The Tidy Bins team found working with a Business Mentor helped them get their business shipshape and spark new growth. Mentor Tom Devlin and Tidy Bins owner Lynnette Creagh told us about their journey.
Lynnette and Kevin Creagh bought the small Christchurch business, Tidy Bins, fifteen years ago. They had a young family, and their dream was to own a business that could grow with them. It's fair to say they've achieved this and a lot more. But they credit their mentor's fresh perspective and experience with making a big difference to their journey.
Lynnette and Kevin found the industry they'd entered involved messy external factors and tough competition. Soon after they'd gotten underway, the council began offering its own bins. The pair survived by rolling up their sleeves and working harder than ever.
When a new corporate brand arrived with vastly greater marketing resources, they knew they needed help. Lynnette approached Business Mentors New Zealand and was matched with Mentor, Tom Devlin.
Lynnette didn't know what to expect from her first Mentor meeting, but she says she is so pleased she went along with an open mind.
"Tom asked lots of questions. His approach was intuitive, and he seemed to get it right away. He could see our situation clearly and articulate the strengths and weaknesses of our business quickly."
Tom also says he approached the first mentoring meeting without any expectations. His initial impression was that the business was well-organised and its owners dedicated.
"They had all their full-year accounts to hand. They could share good information, which helped as we could see what the trends were."
I could see that Lynnette and Kevin think a lot about their business. They're continually looking to improve their operations and serve their customers better. They listen and learn quickly. They're prepared to invest in their business and think about the big picture."
A fresh perspective
Tom began by reassuring Lynnette and Kevin that they'd built a sound brand and quality service which customers trusted and appreciated. Lynnette said this encouragement was hugely refreshing.
"Tom suggested we stop worrying about our competitors and focus on leveraging our strengths. Then, he asked what diversifying might do for our business.
"Tom noted we only provided wheelie bins, and there was an opportunity to expand to skip hire or trailers. This was the power of a fresh perspective.
Kevin could see the opportunity straight away. We realised that rather than being a high-risk step, diversifying could allow us to reduce our competitive vulnerability.
The future is bright
Lynnette and Tom are now embarking on the third year of their Mentoring relationship. Tidy Bins has expanded its services with commercial wheelie bins and is growing its fleet of trailer skips. Lynnette and Kevin have also acquired another business along the way.
Lynnette says being able to discuss the financial side of things with someone lifted a weight from their shoulders.
"Tom allowed us to be very honest and open about our business because we knew he had no vested interest or bias. It's so rare to be able to do that. He gets what's it like to have a family business."
"We'd been doing well by working hard. Tom has allowed us to see how to do things more efficiently by measuring outcomes and using them to make decisions."
Tom had seen the magic of mentoring at work
Tom's business journey has equipped him with relevant experience, expertise and knowledge that he generously shares with Lynnette and Kevin.
"I had my own family business, which I grew into a franchise brand. I actually had a mentor myself. I sought out someone who could bring a different mix of skills to my own. As my business grew and succeeded, I learnt the value of management tools and reporting systems. Not everyone is aware of things like this.
"I saw how hard many others in my industry were working. They did a great job but weren't doing as well as they could. I knew how much different things would be for them if they had a bit more business guidance. So, when I sold my business, I began mentoring.
"Lynnette and Kevin are typical in that they work very hard in the business. It makes it tough to stand back and see the bigger picture critically. That's what I can bring because I'm looking from outside.
"To me, mentoring is not about overwhelming someone with info or taking a textbook approach. I've introduced 3 KPIs. Kevin and Lynnette look forward to checking what their numbers and KPIs are saying. They understand what these measures mean and what they mean for their business."
Lynnette says they've found new joy in their business
"Having Tom as a Mentor has been empowering and reassuring. It allows us to be excited and look forward. He's optimistic and encouraging and kept focusing on our strengths. We're enjoying making something of our business – it's better than we'd ever imagined or expected.
Tom says he loves seeing Tidy Bins succeed and gets great pleasure in celebrating the wins with Kevin and Lynnette.
"There’s a lot of worry with having a small business. It’s very easy to just battle on and work harder, but you don’t know what you don’t know. I want to impart that even small achievements deserve recognition. I get enormous satisfaction from seeing them thrive. It’s a joy to work with all of those I’ve met through Business Mentors New Zealand.”
Mentoring gets straight to the heart
Both Lynnette and Tom encourage other business owners to connect with Business Mentors New Zealand.
“It’s so nice moving forward and feeling empowered," says Lynnette.
Tom hopes those who have experience to share will think about stepping up.
In his words, “The heart of New Zealand business is the small businesspeople. When we support them, we're making a difference to individuals, families, communities and the whole country's economy."