Keeping things simple, even as CEO


Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 30 we spoke to Nick Sheehan, CEO of EFEX Group.

Nick believes in presenting flexible, scalable, simple and robust solutions to clients. He has been an instrumental driver in EFEX Group’s strong growth. A combination of Nick’s strong work ethic and passion for helping others have seen EFEX named on the AFR BRW Fast Starter list twice and placed as runner-up in the CRN Fast50 Awards in both 2015 and 2016.

In this chat we spoke about how to keep your team motivated, staying on track as a small business and how to work with your fear of failure. 

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Nick on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Nick Sheehan of EFEX Group.

Being a manager, CEO, or any type of leader can often seem like a complicated feat. And while it does come with its challenges, it doesn’t always have to be as complex as people often expect. After almost a decade of being founder and CEO of EFEX, I’ve learnt that overcomplicating things typically only leads to a weaker company.

My dad once told me, “If you look after the little things, the big things take care of themselves.” It’s a simple way of looking at life, but I’ve never forgotten these words and continue to live by them in both my professional and personal life. It’s common for people to predominately focus on the complicated bigger picture and their overarching goals, while forgetting about the smaller responsibilities that come with the journey. However, ignoring the little things can make achieving the big things harder. Focusing on the little things and keeping matters simple, even during periods that seem complicated, can help you unlock further success. In this article, I cover how you can approach the complicated world of business by keeping things simple.

Keeping your team motivated
EFEX has dozens of offices spread across Australia. So, how do we maintain our collective team’s motivation, enthusiasm, and productivity when everyone is geographically dispersed? It may seem like a challenge, but at the end of the day we are driven by the same core vision that keeps us moving. No matter how big or spread out your team is, if you are inspired by a shared purpose, you will see collective productivity and motivation. At EFEX, we share a customer-driven vision to help business owners reclaim their lives by streamlining their workflow productivity, reduce costs, and increase revenues. This collectively inspires us every day to work as a team to achieve our vision.

When you have a geographically dispersed team, maintaining strong communication across offices is key. As an IT company, we’ve got the technical and logistical side of communications mastered. But that’s only half the battle. A huge part of communication is workplace cultureDoes your work culture allow for open and honest communication? Or do you have an unwelcoming work culture that restricts your team’s willingness to communicate openly?  

One of our values is equality through a flat organisational structure, meaning that we operate under the assumption that no one is better than anyone else. It’s important to me that my team understands that just because I may be CEO, doesn’t mean that I am inaccessible or on a different level. My phone number and email are accessible to anyone in the company, and my door is always open – I don’t even have a door because I don’t have my own office! I believe that working in communal spaces with my team, rather than being in my own office, allows me to form stronger connections with the team, understand their work and, collaborate closely with them. I believe this results in a more effective company.

While many small to medium businesses typically don’t have to manage geographically dispersed employees, strong communication is still vital in any sized business. If you’re a small business owner who is putting yourself on a pedestal and not making yourself available to your team, chances are, your team will lose motivation, forget their purpose, and feel disengaged. This causes damage to both your employees and your business. Often, your customers don’t interact with the CEOs and business owners. It’s the salespeople, customer service representatives, receptionists, cashiers, social media engagement managers, and customer support operators who are the ones representing your brand. Therefore, it’s vital that your team feels truly connected to your brand, its purpose, vision, mission, and values. How are they supposed to represent your brand when you don’t create a culture that enables them to be driven by your brand’s ethos?

Customers can often get a sense of when a brand’s representatives are passionate or unenthusiastic about their company. Research has found that consumers are more satisfied with their purchases when assisted by passionate staff, where knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff reaped 69% higher sales than unknowledgeable and unenthusiastic staff.

Staying on track as a small business
When you’re a growing business, it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new opportunities and offers that may come up on your path. There’s a popular idea, especially in the business world, that we need to be seizing every opportunity that comes our way and saying yes to everyone and everything. While being an opportunist can certainly lead to great things, overzealously jumping on every possible opportunity can distract you from your goals and add roadblocks in your journey. This is another example of how keeping it simple can result in more success.

Rather than overcomplicating your business journey, simplify things by being clear on your objectives, being honest with yourself and others about what you want, and being consistent in your purpose and values. Outline what you do best as a business and remain focused on what’s important to you, rather than getting distracted from external noise that will prevent you from generating revenue.

Another area where businesses can get off track is employee performance. When you’re a busy small to medium business owner, managing employee performance often gets put on the backburner while you juggle everything else going on with the business. So, how do you ensure your employees maintain high performance as a small to medium business owner?

We often hear about big companies using expensive employee management systems and having dedicated performance management processes, that take up significant time and resources. However, if you’re a small business that doesn’t have the resources to spare on fancy performance tools, don’t fear! At the end of the day, performance management can be kept simple.

Since our foundation, EFEX has been managing performance by setting clear expectations of our team. As a small business, you don’t need any expensive tools to manage expectations. All you need to invest is time in communicating expectations to your team. A Gallup study suggests that setting clear expectations with your staff is possibly the most foundational element to employee engagement. The study discovered that only about 50% of workers understand what is expected of them at work, and even if employees feel motivated and energised at work, they will struggle to add value to an organisation if they lack clear expectations.

If there’s not a mutual understanding between you and your staff of what you expect from each other, then your business is at risk of underperforming. Successfully managing employee performance doesn’t always require expensive performance tools. It’s often simpler than that and comes down to managing expectations and communicating effectively with your team.

Working with your fear of failure
Failure is inevitable and fear is human. Therefore, the fear of failure is something that virtually everyone is forced to manage, especially when you’re dedicating so much energy and resources into something that could result in failure, like a business.

Even now, as a CEO of an increasingly large and successful IT company, I experience failures every single day. So, what do we do with these inevitable failures? And how do we manage our fear of failure? It’s a lesson that every entrepreneur and business owner must learn. For me, I focus on embracing my failures and using them as a vehicle for growth and development. Once you see a countless amount of your failures turn into positive learning curves, they stop being so intimidating.

That’s not to say that we should simply sit around and accept any potential failures in our future. We also need to mitigate our risk of failure by identifying, assessing, and resolving the threats to our business. A simple way to do this is through a SWOT analysis, which you’ve probably encountered as early as high school – but there’s a reason why it’s such a staple in the business world! Identifying and assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats allows you to significantly alleviate potential failures in the future by allowing you to predict them and identify the assets you have to tackle them. Being aware of our strengths and weaknesses is often the first step to effectively managing our potential failures.

Our fear of failure typically inspires us to have a Plan B for everything. After all, a backup plan is always necessary, right? Well, while having a Plan B may help you feel safer, it may not always be what you need. Contrary to popular belief, naivety can be a beautiful thing. When I first started EFEX, I had no idea that we’d be the company we are today. One of the significant factors that has allowed us to reach this point is our resilience, ambition, drive, and belief in ourselves. We didn’t have a Plan B because we were determined to make Plan A work. The issue with a backup plan is that it can deter you from your first choice of plan. Backup plans can also quickly become outdated and redundant. Things change, and we need to be flexible and adaptable to manage those changes.

Many readers out there may think that not having a backup plan might be keeping things too simple, but I believe it can help drive our motivation, ambition, and success.

Simplicity is a wonderful thing, but in the business world, it often gets overshadowed by overcomplicated approaches to work. Keeping things simple but effective can help you see things clearer and increase efficiency when it comes to business.

So, the next time you approach things like employee management, business expansion, and business setbacks, ask yourself – am I overcomplicating things unnecessarily?