Lessons in leadership

Wayne Dance, the MD of InHouse, highlights the importance of team development and creating a positive working environment to ensure you attract the best candidates and don’t lose the good ones.

Opening a showroom is not just the start of a business. It’s the start of a new journey. One of leadership and responsibility.

If I look back on the 15 years since I founded InHouse there have been a fair number of crises along the way. Recessions, economic downturns, and yes, the B****t word. But I can honestly say that none of those could ever have prepared us for Covid-19. The sheer scale of the outbreak and the rapidly changing circumstances made it incredibly difficult to know how to react to reassure our retailers and their customers. And there was little chance of gaining control, especially in those first few months. 

However, I’m sure we all learnt lessons from the situation and here are some that we – at InHouse–  learned on leadership and creating strong teams…

  1. Teamwork

If you always do what you always did, don’t be surprised when you always get what you’ve always had! The whole world changed with Covid and as a team we had to change as well. We love face-to-face meetings, but we had to adapt to Zoom meetings without losing the essence of who we are and how we do business. 

2. Virtual collaboration

The more technically able (often younger) helped those of us less able (definitely older!) to overcome this new way of engaging. While I don’t find digital meetings as personally rewarding, passion and emotion can still be conveyed. Normally, we’d have a host of email conversations before a meeting to confirm the way forward. Now we engage virtually all the way through the discussion – and we’ve saved money on travel, hotel (and bar) bills! 

3. Creating a Digital Community

It was great to see how the industry adapted despite the constraints of lockdown. Schüller, for example,  quickly responded to launching new products without exhibitions or fairs. Instead, they created a digital presentation, so we could still unveil the new novelties and products to our retail partners. 

This was widely applauded by our dealerships. They in turn also upped their digital presentations on social media. 

Of note was Mark Butler of Mark Butler Interiors who hosted video interviews and really increased his digital presence – and his customer base – through social media. 

And we in turn shared these – creating a real community of retailers to help and support each other. 

Our team at InHouse improved our own social media coverage too. We even used former local Heart radio presenter Justin Lockwood to host video interviews with employees and clients to share their experiences. 

4. Leadership is more than training

Leadership is not just about training your employees. It also includes setting an example for how you engage with and support your wider network – contractors, suppliers and retailers. 

You can’t expect people to be brave and bold if you’re not taking the initiative. Neither can you reassure them if you’re panicking. 

Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen a few downturns in my time, but optimism and a belief in the future is paramount – even if you’re personally feeling nervous and worried. 

While we need to train to bridge the skills gap many retailers are facing, we also must retain the great people who work with and for us. 

This truly underlines the importance of having a good team, good relationships and a great company culture.   

5. Together we’re stronger

Being an independent retailer can be a lonely task at times, especially in this challenging world. A real lesson in leadership is that it’s about collaboration and cooperation. 

Our network of 500 independent retailers really came alive during the pandemic. There was always someone there – from ourselves and from other retailers – to listen and talk to. 

And there are always insights and innovations we can share. We’re stronger together and together we will be – even more – successful. 

Some of my favourite quotes point us in the right direction.

• “A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”

• Consider this: ‘Opportunityisnowhere’. Someone with a negative outlook may well read it as ‘Opportunity is nowhere’. However, someone with a positive outlook may read ‘Opportunity is now here’.

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