Four members of my team were recently interviewed and asked four questions about their experience of working with me. I did consider carefully whether to include their answers here. On some level it felt like potentially blowing my own trumpet too much, because I was overwhelmed when I read their answers; so humbled and flattered by their positive comments. I also considered combining them into a short paragraph, giving an overview of what they said, but they generously gave their time to this exercise and so I decided to reproduce their answers – more or less verbatim – here.
The four questions were:
Ying is very sharp and has a keen eye for detail. Very little escapes his notice (in any matter!). He has a resilience and a self-belief that has carried himself and his team from the brink of collapse during the financial crisis to an ever-heightening zenith. His belief in his team and the company vision has endured, and consequently it is difficult to do anything other than trust his judgement and leadership. He commands respect without effort, is good humoured and has a talent for putting people at ease. Whilst firm, and fiercely demanding, Ying strikes a balance between authority and inspiration that is difficult to replicate. He inspires the best in his team, through his words and his actions. He is a brilliant orator and public speaker; he'll stand up and captivate a room. Above all, Ying is a man of his word. He will never commit to anything that he will not honour; and he instils a similar mentality and loyalty amongst his team. I am loyal to Ying for many reasons, but I also know that he is loyal to me. No one makes the right decisions all the time, but Ying has a knack of getting it right when it matters most.
I have enjoyed so much! The reality is that work is work – and it is difficult to truly love honest toil. Yet I have found myself enjoying my work here, leagues more than anywhere else I have worked. There is a togetherness here amongst the team (particularly the old hands) that really has become tradition. My job is not inherently exciting (although in fairness I enjoy a varied, challenging and progressive role), and yet I have a pervasive and prevailing sense of belonging. Every hour I spend and every little victory I win is another step towards our collective goals. When I first joined the company there were 35 of us, now there are nearly 200. My efforts – and the efforts of others – have built something truly special and it is something you find yourself wanting to protect and nurture. I, like many others, feel a real part of the success of the whole team, and you can't buy that. I work hard not only for myself, but for all of my colleagues who depend on me as much as I depend on them. The job is hard, but it is full of purpose.
Many challenges. I guess you don't grow from 35 to 195 people in three years without a large team of very capable individuals working extremely hard and with a high degree of cohesion! In three years, we've more than quadrupled in size, moved offices twice, expanded in a contracting marketplace, survived damaging legislation, secured FTSE 250 investment, diversified into multiple new revenue streams, rebranded as a business and more.
Ying has chosen the right people to lead alongside him. Not only has he led us with distinction, but he has also developed true leaders as well, several of which didn't walk into the role with prior credentials. He's got a real passion for grassroots and he'll take the right people and turn them into world-beaters, he's done it time and time again in all echelons of the business. For me, Ying has inspired me to believe in myself, and inspired me to fight for my colleagues. He's inspired the people who in turn inspired me. Penny has had the most pronounced impact on me of all those who I aspire to emulate within the team. Penny started at the business in one of the most junior roles and yet has thrived and grown to become the foremost of the distinguished and respected leaders in the whole company, entirely on her own merits. Ying would never credit himself with Penny's successes, yet he has a knack of taking the right people and putting them on the right path. He's entrusted me with some huge, scary responsibilities over the last few years. I've been lucky to be at the forefront of many of our largest changes and if I look back, I'd never have seen myself doing these things at only 27. I'm proud of who I've started to become, and he is probably the biggest reason why.
One moment that stood out for me was when Ying stood up and delivered an unwavering performance of leadership and composure at our Christmas Awards Ceremony (the biggest event in our calendar) to celebrate and champion the hard work we'd all put into the year. An onlooker would barely have seen that he was carrying the grief of his beloved mother's death from less than 48 hours before: his courage was absolutely indescribable. It was the ultimate defiance to an ordeal that he endured for months prior, flying his mother from the other side of the world by private air-ambulance so he could care for her in her final hours. It encapsulated his leadership and yet also his motivation. Ying is a man who fights for his family, for the love of his parents, his wife and his children.
There are many qualities that Ying has that make him the leader and boss he is. Firstly, his passion in what he does; I've never worked alongside someone that has such energy and dedication in building a business. He has a vision on where he plans to go and in all the years I've worked for him, he has delivered on every commitment that he's made. As an employee this builds trust in your employer that they will stand by their word and if I give the same commitment to him, he will make sure that he stays true to his words and agreements to me. This passion Ying holds is infectious and in my time here, I have built the same drive and passion for my role, which makes me enjoy the job that I do. To come to work every day isn't a chore. When I wake up each day, I look forward to coming to the office to work hard. Ying is also extremely inspiring as a boss; he helps me see where we plan to take the company and what my future with the business could look like. His motivation to work hard, stay focused and drive my business is now ingrained in me and I'm a different mortgage broker – and person – since I've started working for Ying.
