Episode 1 – The Value of Getting Out of Your Own Way – Simon Boyes

Episode 1  – The Value of Getting Out of Your Own Way – Simon Boyes

Simon Boyes is the Managing Director of Benchmark Scaffolding, a Brisbane based specialist scaffolding business.
Simon explains how his natural drive to work hard and stay focused has created a business that does not rely on him and the success of the business has come about because of the quality and expertise of the people around him.

In the business of scaffolding the wrong attitude is a Life or Death outcome and their business Mantra is Safety first – Second Nature.

Simon talks about his challenge to let go of control. Once he recognised that it was he who was stopping the business from growing and he allowed the people around him to become invested in the outcome, they all stepped up freeing Simon to focus on the strategy and his passion of building relationships with clients and suppliers.

Being very clear on hiring people with the right attitude was a key part of the success. Simon explains how he would recruit staff with no scaffolding experience and train them in the Benchmark Scaffolding way – Safety First – Second Nature.

You can find more information on Benchmark Scaffolding at

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Welcome to the inspiring business podcast. My name is Stephen Sandor. And today I have Simon Boyes, the managing director of benchmark scaffolding. The mantra of his businesses, every decision in the in the business is safety first, second nature, our love, the use of, of the language, the competitive market of sites scaffolding as driven mainly by price, and Simon saw an opportunity to change the way he was seen and find a niche in the market. Simon is not just focused on building a profitable business. He’s also spent time building the right culture inside the business. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to speak with him today and learn from Simon’s experiences. So welcome, Simon, and thanks very much for joining me here on inspiring business.

Thanks for having me, mate. Excited to get into it. And hopefully as a few insights second, people can take a lesson from my mistakes.

Yeah, well, that’s a great segue. Just just start with, could you just give us a little bit of background of how you how you started and how you ended up? here today?

Was this was my baby My dream? Since since I first started scaffolding, I guess and brought me a couple years before we actually kicked off, I started planning and thinking, you know, it wasn’t a possibility and wanted to get where, you know, I had a bit of a roadmap of where I wanted to get to, and I needed a couple of partners to help me get there. Obviously, the scaffolding industry if you don’t have any scaffold, you can’t put match up. So we needed a big capital investment early on. So I guess there’s a lot of businesses do I went to my parents and asked if they’d back me and so my mum mortgaged the house and lent me some money. And now the three of us tips and money into a pool and port. What about a $360,000 worth of scaffolding equipment? We didn’t have any jobs hadn’t even quoted anything didn’t even have a business name.

So that was a bit of a that was it, wasn’t it?

Yeah, took a leap of faith. But um, you know, I was pretty clear early on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to get there. And now the story’s changed quite a few times. And I’m sure it’ll change again, probably by lunchtime today. It but it’s just about being nimble and being able to adapt with the times. early on. We were like most other scaffolding companies, we have a focused on residential and small commercial jobs. You know, between the three of us, we quiet the jobs, do the invoicing, build the scaffold, load the trucks, clean the gear, everything. First business partner exited the building the business early on, within within a year or so, the second business partner bought him in probably three or four years into it. So I’ve owned the business on my own now for probably six years. For you few changes along the times. But yeah, it’s been been a bit of a journey. Yeah.

The issues. Were they issues with your partners? Or was it that you just wanted to have control?

Not issues like we’re still still, you know, I still have a beer with them every day of the week. Yeah, one of them wanted to move to be closer to family, the other one wanted to go and start a different business. So it was always my dream. And I think, I guess long term, I always wanted to own it on my own. But I couldn’t get to where I wanted to without having business partners early on. So yep, no regrets. We got to where we are, because we wouldn’t have got there if we hadn’t gone down that path. So look, I’m at peace with how it all panned out.

Yeah. And and you said that you always wanted to do this, you know, ever since you’ve been scaffolding, is that been a sort of Have you always been like an entrepreneur or as a kid, were you you know, we were selling lemonade on the store or doing paper, paper runs or anything like that.

