Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 20, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jason Murphy. Jason is the CEO and Managing Director at CSP Architectural, a reputable distributor of compliant facade and building products. Jason spoke about the importance of leading by example by fostering optimal engagement and money smart mindsets.
Established in 1978 with a team of five workers, CSP Architectural began as a local Melbourne-only business. The company now spans three states across the eastern seaboard of Australia and has approximately 110 staff. Highly skilled in team building, process and financial management, Jason has been instrumental in driving the growth of CSP Architectural.
Jason believes that finding ways to reinvest in the business is key to nurturing loyal workers, business longevity and helps businesses adapt to everchanging markets. To enact the business you want to see, you must first “walk the talk” by setting a positive example for others to follow.
Authored By Jason Murphy, CEO and Managing Director at CSP Architectural.
My goal as a leader is to “walk the talk.” It’s one thing to tell people to do something, but it’s far more impactful when people are inspired to act according to the example you set. As business leaders, we’re the custodians of our company culture. It’s our responsibility to create an environment where people feel comfortable to work in. Although everyone has a role to play in shaping the culture of an organisation, leaders set the benchmark for others to emulate.
In terms of learning to walk the talk, my dad is a huge inspiration. He’s been a businessman all his life. His insights have helped me grow CSP Architectural to the business it is today. At the age of 18, my dad enabled me to learn a fundamental lesson which has since shaped my approach to running a business. My dad filled a trailer with tea and coffee. He told me to knock on the door of all these factories to ask if they wanted to buy any tea or coffee. Each tray of coffee and tea cost me $10 to put together and then I sold it for $20. To my surprise, the entire trailer sold in one day! This experience taught me that you don’t need a lot of money to start a business or make a profit. Anyone can fill a trailer with tea and coffee and sell it to people. Keeping processes simple is critical for growing businesses. It allows everyone to be more aware of what’s happening, inspiring greater collaboration and enthusiasm.
Being a great leader is not contingent on the construction of complex rhetoric or processes. Great leadership is underpinned by our ability to connect with others through the passion we demonstrate.
Passion is key
Being passionate about what you do as a business and as a leader is a critical backbone for success. I never go to work feeling like I must “slog it out”. This is because I genuinely love what I do. Having this innate passion for work is great for empowering your team and employees. They become inspired by our energy and endeavour to emulate the momentum in their own outputs.
Hiring people who have the business’s interests at heart is essential for optimal engagement within the workplace. When I see people who wholeheartedly want the business to do well, I feel immensely proud. Being passionate about the business is the example I set. People feed off that passion and are motivated to do what the business needs. Ensuring people enjoy their work is very important to me. We all know that getting out of bed each morning is much easier when we’re excited about the day ahead.
One of the ways I seek to inspire passion in the workforce is by making myself accessible to people. I want people to enjoy coming to work and to know that a friendly culture awaits them. I never want anyone to feel that they’re not valued or that I’m not interested in speaking with them. That’s why I always keep my office door open. People shouldn’t have to go through layers of management to speak with me. I’m always ready to lend a hand or an ear to listen. Be it a cleaner or a general manager, I believe leaders should be accessible to everyone who works in the business. Everyone matters and has value to give. Uniting a team with passion through friendliness and accessibility is key to business success.
Treat people like people
What does it mean to treat people like people? For me, it goes back to the golden rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. No one wants to be harshly judged or belittled. We all want to feel heard and valued. A behavioural trait which distinguishes exceptional leaders from the rest is the ability to treat others with respect. This attribute is essential for fostering employee loyalty and retention. When people aren’t treated well, they quickly become disjointed from the business.
Happy staff make money. If your business profits aren’t up to par, ask yourself if the people who work for you are truly happy in their positions. If they’re unhappy, why is that? How can you help improve the situation? Perhaps, you need to hire a different person for a particular job, refine the expectations of someone’s role or increase the number of workers in a particular area. Always allow for open communication around employee satisfaction. Communication is the lifeblood that keeps people together. If we don’t communicate, things can quickly descend into chaos.
