Interview with Robby Smith – General Manager of Stevenson & Taylor Ltd
Tucked in the sunny Hawkes Bay on New Zealand’s east coast, Stevenson and Taylor is a 65-year-old tractor and small
motor dealership with a large engineering department, a comprehensive parts shop and a specialist workshop.
The company boasts 41 staff ranging from salespeople, mechanics, parts procurers and engineers. It believes in “growing your
own” experts, rather than relying on the jobs market to find good staff. As such, it has about nine engineering apprentices learning their trade at any time.
Those who finish their apprenticeship tend to stay with the company for an average of 15 years. Robby Smith is one of those veterans.
He honed his skills in the workshop and when the position of general manager came up a few years ago, he gladly accepted the challenge. “That’s when I realised I was now in the deep end of my skill level,” says Robby. Thankfully, the universe heard his plight and a call from TAB facilitator and coach Wayne Baird offered precisely the help Robby was looking for.
Wayne approached me with the idea of doing StratPro with my head of department and strategic leadership team. The buy-in from my whole team was unreal. We’re still using it now, and we love it,” says Robby.
A few months into using StratPro, New Zealand went into nationwide Covid-19 lockdown and Robby couldn’t enter the office for five weeks. But his strategic leadership team immediately took control of the business and ran it remotely.
“We thought we were good at leadership before. But it’s not until you do something like StratPro that you realise you can be a whole lot better. I now have full confidence I can go away and the business will carry on,” he says.
The leadership team did struggle with StratPro at first, Robby recalls. But the lightbulb moment came when the team saw how to translate the company’s strategic goals and values to the operational level. “Once we did that, everyone understood what we were doing with this program.”
Robby is an engineer by trade and by mindset. Like every good engineer, every time he sees a problem, he immediately looks for solutions. Yet when he assumed the role of general manager, Robby often found himself working 14-hour days and on the weekends. StratPro helped show him that he didn’t have to do everything.
This is the biggest mistake any young manager can do. StratPro woke me up to the reality that I could delegate tasks to my team, who would then delegate to their teams to get the job done.
“The biggest barrier for getting over this mindset was psychological, not procedural. I’ve been in this business for 21 years, so it was really hard handing those reigns over to someone else,” he says.
And it wasn’t just the strategic leadership team that benefitted from the program. The engineering and shop floor staff appreciated the creation of clear company values and a defined strategic goal.
“We had a good culture to start with, which made things a whole lot easier. But the staff today certainly enjoy having leadership which is governed correctly and has a strategy. The result is we have the best team doing the best work possible,” Robby says. He highly recommends StratPro for any medium-sized company.
You don’t have to do the university of StratPro. The best strategy is to use it as a tool to fit the unique needs of your business and people. But the simple fact is: you can’t do it soon enough.”