Minal meets Andrew Deighton, AWD Development Solutions Ltd.
Running your own business is hard. There’s no other way of looking at it. You have lots of plates to spin, and you’re afraid of letting one of them drop!
You need to keep on top of so many things, including developing new skills or adding to those you already have. Your development, and that of your team if you have one, are crucial to the success of your business.
And when it comes to professional development, there’s one person I think of: Andrew Deighton of
AWD Development Solutions Ltd. In this interview, Andrew shares his insights and tips on how you can make sure you and your team have the skills you need to take your business forwards.
Minal: Tell me a bit about your business. What do you specialise in?
Andrew: My business is AWD Development Solutions Ltd. I develop organisations, teams and individuals to help them grow their businesses. One area I particularly focus on is building high performing teams and developing exceptional team members and leaders.
Minal: When and why did you start your business?
Andrew: I started my business in April 2014 after a 26-year career at Rolls-Royce plc. My role had been made redundant due to a reorganisation and I thought rather than apply for another position I’d give running my own business a go. My view was that it was an opportunity and if I didn’t try it I’d regret it. I wanted to focus on the parts of the job I really enjoyed and not the things I had to do. I also wanted more variety, flexibility and autonomy.
Professional development ideas and tips
Minal: Why is professional development so important for micro and small business owners?
Andrew: You need to keep your skills up to date to provide the best level of service to your customers. It also helps you run your business as effectively and efficiently as possible. Depending on your profession, there may also be a formal requirement for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to retain your professional registration or certification.
I think that it shows you take your business seriously if you continue to develop yourself and it sets an example to your employees if you have any.
Minal: What would you recommend people do to brush up on their marketing skills?
Andrew: I think there are many ways to do this, and they all apply to other skills as well. Here are a few thoughts.
- Observe what others do who are successful marketers in your area of business. Learn from them, but don’t copy them. You must be authentic and do what fits with you
- Join in webinars
- Read blogs
- Read books
- Get coaching
- Join Facebook support groups
Minal: Many think that learning new skills is limited to marketing. What other skills should business owners develop?
Andrew: I think as the owner of a small business you need to have some level of skill and understanding in a variety of areas. These include
- Financial skills
- Sales skills
- Presentation skills
- Communication skills
- Problem solving, idea generation and decision-making skills
- Networking skills
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I think there are many more, depending on the nature of your business.
Minal: What’s the biggest reason micro and small business owners don’t prioritise professional development?
Andrew: I think there are two. Firstly, a perception of a lack of time, or in reality a lack of giving development a priority. We all have a choice about how we spend our time. Secondly, a view that it will be expensive to do. Again, this is not true if you’re creative in the solutions around how you develop.
Minal: How much time should you set aside for professional development?
Andrew: I know it’s a vague response, but it depends on your individual situation. I don’t think we should specify a fixed amount as we all have different development needs.
I think there are a few things you need to consider.
- Do you really need to develop it?
- What will the Return on Investment be for the time and cost involved?
- What’s the cost if you don’t develop in a certain area?
- Would it be more cost and time effective to outsource to someone else who is already skilled in the area and simply not worry about developing it yourself?
- What could you be doing instead that might add more value to your business?
Thinking about these areas will lead to an indication of how much time you should set aside. But don’t forget there’s a cost to your time when you’re running your own business as you won’t be working on other aspects.
Minal: What about if you have a team? As a business owner, how can you identify the skills they need to learn?
Andrew: I think you need to follow these steps.
- Identify the skills the team as a whole needs to have to deliver its purpose
- Assess all team members against the skills required
- Capture any other skills the team members have (including those skills they use outside work but maybe not in the work environment at the moment)
- Build a team training matrix
- Use the training matrix to identify gaps
- Make sure you aren’t too dependent on certain individuals to provide a lot of the skills needed
- Consider team members’ strengths (including those skills they don’t currently use)
- Build and develop on member’s strengths so they become even better at them
- Don’t automatically focus on developing a team member’s weaknesses or they might just become average
- Decide who to develop in which skills
Build Individual Development Plans that identify the needs, the solutions, the resources needed, how you’ll know when they’re developed, and the timescales
Minal: Being a good team leader and member is a skill that needs to be learned. How can we do this?
Andrew: The most effective way to learn is by using the skill that you want to develop in a real situation. Give people opportunities to take on leadership roles in a controlled way. For example, you could give them leadership of a specific task or put them on a project team as a member or leader.
Give people the basic knowledge of tools and techniques such as questioning, listening, delegation, giving feedback, managing performance, coaching and an overview of a few leadership models and approaches.
Encourage people to observe others who are seen as ‘good’ leaders and learn from them – but don’t try to be them. Use what you see, but apply it in your own way.
Allocate a coach and/or mentor to people moving into a team leadership role.
Minal: What are your top 3 tips for time-poor business owners to keep their skills updated?
Andrew: I’d say these
- Build skills development into your daily work experiences, projects and activities. This is the most effective way to develop.
- Put time in your diary for any specific development activity. Block it out and treat it as if it were a customer meeting – you wouldn’t miss a customer meeting.
- Get a mentor, a coach, or join a professionally run Mastermind Group