Managing Director of Lawrence & Wedlock Ltd, Daniel Lawrence, talks to The Industry Leaders about his life as a small business owner and explains how he built a thriving company in the automation service industry.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
When I was at school, I only ever wanted to be a carpenter - a real craftsman who could turn basic elements into something functional and beautiful. However, that didn't work out, and I found myself at college learning accountancy of all things - another form of alchemy, you might say!
That eventually led me to London and the start of a career that took me around the world, including moving to Ireland for 12 years. Eventually, though, I returned to Blighty to start my own business and this remains my desire, drive, and passion to this day.
What kind of work does your role involve?
As a small business owner, I've probably done it all: marketing and sales, finance and accounts, technology, business development, human resources, sourcing and procurement, company secretary, tea-maker, and general dogsbody!
Thankfully, though, we've developed and grown; we've hired some incredible people. So now my role is to provide and communicate the vision with energy and determination. This will enable us to thrive, and, hopefully, provide just enough motivation for everyone to be inspired to deliver our goals.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The relentless change and non-stop opportunity that the world - and business world - constantly feeds us, plus the breadth and depth of different people and businesses that I get the pleasure to work with and serve. It really is an inspiring but very challenging place to live - boredom is not an option, or you're simply not looking hard enough!
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Not so much advice, but the CFO of the first company I worked for always asked: what's the "scope" and "how do we measure success?". This is something that has stuck with me ever since, and I guess appeals to the rational planner side of my personality.
Also, my dad used to say, "you're either on time or late; there’s no such thing as early", which I love and embody every day.
What's the best way to support aspiring leaders in your field?
I suppose just by example. I love engaging with everyone in my company to understand what they like, love, hate, fear and, alternatively, what inspires them. I like to deliver a weekly pulse update to share our/their successes, the obstacles we face and my view of the wider industry and world too - and their impact on it.
I encourage everyone to develop and never neglect their softer skills. I believe these can take you further than the technical ones and make you a more rounded, self-adjusted individual.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
That's a job in and of itself. I read a lot of books, and have about six to eight on the go at a time. I read articles every day on my industry online and on social media; and I write a lot of articles, papers, blogs, ebooks, etc. to share with contacts, prospects, customers and employees.
You can't ever stand still in our industry because, by the time you've read about it, it's already tomorrow’s fish and chip paper (that might show my age!).
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
There have been many, with many more to come, I'm sure, but I feel the biggest challenge so far was the last big economic downturn: a global depression. Everyone was struggling everywhere, and nobody was spending money, just trying to survive. So we had to be honest and open with everyone in the company: explain the risks and concerns, what our future actions might need to be, and the best and worst-case scenarios.
Everyone understood what could happen but also what I was prepared to do, and we got through it. COVID seemed like a walk in the park in comparison.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Simple: family and close friends would receive a windfall, and then, if my wife agrees, the rest goes into the business to fund our next phase of growth and expansion. There's no point in me retiring as I wouldn't know what to do with my time, and I'd only drive my poor wife mad - a happy wife is a happy life!
What do you see as the key ingredients for failure?
Not empowering and entrusting others is pretty high up there. I like to give others the power to learn, grow and make mistakes - fail fast, learn fast. I always keep in mind that ten people can fail and learn faster than one, with the benefit of a shared learning experience.
A major point of failure I see everywhere, especially in smaller businesses, is people trying to do too much, spreading themselves too thinly - and I'm as guilty as the next at times.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
It would be nice for the value of providers like us to be recognised, or given more credit than we are within the industry. But, other than this, the biggest challenge we face is getting broader recognition and understanding from the wider public. However, I believe that will come in time.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I personally love anything from John Le Carre for escapism and Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay for fun satire.
How should people connect with you?
Any way they prefer, really - I'm traditional and analogue in many ways, but not so traditional to avoid any connection methods - voice, face, text, chat, it's all good with me.
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