think that’s fair?

[Carl]: Yeah, I would absolutely agree, and I think there’s two sides to this glamourisation or, indeed, the negative aspect to entrepreneurship. So, Dragons’ Den, The Apprentice, it’s popcorn TV.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: I’ve spoken on stage with a couple of the Dragons. I know a few of them, and it’s very different in what actually happens on the day compared to what you see on screen. You also know a few of the applicants, and they saw it as their best PR investment ever. That’s what they go into it for. It’s not for the 20-grand. It’s for their website to be shut down with inbound leads, and with David, it goes live.

Apprentice, likewise, I know some of the ex-candidates, and I was also involved in the final of one of the series and saw firsthand how different the actual performance of the show when it’s happening live compared to what you see on TV.

Actually, this is something that’s common with Dragons’ Den and Apprentice. What actually happens is closer to real-life business from what you see on TV, which is crazy until you think about it a bit deeper and realise that the media has an agenda. There’s a saying that “Good news doesn’t sell newspapers,” and quite frankly, with programmes like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice, good businesses don’t attract viewers. People watch these things to see the, if we broaden it out, to see The X Factor singer who can’t hit a high note or to see the dancer on Britain’s Got Talent who falls flat on their face. Unfortunately, that’s what the public tends to look for, so, yeah. That’s on that side of it.

Then I think you’ve got the other side to it as well, the media misconception. There’s actually two angles to the other side. We’re now talking about real business rather than popcorn TV.

[Chris]: Sure.

[Carl]: The first is the demonisation of certain individuals in business because to really, truly scale a business, you’ve got to be quite a tough cookie. When I say, “truly scale,” I’m not talking about to a million, I’m not talking about to 10 million. I’m talking about to becoming a global enterprise for everyone knows. For people like the Jeff Bezos’s of this world,

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: There are always a number of ways of attacking these individuals, which again, sell newspapers. The likes of Phillip Green. I’m certainly not supporting any of these people, by the way, but Phillip Green. We’ve had Mike Ashley and a number of others where they get taken through the wringer by the press. It’s about the press and the newspapers on scandal, rather than praising how well these people have done. Put it put in personal views of their personal characteristics and the way they deal with staff and suppliers and tax, or this thing. Put all of that to one side. It’s often a negative angle to the press rather than positive.

The second side to it, and I guess this is more practical for any smaller business, particularly those who are looking to use the press to help elevate themselves and get some stories out there. One of the blinding shames and one of the reasons why I’ve written the book is for small business, which is my passion. Whilst my business is a multi-million turnover, I still see it as a very small business. Whilst a small business makes up 99.9% of all businesses, whilst small business employees, more people than including the self-employed more people than pretty much the entire public sector. It is the largest employer in the UK as a group.

[Chris]: Of course.

[Carl]: Yeah, we’ve got all of these stats, but it doesn’t have a voice in the media.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: So, you’ve got the negativity that comes from the first aspect, which is the reality TV, and then in the more traditional media, I guess for business celebrities, who are there to be taken down.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: On the other side, for the small business, the ones who really could benefit from their calls being championed could benefit from air time being given to the challenges that they have and the changes that they want to see and to improve in the entire I guess economy for them, unfortunately, there’s no place for them in the media because the enterprise pages in broadsheets are focussed on businesses, million turnover upwards in the likes or persona of a mirror its careers rather than small business. In newspapers like The Daily Mail, it’s about personal finance. There’s no natural home for small businesses. So, the media, unfortunately has a part to play in all of that, whether it’s reality TV or the more traditional print media.

[Chris]: Sure. Do you think this is a curiously the British thing, because actually if you’re successful, let’s say, in America or in Asia, they seem to treat it in a very different way? Don’t they? And you speak all over the world. You meet all sorts of different people from different cultures. Would you say it’s a British thing that actually, we don’t really like success?

[Carl]: To an extent, yes. However, I would caveat that as well. If we take America, for example, America is known as being the home of entrepreneurship, and in particular, one of the business formats that I’m passionate about is business format franchising, and the US is known as the home of franchising.

