Interview: auto entrepreneur Kamran Saleem on work/life balance and pivoting in the pandemic

The MD of Solihull company Motoserv UK on flexible working and more.

kamran saleem

 

Kamran Saleem is an automotive expert with 15 years in the industry. After studying Business Management at Aston University, he established the automotive sales and servicing brand Motoserv UK seven years ago. We asked him about his own life as a working dad, how he deals with parents in business and how he helped the U.K.’s pandemic effort.

What made you take the decision to be your own boss?

I grew up with my parents leading by example, always running their own businesses so you could say I was born with entrepreneurial spirit in my veins. From a young age, my parents ran their own accountancy firm in Birmingham, specialising in working with SMEs from across the Midlands so I was constantly surrounded by self-employed people – the mindset is infectious and rubs off on you! From my college days onwards, I knew I wanted to be self-employed so was always taking on the next side project, often in property management, to boost my skillsets and business experience. After graduating from University, I briefly worked at my parent’s firm but within a year of graduating I had set up on my own – that was 15 years ago, and I’ve never looked back!

How did your approach to work change when you became a father?

As with all new things, the arrival of our first child really rocked our world and establishing the right work/family balance was hard. All the routines I had got used to running like clockwork just went out of the window – getting up times, working hours, sleep patterns were all turned upside down. I recognise I am extremely lucky to have a strong family network around me, with both sets of grandparents locally on hand to help. My wife – a teacher – also gave up her job to be a full-time mother which enabled me to get back to work and establish corporate normality after just a brief paternal leave period.

I am now a proud father of three boys, so juggling nursery and school runs require a shift in working patterns – I make a conscious effort not to work weekends, but that does in turn require me to work late every weekday evening to keep on top of things. With the MotorServ UK workforce currently standing at 28, plus the three cemetery sites I manage in my ‘spare time’, as well as a private property portfolio, I have had to learn to be incredibly efficient and use time wisely.

How do you treat your male employees with children?

Many of our male workforce are fathers and we are in a privileged position now, thanks to higher staff cover, that we can operate in a manner that is flexible enough to allow for emergency time off. As an employer I actively encourage everyone to take their allotted time off, equally we never open on Sundays or Bank Holidays as I believe it’s important to keep this for staff to enjoy valuable family time. Staff benefits mirror the importance I place on family values, such as encouraging staff management joining our health insurance scheme with their children, the provision of various life and critical illness policies so that everyone is accordingly protected.

motoserv uk

What did you do during the pandemic with your business?

For a period of six months during lockdown, MotorServ UK came to the aid of the NHS by providing five vehicles to GPDQ as part of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Covid-19 Response Team’, for emergency doctors to assist the ambulance service. The saloon vehicles sourced by MotorServ UK required air locked boots to avoid cross-contamination of PPE from each patient visit. The business was also involved in the distribution of PPE and hand sanitisers across the area and has dedicated part of its workshop as a depot for food and parcels donated by the public in support of key workers and local homeless citizens.

What would you like to see happening in the future around flexible working and attitudes towards fathers in the workplace?

I think statutory paternity leave for new fathers is very important, with a responsibility on managements’ shoulders to encourage everyone to take the full allowance of leave when they have a baby. Often there are personal financial jostles that jar against the company’s staffing level pressures which is important to address. Having more staff at MotorServ UK now definitely allows us to provide more flexibility as we have more people to rely on during absences. I’d like to get to a point where we can strike a balance between still offering customer service flexibility but also a skeletal staff on a Saturday, that way even more staff members can enjoy an undisrupted weekend with their children.

kamran saleem

If there is one takeaway from the last working year, it’s that modern technology has shown employers that working from home is effective, in-person meetings can easily be replaced with video calls with less need for disruptive, costly travel and in turn this, I’m positive will improve mental health issues relating to the workplace.

I think in today’s work/ home environment, often when both parents are working full-time it puts a huge amount of pressure on the parents – juggling childcare, school commitments, after school clubs, is tough. With the additional clubs often proving to be very expensive, it puts more pressure on parents to work long hours to cover these, so it can create a vicious cycle of stress – as an employer I want to be able to do everything I can to help staff break this.

The increase in private sector creches and playgroups has alleviated this slightly, but costs are still sometimes prohibitive. I think as mindsets become more open to different working styles, we shall see an increase in job shares and flexible working in sectors of organisation types where it’s generally a taboo.

Read more:

Don’t panic: why you were right to make that big decision to change jobs

Government unit offers hope for shared parental leave





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