Employers could be achieving higher productivity and profitability if they paid closer attention to the culture and sense of purpose they create for their workforces, the experiences of several very different business leaders suggest.
Lauren and Aaron Lowe, the husband-and-wife owners of commercial fit-out company Future Fitouts, are set to appear on an upcoming Foxtel series where they discuss their approach to business.
The Brisbane-based company was launched within the competitive industry in 2010, and has gone on to receive a number of awards and accolades, including being named in Westpac’s Top 200 Business of Tomorrow in 2018.
The couple believe that the culture they have built within their business as well as delivering a sense of purpose through charity work have and continue to be crucial factors in the profitability of their business.
“Early in my career, I worked in some toxic workplaces which tarnished my view of the property and construction industry. But rather than defeat me, the experience made me passionate about creating a supportive environment where people feel valued and part of something bigger,” Mrs Lowe (pictured on-set) said.
Future Fitouts has a team of nine employees and more than 20 contractors working with it at any one time, and had introduced “quirky” ways of trying to get the best from the people on their payroll.
“One of the quirkier ways we create a supportive space for our team is through the Personal Goal Wall,” Mrs Lowe said.
“It’s plastered with images of houses, marathons and other accomplishments the team want to achieve and then we work together to make those goals a reality and set our team up for success.”
She added: “On one level, we make a positive change when we provide the ideal space for our clients. But on the next, we make a much broader contribution to society and the world by embedding giving in everything we do.”
That approach involves providing a meal for a rescued native animal for every new incoming lead, or a brick to build a new school in Kenya for every new proposal issued. Meanwhile, every project completed by goes towards the protection of a square metre of Daintree Rainforest.
“Our approach is to improve 100 things by 1 per cent, rather than only one item by 100 per cent. Because of the compounding effect, we make enormous improvements and that are extremely satisfying,” Mrs Lowe said.
“At the end of the day, we’re a company with heart. We’re not in business for the bottom line. We’re in business to make a difference to the people and the world around us.”
‘We need energy management’
Speaking at a book launch on inspiring business leaders, Andrew Rocks, the founder and CEO of listed financial services company Announcer Group, attributed his business success to managing the energy levels of his employees.
Claiming to be “Australia’s healthiest employer, with the nation’s healthiest employees”, Mr Rocks said that time management is, ironically, a waste of time.
“Your team are not robots. We don’t need time management, we need energy management,” he said.
Mr Rocks explained that in all employment contracts issued by his business, [there] is a stipulation that employees take two hours out of their day to devote to exercise, and that his company also takes efforts to control the blood sugar levels of its workforce, in order to retain peak physical and mental performance, and hence productivity.
“You’re not giving away free money, you’re actually going to get a massive return on investment,” he said.
‘The happier the people, the happier the business’
Meanwhile, a My Business reader, commenting on a story of a business leader hitting back at so-called “Millennial bashing”, agreed that meaning and purpose in the workplace are crucial to business success.
“I’m astounded at most of the comments here. Modern management and leadership advice is to know and harness the talents and skills of its people to achieve the best business outcomes — top productivity and performance, cultural best practice, greater yield on investment,” the reader said.
“Having worked with millenials [sic] in large project consulting firms where I turned team misery and low profits around to engage staff and double profits, I can assure you Kara is spot-on.
“‘Purpose’, ‘Meaning’, knowing the ‘Why’ — call it what you will, creating a culture of individual and team engagement brings satisfaction at every organisational level. Management programs have been touting this since the ’80s, yet Australia’s so-called leadership mindset acts as though people aren’t the hub of good business.
“It’s simple, really... the happier the people, the happier the business.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.