Following up my post on Des, here’s how he builds builders:
Des’s first workers came through his ministry to young men in his local church. He hung out with them. He took them away on 4 Wheel Driving trips into the bush and the desert. (The photo above is of Des—back to the camera up the back—hard at work growing leaders). Some came from established and stable church families, others from troubled backgrounds.
As Des developed a reputation for turning boys into men people began sending others to him. Pastors, parents, other builders, even his own kids would recommend young men looking for work and for direction. After a while Des didn’t need to go recruit. They came to him.
Before he hires anyone, Des prays and asks God if he should take them on. If the answer was ‘yes’, he employs him for 2-3 months as a causal labourer. Then he watches. His supervisors watch. The other workers watch. Is the new guy willing to learn? Does he embrace the values of honesty, integrity, fun, and relationships?
Des has created a culture. Most new workers mature quickly just through being in an environment where they are valued and respected them and where there are high expectations. Des has no problem taking on ‘rough diamonds’ he is confident they will mature quickly in this hothouse environment.
After 2-3 months he knows if someone will make it.
Once a worker has proved himself Des takes them on as an apprentice and the real learning begins. He sets standards that are higher than what the government expects. He’ll send an apprentice off for two months to work free for another carpenter, say in framing. Des will pay that apprentice’s wages, because the carpenter is the best in the business and he wants his apprentice to learn from best.
Once an apprentice if finished his training he can stay on with Des and work as a qualified carpenter. He then becomes eligible to become a supervisor.
Des has seven supervisors. He meets with them regularly and shares everything about the business with them. When a difficulty arises he draws them into the process of resolving it. They experience first hand how much he values honesty, even when you have to pay a price for it.
Supervisors begin quoting on, and running, smaller jobs and graduate to larger ones of up to $3 million. As much as possible, Des stays in the background and helps his supervisors grow through the challenge.
His stated goal is that 50% of his carpenters will become supervisors and go on to become builders who run their own businesses.
Doesn’t sound like good business sense to be aiming to turn half your qualified workforce into future competitors. Until you ask Des how business is going.
Last financial year they increased turnover from about $4.9 million to $8.9 million. His clients are happy, his workers love him, and the business is healthy. The truly great business leaders don’t pursue profits, they pursue their mission profitably.
Des’s mission is to grow young men. Des lives by the belief that if he fulfils his mission, God will look after the business.
In ten years time Des is planning to get out of the building trade and spend the rest of his life in the background encouraging the men he has grown.
Des Nixon is a movement leader. He knows the principles and practices better than most church leaders I know.
It’s not complicated. All you need is a heart to grow leaders and a simple plan of action. If Des can do it, so can you.