"Embrace the Millenials and make yourself a better leader."

What are the effects of a HIPO (High Potentials) programme? We decide to call one of the participants of the HIPO program from Indutrade Academy, Brian Fahy, Sales Director for ESI Technologies Group, to ask what his challenges were and what concrete benefits he got from his development journey.

- Hi Brian! Can you please describe your company’s challenges before you started your development journey at IHM?
- As you know ESI are part of the Indutrade group covering Ireland and the UK, and we were acquired by Indutrade in 2013. Since the acquisition, we have grown organically by 47% from 21 Million in 2013 to 31 Million EURO in 2016, and most importantly this growth has been profitable.

I would say there are three main challenges when you grow rapidly. The first one is the need to ensure the company's structures and operating processes are keeping pace with company growth. At ESI, luckily we have had the benefit of a very experienced board of Directors and senior management team to help guide us through this change, but the challenge is to be adaptable and flexible and make these changes in an efficient manner in line with the ensuing growth.

The second one is effective communication. Historically when we were a smaller company we could discuss things first hand, but now that we have 67 staff over two countries, we need to make sure everyone knows their role and that it’s working together as part of a team that helps create our success.

Thirdly, and most importantly I believe, is resources and finding the right people. This is a challenge that is always at the forefront for us. Our rapid growth and expansion has affected our people who are having to work harder than ever before even though we keep adding to our headcount to support them.

At ESI we are genuinely interested in the people we lead and in creating a sense of belonging, so we need to mentor and train our people more so we foster the next leaders and drivers to carry the company forward.

- What is the situation like today? What have you accomplished after the HIPO course?
- The good news is that we are as busy as ever and continue to grow! We have an amazing team at ESI and many years of doing the right things with the right people has created our success. The HIPO course has added to this in providing a more formal ‘toolbox’ for leadership and the opportunity to use these tools in the many challenging situations we face today. Sharing these tools with the Directors and management team at ESI has already provided really good results helping to make us a more efficient company and make life better for our staff.

Focus on Training

Building the skills of the people has been given priority, and we have appointed a dedicated person responsible for training within the group. We have also organised custom sales training for our internal and external staff for the New Year. In fact, we have actually ran one of the HIPO modules as a standalone for our directors and had people attend from the wider Indutrade UK network. It has been very successful with great feedback from those who attended.

We put Values on our Offering

We supply the best quality products on the market at ESI and always sell value over cost. The time at HIPO has allowed us to develop a business model in keeping with “the laws of Ruskin” (its expensive to buy cheap) and put values on our offering, which now all our sales team use when negotiating.

Smaller Business Units with KPIs

Based on the need to maintain focus as we grow and ensure communication across the company, we have changed our company structure to smaller business units. Each unit will have a leader working closely with his team responsible for all aspects of the business and running KPIs to measure progress and performance. This is a very big change for us, and one that we feel will empower the next wave of people coming through and give them the freedom to grow what is in effect ‘smaller companies’ within our existing company structure.

Feedback Culture and Open Communication

Growing so quickly meant that it was sometimes difficult to find the time to really listen to our staff. To that end we are appointing a standalone HR person, who with our help will foster a feedback culture which is open and transparent.

We plan to carry out an engagement study to start measuring the participation of our staff and to develop a shared vision and culture map influenced and created by everyone at ESI. The power of listening and enacting the ideas of others, as well as open communication, can we believe propel us forward and make us better equipped to deal with the ‘new way’ developing across with world of employee / employer interactions. People want to be seen!

No more ‘Frankenstein Changes’

To summarise we have stayed away from our old habits of implementing what we call ‘Frankenstein changes’ or quick fixes that backfire, and have stood back as a team and looked really hard and developed plans from the bottom up to set us up for the years ahead. We continue to believe strongly in Mentorship and we now have several initiatives running. We have also announced plans for a company Intranet to ensure efficient communication across all levels as we grow.

“When thinking strategically, I create the future rather than wander into a future created by others.”

- How have you developed on a personal level?
- Simply put, this course has had a real positive effect on my life. The quality of the course has really, really impressed me. I would say that the structure of having to follow up with the course leaders at IHM after each session means it’s really a long-lasting experience. It’s very different from a typical 3 day training course, which seems beneficial at the time, but more often than not the material is put on the back shelf on returning to the office due to workload.

In my case from start to finish, the course went on for over a year covering the 8 modules, so this in effect was a period of gradual change and improvement for me, and returning for each module and meeting my fellow participants (I would call them friends now) helped reinforce and augment this change.

This ongoing interaction with both the IHM leaders and fellow course participants is the key, and it felt like we were all in it together, helping each other. The quality of the leaders on the HIPO course, and their real-life experience to draw from, meant that I connected right from the start and looked forward to returning with an eagerness to continue this development.

One of the books recommended to me was the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” which was inspirational. It changed the way I look at the world from a business and personal perspective. I have a better appreciation of the ‘NOW’ as opposed to living in the future or the past. This has allowed me to live in the moment, and when thinking strategically, create the future rather than wander into a future created by others.

The course has provided me with moments of clarity such as helping me to clearly see the benefit of really listening to what people say allowing me to lead more effectively as a result of really hearing them. Another moment of clarity for me was the realisation that I had to ‘train my brain’ as equally as any sports person would train for a big event. This meant taking time to reflect regularly, work on the tools I had been given at HIPO, and read as many books as possible to constantly develop.

“Our Development as Leaders helps develop others.“

- If you were to give other business managers and executives advice on how to deal with their companies into the future, what would that be?
- Everything is not what it was, the ‘change cycles’ in our world today are getting shorter and occurring more frequently and only companies that welcome change and deal with it effectively will really excel. Embrace the Millenials and their desire to create efficiency through technological advancements.

Take time to reflect and make yourself a better leader. It is all about the people, which is US, and our development as leaders helps develop others. I really believe that its only possible to have successful companies where the employees are seen and heard. A job just to pay the bills is gone – people want inspiration at work!

- Thanks very much, Brian!