Steve and Brendon are doing the Indepen-dance because their awnings business, Total Cover, is nailing it. One third of the cog, co-founder Steve, offers his insights and guidance for other businesses.
Steve is all about the people. He wants his team to be happy, he loves dealing with customers and has been using some guiding principles to help develop the business he owns with his wife Carolyn and best friend, Brendon.
He likes to say it how it is. His wife is the ‘boss’ – both at home and at work and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “She's my best friend and we talk all the time, we talk about everything and yeah we disagree, but never about the important things."
"We laugh all the time, it’s so important to have a sense of humour when your wife is the CEO of the company.”
Steve met his wife Carolyn in their previous jobs and quickly became friends, marrying in 1995 before heading over to the UK for four years. The couple share many things together: Their business, Total Cover (awnings), gardening, friends, three daughters, travelling – however there is one thing that divides them..
Steve explains: “I love rock music. Not the syrupy ballad stuff, but more classic heavy rock – AC/DC, Def Leppard, etc. However I live with four women and my life is pretty much dominated by pop music.”
His three daughters, aged 11, 13 and 15 drive his passion to make his business a success and enable them to have the start in life that he thinks they deserve.
“I am looking to the future and making sure they have opportunities and that I can provide for them as much as I can. That is really important to us.”
Steve and Carolyn encourage their daughters to try anything once and have instilled a ‘don’t be afraid to try’ attitude to approaching their lives; however they’re conscious not to overload them with ‘stuff.’ “Schooling and education means a lot and while the girls swim, play netball and are into art, we also like to spend quality time together at home and with family and friends. We want them to enjoy being kids for as long as they can and appreciate the things you often lose as you get older.
The family love to travel and have plans to visit the USA in the near future, with Steve hoping to sneak in a few trips to nearby motor racing tracks to fulfil another hobby. “I'm a really big fan of motor sports and racing and some of this has rubbed off on the girls, they know a thing or two, so we would have to squeeze this in.”
He admits, he hasn’t always got everything right, but he learns from every stumbling block.
Here are Steve’s guiding principles:
- Be nice. You need good people around you.
- Be honest. Being honest and believable will set you apart. Particularly important if you’re in a small business: if people don’t like you they won’t buy your product.
- Be passionate. All the flash and no substance or joy from your work is pretty easy to see. Loving what you do makes a huge difference.
- Don’t compromise on customer service. I discovered this at the very start of our journey, this is important. If you have a negative response, speak to the customer/client either on the phone or in person and take the time to understand.
If Steve could give advice to a younger version of himself, what would it be?
- Get a mentor or a business advisor straight away if this is your first experience in business – you don’t know what you don’t know.
- I think you can become too focused on the business and can be really hard on yourself. Let’s face it; business is difficult but try to have some fun.
- Having good financial smarts and a bank that will guide you and support you is really important. I think it is important to be able to talk to your business manager within the bank and tell them if you need their help or don’t understand something.
- Know your own strengths and weaknesses and those of the people you’re working with to allow you to build a complimentary skillset and understand each other.
- This one is pretty obvious for anyone going into business, regardless of their age, but have a plan. Plans do change but have a goal in mind, stick to a list to get stuff done.
With his focus on people, Steve is keen to share success and wins with the team and ensure they are supported 100% of the way within their role, he said: “If you have a win within the business, share this with them and make their day. It can make the biggest difference to your team if they know and can see what they do has made an impact.”