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Leadership – Taking Ownership

Matthew DeFrancesco

Good leaders hold themselves accountable for failure. Most of the time, there’s a combination of events that will ultimately lead to a strategic plan, or even company failing.

At the end of the day, a TEAM either succeeds together or fails together. A good leader will attribute success to their teammates/subordinates, but will only blame themselves, as the leader, when their team fails!

Matthew DeFrancesco | C.O.O. with Basalt World Corp - Co-Founder of Quebec City Cannabis
Matthew DeFrancesco
C.O.O. with Basalt World Corp – Co-Founder of Quebec City Cannabis

A good leader doesn’t blame others for shortcomings. They re-analyze their situation, learn from their mistakes, and figure out what could be done differently next time, in order for their team to achieve success. Some people cannot grasp the fact that when you are in a leadership role, you are working FOR your employees. It’s your job to lead them to victory, and to give them the tools they need to succeed.

In the past, I worked with two partners that ran a manufacturing company together. As I worked with them closely, I started to notice that they would constantly blame everybody but themselves for their failure/current situation. When I was brought in to help, the company was at rock bottom. The founding partners would bad mouth almost every employee that ever worked for them or any group that they’ve ever done business with. Huge deals fell apart for them one after another, and they were in numerous lawsuits with different organizations. As I started to dig into their situation, I noticed one common theme, their communication skills were extremely weak! Their lack of communication lead to multiple contract breaches, which eventually lead to lawsuits. It was also the main reason for them not having success with their current or past employees, and ultimately, why they weren’t having success with their company. Here are some of those common excuses:

  • We made deals with partners who couldn’t execute;
  • Our manufacturing partners will never understand how this industry works;
  • Our employees on the shop floor don’t know what they’re doing;
  • I never saw that email;
  • Why are we paying employees that don’t know how to efficiently and effectively manufacture our products.

When I started to hear excuse after excuse, I sat down to analyze the situation and started to notice the common pattern of miscommunication. Employees didn’t know what they were doing because they had no real direction. This company didn’t even have a set of standard operating procedures. Employees were never properly trained; this is one of the only companies I’ve ever worked with that didn’t have a “new hire” training program in place! There were no employee manuals, no educational materials on the machinery used or the actual manufacturing process, there were no internal company documents! More importantly, there were no two week outlooks for the management teams and there were goals in place for the team to work towards. Simply put, there was no communication, period! Each employee was trained differently, depending on what the owner felt like covering on that particular day, the entire company was being ran on the fly. Deals fell apart for the same reason employees couldn’t succeed within this work environment. Emails went unanswered for weeks at a time, questions were never asked and serious issues were never addressed when brought up to management. This company was going nowhere fast, all because the founders refused to take OWNERSHIP over their actions and change their ways moving forward. Instead, they operated as usual, blaming everybody else for their predicament.

They refused to look at themselves and at their own behavior, unwilling to change their ways and accept their part in the failure of the company. A few months went by as I observed and nothing changed. Employees made their way through the revolving door, sales fell through and manufacturing deals fell apart. Things didn’t start to turn around until leadership methods changed. I was officially hired as interim CEO, and COO for the company. SOP’s were created and implemented, employees with management roles were held accountable for their actions and individuals team members were no longer blamed for the company’s failures. Most importantly, we implemented a new method of communication, and accountability started at the top!

At the end of the day, a leader is responsible for their team and needs to hold themselves accountable in order to succeed. It’s about looking in the mirror and saying, what could I do better, or differently in order to ensure a successful outcome for my team. Are sales low because my sales team doesn’t know enough about the product they’re selling? Are expenses to high because my employees aren’t properly trained? Always look at yourself and at what you’re doing as a leader, before blaming your team. This isn’t just a good practice to ensure success, it’s a great way to get your team to respect and ultimately follow you. One of my favorite quotes from a Navy Seal Officer is “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders”. With a simple change of leadership, this company was able to do a complete 360.

This company that I reference throughout my article works with innovative technologies to manufacture non-corrosive composite rebar, made from naturally occurring, self-sustainable Basalt rock. As I pointed out earlier, the reason their company was failing wasn’t because they were selling a bad product. In fact, I truly believe that Basalt is the future of the concrete reinforcement industry. In 2019, I was able to establish relationships within the Ketchikan Public Works Department, persuading them to use our products in an Alaskan DOT roadway project. I also supplied materials to Double P Construction, for the Anglin’s Pier repair project, at Lauderdale by the Sea (repair/replacement of 55 concrete pilings, Ft Lauderdale, FL). The company was failing because these two founding partners refused to take accountability for their actions as leaders. After over a year of working with this group I made the tough decision to branch away and start my own company, Basalt New England. A lot of this had to do with our different views on leadership and how the company should run. Over the past few months, I’ve been working diligently to put together an investment team capable of funding a project to bring the first operational, continuous basalt fiber production facility to the United States of America.

One of the biggest challenges for the basalt industry that I faced while working with this other company, is that all fiber production happens in foreign countries, such as China! The industry has been strongly impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak, disrupting supply chains and bringing business to a halt. This was a huge motivating factor in me branching off on my own and is largely why I’m looking to bring the manufacturing facilities here to the U.S.A., where they could be utilized by industries other than construction, and where we can have control over our own supplies! In order to effectively and efficiently produce basalt reinforcement products here in the United States, we need to be able to ensure that we could control the flow of raw materials!

Companies: Basalt New England

Countries: USA

Persons: Matthew DeFrancesco

Terms: Leaders, Leadership, Ownership

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