We sat down with John Leader (John Leader Electrical Ltd) to talk about running an SME in Manawatū, how he has learnt from the past and of course, one of John's biggest passions and keys to success-working.
John has been servicing the wider Manawatū for over 40 years, and although he swore off having any staff after watching his father's company many years ago, John is now running a team of around 13 electricians.
"Previous experience meant I thought I would work with me and that's it. The I got on one apprentice, then another, and then after that you might as well let the floodgates open. So, I pulled the break off and part of it is because of belonging to these groups."
These 'groups' include BNI - Business Networking International. John has been a part of his Palmerston North chapter for more than a decade, and credits many of his business successes to the opportunities he had within the network.
"I would probably be a man with 2 or 3 staff if I hadn't gone there and I would have pissed lots of people off along the way - never giving them the service they needed because I wasn't even answering the phones properly. There is no question that I would only be a shadow of what I am if I hadn't gone there to be sharpened up and get the contacts I have today."
John originally went to BNI to have a friendly chat - and for the breakfast of course!
"I just went along because my business is lonely. It's hard to talk to other electricians so it is nice to talk to other people in business." And despite putting off networking for a number of years, because it seemed like one more thing to add to the already very long-to-do list, it quickly proved the opposite.
"I really enjoyed the breakfast, and the break from my business. The truth of it is that I got to know them, I was able to start dumping some of my stuff on to these people about what's going on in my life and there I was, working solutions out around that - that was a big difference."
"I'm going to the type of network that is on steroids - we are focused, we actually have it in our name!"
As John explains, everyone is there for the same reason, to see their business grow and develop, and everyone in their chapter is looking to find business for one another. Sharing experiences, opportunities and advice is part and parcel of networking.
"I am watching what other people are doing and the pathway is shown to me very clearly - it's like the yellow brick road is there before me and where I need to go. I look up to the other guys at BNI...I can see someone else doing something and I can copy them. I think to myself, if they can do it then I can do that too!"
As well as the confidence and contacts John has gained along the way, he had also honed many business skills.
"My skill level I thought was good but it was nowhere near as good as it should have been. Watching other people, understanding business, these are critical and I learnt these skills off other people. I know my weakness - I am too soft and I have been pushed around! [but networking] has helped enormously and I like to think I have helped others on their journey."
In fact, just the other day John had his eyes opened to how he was impacting others when a business owner from the chapter stood up and thanked him for his inspiration and support.
"It was a realisation of 'ohh he is watching what I am doing' - we are all watching each other and learning from each other,"
This network - or 'Matrix' as John calls it, is clearly a two-way intertwined web of support, connections, and inspiration. Ultimately though, he puts the benefits of networking down to two key things.
"Networking is important for two main reasons. One; for your mental health because [business] can be very stressful, we need to be able to talk to other people and you need to be the best form of you to get the job done. And two; it sharpens you up because you see how others are doing it, and you can do it too."
BNI is a global company focused on helping other people grow their business. With three chapters already in Palmerston North, and one in development in Feilding, take a look and see if BNI is right for you Business Networking Referral BNI Groups | professional development | NZ, New Zealand, Tauranga | English (NZ) | New Zealand.
Manawatū is also home to other networking groups like the Manawatū Chamber of Commerce, MYPN, Manawatech, Feilding & District Promotion, Women and Business and more.