No. I get a little bit uncomfortable with the word entrepreneur. You know, people say, Oh, you got this. You’re an entrepreneur of sort of think well, am I I don’t know, maybe, I guess for as long as I can remember on every weekend. I’ve got to work with my dad. He’s a boiler maker and He started his own little fabrication business. And as long as I can remember, I just just wanted to work. From a young age I’d go and work with, you know, my dad’s friends had businesses or gone sweep floors, or I worked in an upholstery business for a while, or I guess I just the work ethics been instilled in me from my parents, and it’s just sort enough. It’s entrepreneurial, or it’s just a like work and I like a challenge, though.

So if it’s if, I mean, you’re right, I think the the word entrepreneur is bandied about far too much. My apologies for doing that. But it’s hard to find a, it’s hard to find a word that doesn’t describe people who are creative, and sort of business, you know, have a business development mind and are always trying to push forward. So I guess that’s when I talk about entrepreneurs I’m talking about that, as opposed to someone who’s a freelancer who, you know, as their customers are their job, you know, so that, that’s their employer

And I guess the last kind of think of it a little bit as it wouldn’t matter what I was doing, I want to be the best of whatever it is, if I was mowing lawns, or collecting trolleys, I want to get more trolleys and anyone else. So it’s not. It’s not about being an entrepreneur, just always looking at different ways to do things, and how can we do it better? And, you know, what can we change? And how can we make them more efficient? So I don’t, I guess scaffolding is just a, it’s just a tool or a resource for I don’t know, whether you call it personal satisfaction, or fulfillment, or whatever you call it, but it’s just a matter of whatever you do doesn’t matter what it is done to the best of your ability.

Yep. And you say we, in that, so who have who have you leaned on as you’ve grown, because as you know, business is not easy. It’s probably the toughest thing out there. So all those people listening in, who think that it’s, you know, I’m gonna start a business and, you know, in three months, I’m going to be rocking and rolling in cash. We all know that, that doesn’t happen. So who of you? Who have you leaned on as you’ve as you’ve hit these hurdles, or milestones in your business?

You know, everyone says, I, you know, couldn’t have done it without my team. And I’ve got the right people that around me, and I hate those cliches and trying to be the sound the same as everybody else. But the reality of it is to get to where you want to go, doesn’t matter what what you’re doing, you can’t do it on your own. And, yes, your team around you is more often than not your biggest asset. But they can only do so much. You know, it’s things like, whether it’s a business coach, or a mentor, or your accountant, your solicitor, all those sort of people, and it’s about surrounding yourself with people you can trust, and people that are like minded, you know, like, there’s heaps of different, I hang out a few different business circles, where there’s other entrepreneurs for one of a better word and different other business owners. And, you know, quite often you’ll learn more from them than what you do from any university degree or TAFE. course, it’s, it’s about surrounding yourself with like minded people who, who understand you know, and as a business owner, I get quite lonely at times, because, you know, my family and a lot of my direct friends that don’t have businesses, you know, they, you know, whether they’re employed by somebody else, or they’re doing whatever they’re doing, that no one really understands the ins and outs of running a business. Even my wife, like she’s the most supportive person in the world, but we don’t talk a lot about work, because it’s my escape. I want to get home and talk about the 12 hours of just live. So you need to surround yourself by people who understand what you go through. And doesn’t matter what business it is, whether you’re a hairdresser or a lawyer or a scaffolding company, everyone has the same problems. And it’s, it’s a guess it’s a point of Not, not thinking that you’re on your own. Doesn’t matter what that staff or stock or leads or conversions are. Everyone’s got the same problems. It’s just a matter of listening to other people’s point of view, and then thinking how can you tailor that to suit your business? So I guess that’s a long answer to your short question. But I guess the the takeaway out of that is just surround yourself with good lick minded people that you trust their judgment.

