Time for a Change

How Meta Dynamics changed my business and my life.
By Kevin Gammie

Mid 2012 things had to change.  The world had changed since the GFC and business operated differently.

The challenge was nobody had the handbook...

All the advice was to strip out the costs, be lean, be smarter, start looking at social media… What? Facebook and business? Are you kidding me.  As for other forms of social media they were not really advanced at this stage. LinkedIn was still in its early phases and who knew what to do with that anyway…

Hi, I’m Kevin Gammie, I was 45 at the time, my recruitment business was 13 years old and over the last 3 years we’d struggled.

Pre GFC, we’d done OK, it could have been better if I was a better leader but more of that later. We had at the height 15 staff, a 350m2 office in Queen St mall in the heart of Brisbane and a multi divisional service offering. Turnover was as high as $3,500,000 and life was exceptionally comfortable.  The staff weren’t performing but Maybe I had the wrong staff, or so I thought.

Then the GFC hit, at first it was believed to be a short term issue and we’d bounce in a couple of months.  Try and hang on to the good staff. If not you’ll have nobody to help rebuild.  6 months later still with 9 staff, we were making heavy losses each month and we realised there was no end in sight. There was no magic bounce.

We’d accumulated heavy losses.

Heck, our rent was costing us $16,500 per month. It was early 2010 and we’d sustained losses of in excess of $250k last financial year and were not looking like breaking even again. We bit the bullet and let all the staff go.

My fellow Director and I would have to rebuild this business alone…. With an office of 350m2 in the heart of the city that nobody wanted, particularly not at our current rent.

So we set about with all the changes we needed, cutting costs to the minimum, taking drastic salary cuts and working our way out of the challenge… The problem was, that we were just doing the same thing and expecting a different result. At this stage, I’d not heard of ESIP or creating the right environment.  We had a simple mission, to stubbornly rebuild our way out of the mess.  We owes the Government $250k+, the banks another $75k and I had around $60k on credit cards.

The pressure was high.

One thing we did right was to establish some standards, although we didn’t realise that at the time. They were basic… but they were standards.  They were as simple as this…

Our Mission: “we’re not here to F**k spiders”
Standards: “I’ve got your back…”

That was our environment.  A complete moving away strategy, and the most basic survival standard we could think of.  These were dark days, stress was high and we worked our bums off.

So coming back to mid 2012, I’d had enough. Still working with just my fellow Director and myself we’d managed to hold our head above water, we’d managed not to go broke, we’d become great a juggling our cash-flow (and negotiating with the ATO).

I’d hit rock bottom, was exhausted and felt like a complete failure.

It was at this time that I was thinking of seeing a former colleague (competitor actually) who had gone into coaching 12 years earlier. Strangely I bumped into him. We organised to catch-up and have a chat about organising some coaching. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was on interview. When he asked me to sum up my situation I replied quite honestly… “I think the recruitment model is broken, I’ve no answer for it… I believe my current partnership model is broken… and… to be honest I think I’m broken”

He agreed to take me on.  Yet I was still a long way from finding out about Meta Dynamics.

We patiently worked on fixing things.

Me first, I regained a sense of who I was and realised that I had an option to actually leave the business.  This was the first time I realised that since starting it in 1999.

I agreed to do some work on the business with him. We looked at what needed to be done, at the time we focussed on what we were doing and things that needed to be done. As we worked through the list, the list seemed to be getting longer.  We didn’t seem to make any inroads, but more time was being taken in maintaining our ever growing list of things to do.

To be honest they were things that needed to be done but we were working with ‘systems designed for 15-20 people with only 2 of us working. It was cumbersome and clunky to say the least.

There was no talk of Vision, Purpose, or Values, no mention of Benchmarks. 

There was little talk of Structures, and systems. 

All of the focus was on what we were doing, or not doing. 

There were some projects like websites and implementing better systems eventually.

We didn’t even get to ask if we had the right people on the bus…

To be continued…