2 July 2017

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

And why is it that 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.

Helping to rebuild Harvey’s den some years ago. I love getting my hands dirty

Helping to rebuild Harvey’s den some years ago. I love getting my hands dirty

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 your chances on becoming a success?

It’s easy, put everyones needs ahead of your own. Make sure the team around you eats before you do, make sure people have a seat before you sit down, make sure everyone is settled, and you do not relax or switch off until they are.

Take a great vantage point, be at the back of the room, be the conductor and not the lead violinist craving 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 and crack a joke with the person sweeping up at the crack of dawn when only you two are both up.

Making friends with the local French police. Notice his UKFast hat!!!

Making friends with the local French police. Notice his UKFast hat!!!

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

Dismiss people at your peril. I was all of these people once, disguised by circumstance brushing up in A1 Music when I was 17 years old. Imagine how many people wrote me off as someone who’d never amount to anything. A great many! Fundamentally I haven’t changed one little bit. I am still working hard to develop new skills and learn new tricks and that’s part of the fun. Ironically but I don’t feel any older than the day I set out on this adventure. I would argue I may even be more energetic!

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

The greatest boxers seek out worthy opponents to gauge their success but once the battle is over, they shake hands and appreciate the effort their opponent invested in their art.

My lawyer Simon Chapman once sent me the most fierce letter I’d ever received when first setting out in business after unwittingly making a mistake registering a trademarked domain name. Years later when I needed a lawyer, it was Simon who I called. It was a funny conversation and he was rather shocked and we are great friends now.

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 after some years saving up, when I came to buy my first Steinway Grand piano, I walked into his shop on Deansgate, climbed the stairs to the first floor where the beautiful grand pianos are located. I introduced myself to a young man on duty.

“Hello, I am Lawrence”

“I know who you are Lawrence. 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, why?”

That young man was Doctor Lothe’s son. He was right, I could have bought one direct from the trade. But they had the best shop in Manchester and it was time to pay my respects.

Simon kindly allowed me to roam around the shop. I was in heaven amongst so many beautiful instruments. I sat down at one of the pianos, it was 101 years old, black, shiny as though it were a day old.

I played a few notes and said to Simon, “I’ll have this one please Simon, it’s beautiful.” To his amazement I bought that Steinway 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 in one fell swoop.

If the saying what goes around comes around is true, it wasn’t long before I was helping Simon with the hosting of his website. I have no doubt I will be buying many more pianos along with all the musical instruments my children and wife are collecting!

The moral of the story is, 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, take your time and really try and make a difference to other people’s lives.

Even a great enemy has the potential to become an incredible friend.

Its safe to say a great deal of my success is accidental. But its important that as you grow you learn from your surroundings and the events happening in and around your life. Start to see trends, things happening over again, slowly but surely build your formula.

Nowadays I have a fairly good idea what’s needed on the road ahead but I still make mistakes and no matter how successful you become, if you are trying hard, you always will. Just learn from the mistakes and try and keep the risks at a manageable size.

I hope this helps. Every week I get asked for pointers to help people on their own journey, this is one topic that comes up without fail. If it helps inspire you on your journey, and turn another acquaintance into a great friend, it can only be a good thing.

So don’t forget, be nice to everyone around you, whoever they are and whatever they are doing. Everybody matters.

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

I’ll see you out there someday, I’ll be the one leaning on a brush or tinkling the ivories, at your service.

Best of British


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