When the going gets tough...
Date of original post: 24th April 2020
Clarity and confidence in a time of crisis
As business owner managers, we like making use of information. KPI’s; market intelligence; trend analysis… We use measures, checks and balances to make informed decisions. And suddenly – all bets are off. Last year is no longer 2019 AD – it’s 2019 BC (Before Corona), with all ensuing dates and years carrying the classification ‘AC’ (you get the idea!).
If you’re feeling that you currently lack clarity or confidence, you are certainly not the only one. “We live in unprecedented times”, claim the politicians as they themselves seem taken aback with the enormity of the situation. The scientists are busy trying to develop a vaccine but, in the meantime, we continue to see the virus spread and mortality rates perpetuate. Healthcare professionals are over-stretched and under-resourced and the nation worries for all involved; and businesses like ours are counting… counting on this being over sooner rather than later but would, right now, settle for any date this year, although no one can be sure.
It seems that no one really knows much at all in fact about how best to contain and eliminate this pervasive virus, and the clear steps required to return to normal life again; but, just as we have faced other major challenges before, we will somehow overcome all this and in a reflective mode probably wonder how on earth that was made possible.
It made us wonder then – is not having all the information and experience to deal with an unexpected and major business event like this a problem for business owner managers? Well, in a perfect world, we would all choose the comfort of knowing exactly what is happening, when and by how much. But, has this EVER been the case?
THE EVOLUTIONARY ENTREPRENEUR
Business success is not exclusively bestowed upon those who are in possession of the full and accurate facts. Such information no longer exists – and, to be honest, never really did! To wait for all those proverbial ducks to adopt single file will certainly see your business left way behind.
No. Success in business is and has always been the reward of the flexible, the adaptable and the fittest – a word which, in this context, has little to do with muscle and more to do with being a good ‘fit’ for the prevailing circumstances.
It is said that, if everyone had to start again with nothing, the money would probably end up with the same people. Why? Because successful business owner managers balance fact with intuition; statistics with gut feel; information with sheer instinct. Add a bit of bloody mindedness and there you have it…. You!
Of course, keep as informed as possible, but innovate; reinvent; transform; disrupt; decide – just as you have always done with whatever facts (or lack of them) are available.
Business as usual, then?
Date of original post: 4th May 2020
Negative emotions? Bring it on!
Mental resilience using a counter-intuitive approach
Worry, anger, fear. These are among what most of us would label as negative emotions. And it has long been the opinion of the self-help gurus that we should free ourselves from such feelings.
What if the gurus are wrong?
Owning and running a business is often described as an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. We experience anticipation, excitement and delight in the good times; and we suffer sadness, anxiety and frustration when things don’t quite go our way. We all recognise the fact that business life has its ups and downs and as optimists, we expect the good times to outweigh the bad.
Yet, even the downs, if embraced properly, can be our friends too. Yes – you did read that right: to welcome a negative emotion seems counter-intuitive, and yet can provide us with great insight and learning opportunities.
What are worry and anxiety if not expressions of caring or concern? How can you know that something needs changing if anger or frustration DON’T pay a visit?
Advances in the relatively new field of Positive Psychology are starting to show us that we should embrace ALL our emotions – not just the positive ones. The states of success and happiness, it seems, are not just the absence of negative emotions… nor the state of blissful ignorance of the problems surrounding us. We need to embrace the light AND the dark in equal measure.
When you lie awake at night – and we business owners often do – rather than chasing it away, try identifying, and naming, the emotion that is visiting. Welcome it as a friendly messenger; a signal that could provide more insight, more learning and, ultimately a more mentally resilient approach in the future.
For all of us, fighting against negative emotions can be draining. A small percentage of us may find we need a little professional help with our mental health. If that’s you – do the right thing by yourself, your family and your business – and speak to someone.
Those of us who can, explore taking back control by opening up to negative emotion to find the true purpose of that uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps Rudyard Kipling had business owner managers in mind when he wrote in his poem If …
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
At Castle we know the work we do has an incredibly important bearing on the owner-manager, their business and their family. In this regard, we find ourselves being more than just a professional adviser but a trusted friend there to support owners both professionally and personally, whatever life throws at us!
Date of original post: 11th May 2020
Is now a good time?
When is the best time to make an optimal decision?
Red or black? Stick or twist? Higher or lower? Heads or tails? The language of the gamble is familiar to all of us. Do you feel lucky?
In such strange times as we are experiencing, is there a good time to gamble?
