Gloucestershire business lessons: Why communication is key to running a successful business

In the first of a new series of our Gloucestershire business lessons, in partnership with Nimble Elearning, SoGlos speaks to Matt Cleevely of Cleevely Motors and Cleevely EV about the steep learning curve of management, a Quolux course and why communication is key.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Matt and Claire Cleevely celebrate Cleevely Motors and Cleevely EV winning Micro Business of the Year at the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards 2022.

Cleevely Motors was already a success story before Matt Cleevely took the reigns of the business founded by his grandfather in 1962, but under his leadership – and with the addition of electric vehicle-focused Cleevely EV – a new era began.

Like many who work their way up from the shop floor due to their expertise, in his case fixing cars, Cleevely suddenly found himself facing a whole new set of challenges when he stepped into business ownership and management.

But together with wife and business partner Claire, the couple have met those challenges head on, grown the family business and its profile and at the end of last year walked away with Micro Business of the Year at the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards 2022.

Cleevely said: ‘As with many independent business owners I had a skill, which I monetised and made my career. As my business grew I found myself responsible for staff, growing operating costs and higher workload demands.

‘This caused a lot of stress on me, as I found myself lacking in the required skills to run a growing business. I hadn’t trained in business management; I had trained in fixing cars.

‘In 2021 I enrolled in a business leadership training course with Quolux. It helped me understand how larger companies operate – and how to tackle the business of running a business.

‘This one step gave me a newfound confidence, understanding and motivation to operate my company in a more efficient and productive way, plus eased (most) of the stress I was feeling. I recommend any business owner to train on their weaknesses and make them your strengths.’

Despite all the new skills he has acquired, there's still one piece of self-learned advice that remains his touchstone.

‘My mantra is a simple one, but if not followed can have terrible effects on a business, and I have witnessed and experienced examples of it throughout my career: communication is key,' said Cleevely, whose business is now one of the sponsors of the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards 2023.

‘Whether that is between the business and the customer; business and suppliers; or within the staff of the business, good communication is a fantastic tool for success.

‘Bad communication leads to failed promises, errors, loss of confidence, poor reputation and incorrect expectations. If a customer has a good experience they will recommend you to a couple of people who might ask them for a recommendation.

‘If there has been a bad experience they will openly complain to anyone that will listen. If you can ensure good communication all round, then all elements of life become easier to manage in my experience.’

Personal development is ‘vitally important’ to the business, but there's also the day job that remains the number one priority.

‘We believe that continuing professional development (CPD) is vitally important within a business, especially one like ours that is providing a service that is market-leading.

‘I would love to say that our staff have one afternoon off a week to do some in-house CPD, but we are too busy for that to happen!

‘What we do try to ensure is that if a repair, or testing method, is carried out and proved successful, then everyone is shown or told about it, so there is that new learning throughout the whole team.

‘Equally if we have a misdiagnosis, or get something wrong (we are only human after all) then we analyse the event and make sure we learn from it. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

‘The most important factor is that the whole team have ‘buy-in’ of that thought process, the desire to help everyone improve and to support the business and the rest of the team.’

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