‘The culture needs to encourage empowerment’ – interview with Chris Morling

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Chris Morling

Following on from Business Leader Magazine’s first interview with founder and managing director Chris Morling about the companies start and his own aspirations for the future, he explains his management style and what the term, entrepreneur, means to him.

What keeps you motivated?

It’s ultimately learning something new.  From the early days of not really knowing anything and having to get stuck in and learn something new every single day through getting better, month-in month-out, at running the business is really motivating for me.

I’m very aware that there are lots of things I don’t know, and on one hand it can scare you because you think ‘I really should be achieving XYZ but I’m not quite there yet’, but at the same time it’s quite motivating for me knowing that there’s still loads more to learn every single day.

What makes a good boss?

Being a good boss is about strong leadership.  You need to set a really clear vision and direction for everyone to get behind.  You need to make sure that everyone in the company understands what that is and believes in it.  That involves a lot of communication.

I think you need to create a culture and environment where people feel that they can experiment and fail, and not feel that they are going to be lambasted or slapped on the back of the wrist.

The culture needs to encourage empowerment so people can find solutions for themselves and act on them and not worry if they don’t always get the right.  I think that’s absolutely key.

You need to make the work challenging and interesting, you need to make sure that people’s careers and development is high on your agenda, whether that is personal development plans, appraisals or whatever the format is, people need to develop and move forward. As a boss, you need to make sure you’ve got the environment that facilitates that.

If your business is successful and profitable, you owe it to your team to award as appropriate for hard work and recognition of great work should come as something tangible.

It doesn’t always have to be financial, it can be in the format of flexible working hours but rewarding people is absolutely key.

Has being the boss and managing the team changed as you have grown?

It’s changed massively. Recently, we re-structured and have moved away from the concept of managers and management, it’s now all about leaders and leadership.

To the point where we don’t have any job roles in the business with the word ‘manager’ in because we just want to emphasise that fact that we have ‘leads’, and we are all about guiding people to find the right solution for themselves, and that extends to me.

I don’t dictate how any of my team deliver on strategic objectives of the business, they decide how that’s done and I might mentor and coach them to find the right answer.

That’s the biggest change for me.  It’s quite liberating and I can go on holiday now, confident in the fact that I have got the right people in place who are going to make sure that the company ticks over very healthily.

Is there anything still on your ‘to-do list’?

Workwise, yes, it’s never ending.  We want to deliver as many first to market solutions as we possibly can, in line with trying to make financial decisions as simple as possible. I’m involved in a couple of other businesses as well, which are quite exciting, because they are slightly different.

I’ve got a property development company in Ibiza. It’s something I’ve never done before, it’s a whole new learning curve, so it will be quite fun to get stuck into that.

I’ve got an electrical comparison site and also a financial trading website called 3D Markets.  Continuing to be involved with those guys and steering them in the right direction is still something I’m very much looking forward to.

Down the line several years, I feel there’s still another business in me. It would be nice to think that perhaps I will pick up on an industry that isn’t so heavily regulated and that people have an infinity with, what we do is incredibly worthwhile because it hits the bottom line of everybody’s pocket.

What would you summarise your management style as?

I think I’m very relaxed and inclusive, I very much listen to what people say. I certainly don’t dictate.

I think if anything, there are occasions when I should be a bit more rigid in my view, but that said we are doing well given the approach we’ve got.  I’d like to think I care about individuals and that threads through everything we do.

It’s not enough in itself to make a company profitable but it certainly helps get the most out of people in a genuine way so at least you can maximise the potential of the business model and the people around you.

What does the term ‘entrepreneur’ mean to you?

Bizarrely enough it’s a word I don’t really like.  I never ever describe myself as an entrepreneur.  I never would do.  It’s a term people have to use for you, not for yourself.  I’m a managing director of a business.

If I were to define it, it’s somebody who is able to spot opportunities, act on them, and deliver on them.  Ultimately, take appropriate risks. Ideas are simple. Delivering on them, that’s the bugger. I think that’s the definition of entrepreneur, somebody who spots an opportunity and makes it happen.

Is there a piece of advice that’s stuck with you along the way?

There’s lots of little things. I always remember someone saying to me years and years ago, ‘Don’t give everyone equal access to your time’. What they meant by that was don’t give your mobile phone number out, so I never have.  Nobody in business has my mobile number apart from my PA.

The simple logic being that if it’s important someone will get hold of me, but otherwise when I’m available I can pick up the phone and if I’m not available I don’t want people phoning me.  That little thing, I think, has helped massively.

Look out for the third and final part of our interview with Chris next Wednesday!

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