Joshua Lyle: maintaining businesses for growth

Many say that achieving success is just the initial hurdle to overcome. The biggest obstacle is to maintain such momentum and steer it towards bigger successes. Such is Joshua Lyle’s challenge, Director of the Lylex Group, and he hopes to take it on by refining his products and improving his systems and business model. While he’s on it, he also ensures that he meets the property maintenance needs of his clients.


He looks back to the time when he started Lylex Services 18 years ago. “I started by myself with a vacuum cleaner, a mop in a bucket, and some tools. The reason why I went into this industry was that it was an easy area to start. We're able to start up with minimal overheads. So, the barrier to starting that business was quite low,” Joshua reasoned.

At quite an early age, Joshua already started to think about earning money. He recalled, “I think before I was ten years old, I was mowing people's lawns in my neighbourhood to get money so I could go and buy the magazines that I used to read. Generating money for own purpose was something that I've always done and always remember doing.”

It helped that his family and that of his wife have businesses as well. He was fortunate to be surrounded by people with enterprises that belong to different industries. Growing up around the family kitchen table where business is a usual topic of conversation, he found that everyone almost has the same kind of problems – staffing, cash flow and time management. Though Josh was not involved in the family businesses on a large scale, he picked up some knowledge that he was able to apply to his ventures.

Still, that did not spare him from the pains, the frustrations, the risks, and the stumbling blocks that come with the journey of becoming an entrepreneur. Throughout his journey, he has started a few businesses, sold some of those businesses, and grew the others to large-sized companies.

The first venture that he has ever put up was a distribution business importing products from Europe to sell to Australia within the snow industry, which is one of his interests. As he began to trod the entrepreneurial track, one of the things that scared him was that he might over promise and under deliver. There was stress as he anticipated his first order, worried about how to pay for his stocks and deliver to his customers.

In the early days, he did everything required of the business. He juggled the tasks needed in day-to-day business, such as marketing, operations, finance, and financial controlling. He also did work cover, logistics, and safety. “It sounds like there's so much. But if you take your eye off any of those items, things can turn negative quite fast, especially if your business is decent-sized,” he explained. By doing that, he learned the different aspects of his venture.

Cash flow was a constant issue. Sure, he had to worry about salaries and payroll. But he also believed that business owners should ensure they have enough to cover their needs. “You have to get the wage,” he pronounced. “Sometimes, that can be the difficult step for people who have great ideas and great people. But they can't take the risk and deal with the anxiety of potentially not having any money in their bank next week.”

It doesn’t help that the trade where he belongs can limit his chances of eliminating such anxieties. “Some of the industries where I've worked were quite disappointing the way they pay people, with the time frames they pay people. There is the risk that you have, as a contractor on these job sites, of not getting paid on time. You have to pay people's wages and materials on time, even though the client that you work for isn't paying you on time,” Joshua expressed. With that, he learned that managing payment and sales agreements with their clients are important to keep his business engine running.

Getting the right people on board is also crucial to the business, especially that his venture is heavy on service.  Per Joshua, “It’s finding the right people who are like-minded, with the same focus of delivering the service on a fair price at a fair time to the client, just as exactly the way as the values where we build our business. Finding those people to help us with our business is by far the biggest issue that we'll face again moving forward.”

With regards to people, the lowest among all the lows he experienced in his entrepreneurial cycle was letting go of 80 staff members. It was a heartbreaking stage he had to go through. In contrast, the highest of highs was landing one of his first major contracts. “When that happened, I remember it was literally during a break in our EO Melbourne forum. That turned the corner of our business five years ago,” he disclosed.

One of the things he began implementing was focusing on the financial control of his business. He acknowledged that finance was an area he struggled before. To address that, he got highly skilled people to deliver information and financial reports in ways that he could comprehend as a business owner. “No doubt having that focus on that side of the business has been critical to our growth,” he declared.