[Chris]: Absolutely.

[Carl]: However, there is a very real difference between not just the type of people that go into small business. We’ve been both. I think there’s also a difference in the ambition level and the facilities, or should I say more of the support that’s around them? Take that to another level.

If we look at the GCC, for example, so we look at Dubai. In the GCC, it’s not only is it acceptable to start a business. It’s actively encouraged. My understanding and this is third-hand info from other speakers who I was asking questions of the climate. So, I’ve not experienced this firsthand, nor have I advised anyone who’s doing this. We do need to take this possibly with a pinch of salt, but there are government support schemes to truly help business owners, and so far, was even sponsoring office space. Not only is it a friendly environment when it comes to taxes and business regulatory environment, but also when it comes to real practical support that can get somebody started.

In the UK, I think that we do have this fear of a failure and fear of what other people will say, but I think that’s changing over time. But I also feel that there’s, possibly within the UK, there is a bit of negativity, as you say, towards those who are successful in any field. If you were to ask the average person on the street to close their eyes and think of a successful salesperson, for example, and we could do this exercise right now as everybody’s listening. If you close your eyes and think of a salesperson, I can guarantee that first of all, you’re probably going to have quite a sexist and racist view, but it’s going to be a young, white male, slicked-back hair, shiny suit, selling you a car.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Carl]: There’s a number of preconceptions here. When it comes to business owners, sometimes you talk to people about the self-employed, and they will immediately associate a self-employed person with maybe a tradesman who takes cash or some other. They might know an IT consultant, and the belief is that self-employment was chosen to help them arrange their tax affairs and to add to get around the system rather than to genuinely start a business.

But the reality when you crack through it is one in seven of us are self-employed. The likelihood is if you look out of your door and look left and right within the houses that you see, it’s going to be at least one person, if not two, that are self-employed and don’t fit that stereotype. It could be anything from a cleaner or a plumber or a sparks, right the way to a professional, could be somebody who owns a factory. It could be somebody who owns a local shop, but there’s all shapes and sizes of business ownership. But I think that the negative preconceptions that sometimes come with the self-employed just in the same way as we have been with certain professions. Sometimes that’s also a limiting factor that we have as a culture towards accepting self-employment.

[Chris]: Yeah, and I think that’s a peculiarly British thing. Isn’t it? It’s almost a class thing almost. It’s a bit of a dirty word being a salesperson, for example.

[Carl]: It is, and with the self-employed, it’s really interesting to see current government policy. I don’t want to get political on this podcast. However, it was very interesting that I was at an event where there was a discussion of around at the time around Brexit and small business policies. It was a panel discussion with The Tories, Labour, Green Party, Lib Dems, and the Brexit Party, if you remember them.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: So, there was contributions from all tides, and the reality is that there is actually no party that truly understands the needs of the six million business owners in the country. When you think that the Labour Party, it could be argued is based around the public sector, which is sort of about the equivalent size of the self-employed sector. You see some of the challenges the self-employed or having light now, the dreaded C word, and the challenges in the support system that’s there for them.

Actually, for the self-employed, it is a pretty lonely place. So, not only do they feel like they’re potentially negatively represented in a media, potentially negatively represented in people’s mindsets when they think about self-employed, but also from a government perspective, it’s out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

[Chris]: I think it has been that, hasn’t it? Very much the case.

[Carl]: Yeah. So, I’ve done a bit of work with Forgotten Limited, for example, wearing my ACCA hat, and there are some gaping holes in support. I don’t propose to go into them in any detail, but it seems to be a policy choice rather than a genuine emission, unfortunately.

[Chris]: Yeah. Okay. All right, but I mean, if you look at entrepreneurs, generally, they don’t always make particularly good managers or leaders, do they of a business?

[Carl]: No. So, I think it’s, first of all, quite worthwhile to define what an entrepreneur is if that’s okay.

[Chris]: Yeah, go for it.