There have been so many achievements and memories in my time with Ying. My biggest enjoyment is being part of a business that has grown so much in the last seven years. When I started there were 15 employees in the company, 6 of whom were brokers. We're now a company of 195 staff and over 50 brokers, which goes to show the development we've made; I feel a part of this business and Ying ensures that every employee has that same feeling. Since I've joined, I've had many successes within my role, which wouldn't have been possible without Ying. I personally won an industry award in 2016, which was supported and championed by Ying. This made me feel valued and recognized for my hard work and I enjoy the feeling of being successful, and being a part of such an amazing company.
My biggest challenge was the early stages of my career with Ying. I left a job not knowing what was in front of me, or what the potential was, which was scary. There were many nights when I was the last in the office and Ying would be leaving for the day, but before he left he'd sit down and tell me his vision, what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. I valued this time because it spurred me on to keep working. I had to make sacrifices but, as time went on, I started to see the rewards for my hard work. As my career continued, I was promoted to a manager. This was a big step for me because I never had any aspirations to move into such a role. However, Ying had the belief in me and spent one-on-one time to coach and develop me. This development continues to this day and I still have those conversations and pep talks with Ying because, as I've learnt, you're never the finished article and can always strive to learn and develop further.
This question is easy to answer: my future is with Ying and the business! I've built a rewarding career with an employer and business I enjoy being with and part of. And I feel valued within the company. I want to continue on this journey, to build my professional career and enjoy the success and achievements that come with it. I know that with continued hard work, there are other potential options for promotion in the future when the time is right. As a business, our plan is to be one of the biggest names in the mortgage market and to play a part in achieving that is exciting. I have the utmost respect for and loyalty to Ying and this company. His door is always open for anything I need, professionally and personally, and I know that all Ying wants is for every employee to have the same successes he has.
I think, for me, the main qualities that make Ying a good boss and a leader are his passion, humbleness and respect for everyone. The reason I believe this is simply because he loves the business. He has a great passion for the industry. Everyone who works here wants to reflect Ying. We all want to give every task our best in order to ensure each and every one of our customers receives the best service we know we can deliver. We all want to do Ying proud. The main quality that makes Ying a great boss is how humble he is, and the respect he has for every colleague. Usually the more corporate the company, the less likely you are to see or hear from your CEO. But as we have grown, especially in the recent couple of years, Ying hasn't changed at all and nor has our company ethos. He is always in the office and his door is always open, no matter who you are. The time he has for everyone is something you don't always get with other corporate companies. The fact you can walk in and say hello or have a conversation about something that's been on your mind is so welcoming. This also shows when Ying is recruiting, because it doesn't matter what job you had previously, if you have the right attributes and desire then you have a chance of being hired. This is amazing because it gives everyone a chance. Some people may be looking for a breakthrough or just that one change in their career and that's what he has done for so many people. Personally, I came straight from school to do an apprenticeship. I spent a good couple of months looking for positions and going to interviews, however I always got the same answer: “Come back when you've got A levels.” This was a bit frustrating because I wanted to do an apprenticeship instead of going to college. Ying gave me the opportunity I needed, and I have never looked back since.
Due to my apprenticeship, I actually started off as a case handler. When I was given the chance to join Ying's team, I grabbed it with both hands. I think what I have enjoyed most about working in Ying's team is the variety, and the experience I am gaining. Each and every day is different. We all have our specific roles but not every day pans out the same. Sometimes we could have a higher amount of calls and emails than usual, or even more meetings than we were expecting. Or you might be given a task with a very tight deadline that needs to be prioritized. We just never know exactly how our days are going to pan out. Regardless, I think this makes our role very exciting. Being in Ying's team means we cover most aspects on running a company and this gives me a great insight into how it all works. For me, I wanted to go straight into work, and to start building a career and gain as much experience as I can. Working in Ying's team is helping me achieve this. Learning all the different departments, people's roles and having an insight into accounts, office management and all the other different areas, is great.
