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Too good to go down?

13th January 2019

The world is a very uncertain place and as I read a report this morning from one of the Big 4 Accounting firms, they added the word riskier to uncertain. This makes forecasting and planning really hard. So whilst you can’t control external factors, you can control your universe, so don’t throw your hands up just yet. This got me thinking about a conversation I had recently with a good friend of mine.

The table doesn’t lie

I was chatting to Jon  last week about the upcoming South-Coast derby between my team Brighton and his, Southampton. Southampton, as you may know, are flirting with relegation from the Premier League. If they drop into the Championship it will be quite a fall from grace and one that wouldn’t have been predicted just 2 or 3 years ago.

He said to me those fateful words…. “I know we’re not doing well but I think we are too good to go down”. Now I sort of shivered. As many football pundits say, the table doesn’t lie. This is so true, it is a great leveller.

I’ve read a fair few sports books to gain some insight into how you can take this thinking into the business world. I have just read Damian Hughes’ book ‘The Barcelona Way’. I think there are parallels between the two worlds. It took me a while but I now realise I am an ok coach but not a great manager, it stung but it is so true.

I have tried for years to change this – when I worked for a plc, my director used to say very helpful things like….

“David, turn your weaknesses into your strengths”

Right-ho! I’ll do just that. I now realise that I am who I am at my core, so I can adapt, improve and enhance my core skills and I like to think I do this. However, I can’t become a different person. I wish I’d known that in my 20s, it would have helped me avoid a lot of angst over the following years.

The here and now

I have run and been involved in some fantastically successful businesses but probably as many not so successful businesses and there are some signs that all is not well before you utter the immortal phrase…

“We are too good to go down”

Leaders spend a lot of time looking at spreadsheets, MI and finance reports but this doesn’t tell the whole story AND in my experience it is too rear-window ie. It’s already happened. Have a look at the here and now and work out the health of your business.

5 signs all is not well

Here’s my top 5 and before you ask, yes, I have done some, maybe all of them! Actually, just before I start, I should say it is 100% ok to admit that all is not right. The biggest success stories in the business world have had just as big failures – what they were all able to do was read the warning signs rather than holding on to hope.

When was the last time anyone mentioned you?

Oscar Wilde famously said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” If you can see the tumble-weed blowing through your social media world, if no-one refers your business on and if you don’t pop up on those tender lists or reviews, then people won’t know you exists. A firm once said they were the industry’s best kept secret but I struggled to see why and who benefited. Be busy socially, make introductions, get back into other people’s conversations.

Not learning from your errors

Doh !  One of the oldest chestnuts is the definition of madness, I won’t repeat it here. In business, this is not learning from clear and obvious mistakes. No-one does it on purpose but when a firm is doing well, they are referred to as ‘road-bumps’ when you’re not doing well, they will be the final nails in your coffin. Act now to resolve!

I must get out and meet our customers

My favourite thing is meeting customers. However, a few years back I took on a new role based in London and over the following 18 months didn’t meet a single customer. What became apparent was my phone stopped ringing, emails stopped landing in my inbox but in a matter of weeks. I was forgotten and FAST !  I would extend this to potential new customers as well, this will keep you super-sharp, understand what the rest of the market is doing and understand trends. If you haven’t seen a new customer in over a month, you can probably smell the aroma of rotting fish.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

I had a manager who adapted the above phrase to… “if it ain’t broke, smash it to smithereens”  I don’t think either approach is particularly helpful. However, if you haven’t made a change in the last year and complacency has crept into your business, you should worry. Change now. Lack of change, leads It is a cancer for any business whether successful.

Employee Churn

My experience as a recruiter was that if people aren’t happy because they or the business is not moving forward, they might voice it but generally don’t. What people will do however, is vote with their feet and leave. A small trickle can become a torrent of resignations and suddenly you’ve lost the core of your team. Be mindful of people treading water, becoming stale. It’s not all about the money but firms (as I have written elsewhere) get too caught up on money.

As always, I welcome some critique, challenge and feedback on this and anything else I am putting out.