Yeah. I think it’s more business has this conception that they have to do everything themselves. And it’s typically at the front at the very earliest when money is an issue. Well, they you know, that the cautious about how much money they spend in the corporate world, or Every business has got a push and a pull in its makeup. So to be successful, well to be at the leading edge of your industry, you need that marketing, business development, you know, ideas to stay ahead of the pack. And that’s the creative, innovative people. And that’s typically the entrepreneur. And then you’ve got the systems and processes and control and operations, and they’re the brake on the business. They’re the ones that go ahead, you know, stop coming up with new ideas, we haven’t even bedded down the one that you just brought in yesterday. And, and the entrepreneur is the one who then splits in the middle of that, because in a larger organization, the managers got a team, the people around them and can delegate that. And I think, you know, what you’ve done is recognized that one, you can’t do it on your own. But, but that delegation of responsibility to people who are subject matter experts or geniuses in their space, and then learn from them, because at the end of the day, you’re in control, aren’t you?

Yeah, and that’s a really good point. And I was, I was no different, I went down that exact same path, and I was gonna spend, I’ll be up at four o’clock, loading trucks, and then we’d be out on site building scaffolding, and we’d have to come back and quote jobs and do the invoices. And I’d sleep at the office probably two or three nights a week, because I just didn’t have enough hours in the day. And it wasn’t until I realized that I’m the bottleneck in the business. And this business is never going to grow or scale, unless I get out of the way. Because there’s only one of me. And there’s only so many hours in the day, everyone’s got the same time of the day to, to do what they need to do. And it wasn’t until I realized that I’m what’s holding this business back, that I really could scale it and grow it and, and it was a real challenge to let go of the things that were that I knew I was good at. And even still, to this day, sometimes I look at things and I think I could do better than that. Why don’t I just do it myself. But then you get yourself back into that same toxic circle where, you’d get stuck doing everything. And the business is you. You can’t grow you can’t scale they can’t do anything without you. And it took me I’d say a good 12-18 months to really let go. And stop being such a control freak, and bring other people in. And the good thing is, now I realize that the people that the people that do those tasks that I used to do a way better at it than what I ever was. And what my strength is now is growing the business and being strategic and planning and talking to customers and the technical side of it that that is a challenge. So it’s, if I could go back and tell my younger self, I would have got out of the way a lot earlier. And who knows where we’d be now. But it’s still it’s still a challenge. You know, my staff sometimes now I’ll give them permission to say, Simon, get out of the way. Look, just let me do it. I’ve got this. And that’s a That was a tough lesson to learn.

Yeah, there are there’s two pieces to that if I, if I’m hearing it, one is your own challenges. And, and, and feeling comfortable, and trusting in the staff that you’re employing. So that’s the first thing that the the other piece is that they trust you and that they you know, you’ve given them permission to speak openly and honestly when things aren’t right. And that’s a really mature relationship to have with your staff rather than a master servant type of relationship.

I’m really conscious of not micromanaging the key guys, like probably our I mean, our five top key guys that we’ve got and girls, they’ve been with us for 7 8 9 years, I looked at their long term. So they know how I work. I know how they work. And there’s that trust. It’s a two way relationship. And sometimes I feel myself not overstepping the line, but giving him too much input. So it says it’s a conscious effort to pull back and say, Look, you know what, you don’t you just work it out and tell me what you need from me.

Yep, yep. So that that’s uh, so when you made that initial, you know, this is what I’m going to do and I need to get out of my own way. And then you started hiring people. What was the How was your approach to that? What were you looking for? And how did you go about trying to find the right people?

Yeah, well luckily enough. The key the key people in our business majority of them were already in the business. And they were just screaming out for an opportunity to further themselves. And I just, I hadn’t even considered it because I was doing everything. And like one of the guys was our first ever employee, and he’s still with us 10 years later. And he just needed an opportunity to, to step to step up to the plate and take on more responsibility. And I don’t know of any other guys in the country that are as skilled as what he is or what he does. He’s phenomenal. And I was holding him back because I didn’t give him the opportunity to, to really further himself in. So I guess you got to really believe that promote from within first or look from within. And if that’s not available, it’s all attitude. Like, I don’t care how much experience you’ve got, if you got all the skills in the world. But if you got a bad attitude, or you haven’t got the right mindset, you’re not going to fit in. And you can teach people processes and policies, and you can train them, but you can’t teach a good attitude. So we developed a, I guess, a scoring scorecard for when we’re in recruiting, whether it’s a scaffolder or laborer or warehouse manager doesn’t matter what role it is. So 70% of our scoring comes back to attitude, we can teach, we can teach everything else, we can teach a good attitude.