I believe any challenges that we may have faced we have always overcome as a team. I feel almost as if there are not specific challenges but targets that we have been set, to push ourselves above and beyond. It could be something small like having a tight deadline on a project that I need a colleague to assist me with so we can get done in time. Or it could be something huge like our office move. That, for me, was a huge challenge that we overcame. We had to move everything from our old office on the third floor in one building, down the stairs and across the road and 350 yards to our new office. For me that shows teamwork. Everyone worked together quickly and efficiently to ensure we moved across in just one day. No van hire either so all transport was offered from colleagues. The team spirit everyone showed during this move really reflects the company. But that's just during working hours. We also sign up for challenges to raise money for our chosen charity. There have been many but, for me, the biggest challenge we did was the Three Peaks Challenge. A large group of us completed this within the time allocated, which was 24 hours. The determination everyone showed in getting up and down the mountains was incredible. Along the whole journey everyone had each other's backs, making sure we all pushed ourselves to the limit. It was very tough, mentally, but the power of our colleagues' words pushed everyone on no matter how tired you were or how much you just wanted to stop. Everyone kept going and that shows power. That shows just how much having Ying as a boss has rubbed off on everyone. It shows that it doesn't even have to be during work hours. We are a team. I would even go so far as calling us a family. We will always look out for each other and everyone wants the best for one another. That is all down to the passion that Ying shows, and the effect he gives. We all want to work for him, no matter how big the challenge is or how long it will take to complete it; we will always do our best to overcome it together with laughter along the way.
Honestly, I do look into the future and outline my goals, but I don't look at it too much. I would like to see myself go into management because I look up to my superiors and would like to get to where they are. Ying has been amazing in helping me develop. Along with Penny and my manager they have all helped me learn new skills and develop my existing ones. When I first moved to Ying's team, I started off in a role that I soon started to grow out of because there weren't many other areas that I could learn and develop. So, Ying took the decision to move me into a more varied role where I could learn many more different skills. This could help me move into management because learning as many tasks as I can within the team he wants to move me to will enable me to have loads of experience and cover everyone's job. I do look up to my superiors because they all started where I have and I feel as if I am following in their footsteps, slowly but surely. So, the reason I don't look into the future too much is almost because I don't need to. I trust Ying and his leadership skills. All I can do is give one hundred percent and have my say in what areas I would like to move forward in. But it only takes a couple of examples to see how well everyone else has done and how far they have come in such little time. I know Ying has a plan and I know sometimes I will be used in areas for my strong points and other times I will be used in areas to help develop me. But at the end of the day, I know where I want to head and I know I will get there because day by day, the more I learn, the more I am preparing myself. With Ying as my boss I know I can eventually get where I would like to be.
There are many attributes that make Ying the great leader he is. One that really sticks out for me is that he is a man of his word. If he says he is going to do something, he will do it. On the very rare chance he can't, he will always give plenty of warning and sit down face to face to have that conversation. He is also honest and transparent. As employees, we always know the direction of the business, what is expected of us, and how we're going to achieve it. This, without doubt, breeds loyalty. As a father, he understands the importance of family and supports his members who are parents in the many different aspects of parenthood, be it sickness, sports day, Christmas plays, etc. This support is untold and something that we, as parents, wholly appreciate. When people ask me what it's like to work with Ying, I'll always say he's a fair man. Whilst he is a businessman, of course, he also understands the trials and tribulations of what it can be like to get something over the line… or not. If you're open and honest with him, he will understand what happened and ensure it doesn't happen again.
There are many things I've enjoyed about being part of Ying's team. Firstly, it's how much the business has achieved and how we all feel a part of those achievements. When the credit crunch hit and we downsized to five members of staff, it was an incredibly worrying time. Ying's vision, and his ability to make tough decisions, really gave the business the catalyst to be where it is now and being part of that journey, and seeing that vision become a reality, remains incredibly exciting. Also, the responsibility I was given at a young age, and the belief that he had in me in carrying out those tasks, helped me grow. The progression that I've been able to achieve in my career I don't think I would have been able to achieve elsewhere. There is a down-to-earth side of Ying that some people may not expect to see in an entrepreneur, but he really is human! He's a true hands-on businessman who has done every single role in the business so can really speak from experience and how he leads the team in that vein. And of course, it goes without saying, the absolutely amazing Christmas bash we have each year, as a reward for the hard work that we put in throughout the course of the year.
Of course there have been challenges in the business and none greater than the year we downsized and moved offices, to Camberley, due to the financial crisis. That was a scary time and the unknown was daunting. I guess with being only one of four staff members, the transparency Ying had with us really gave us a great insight into the business, but also further cemented why he runs a business. He is a true leader in so many ways.
It's funny you ask this, as I had this conversation with my mum the other day and she was asking me what my long-term plan is, as I've been here for so long! My long-term plan is to continue working for Ying. He has given me the opportunity to realize some of my own dreams that I set myself at 18. I don't think there is anyone else (outside of my parents, husband and kids) who has had as big an impact on my life as he has. He's rounded me as an individual and helped me progress in so many ways that most employers wouldn't have given the time for, and I will always be eternally grateful for this.