Together we are stronger

words: Nathan Martin, Viner & Sons
Working together

Nathan Martin explores the importance of investing in your team

This year sees me complete 21 years within the funeral profession. During that time, I have seen an abundance of changes, both good and bad. Perhaps the most challenging for me has been overseeing our team through the recent pandemic, which in itself has tested us all.

The past 12 months have not only seen our company grow, but I found myself looking after our team under my new role as Chief Operations Officer. So, while still relatively young in terms of a career, I have more than two decades of experience which I am keen to share.

Never has it been more important to involve the team and support each other, yet in the majority of businesses, the turnover of team members can often be frequent, which can put pressure and unrest on the company and its team.

Ways to engage

As a newly-appointed leader, I am constantly seeking to engage with our team and find ways to ensure they remain content in their roles, to maintain a solid and stable team where the likelihood of them wishing to leave is minimal. For me, it is key to show an interest in team members. At times, it is likely that you will spend more time with them than your own family.

Conduct regular and confidential one-to-one sessions so you can discuss what they are working on, but also so they can speak openly to you about any concerns they have, both at work and at home. I have found this can initially be awkward, but people soon see these sessions as a safe space for them to talk openly. Offer them 15 minutes first, followed by 15 minutes for you to speak to them. If time is scarce, try to give them at least ten or 15 minutes of your time each week. The reward for this gesture will be returned in abundance.

Within these one-to-one sessions, I have discussed the need for the team member to constantly be thinking of new ideas and suggestions to help develop the company. This is ‘our company’ and if the idea can be supported, we actively welcome their involvement in helping us to grow. A team will be more effective if its members can see their ideas have come to fruition.

Personally, I have never been one to set myself goals, but I have now seen how important it is to push yourself to achieve your potential and writing down your goals is a constant reminder of what you seek. Giving your goals a target date will also offer you direction. You may not always hit your target, but you will not be far off! Keep pushing!

Training and leadership

Within the last six months, we have restructured the team at Viner & Sons and created new leadership roles. This doesn’t add undue hierarchy, none of us openly display that anyway, but it does give the team members the opportunity to excel in developing their own leadership skills. It also means they have a purpose and are not ‘just’ an employee.

Having completed two diplomas within the profession, I can appreciate how challenging training can be, especially while working full time, so we seek to offer our team support during their ongoing development.

A team needs to feel that you, as a leader, are actively helping them to be the very best they can be, and we are currently planning our own in-house training scheme. We have a multifunctional space where we and other organisations can present workshops and hold meetings, so new team members are trained at each level, ensuring they have met their own expectations as well as the requirements of the company standards before moving on to the next stage of development.

Not just family

Staff working for an independent family firm can often feel that progression will be limited for ‘non-family’ members of the team, but this should not be the case. It’s important that it’s possible for anyone with the passion and drive to take a position higher than that of a family member if this will benefit the business. In fact, it is often said that a family business can be broken down into three generations. The first will start the business, the second will seek to develop it in readiness for the next generation to enhance the business, but sadly, the third will often see its demise as they rest on laurels of the previous generation’s accomplishments.

That is testament that a company should not rely on members of its own family. As a leader, you should invest in members of the team who present the best possible opportunities for the company and its team to develop and excel.

A weekly open team meeting helps each member to raise any problems they may have. However encouraging the team to bring solutions to the table is another important factor to encourage.

There may well be problems, but to overcome that, we must have a solution, so it is more advantageous for your team members to think about how they can solve a problem and bring that forward for discussion. Regardless, these meetings help strengthen communication within the team.

Leading a team and showing a vested interest in all those who work with you will ensure they invest in their work as well as the company’s future. As the longevity of the company is partly in the hands of its employees, it is my belief that taking the time to empower them will ensure a solid team that can help take your business forward with minimal disruption.

About the author

Nathan Martin
Nathan Martin, Dip.FD. Dip.FAA. MBIFD, is a funeral director and Chief Operating Officer with Viner & Sons, Kent.

The firm was established in 1777, making it one of the oldest independent, family-run funeral directors in the UK.

Nathan joined the company in 2005 and has recently been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.

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