So you’ve obviously got some values that are in, you know, your values, and our work ethic, honesty, you know, doing the right thing by people. And and that’s, that’s intertwined with the business culture, how do you make sure that that is maintained, because the further away you get away from the nucleus of the business, the more diluted the message becomes? So how do you maintain that?

Yeah and that’s a challenge that I think every business faces doesn’t matter what you do, it’s, it’s, it’s a bad that, again, it comes back to attitude and trust. And we’ve got to be able to trust each other that they’re going to do the right thing. by us. You know, when the scaffolding world if, if someone gets it wrong, we’re talking life or death. Now, there’s no second chances when a scaffold collapses or someone falls. So you’ve got to have that trust in each other. And it’s about not only companion ship and mate ship, it’s about knowing that the guy beside you or the girl beside you upholds the same values as what you do. And it’s, it’s, it’s got to be a message, the message has got to be transferred right from the top through, and at times, it does get diluted. And things do get a little a little convoluted, and it’s just a matter of getting back on track. reminding everybody Well, yeah, we’re relying on each other, not only to put food on the table for each other, but to go home safely to our families every day. So if you don’t have the right attitude and the right mindset, you just doesn’t, you don’t fit and the good thing is over time. If you keep if you keep that attitude in the majority of your staff, it organically happens in the ones who don’t have that same attitude, mindset, whatever we want to call it, is they soon get weeded out. And just doesn’t that just just seems to organically happen that

they don’t fit in,

they don’t fit you.

So, going forward, what’s what’s the, what’s the plan for the next five years.

The last five years, we’ve, we’ve now got branches across the country we we’ve really niched into now we we say that we specialize in the most high risk and complex projects around the country. And we do, we’ve traveled all over, you know, off the coast of Western Australia to Northern Territory, Tasmania. So we’re really specializing in the tricky jobs that Not anyone can do. And so with that comes challenges. Obviously, it’s, there’s a lot more risk, there’s a lot more pre planning. But the good thing with that is you attract quality staff that want to work on that type of project. And this is where the attitude part comes back in is generally the people with a poor attitude, or not even a poor attitude, let’s say, an average attitude. They are happy to just go to work, collect their money, go home at the end of the day, whereas when you’re doing the real tricky jobs or complex jobs, you find people that want to challenge themselves and they want to be better than the status quo. So by changing our messaging to really focus a niche on to that market, as organically attracted the type of staff that we want, right? So it’s, that’s where we were headed now. I guess for me, as a business owner, I’ve now built the business to a state where I’m not really required day to day, I still involved because I still love it. And I’m motivated. And I like seeing these really cool jobs come to life. But we’ve got the right processes and the right people in place now where I’m not needed anymore. So now I’m working on tightening processes and efficiencies and, and building the business to a position where it’s where it’s saleable. So if someone wanted to come in and buy it, everything’s in line, but not looking to sell that makes any sense. You know, I guess everyone’s for sale for the right price. But it’s more about getting the business into a fit, position where it can, where it can be scalable, and we can push into new markets, new regions, and really take things to another level.

I’m such a fan of that, you know, I talk about retire into your business. So So get your business to a point where it doesn’t rely upon you. And then it becomes either an annuity income, because you’re the chairman, and you just do not take your drawings from it, or you’re the managing director and you’re out there doing business development. Or some you know, or it’s for sale, and, or you go around traveling the world and, and do what you want to do when you want to do it. The key I think here that, and you pick that up really early. And you know, really congratulate congratulate you for that, because that’s a real tricky one for people to recognize, is getting that those systems in place because it becomes a turnkey operation. And then when someone’s buying from you, it’s the value of the business is so much more because it doesn’t rely upon you, you know, the value

The challenge, the challenge is, when you go grow your business and you’re scaling, you get to the point where you’re too big for someone small to buy it, and you’re too small for someone big. So you get caught in the desert for one of a better word and you you’ve either got to really scale it and take it to another level, or you got to pull back and really focus on you got to be really clear on what you want to do. You know, you can, like you said, if you want to go traveling, you know, or you want to scale it to sell or you want to listed on a stock market or whatever your your goals are. It’s really easy to get caught in that middle ground. And yeah, it can be a challenge control can be a challenge to get out of.

