MD of Clintons has bad bike accident and learns about delegation and work life balance!

Clintons MD gets a lucky break – literally!

Disaster strikes…Kevin Clarke

On 15th June 2015 I embarked on the Help for Heroes bike ride from Paris to Windsor, raising money in aid of our wounded service personnel.

23 miles into the ride disaster struck in a moment!  One minute I was going down hill at 30+ mph and in a flash I was going over the handlebars and taking a tumble, breaking my leg in 3 places along with a small bone in my wrist, and not to mention extensive grazes and bruising – A mere scratch wound compared to some of those I was riding with and raising money for, but it damn well hurt!!

After a 2 hour operation that afternoon, I was out of recovery by 8pm and on my phone catching up on emails from the day.  However upon my return to the UK and entry into the NHS system, I was knocked for six at being told that I would not be able to walk or drive for 4-6 months! I had suffered a very bad set of breaks one of which was an open fracture which would take twice as long to heal as a “normal” fracture!!

I expect that most of us could cope with 4 weeks out of our business, but 6 months? Much raced through my head. I had 12 staff to support, along with a host of sub-contractors relying on me for their livelihoods, not to mention my own family to look after!

Kevin broken legMy first objective was to be able to get myself around as I didn’t want to have to rely on the goodwill of others or taxis, but how? Public transport from my village is virtually non-existent and difficult on crutches. Within a week of my return and with the blessing of my insurers, hand controls were fitted to my car and I was away bunny hopping down the road like a learner driver!

It meant I could get into the Office, albeit to start with 3 short days a week and in time, out to see clients, who appreciated the effort of my visits. All my clients knew I was still there which I felt was important.

Slowly I came to realise that with the way my business was set up and had evolved over time, it wasn’t totally dependent on me as I thought!  Quite a shock – but also quite a relief!

I found that I could work from home with relative ease thanks to modern communications and also that I could rely more than I ever thought on my staff and their capabilities. I was able to delegate some of my workload to them rather than being territorial and dealing with it myself, which I think most of us are guilty of to some extent.

Eight months on I am starting to walk unaided. I now have a lesser workload and thus more time to devote to supporting my staff and the business, rather than firefighting with work that can actually be done by others. I now ask the question, do I really need to do this piece of work?

At the outset I figured at best the income would plateau for the rest of the year and didn’t really want to think about a worst case scenario!  In fact turnover has increased as has profitability and most importantly my quality of life has also increased as I have more “Me” time and family time., My partner Judith, questioned as to why I didn’t break my leg a few years ago!!!

So what have I learned from this experience that can be passed on as potential benefit to others as relevant to business and planning.

  • Don’t let anything set you back – there is normally a way round most problems, you just have to get to the alternative.
  • Invest in good insurance suitable for your needs and requirements. I am not just talking about travel insurance, but cover that will protect you, your business and your family against any eventuality – fortunately I am not a manual worker, otherwise the consequences could have been very different, but there are insurances available that would cover.
  • Trust your staff more than you do and delegate more to them. Encourage them to find their own solutions to problems and allow them to use their initiative. You pay them, so allow them to work for you.
  • Take a step back and ask “what if this happened to me” and then take steps to change your business model to cope if it did happen.
  • Never feel sorry for yourself as it gets you nowhere. Remember there are always others in a far worse position than you.

People often say you need a lucky break in business – I guess this may have been mine!!Clintons

Kevin Clarke, Managing Director, Clintons Property Management

This article was first printed in the Redbridge Chamber newsletter.  To sign up for this monthly update on business news affecting Redbridge just sign up on the website.

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