[Carl]: Because I believe listeners might be confused and might either imagine that all business owners are entrepreneurs or on the flip side that only the likes of Richard Branson are entrepreneurs, and actually, there’s a whole landscape of people. So, first of all, to shatter one illusion, not all business owners are entrepreneurs. Often, as we touched on earlier, if they enjoy doing what they do or they’re actually really good managers.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: I like to use a definition that it was defined by Michael Lee Gervin. I refer to it in my book, BOSS IT, about the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician, and there’s three different personality types that kick in, and each of us have a little bit of all three, but the balance varies.

So, for myself, I guess, I mean, I cringe at the word entrepreneur, but I’ve set up multiple businesses, invested in them, and so on, so I guess I’d be classed as an entrepreneur. But there would also be an element of technician for me, invert, certainly from a marketing perspective, I have quite a geeky passion about it. I quite enjoy learning. If I was to naturally gravitate towards a nonfiction book, it will generally be around marketing or sales rather than anything else.

[Chris]: Okay.

[Carl]: So, that’s, I guess, my technical element.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Carl]: Managerial, I’ve probably got all of about 1%, and that 1% is that I’ll provide a hanky if someone cries after I speak to them. I’m very clear that I’m not a manager.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: And the problem is that business owners, whether they call themselves entrepreneurs or they call themselves self-employed or anything, between the challenge that I have is that they can’t be perfect to all three, but the presumption of the outside world is A they can be or B that they’re all entrepreneurs and both of those presumptions are incorrect.

[Chris]: I was never an entrepreneur. I was a small business owner.

[Carl]: That’s exactly what I see as myself as well. I see myself as a small business owner. I’ve worked with small businesses back when I was on the tools. I look out for small businesses. I see myself possibly as an outgrown small business owner but still a small business owner.

[Chris]: Okay, but what are the sort of big challenges do you think though as a start-up or a scaling business, and one of the big challenges, of course, is that they want to employ people. They need to employ new hires. Do you think that’s a real issue for small business owners now frightened about doing it?

[Carl]: I do. One of the challenges for small business owners have is that when they take that leap from doing whatever it is for themselves, and I don’t want to be disparaging, but it’s a hobby in my bedroom and certainly a bit of cash, but it’s a side business.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: When they take that step to providing the infrastructure for an employee, whether that’s just an employment contract or right the way food to finding a physical premise, buying the equipment and so on and so forth. Well, whatever the extent that step is. It’s a very real admission that they are responsible for somebody else’s livelihood and emotionally, that’s really challenging for many people who are leaping from owning their own job to actually starting to build a business.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: I think there’s also then a whole host of fear around legislation, around employment protection, around what they can and can’t do, what they can and can’t say, how they need to conduct themselves, and the risks of opening themselves up to liability and so on. Then finally, I think that there’s some real fear around the recruitment process as well. Often, I see that businesses recruit incorrectly.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: It’s done as a last-minute thing when they absolutely have to, rather than proactively in advance of when they need for capacity. If a decision is rushed, they use poor recruitment techniques, generally to then hire poor people, and then have the uncomfortable choice between admitting where they got it wrong and doing something about it or sitting on their hands and hoping something will change.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: That’s the reality that I see for many employment relationships. There’s not a particularly happy relationship for either side. So, yeah, I think there’s a whole host of things that can create fear for the average self-employed person looking to take on their first member of staff.

[Chris]: Yeah, and what I enjoy very much about your book there is you actually do focus at the fair amount on the people side of business, the culture side of business. That’s really important to you, isn’t it, is that actually there is a winning-proper culture that people are well-respected, that people are looked after, and that actually people are more moving in the same direction? You cover that quite extensively in your book.

[Carl]: Definitely, and the reason I do is because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve owned a business with a poor culture, as well as a good culture, and guess how hard it was to change it? I really wish that I would have learnt, or not learnt this stuff, but implemented this stuff earlier. The learning is easy.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: So, I was fortunate during my accountancy qualifications to do as part of the final papers there were management papers, and I enjoyed them because they were written papers, and whilst academically, I was never very good at English. That wasn’t my bag. Actually, I can talk for Britain, and I can write quickly. You combine the two of those, and I could write reams and reams of 84 pages in the three hours of an exam and get good marks.

