What Have You Forgotten?

Let me ask you a few questions about your day:

  • How many meetings and telephone calls did you have?
  • How many items on your todo list did you complete?
  • How many times were you interrupted?
  • How many times did you take a break?
  • How long did take for lunch?
  • How much thinking and planning did you get done?

So did you have a good day?

I suspect not.

Now let me ask you another question – what’s the one resource we cannot buy?

Think about that for a moment. We can buy people – we hire them. We can buy machinery, raw materials, stationery etc. In fact we can buy everything we need to do anything. Or can we?

What’s the one thing nobody can buy but everybody uses?

TIME

So don’t waste it.

Don’t Bodger Your Business

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a bodger as “A person who makes or repairs something badly or clumsily.”

My late father was a terrible bodger. In his case, having lived through the two World Wars when people had to “make do and mend”, I could argue that he had an excuse. He thought that what he was doing was saving money but in reality it wasn’t. Let me give you one example.

When he became too old to mow the lawn with his old, heavily engineered, Dennis Paragon mower he decided to buy a ride-on one. Looking at the size of the lawn to be cut, the sales person insisted that the model my father was buying was not up to the task but my father had made up his mind as the recommended model was more expensive. Guess what? The sales person was right and my father then spent months getting bits cut out of the cutting deck so that it wouldn’t clog up. After two summers of a terrible looking lawn (which had been his pride and joy for years) he eventually saw sense and bought the machine he was originally recommended by the sales person. And the difference between the two? A more powerful engine!

So why am I telling you this?

You would be amazed at how many of the owners and/or the directors of companies I see and/or work with are classic bodgers. Rather than buying or hiring the right piece of equipment or a new member of staff or a contractor to do the required job, they find ways of “adapting” what they have already got. They don’t realise that they have fallen into the classic trap of being “penny wise and pound foolish”. When it comes to people (and this is the area where 95% of bodgering happens in my experience) they make one massive assumption that invariably turns out to be wrong – that people have an infinite capacity to expand and learn new things often whilst still being expected to perform the role that they were originally hired for.

So here’s a test for you, and be honest with yourself. How many times has something “trivial” come up in your company when you’ve said to yourself something like “Oh so-and-so can easily do that”, given the role to them and then wondered why, a few months later, you haven’t got the results you expected? Sound familiar? If so, you my friend are a bodger!

So why is bodgering such a bad idea, no ifs or buts?

Because it is expensive.

Think back to my father’s ride-on lawnmower. How much time and money do you think he spent on adapting the cutting deck? And how much more expensive do you think the more powerful machine was? Would it surprise you to learn that he spent almost three times as much as this difference on his bodgering? Now think of the hidden costs when you ask a member of staff to take on a new role/task for which they are not qualified, i.e. the learning they need to acquire, the cost of the mistakes they will undoubtedly make, the drop off in performance in the role they were hired for etc. And then the knock out blow – the cost of the time to put all this right. Add that little lot up and you should quickly realise that you would have saved a small fortune if you’d just bought the correct tool/person for the job in the first place.

So let me end with this analogy which I hope will drive home the point. You can easily cut yourself with a chisel or a scalpel. But if you ever need to have major surgery, do you want your surgeon to use a chisel to make the incision?

I thought not!

The Persona of Business People

For a long time now, whenever I’ve been talking to a potential client about their desire to growth their business, I’ve been struck by how they almost always fit into two distinct groups.

The first group are those that are in a hurry. They don’t want to learn, they just want to be told what to do. And they want results by yesterday. This group is ripe to be “harvested” by consultants.

My concern for this group is that any growth achieved is unlikely to be sustainable. Why? Because the business owners didn’t want to learn, they just wanted answers. So when market conditions change, they have no knowledge to fall back on so must engage consultants again to tell them what to do. I know many business people who complain about consultants and what they get from them for their money – I’m sure you do too. I think that’s unfair on consultants in general because they cannot be blamed if clients don’t learn from their past.

So what do I call the persona for this group?

“Dan Dash”.

The other group want to learn to be better at business. They accept that to increase the value in their business they need to make fundamental changes that will reap rewards long after the event – often years. They understand the difference between being told what to do and using someone like me to ask questions that allow them to figure out the best answer for their needs. They are very clear and focused about what they want for their business, their staff and themselves. In my experience they become ambassadors, regularly introducing potential future clients and/or readily agreeing to be a reference. They often become good friends.

Meet “Clara Clarity”.

I know which persona I want to work with. How about you?

The Highest Form of Efficiency

When I was a small boy, my father, one of the wisest people I’ve ever known, gave me a piece of advice that I’ve tried very hard to adhere to my whole life.

Simply, he told me that the highest form of efficiency was to never do anything you can get someone else to do for you.

Throughout my life since then, many people have thought that I was lazy. I would argue that I was merely following my father’s advice and being incredibly efficient by delegating as much as I could.

But why do I believe that this is so important, particular in business?

Because it gives me time to think.

Poetry in Business – Fear

When I was having a clear out of old paperwork recently in anticipation of the incoming GDPR legislation, I came across a long forgotten poem I had written in 2005. Upon re-reading it, I remembered with extraordinary clarity why I’d written it. Like all entrepreneurs, I have had many dark days when I wondered a) why I was doing whatever it was that I was doing and b) how I was going to look after my staff, family and friends. Continue reading

Sun Tzu and The Art of War – Is it Time to Reframe?

Sun Tzu’s famous treatise on the art of war has become a bible for business people, and in particular sales people. In recent weeks I have heard many people quote Sun Tzu in meetings in a combative way as they beat their metaphorical breastplates, and this worries me.

How does the statement “all warfare is based on deception” square with the salesperson’s oft stated goal Continue reading

Must “Rich” be Defined in Monetary Terms?

This article is not about business but about values and beliefs – and my personal ones at that. Having said that, I frequently recommend what I am about to share with you to mentoring clients.

I came across this wonderful poem about 35 years ago and it has haunted me ever since.

I’ve been incredibly lucky Continue reading

Lack of Ambition Hurts

Are you a leader? Would you consider yourself ambitious for yourself and your organisation? Of course you are!

Ambition is good. It drives us forward and stretches us so that we take on new ideas and experiment. It makes us do things. It makes us grow as people and those benefits accrue to the company we work for.

But what happens to an organisation whose leader(s) lacks ambition? This can occur when the company makes enough profit Continue reading

Leading in a Recession

As I write this, the economic outlook for the UK (and Europe) is looking precarious to say the least. Although we are not currently in a recession, market conditions are tough with a credit squeeze, rocketing fuel and power prices, falling house prices and statements from the Bank of England and many leading retailers that trading conditions are worsening. The press would have us believe that a recession is just around the corner. I’m not sure I buy this, but regardless, leadership is becoming more important than ever.

So how do we lead in these situations? For me there are 6 points Continue reading

Slaying Dragons

At some point in the distant past, a client was describing the problems he was having implementing a particularly tricky change policy on his company. While listening to him I realised that I’d been through this situation several times myself so we discussed what his options were to overcome objectors. Out of that discussion came a process I call “Slaying Dragons” which has the express aim of enhancing buy-in to Continue reading