Written on the 8 January 2015 by Nick Nichols

SUCCESS IN BUSINESS CAN START WITH FAILURE BUSINESS coach Edward Plant has seen it time and again business owners rushing to solve problems with what he calls an "amateur strategy".

It's a win-at-all cost mentality that the military veteran understands after a 17-year career in the army, but one that he also eschews.

Unlike other business and leadership coaches whose mantra is "work harder" and "success is the only option", Plant takes an alternate view "work less" and "be prepared to fail from time to time".

"People don't like to lose," says Plant.

"We're our own harshest critics and we beat up on ourselves. The reality is that the good that comes out of challenges or failures in business helps you get bigger and better results faster.

"If everything was plain sailing you'd probably reach a comfort zone and stay there. It's the challenges that make us grow."

Plant owns and operates Lead Better, a Gold Coast-based business-leadership coaching firm he established five years ago with his wife Rebecca. The business was born out of failures in Plant's personal life, after a successful army career that saw him rise through the ranks to become an officer.

"I wasn't happy in the army; it's as simple as that," Plant says. "I had this incredible career that many people would be really envious of, but it wasn't fulfilling for me, and I wasn't doing anything to change it. I just stayed because it seemed like the right thing to do."

Change came for Plant after he returned from deployment in Iraq to a marriage that was irreconcilably broken, and a father with a terminal diagnosis.

A month later, his marriage was over, his father had passed away and Plant descended into a year-long cycle of weight gain, drinking and workaholism.

"I just looked at where I was at in my life and realised I was on the wrong path," Plant says.

"But I was strangely really grateful, because that period gave me a real focus that I had never had before.

"I realised I had been doing everything for other people; I'd done what my parents wanted, done what the army wanted, now it was time to do what I wanted, even though I wasn't quite sure what that was.

"The beauty was that I felt free to try anything and I wasn't afraid to fail."

Plant was finally back on track, losing weight, getting fit and meeting his future wife Rebecca.

Together they launched Lead Better, taking on clients both large and small across south-east Queensland and giving them a new perspective on leadership. 

"For a long time I turned my back on everything I had been during my 17 army years. But then I started to look back on my Army career and realise just how extraordinary it was, and really own and embrace all the personal qualities it had taken to get there.

"I was never the type of leader who yells and demands and thinks my way is the only way. I have always believed that true leadership lies in the ability to recognise the skills of the people in your team, and engage them in a way to best utilise those skills."

Plant says he has found many business owners faced the same problems and made the same mistakes in handling them.

"The big one is reactive, or what I call amateur, strategy," he says.

"Business owners get caught in the fear problem; they react and solve that problem without stepping back and looking at the bigger picture of what the business is doing and what the real solution needs to be.

"That, combined with their ability to do things the way they've always done them, has given the results they have always had."

Plant says the problems are better solved by "tweaking" their leadership style, improving the way they deal with the situation and leading their staff to a better result. He says businesses of all sizes have problems of a "similar theme".

"The challenge with smaller businesses is that they don't have the resources to throw at problems, they have to do it more organically. Bigger businesses have the ability to draw on more resources to create the solutions. They are similar themes but different approaches.

"I have never met a business owner who I thought I couldn't help and, honestly, it really isn't difficult. Once a business owner embraces the idea that these ideas will lead to a positive change, it is easy to implement the strategies which will change a business's bottom line."

As for how he measure success, Plant again takes an alternate view.

"When you talk about successes, a lot of people go straight to the numbers the bottom dollars," he says.

However, Plant also rates his ability to give business owners back their time as a tangible measure of success.

He says despite tough conditions there are will always be businesses "going gangbusters"."This has a lot to do with the business owner. Fundamentally business owners are not equipped with the skills to lead an organisation through the rapid change needed to achieve the growth they want. That's where we support them."

Plant says he helped one business couple boost revenue from $38,000 a month to $60,000 within three months, but the biggest buzz for him was a conversation he had with the wife.

"She was in tears because she had the first week getting to bed before 10pm and hadn't had to work. It had changed her life because she had more time with the kids and she wasn't going to bed with the computer.

"Often the most valuable tool we offer our clients is to look at their business and their staff from a different perspective; and to change the way they interact with their staff.

"So many business owners are still hanging onto the idea that 'if you want a job done well, you have to do it yourself', which just isn't true.

"We teach business owners that if you want a job done well, you need to empower your staff and then let go a little.

"It is about more than just how to make your business more profitable. It's not all about money; it's about making your business work for you."

Author: Nick Nichols

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