But the reality, Chris, was that I didn’t truly believe the stuff that I was writing about. So, I learnt about the importance of values and vision and so on and so forth theoretically. However, I never implemented it in my business.

[Chris]: Practical implications. Okay, fine. Yeah, yeah.

[Carl]: Absolutely, and then we got to a point where we realised that we needed to make a change, and I undertook a process, which I don’t believe was necessarily the correct way. However, politically within the organisation, it was for step we needed to take. We separated the business into two units, and we used one unit as a testing ground for developing an unstoppable culture where very simply if we were to cut someone’s arm off, we would see that they bleed for business colours.

[Chris]: Right.

[Carl]: We would see for logo stamped within their arm. We would see the engagement levels were just so high that they would voluntarily go over and above what they need to do. So, the process of putting those in, first of all, it was really fun because I found that as a business owner, I was getting a bit sick and tired of a bad culture, and actually, the business started to become a place that I wanted to go to.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: I wanted to go to work. I wanted to have the music on and have a glass of wine at the end of the day. All of this stuff I wanted to get involved in, but more importantly, the team members did too. We conducted an independent employee engagement survey, and the survey showed us that we were in the top 10% of employee engagement nationally across all sectors. When you bear in mind that the survey—

[Chris]: Did that surprise you? Sorry. Did that surprise you?

[Carl]: No, it didn’t. No, it didn’t. I was actually hoping for a little bit better. However, the sector that we’re in accountancy is notably dire for team engagement. It’s pretty, pretty difficult to build a strong culture within accounting. So, that was my first challenge, and we were up against other surveyed organisations multinationals, who’ve got world-class ways of doing it, and let’s be honest, world-class budgets.

[Chris]: Of course.

[Carl]: We did it on the back of a fact packet and literally from planning to budget through to implementation. It was quite a coup for us. So, I’ve been on both sides of it, and I’ve seen what a dramatic impact the culture can have, and very simply, it’s this.

I’m going to go back to a story of Clark Shoes and their franchising journey, funnily enough. One of the reasons that they franchised was because the difference in profit or loss within a store was the last pair of shoes sold every day.

[Chris]: Right? Really?

[Carl]: That was the difference.

[Chris]: Blimey.

[Carl]: In the employed stores, under the corporately owned section of Clarks, they would shut the door 25 minutes past five because the employees wanted to clock off at half five, and the managers didn’t care because they were quite distant from the organisation. The franchisees whether it was active leadership and culture building within that unit, they would stay open until 5:31, 5:35, 5:40, until that last pair of shoes were sold that tip them into profit.

[Chris]: Yeah, there’s a difference, right?

[Carl]: Completely and having that alignment of having all team members focussed in the same direction as the business is critical nowadays because it’s not just about squeezing the extra sale of shoes out of them. But it’s actually about having everybody truly invested in where businesses go in and making decisions for the good of the business rather than the good of themselves.

[Chris]: So, I think you very much, you’re one of those people that I think, and lots of people are now, is that actually, you would definitely recruit on over skills, you would recruit on attitude, would you?

[Carl]: Absolutely. I listened to a podcast with a motivational speaker called Tony Robbins. Some of your audience might know of him. He’s one of these very flash American motivational speakers, close your eyes yet. You’ve imagined exactly who it is. However, on the podcast, he, and his courses, he has the typical self-help courses, but then he has a wealth management business and so on. I always took that side of what he did with a pinch of salt because of my preconceived ideas of the self-help side.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: But I listened to a podcast with him about how he recruits team members, and he said there were three questions that he asks every team member. The first one is, “Will they do the job?” The second one is, “Will they fit in the team?” And then only then there’s the final question of, “Can they do the job?” And that question is actually to gauge how much investment in training they need to put in for the skills.

[Chris]: Into that individual, yeah.

[Carl]: Absolutely. Whereas most businesses will recruit based on the “can,” and then hope that they can change the underlying attitudes and personality of the individual.