Whilst rarely a question of ‘do or die’, our business decisions can resonate long after they are made. Such effects are not limited to us, but impact employees, business partners, other stakeholders – and our families. So, whilst we should avoid out and out gambling, it is commonplace in business to take some form of risk to evolve and move forward.
Arthur William Radford was a United States Navy Admiral, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Command and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: a man making important life or death decisions on a daily basis. He was quoted as saying “a decision is the action an executive must take when he has information so incomplete that the answer does not suggest itself”.
If information is incomplete (and it often is) and decisions must be made (which they often do) then risk is inherent in every business. This being the case, then when is the best moment to make those crucial business decisions?
Baron Rothschild, an 18th-century British nobleman and member of the Rothschild banking family, is credited with saying that “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”
Warren Buffet is famous for suggesting that it is wise to be “fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
These quotes are often associated with the buying and selling of shares on the public stock markets, but do serve as poignant reminders that we should not be put off by making important decisions in times when the majority of folk are choosing to maintain the status quo or procrastinating. Both Rothschild and Buffet made substantial personal fortunes by making particularly deliberate decisions in times of crisis.
We support the thinking that the best time for a decision is when you know and understand your purpose! Only then can your decisions be based on, and in pursuance of, that purpose.
Review your business in the light of recent events. Has anything changed in terms of that purpose? Perhaps this is best discussed objectively with your fellow directors and advisers, rather than in the bubble of isolation. Only after careful consideration, with a sober mind and clear direction, can you commit or recommit to making your decisions through the lens of your core values, and the execution of your strategy and plans.
Then, whatever the outcome of your decision, you’ll know it was taken ‘on purpose’. You can take responsibility and enjoy the successes, or hold up your hands and learn from the failure. That’s what business people do.
In our experience, it is often worse to make no decision for fear of the wrong timing, than it may be to make a decision now – based on what you know at the moment, what you have learned from the past, and what you can expect from the future – and to act on it. Once you are clear about your purpose, then any time is the right time to make decisions for your business.
Date of original post: 18th May 2020
Relationships - the real currency of business
Let’s face it, without relationships you have no meaningful business.
When starting out, we had no choice but to completely focus on winning new clients, and the more the merrier. A noble intention for a start-up business as without clients your business wouldn’t last too long. Yet this is only part of the equation – especially for more established enterprises.
Assuming your business has products and services that people want, then shouldn’t growth just be a case of going back to your start-up days, turning up the sales and marketing activity and wearing out the shoe leather on networking… then numbers will follow? If only it were that easy! How many times have you run promotions or campaigns and the results have been sporadic, or when clients did engage, they didn’t hang around for long?
There is another school of thought which says building a strong relationship and truly investing in the experience is much more likely to attract the clients you really want, and the sort of people that will want to trade with you for years to come.
Jonathan Swift, 17th century author behind such works as Gulliver’s Travels, may have hit on something even back then when he wrote: “We were to do more business after dinner; but after dinner is after dinner – an old saying and a true, ‘much drinking, little thinking!’” Maybe we all could benefit from spending a little more time on having those out of business experiences with our existing clients, to truly form long-lasting relationships that are built on both a personal and a professional level… adhering to Coronavirus guidelines at all times of course!
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS – GROWTH WILL FOLLOW
Whether a relationship is with your brand, your front-line workers, or YOU, the quality of these initial and ongoing relationships directly affects the sustainable success of your business over the long term.
We wonder how many of us have relied on CRM systems, video conferencing platforms or emails during lockdown to stay in touch with clients, contacts, and teams? Although useful tools, the use of technology to manage client relationships is not the same as creating a relationship first-hand and nurturing that in an attentive, human and caring way. Business relationships (like any relationships) are made and broken with a feeling of genuine connection, communication, trust and respect.
The widespread use of video conferencing has been an absolute necessity in these restrictive times, and although not a perfect way of connecting, it may have given us more insight into clients’ personal lives (and them yours!) than you would ever have thought possible a couple of months ago. For those of you fortunate enough to experience the relaxed blurring of professional and personal lives on such calls, you should be grateful for all that extra insight for when you can finally meet clients again, face to face, as just another way to strengthen a relationship, even in these times.
It is said that two thirds of clients quit, citing an attitude of indifference from their service provider. Now, more than ever, show your clients and contacts you care. Not just straplines or website promises. Actually, do something: have a clear plan and methodology to create, build and sustain your real business currency – profitable, long term relationships. All good things start with a conversation…
At Castle we thrive on forming long term relationships, based on trust, respect and a sense of humour. We enjoy the satisfaction of helping clients achieve their lifelong business goals and are proud to be part of their successes.
For us, it’s always personal.