16 February 2014

Why do some people make it and then others, people with talent, real go-getters, fall by the wayside?

And why is it that all accountants, people who understand the science and structure that all business is based on, don’t all go on to make brilliant business people?

I do say “all” because I know some incredible business people who are accountants, the infamous Keith Cunningham, Texan genius and inspiration who I met in Fiji with Tony Robbins, also Ian Currie, great friend and extraordinary numbers man, but I will come back to them later, as they break the mould.

I think I can answer both questions at the same time.

Lawrence Jones

Flying the flag of British Fashion in the Maldives

It doesn’t matter how much ambition you have, how much belief in yourself, it’s the belief others put in you that determines your success. Think about it. Every one of your colleagues who join you on your quest, every client, every referral from every passionate onlooker, these are the people that count, and they matter because they count on you.

It doesn’t matter what strategies you deploy, these things play a part, but whilst strategy might help you improve your numbers or market position, it doesn’t win hearts and minds, and it’s hearts and minds that ultimately count the most.

The successful people I know aren’t accountants and strategists. That includes Keith and Ian; they are successful because they are extraordinary relationship builders.

They understand the importance of people and value those around them. Successful people collect friends as easily as breathing in and out.

Working backwards then, if people matter more than anything else, what do you need to do to improve on your success?

It’s easy, put everyone ahead of yourself. Make sure everyone eats before you do, make sure people have a seat before you sit down, make sure everyone is settled, and until such a time that they are, you remain un so.

Take a great vantage point, be at the back of the room, conducting and not the lead violinist in the limelight. The person with his back to the wall sees the whole room and the person in the middle only sees half of it.

Make sure you look the waiter who brings you a menu in the eye, buy the piano player in the restaurant a drink and say thank you or crack a joke with the person sweeping the floor at the crack of dawn when only you and he are up.

Behind every smile is a great person, so look deeper into people’s eyes and you will be amazed at what you find. This is where the magic lives.

Dismiss people at your peril. I was all of these people once, disguised by circumstance and fundamentally I haven’t changed one little bit. Yes, I am developing and that’s part of the fun, but I don’t feel any older than the day I set out on this adventure. I would argue I am even more energetic!

Making great friends isn’t about pleasing people though, it’s about respect. You can find respect in the most unusual places. Some of my greatest relationships were forged out of the most testing of circumstances.

The greatest boxers sought out worthy opponents but once the battle was over, shook hands and appreciated the craft and effort their opponents invested in their art.

My lawyer Simon Chapman once sent me the most fierce letter I’d ever received when we first set out in business as we made a mistake registering someone’s trademark. Years later when I needed a lawyer, who do I call? The man I respected the most in that field.

In my first business I used to rent Grand Pianos to hotels and restaurants to encourage them to use my musicians. Doctor Lothe, the owner of the local music shop Forsyths located on Deansgate used to get incredibly frustrated with me. He’d supply pianos all over the world to every hotel in London and every major city and orchestra, but could he sell a piano in his hometown to any of the hotels? Nope!

I had them so sewn up, it didn’t matter what strategies he deployed, strategies that worked brilliantly elsewhere, I had the relationships with the hoteliers and nothing was going to prise us apart.

It’s safe to say I was his arch nemesis!

Yet not so long ago, I walked into his shop on Deansgate, walked up to the first floor where the grand pianos are located, and introduced myself to the young man on duty.

“Hello, I am Lawrence”

“I know who you are. How can I help you?” the young man asked with a slightly suspicious look.

“I’d like to buy a piano please.” I said

“What…… from us?”

That’s how it started and they are customers of UKFast now. That young man was Doctor Lothe’s son. And to his amazement I bought a beautiful black Steinway grand piano that day, I didn’t negotiate, I paid the price on the tag.  That one sale certainly made up for all the pianos he didn’t sell over the years.

I wished his dad well and walked out of the shop, with my head held high, proud knowing I’d done the right thing. More importantly, I’d ticked off a couple of goals.

If you worry about what people think about you, you will end up running around in circles and pleasing the people that don’t count and that’s not how you build lasting relationships. One genuine friend is worth 100 acquaintances, so take care and take your time and really try and make a difference to other people’s lives.

I am just learning what it is that helped us on our journey. I arrived here by accident, but now I’m here I have a good idea what’s needed on the road ahead and if I can help inspire you on your journey, and turn another acquaintance into a great friend, one day my life’s work will be complete.

Until such time, you will find me out there on the road, leaning on a brush, tinkling the ivories and at your service.

Karma, it’s no accident. Don’t do good, when you can do great.

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