20 September 2010

I dipped my feet into the lake and turned towards the Colonel. He was no longer smiling. “The lives of millions are in your hands.” Emotions were racing through my mind, but I still couldn’t forget the fact that he’d threatened. I stood up. The lake was deep, there was a lot going through my mind.

My concentration was broken by Jonathan and Paul who had reached an amicable agreement and were enthusiastically shaking hands. The negotiation course was a success. It had been a goal of mine to hold a training course up in the forest above Beddgelert. Its a 7 mile round trip in total from the house to the secluded lake, Llyn Llwellyn,. It’s great just sitting around the edges of the lake with your feet dangling in the water sharing a picnic and ideas. It is one of those special destinations where I love to spend time thinking. Rain or shine, it is heaven. I have had some of my best memories around that lake, it was Tegan’s first big walk the day before she climbed Snowdon at the age of 5 years old. We sat counting tadpoles and we’d been gone for so long Gail had seen the mountain rescue helicopter out and assumed the worst.

So the question on the tip of my tongue that week, was “if I was never allowed back into UKFast to influence and support my colleagues, what gifts do I need to give my managers and directors to aid them in building the UKFast brand bigger, stronger and faster than I ever could?”

It is very easy to call in consultants and trainers, however I hinted in my last blog that sometimes the answers are much closer to home. Who really understands the culture of your business like you do? Yet so often we look for outside help. I am as guilty of this as the next man, as a business owner / operator I have seen the benefits of outside intervention; fresh ideas, new energy and a different perspective.

At some point though, it’s healthy to stop and reflect. What about refreshing our own ideas? How can I really make this better? If you ask a great question, you usually get a great answer. If you ask an extraordinary question, you get an extraordinary answer. Too often, we cruise from day to day simply missing the bigger picture.

After asking a great question I realised that the answers have to come from within. All the senior people within the business need to discover the answers for themselves, to truly appreciate them. Somehow I needed to impart all my knowledge and experience of 25 years in business and at the same time inspire a similar result from my colleagues, utilising everyones talents.

Luckily I am following in great footsteps of some incredible entrepreneurs. The people I am learning from are simply extraordinary in every way. Their personal achievements, their professional achievements, their appetite for life, their hunger for more, are all off the scale.

I am a people watcher and I have made an effort to get to know people who are at the top of their profession. There is no better way to learn. My wife Gail might have taken this one step too far by booking me some coaching sessions with the World Number 1 squash professional, Nick Matthews. But do you get my point? If you want to become a great artist for example, go and talk with Mary Feddon, and hurry up she is 96 years old. Go and talk with Harold Riley, he studied underneath L S Lowry, and has painted portraits of more Popes than any other man in history. These are normal people like you and I, but unless you meet great people how can you learn the habits that will help you in turn become great, just as they have.

I remember thinking Lowry was overrated. I never understood why Lowry achieved the fame and distinction he did. It was only by asking a question at 17 years old in Harold Riley’s house, “who drew this?” I was looking into the eyes of the most wonderful protrait. A simple style, the sort of art I knew how to appreciate. I was knocked for 6 when I was told it was Lowry. It changed my stance from that day forward. I was able to look deeper into Lowry’s paintings and see something that I could never see before.

Riley obviously inspired by greatness is on his own personal journey of success.

So how do these once normal people, like you and I, achieve greatness? The answers are all around you. Look at everything that has gone before. Learn from every encounter. What have I experienced? What have I seen? Ask yourself great questions.

By setting down everything I have seen in my life, everything that helps me grow, I am able to catalogue a very interesting picture. I actually find that I am more experienced in certain areas than I previously realised. It also helps me identify areas where I need further focus to help me grow and learn.

UKFast Board in Wales

UKFast Board in Wales

By getting all our directors to do the same, in an environment well away from UKFast head office, with clear heads and no interruptions, it is amazing what you will achieve. The results of our most recent summit I refer to are priceless and the impact of the changes we made are so apparent and invaluable.

It is amazing how resourceful people are and just what skills colleagues already possess. Too often we “take for granted” and ignore what is right under our noses. You learn things about colleagues when you spend time in close proximity for extended periods, that ordinarily you might never find out.

By drawing on our experiences we are able to build a much more complete management training program that suits our style. Every business is different and it is important not to blindly follow where others have previously succeeded. What works for someone else, might not work for you. A great deal of thought is required and this is why Gail and I chose to involve our board of directors over consultants.

We followed the format of training we experienced recently in Fiji and started the day off with a run around our lake Llyn Cwellyn. We then worked from 8am until 11pm each night. Most of the time outside by the edge of the lake as we were blessed with incredible blue skies and perfect sunshine. Not something usually associated with the Snowdon National Park.

Maintaining the momentum of a think-tank or focus group is essential. If energy dips, so does your momentum. If you are an organiser of an event, I have learnt to get everyone up, shake it off and do some exercise, bounce up and down if necessary. We broke up the day using the quad bikes too, the kids helped enormously, its amazing when you are sat around thinking, just how a 6 year old can contribute. Everyone’s perspective is vital, wrong or right. Each thought takes you in a new direction. Each cul-de-sac needs close inspection, often the breakthrough moments come when you least expect them. They are there to be discovered.

Where are you in your business journey? What are your thoughts? Are your needs being met? What is your opinion on the way we train at UKFast? Is there a better way?

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