Another area that he found helpful in nurturing his business was having good relations with clients. “Put your clients and your staff before you put yourself. That's been a critical factor in making sure you're successful,” he voiced. Joshua is the kind of entrepreneur who has the desire to give anything a go. With his ‘I-can-do-it-I’m-willing-to-try-it’ attitude, he is always willing to say yes and work it out. “Sometimes it comes off, and sometimes it doesn't. But the majority of the time, I come up with a solution for my clients. They're happy with that.”

As we he went on his journey, he also reformed his business model. “Right now, my new business venture is a new structure with subcontractors only. That's the model that we're using from our financial control to our bookkeeping to our operations to our labour, which is currently just subcontractors. It's a different model than what we had in the past. It's a different dynamic for sure, so we're still learning,” he explained.

What brought him this far in his business is that he learned from his experiences and the people around him. A rich mine for business knowledge and resources is EO Melbourne, and he has been part of the organisation for seven years already. He professed, “The level of professionalism that is required to get your business to a reasonable size is something that I learned from EO, which I don't think I would have learned organically. Just from experiences from other EOers with regards to compliance with HR, legal obligations, obligations to contracting suppliers, locking in service agreements, protecting your product and IP, and all like all those things – there’s a large number of them that I learned from EO. I don't think I would have learnt that anywhere near the same amount of time that I have while I been in EO. And the size of our business from what we were when we started in EO is proof of that.”

Apart from EO Melbourne and family, there were also several people who helped and mentored him along the way. He realised that there are a lot of people who were willing to lend a hand by giving him his first projects and providing him with ongoing work.

With the support of people around him, he manages his time well and channels his efforts on things that he is passionate about namely, family, work, and an active lifestyle. His family takes the front seat in his priorities. “I've got two children - seven and five. Before that, I was happy to work all hours of the day, all hours of the night. But as soon as the children came, priorities changed. Then I put in place staff and management to take care of things so that I have time for my family. We allocate the end of the night, the start of the day, and the weekends as family time. So, we do enough time at work to make sure that we block those hours out, so we get to enjoy time with the family,” he stated.

The family is also an anchor that allows him to sail through the difficulties of the journey. Joshua stresses the significance of having a rock in the family. “Someone like your wife or mom or dad. Someone who supports you is critical. If they can ride the ups and downs with you without causing too many problems, then that gives you the flexibility to take the risks and follow your dreams,” he articulated.

Driven by his passion, Joshua views the rest of his entrepreneurial journey with a hopeful demeanour. The changes in his business and the staff enable him to refocus on things he wants to do in the future. He shares, “I'm working with a whole bunch of like-minded people in the space of innovation and efficiencies in the construction industry. We're doing work with academics, universities, industry bodies, etc. It's quite a big change in direction, but I'm passionate and focused on it. That's where I want to take the business. In the next five years, we want to revolutionise some of the ways that the construction industry currently work in Australia.”

Joshua may be heavily involved in his businesses at the moment. But with the cycle of growth, he plans to lessen it over time so he can focus on other things.  “In the next five years, my role in the day-to-day hands-on work will reduce. I will then work on strategy and finding people to invest and manage money and innovate new products. That's not possible if I’m going to focus on the business 100% of my time, I'll miss those opportunities,” he declared.

It’s inevitable that he will start a new business, which will give him the opportunity to carry his experiences and learnings from his other businesses to the new one. This time, he knows what he will bring to the table. People, structures and systems may be his pillars that will support his venture, but the good qualities of an entrepreneur will always be the formidable foundation that will keep it stand strong. “You have to be disciplined and focused. You have to be willing to take the good with the bad. You have to understand the uncertainty that comes with being an entrepreneur as in you don't have the luxury of getting away from a boss every single week. You are the boss now,” he opined.

Indeed, he is the man-in-charge. With these qualities and learnings, Joshua is committed to serve his clients, maintain the momentum in his businesses, and achieve the growth he yearns to make it bigger and better than ever. Just like how he does it for his clients’ properties.

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