Clive Lucking, CEO of Fourfront Group, looks at the seven things he has learned since starting his business, with the benefit of hindsight.
Clive is CEO and a founding member of Fourfront Group, a family of companies that create inspiring workplaces which foster productivity and wellbeing. Initially from an accountancy background, Clive has over 25 years of experience in the commercial interiors industry. As CEO, he oversees all facets of the business and leads a loyal and dedicated team, whose passion for creating inspiring and sustainable working environments has enabled the Group’s phenomenal growth. Fourfront is one of the UK’s strongest and fastest growing businesses in the field, with a turnover in excess of £130m.
Channel your energy
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the last 25 years is that there’s absolutely no point in worrying about things that haven’t yet happened, or about things you can’t control. Worrying takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy; predicting economy fluctuations, potential terror attacks or even Tube strikes isn’t going to do anything other than dilute your focus and stress you out. You’re better off channeling your energy into the aspects of your life and your business that you can sway and influence. That being said, once you’ve made a decision, don’t procrastinate – just do it. Great business leaders of our time have always been able to channel their energy. At Fourfront, we do what we say…and we say it as it is. There’s no time for procrastination!
Balance order and chaos
Good planning is imperative in business. If you’re managing hundreds of staff, all operating across various locations; or if you’re looking after multiple projects for different clients all over the country, then you need to have a game plan. And, for the most part, you have to be able to stick to it. Saying that, you need to be able to respond to change. Adaptability is, therefore, a vital skill…so I’ve learned to plan but, most importantly, to roll with the punches and go with the flow. To be successful in business – and life in general – you must be able to adapt to change.
Fourfront Group has recently made the ‘Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work for’ shortlist and we wouldn’t be able to do that without genuinely caring about our colleagues and our clients. A key lesson I’ve learned is that people tend to mirror your approach to work and, to an extent, your mood. I’m aware my tone can influence how others feel, so I aim to appear happy even if I may not feel it! Avoid negativity – either by being negative yourself or surrounding yourself with negative people. Doing so will drain your energy – and everyone else’s.
Without hopefully sounding cheesy, we’re a [sort of] family. Occasionally we might argue but we stick together and support our coworkers. What’s more, we’ll aim to get the best out of each other…and you can only do that by being mindful of others.
Live in the real world
Our aim is to bring workspaces to life. When you spend each day working with people and making decisions in order to improve their environments, you need to be part of and live in the real world. Theorising only gets you so far. I consider myself to be fairly down to earth and I like to think living in the real world comes naturally to me. But running my own business has taught me that you need to make decisions based on your own experiences – these count more than any textbook. By all means, read up on your area of expertise – soak it up – but don’t rely on the advice of a ‘business guru’ or ‘industry experts’. You need to look at the world through your own eyes, not somebody else’s – and have the confidence to do so.
Lead from the front
Business is not the place for shrinking violets. ‘Natural leaders’ are not backseat drivers – they’re the ones at the wheel, driving everyone else around the curves and bends and, where possible, avoiding the bumps in the road – or else tackling them as smoothly as possible, James Bond style. We create inspiring places to work so it’s important our team is inspired; and you can’t inspire if you can’t be seen.
Never fail to answer an email or a phone message, whether from clients, suppliers or colleagues. I’m not saying respond immediately – we all know that isn’t possible. But make it your priority to get back to everyone within forty-eight hours; even if it’s a mere acknowledgement. In business, you have to be both seen and heard. You have to be front of mind so make yourself visible in every way. It takes next to no time to send an acknowledgement and such a simple and time effective gesture can mean the world to the recipient.
It’s all about the people
As a business, we are committed to being the best, to hiring the best people to do the best work. Recruit carefully. Start by looking for people who match the business personality and fit well with the company culture. We recruit people who are talented, regardless of their race, beliefs or which football team they support. To us, attitude is an important as aptitude – the two are inextricably linked. You can have the most talented employee in the world but if their attitude stinks, you’re playing a losing game. Over the years, I’ve learned to develop the mantra ‘do unto others’. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’ll be out the front door if you’re negatively impacting other people.