Yeah. And, you know, we talked about those three stages of the businesses, the early stage where everybody’s running in million miles an hour, and then and there’s a lot of investment in time and money and expertise to get it up. And then there’s that sort of, you know, you’ve got the jumbo jet at 30,000 feet and engines are half, cranked and you’re gone faster than you know, than you’ve ever been able to go. And it’s, you’re cruising really easy. And then the headwinds come. And I guess that’s the point, you know, is, how do you bust through those headwinds? Do you do a detour around them? Do you go over under through it? handle the turbulence? And it’s that that’s that next phase? Isn’t it? That that whole planning? So how do you go about planning that? That is it?

Yeah, I guess the business goes through different cycles. You know, if it just went on one nice, consistent projectory, it’d be nice and easy to run. But, you know, you build to the point where you, you decide you want to scale and you want to bring in new business, all of a sudden, you need to come up with marketing strategies, sales plans. And in the starting all over again, it’s it’s this vicious cycle where you, you need more leads, so you go, sell, sell, sell, then you get all the work, then you got to stop selling and start delivering. And then all of a sudden, that work dries up. So you’re back to chasing leads, again, it’s a it’s a bit of a whirlpool or a washing machine that just keeps going round and round. So we were lucky that we had a lot of repeat customers and a lot of you a lot of not reoccurring projects, but work that was consistent. Then we got to the point where we decided we were going to say start ups, selling and trying to bring in new business and all of a sudden we had to learn how to create marketing plans and strategies and sales processes, because was something we’d never had to do before. And then you, that’s actually a good six to 12 months to develop and then you’ve got a implemented, then you’ve got to test it, then you got to measure it. And then you bring in some leads. And all of a sudden, you need to go back to your delivery team and strengthen that part of the business. Then your delivery teams looking for more work. So then you got to bring commodity with new promotions, new sales strategies, so just continues, I don’t think it ever it ever stops.

Yeah. And that’s, you know, that’s where the passion comes in. So you get exhausted just listening to that story. And if you weren’t passionate about what you did, you just you wouldn’t do it, which it’s it, it sounds exhausting, unless you’re really enjoying it. And that’s that whole, you know, coming back to the work ethic, this is what we wonder, we want to make a difference. You know, you might want to do

if you, you know, people are scared to niche, because I think I will, if I, if I need too much, I’m going to block out the rest of the market, and I’m not going to get as much work or I’m not going to make as much money, you haven’t got as much opportunity. But when you Niche, you really focus in on the work that you want to do? Yeah. And he often takes a while, but you realize when your niche is actually more opportunities than what there is, if you don’t niche? And like you said, is the passion and the enjoyment and the fulfillment? Is there because you focus in on the work that you want to do? Yeah, yeah. And it’s not, you know, we all go home, at the end of the day, sometimes you just think, oh, why do I bother. But you get up the next morning, and you’re motivated, because you want to make a difference, and you enjoy what you’re doing. And you’re spot on as if it’s, if you lose that fire and that passion and that drive, then you’re wasting your time.

Yeah. And I reckon the test of that attitude is whether you prepare the sack client, in a good client, one, a high paying client, because they’re just being an absolute rat bag, and you just go, I don’t need this anymore. So thanks very much, but no thanks.

And good point, too, because, and we’ve been guilty of it in the past. But yeah, we’re very self conscious of it. And we make an effort that quite often your best customers are the ones you service, the poorest, because you know that they’re going to come back and they’re going to be there and they don’t get prices of anyone else, or they’re just, and they’re really good people that you enjoy working with but you quite often neglect them. And you put too much time and effort into the customers, then you describe because they’re high income or high pain or whatever it is. And it’s not until you realize that, who do I actually want to work with? And who do I enjoy working with? And then you realize, well, I probably neglected this person, this person and this person for too long. And it’s a good realization to have that, hey, how do I get more people like them?