[Chris]: Do you think that’s a big business thing, or do you think that’s more of a small business problem?

[Carl]: Good question. I would say, well, it doesn’t discriminate across the board. I think that, unfortunately, if we look at bigger businesses, the hiring decisions, and this is just my belief, having not been employed by corporate. However, I’ve seen how corporates employ. I’ve advised on it, et cetera, et cetera. So, it’s a second-hand view. Often there is the logical understanding that it’s about cultural fit, that it’s about personality, it’s about team dynamics, and so on. However, in incorporate, there tends to be a desire for metrics to first of all protect the company against any risk of tribunals or challenges about against discrimination and so on. So, there’s a desire for metrics from that perspective, and it’s much more difficult to put metrics against attitude, for example, versus qualifications.

[Chris]: Sure, sure.

[Carl]: Secondly, there’s then the job protection of the individuals involved in the hiring process and may want something on paper to protect themselves.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: Within smaller businesses, I would say, but it’s more a naivety around the employment process and a lack of appreciation, but actually they can choose somebody on personality and attitude and train them. So, I think there’s a different reason why those two might fall down the hiring on skills basis. So, it’s different reasons, but they both do it. With a smaller business, often a small businesses run, especially when it’s one person on their own, it’s run by somebody who enjoys doing the job.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: So, their gut-feel, their natural go-to place is, let’s find someone else who can do the job so that I can take Sundays off. The reality is, well, actually, they want somebody who’s willing to do the job and to invest the extra time to change the clocking off time from 8:00 PM until 10:00 PM to train them and get them up to speed. Well, often with the fact that recruitment decisions tend to be delayed until the last minute as well, that becomes too much of an investment, and we get to that uncomfortable position that I mentioned earlier of the uncomfortable relationship and not knowing whether to end it or silently carry on.

[Chris]: And people suddenly carry on for too long, don’t they?

[Carl]: Unfortunately, so. Okay. One of my sayings I always use is that “Too many businesses hire quickly and fire slowly, and it should really be the other way around.” Not that I advocate firing if at all possible, but ultimately, if you know that a decision needs to be taken whether it’s redundancy, whether it’s performance management, whether it’s a tough conversation about conduct, in fact, if that decision has been made in your mind, you really have to get on with it and address it because otherwise it just gets harder and harder.

[Chris]: Sure, and finally, Carl, do you think sort of start-up businesses, small businesses, scalable businesses, people that are moving forward, do you think they understand human resources? Do you think that that’s a key part of their strategy or not?

[Carl]: Not at all. No. So, very generally. Yeah, there’s a number of functions within any business, and very generally new business owners are highly skilled in one and skilled in another. But actually, it’s very rare that you get somebody who’s a Swiss Army knife and has had the fortune of sitting within all the different functions.

[Chris]: Yeah. That’s true.

[Carl]: So, yeah, almost certainly for the average business owner, yeah. If you were to line up ten of them and pick one out, I would say no.

[Chris]: Right. Okay, and do you think that’s an issue that the HR professional needs to address?

[Carl]: I think it’s in terms of understanding both the challenges within employment but also how to make that relationship very positive. Yes. I think that the HR profession really can help amplify that message. However, also, I think with business owners. What we need to remember is in the early days, they need to get on with what they’re good at and outsource what they’re not so good at. So, I think an understanding of where the red flags are. It’s vital for the profession to raise that and to highlight examples of best practise.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Carl]: But then ultimately, it’s down to the business owner to understand where the gaps in their knowledge are, where the gaps in their experience are, and then either recruit or outsource.

[Chris]: Okay. Brilliant. Carl, thanks very much. Now, if listeners want to get in touch with you, how did they do that?

[Carl]: Okay. So, the best way is to hit my social media @CarlReader. You’ll find me on all platforms, everything from Twitter and Instagram, through to Tik Tok.

[Chris]: Brilliant. Carl, thank you. It’s been a great pleasure to hear from you. Thank you very much for your time.

[Carl]: Thank you.

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