The Lessons I learned from being taken out of my business for six months because of a motorcycle crash.
In August 2014, I was enjoying a racecraft day at Barbagallo Raceway in Wanneroo WA. Racecraft days are for riders who want to try new bikes and for people to come and have a go at racing. I was there to experience racing on a Formula 2 sidecar, something I had been wanting to do for some time.
I was an experience sidecar passenger
I had been racing in the post classic division for years with my dad as his passenger. But he had recently retired due to illness and I was not ready to give up my love of sidecar racing. I went that day to have a go at a new experience and maybe find a someone to team up with.
I was offered a ride on a sidecar with a guy I knew from my club, so felt OK about it. We went out for our first couple of laps and I really enjoyed it, in fact, it was so thrilling I couldn’t wait to go out again. Before going back out, we discussed how we went the first time and decided that we would keep that pace. The dynamics of this type of bike was completely different to what I had ridden before and I didn’t want to make any mistakes, plus the speed was way faster than the post classic I was used too.
I was happy with our arrangement and we suited up to go out for our second ride, as we went to leave the pits a friend of the riders turned up. Now, I am a pretty perceptive woman and I definitely felt a change in the persona of my rider, who turned to me and said 'all right let’s go out and spin it up', meaning to show off to his mate. I don’t know what it was but before we even rode off I knew this was not going to go well.
On the first lap, I felt really comfortable and had started to settle into the rhythm of the bike, sorted out where the handles were and the speed. As we came down the start finish line in front of the pit area we entered turn one way too fast, and he overcooked the corner. The bike went sideways, at first I thought it was going to roll, then he managed to control it, 'phew', I thought that was lucky, then I looked up and there was a concrete barrier in front of us and we hit it at high speed.
I was out of action for six months
I ended up in an ambulance with a broken femur, I had immediate surgery, the surgeons had to insert steel nails, screws and blades to put my leg back together. I was out of action for six months and in that time my business was run into the ground.
I had micromanaged my business, a Big Mistake!
After my experience of breaking my leg and spending six months out of action, I have come to realise that what let my business down was not systems or technology, because we had all that in place. It was the fact that the business had been so micromanaged by me that no one else knew what to do. Even my key person who had been by my side for seven years had no idea what to do.
We had lost key personnel a few months prior to my crash who needed to be replaced. What happened instead was because the team had not been empowered by me to take control, they ended up just shuffling seats. We had people from sales and accounts doing debt collection. This meant no one was doing sales or accounts and worse, the debt collection was not being done efficiently.
My problem was that I expected my key person to do what I would do. When this didn’t happen they became resentful because they were unable to cope with what was going on. This started a game of power play in the office and eventually my key person left the organisation.
Because I had failed to empower my team we lost a great deal of money.
The mistake I made by micromanaging the business was, focusing on the money coming in and not the team. I actually had people in the wrong seats, which I knew and didn’t do anything about. I thought my key person was skilled enough to know what to do, but they lacked the self-confidence to pull everyone together and set a plan.
The other problem I had was, I did not have enough personnel or revenue to cover such a crisis. We were in too much of a comfortable place, we had enough money coming in to have the freedom we wanted and things were tickety-boo. Had there not been the crisis which took me out, we would still be humming along as we were.
A big crisis, in all the years we had been in business we had never not paid ourselves our weekly amount.
There came a point where I almost closed everything down. If it wasn’t for our personal savings this would most definitely have been the case. The business was not turning over enough money to pay me and Lindsey and only just covered the cost of running it.
In all the years I have been in this business we had not gone one week without a paying ourselves. This was devastating. The reason this happened was simply because we were understaffed and staff had were filling gaps and doing jobs they were not capable of doing.
I was down but not out
Now is the time to look back at what happened and make sure I have a team that is empowered to make decisions in a crisis. I have a great sense of responsibility to the people who work in my organisation and would never want to let them down again. This crisis has really been a blessing, as now I can look at it from a different perspective, not from the perspective of losing, but one of learning. I had been down but not out.
My intention is to build a team who can function with or without me and if another team member falls over, as long as we are working as a team we can survive anything. The mistake I made previous to the crisis was to encourage individualism and not team. I now have my people in the rights seats, working on projects they are good at, for the better of everyone in the organisation.