Yeah. Because it becomes a partnership. Again, it’s not that master servant relationship. And if you build that really strong relationship, so when something goes wrong, you know, you’re working, you’re the, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to work it out together, you know, there’s not this add this. You know, the way you’re arguing continually about, about a result that only one of you can deliver. Whereas if you’ve got that really strong relationship with people, then it they’re not comfortable. Those conversations are never comfortable, as you know, but they’re honest, and you know that you both had the same intent.

And that’s a really key part of our messaging is, although we’re not in the construction industry, you know, like we’ve mainly we focus on like mines, refineries, ports, bridges, anything that’s high risk or complex. But there’s always been this, I guess, a attitude in the construction, industrial industry that subcontractors need the clients more than the clients need the subcontractors. And when you go into a partnership with that attitude, you’re destined to fail like it’s always an us versus them. So our our key messaging is, hey, use our business to leverage your own, make your business better. By partnering with us. We’re all learning together, yeah, we’re all here to make money. But at the end of the day, we want to do our job the best we can and go home safely. So let’s just change our whole messaging, the whole attitude, the whole focus, and, and work together and I guess, the traditional construction industry, high rise, you know, three, four storey apartment, all that sort of thing. It’s, it’s generally the cheapest price wins the job. So the contractors have to do it as cheap as they can. And then the building companies out there do to keep their prices low. And then it just becomes a never ending argument between costs and efficiencies and times and delays and it’s just in my opinion, you Set up to fail when you go into a relationship with that arrangement.

Yeah, I mean, if you’re if you’re a commodity and you know, you’re selling widgets out of China, okay, well, that that’s the model. But we, we, you know, you’ve picked a really tight niche. And as you say, you know, you can’t cut corners because if you start cutting corners, people die. That’s not a good business model.

You’ve only got to read the newspaper or watch the news on TV, like, their scaffold collapses, not only in Australia, but around the world, every week. And that comes back to people trying to cut corners and save money where they can. And it’s not until the whole industry realizes that there’s so much more to any business relationship than just the cheapest price gets a job. And until that happens, unfortunately, we’re going to continue to say this because people, people have to cut corners, and they have to find cheaper ways to do things to make money or the business just doesn’t survive.

Yep, that’s an unfortunate reality. And I’m hoping that, that it shifts as people become less focused on the, you know, the 80’s greed is good, too. You know, how can we how can we work together and make

it definitely is definitely is changing probably slower than everyone would like. But you we are finding that we’re not so much else. I think that the whole industry as a whole is finding that quality and safety is now becoming now more important than cost, but it is bridging the gap.

Yep. as important.

Yeah, as important

Simon, I really want to thank you so much. It’s been a great, great chat, and I’m hope the listeners will be able to get some value from that I’m sure that we’ll be able to get some value from that. So once again, thanks very much for joining me here at inspiring business and it will look forward to the next five years in your chapter.

Appreciate it. Thanks for your time

If you’ve enjoyed listening to Simon, and his inspiring story, and we’d like to hear more of the same audio need to do is subscribe, and you’ll never miss out. You’ll find all the links to Simon’s website and the services of benchmark scaffolding in the show notes below. Like Simon said in this interview, if he could speak with his younger self, he’d get out of the way a lot sooner. If you’d like help developing a strategy and plan to do just that. And you’re ready to go from the Do It Yourself model to a do it with you strategy, then connect with me for a complimentary call. My deep dive analysis and the intentional roadmap strategy is a tried and proven program ready for you to implement. My name is Stephen Sandor from inspiring business and there are plenty of additional resources on our website at www.inspiringbusiness.net and we across all the socials. Thank you for listening to inspiring business podcast. And my wish is to inspire and energize you to take action so you can make a difference in your and other’s lives.

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