Business

Structure Creates Space

By: • 2 weeks ago •

Structure
Creates
Space

Structure creates space is a philosophy proffered by my partner when he harkens back to his rugby coaching days. I love rugby, go the All Blacks! Guess where I hail from? I don’t however, love structure.

 I adore the free-flowing back line as they pass effortlessly backwards in order to move forward towards the try line. Such a contradiction, yet one that works perfectly for the conversation we are about to have. Without a structural backbone, working tirelessly behind business, there is no space for creativity or what is often conceived as the privilege of team culture.

 To this non-process driven, somewhat scattered thinker, logistics and structure are something I avoided for far too long. Life, as it does, literally came trotting along and forced it upon me, decentralise and get organised or suffer a prolonged business death lead by pedestrian thinking and the inability to face my greatest fear, systems.

 In the middle of my personal evolution I found myself spontaneously purchasing 7 acres atop the grassy slopes of the Currumbin Valley. A far cry from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, which is relatively central to, well, everything. Perfect for my pony but not so much my coaching business, one built on personal interaction, hands-on service and a tight-knit team.

 The principle “build it and they will come” springs to mind. What a catalyst that proved to be. The first challenge, how to retain our signature personalized service and just as importantly, figure out how to stay connected and invested with my coaching team. I was to discover that the client solution simultaneously provided the coaching solution.

 Whether through solid hiring practices or luck, I happened to be surrounded by exceptional people whose core strengths, among others, are attention to detail and thoroughly organized thought; reining me in whenever I am distracted by something sparkly on the floor, a not infrequent occurrence. The exciting part of the business for me is the “where to next” and “why not do this”, or “my clients will love this”. Ideas stuff I suppose. That’s where organized thinkers come into their own, taking those scattered ideas and systemizing them.

 When you move to a regional centre, finding new ways to connect becomes a necessity. Getting over yourself as the font of all knowledge in your niche takes a little longer.

 What I thought was a super complex level of knowledge gathered over 20 years as a coach, could actually be trimmed up, slimmed down and slotted into a manual that someone without my 20 years of experience could follow with targeted training.

 I can recommend taking the time to build manuals, send them to the cloud and update with monotonous regularity.

 Building an international coaching business with an off-site team meant doing business 100% on-line.

 

More systems.

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I still find it tedious, but automation has become our saviour.

Whether it’s our on-line database, Infusionsoft, that manages sales funnels, newsletters and analytics or our automated calendar, Appointmentcore, where each coach can manage their own time and appointment planning, to Asana, who I have named “Peabody” as she sorts ideas and projects and doesn’t let me forget anything.

Here is why structure works so well. My colleagues and I work from our own homes wherever that may be.

We also coach via SKYPE with pilots located in over 15 countries.

Everyone to a core, is a self-motivated individual with a mature mindset who requires little if any managing, support yes, motivation no. I cannot tell you how important it has been to work with people who you trust, who care and who take responsibility for their own day-to-day projects.

Sounds as if I leave them to their own devices, and to a large degree I do. That’s the trust bit.

However, being located offsite doesn’t translate to being out of touch. With mundane daily procedures, or as we call then in aviation “SOP’s” (standard operating procedures), taken care of, when Team Pinstripe touch base it’s for much more interesting conversations.

A client with an unusual medical issue to mull over, or a fast jet pilot with a scintillating combat story to recount. Even a simple back patting SKYPE call because we smashed a super hectic coaching week.

One of my coaches has even nailed; let’s call them “Kirsty-isms”. Phrases my long-term clients have heard over and over again. Like “there was this one time…at band camp.”

People come first and when the systems are in place, it is much easier to live that principle. If you have hit a fatigue wall, fallen off your horse or have a sick child, they all come first.

Business, I have found, can usually wait.

Recently one of my coaches hurt herself. Ending up flat on her back for 2 weeks during what can only be described as an explosive influx of bookings, no exaggeration!

Everyone pitched in to cover her absence, why? Because we have all had those moments. That thinking applies to our clients as well. If they need an appointment after hours or call on the weekend we often take it. If their interview is 24 hours away and we are fully booked, we’ve been known to conduct an impromptu coaching session. Some help is better than nothing – right.

Care and effort are always repaid tenfold.

I could have rattled on about debriefs, centralized google folders, coaching manuals and weekly meetings, we have all of those. But that is not what ensures the Pinstripe team is motivated and fresh.

The systems are merely a means to an end. They allow us the freedom to be who we really are.

We are a group of motivated individuals who support each other whenever and wherever we can.

We are a group of people who care about each other and our clients and who strive to do the right thing.

We are a group of people with remarkably different skill sets who value each other’s different strengths and understand each other’s weaknesses.

Ultimately, we are a group of people who communicate.

We as a team, have systemized the small stuff, creating space to focus on the ‘people stuff’. My latent fear of systems was to our detriment. When life in the countryside forced me to embrace automation and procedure, it freed me, and ultimately my team, from the slavery of monotonous tasks. Supporting a smarter work life where we can focus on the most important thing in the world, people.

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Kirsty Ferguson

Founding Pinstripe Solutions in 2000 in response to the collapse of Ansett Airlines her Executive Coaching business has grown to specialize in Aviation, ADF and Emergency Services.

Her team of off-site coaches works worldwide in 15+ countries via an online business model.

She is a compelling writer and 2018 will see the launch of her first business book “The Albino Chameleon – Building The Story Of You”.

Kirsty is a monthly contributor to Australian Aviation Magazine and guest on podcast Go All In and Australian Aviation Radio.

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