I don’t think treating people like people is difficult. It should be an innate quality in all of us. Recently, one of my employees had a car accident and was nervous to tell me as they thought that I’d be angry with them for being absent from work. But I wasn’t at all. Such a thing could happen to anyone. The first thing I said to the employee was – “are you ok?”. Vehicles can be fixed, but people can’t. That’s why we should always make wellbeing a priority. I never want anyone to be scared or feel like they can’t trust me. I want to maintain an open, positive relationship with everyone I work with.
When reflecting on the culture of the workplace, it’s important to remember that respect is circular. We need to give respect to be respected by others.
How do we model a culture of respect? Some of the behaviours that have worked for me include admitting when you’ve made a mistake, being consistent with the character you present to people, being responsive, being solutions focused over playing the blame game, celebrating people’s talents and successes, encouraging people to contribute ideas, making a habit of being punctual, and welcoming feedback on how you can improve as a leader. Building a culture of respect is a lifelong exhibition, not a task that can be ticked off. As leaders, I believe it’s our duty to model the conduct we want to see in our business.
Be money smart
Managing money is more than simply understanding finance. It’s about understanding the culture and habits of a business. As small and medium business owners, we can’t afford to make too many mistakes with money. If we’re not smart with money, it won’t take long for the business to plummet. But thankfully, learning to be money smart isn’t difficult. Being clear on our values and what we want to achieve underpins our ability to be money smart.
Developing a money smart mindset calls us to ask – what do we want to achieve? What don’t we have time to do, and what is holding us back? There’s always a better, less expensive way of doing things. I want to make it clear that less expensive doesn’t mean poorer in quality. Cutting costs isn’t about stilting experiences. It’s about being smart with investments so everyone involved can enjoy the most value.
According to Forbes, not paying enough attention to who is facilitating the funds is one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs and business leaders can make. A central tenant of Forbes smart-money mindset is learning to be discerning about who we trust and work with. This forces us to relinquish a tunnel vision focus on the product itself that we’re wanting to obtain. Because we always have overflowing to-do lists, it can be tempting to accept quotes from vendors or suppliers without question. Unfortunately, this habit bleeds money very quickly. We should always do cross-market research to reap top value for our money.
If more money is going out than in, we experience what’s described as negative cashflow. Cashflow is often thought of as the “oxygen of businesses.” Research has shown that limited cashflow is the reason many businesses sink. To minimise the risk of negative cashflow, I recommend selling any unnecessary assets, regularly following up on outstanding payments and debts, implementing strong customer resolution processes, learning the needs of your target customers, and leveraging the power of social media over expensive marketing campaigns. With every business, there’s always something at every level that can be changed to save money.
Throughout my time as a business leader, looking for ways to reinvest money back into the business has been instrumental in helping me save money. Reinvesting helps businesses sell more product, increase asset capital, and reduce dependence on having to rent.
One of the biggest money mistakes I see businesses make is opting to lease over increasing their asset capital. The initial outlay required for renting is often less than purchasing. However, it’s often cheaper to buy than rent in the long run. Constantly renting can set us up for a predicament where we owe a lot of suppliers money. I can tell you first-hand that this can hurt everyone involved. That’s why, after doing you maths and if there is a financial benefit, I recommend paying the full price of owning something over ongoing rental payments.
What keeps people trapped in the habit of leasing is the convenience it offers. This means that renting might save us from having to think too hard in the short-term. But in the end, it will cost us. Buying over renting is one of the key strategies that businesses can implement to save money without decreasing productivity.
Leading up to the economic recession of COVID-19, businesses were forced to find other ways of doing things so they could save money. The measures they took gave them opportunities to invest in other types of market analysis and employee incentives. Maintaining an innovative mindset around money helps businesses weather the storm of unpredictability. Modelling a money smart mindset helps everyone in the business make sound decisions for the better.
Before you go to work each morning, ask yourself these questions: What is the culture that you want your business to embody? What actions do you take to shape the business you want to see? Do your words match your actions?