27 January 2019

London - Westminster and BrexitIt’s what you make of the chance encounters, that defines our outcome.

None of us are born equal; some with a silver spoon in their mouth, others into the most hostile of environments.

Is it safe to safe that “the better your start in life, the more opportunities you are likely to encounter”? I believe that this is true and that even though more doors maybe opened at an early age, when you grow up in a privileged background, it does not mean that people with an advantageous head start have a monopoly on success.

In fact, some of the people I have met who had phenomenal starts struggle in later life. And some of the kids from the toughest backgrounds with limited resources and significant uncertainty go on to do amazing things.

Diamonds are created under enormous pressure and the same applies to personalities too.

One of the advantages of having to struggle in early life and not having everything gifted to you, is that you learn that you have to work harder than everyone around you if you ever want to redress the balance.

Ambition

I think success is defined by ambition. And ambition is determined by your level of hunger to create something out of the ordinary. None of us like uncertainty, so if you grow up with this figuring high in your day-to-day life, from my experience you work very hard for stability, so that one day everything will be ok.

So, if you grow up in comfortable surroundings, what have you got to aim for? More of the same or at best a little more of the same? When you grow up with little or nothing, even aiming for that comfortable space feels as though you are aiming for the stars.

It seems so far away, so impossible to understand that you resign yourself to a lifetime of hard graft. There is no option other than getting your head down and start on the road ahead, however long and steep it may appear.

If you are going to make something of yourself, so much has to change. Not just your work ethic but also the decisions you make. If you work at the same pace as everyone else, it’s highly likely you will end up in the same place as everyone else.

Having to “go without” actually prepares you for the journey ahead where you need to save and invest every spare penny. When you are not used to the high life there is no sacrifice, it’s just the way it is.

Comfortable

I see up-and-coming entrepreneurs who grew up in comfortable situations finding it hard to exercise the necessary disciplines of going without in the early years. This is potentially catastrophic. Tough times invariably come in any businesses life and if you have spent the resources when times were flush, it’s doubly painful to watch something you care about unravel before your eyes.  It’s a haunting feeling knowing that your decision to spend money, even though it seemed right at the time, is exactly why the business falls apart later on.

Lawrence Jones MBE on the slopes of Verbier

Enjoying the slopes in Verbier, whilst staying at le Farinet.

Great business don’t collapse because of the market or the economy. They fall apart because of the decisions we business leaders make during the good times.

Gail’s and my first salary at UKFast was £11,000 and that was split in half between the two of us. And yes, it wasn’t enough to keep us going, but somehow we managed it. In the process we learnt the importance of prioritising. That discipline is still with us today and it’s an essential part of our profitability and longevity.

This weekend one of my barman at the Farinet, our hotel in Switzerland, had a good laugh when I asked for soda water with some fruit in it. He corrected me and said: “You mean, sparkling water?”

I explained that soda water is just fine and that there is no point wasting a bottle of water on me. He thought it was very amusing but you could see the penny drop once he realised that I was serious. The same applies to business. If it is not absolutely necessary to the existence of your brand, do not buy it.

Gone forever

Every penny you spend in business and in your life is gone for ever. Yes you can make more money, but the money we spend, we can never get it back.

Now you might be saying, “this is blindingly obvious” and you are right. It’s the most obvious statement anyone could utter, yet, how many times do we buy things we don’t need? Don’t get me wrong I do spend money, just rarely on myself unless it’s a meaningful purchase and something I have spent time thinking long and hard about.

The hardest part of accelerating your business or career is knowing when to step away and switch off, but also when to treat yourself. Because, like with everything in life, it is all about balance.

Whilst you need to be careful you don’t raid the hard-earned profits and turnover from your business, you still need time off and still need to treat yourself from time to time.

This is one of the reasons I love going to Wales. It’s on our doorstep, yet it still feels like a meaningful break from the day-to-day office life. It helps to keep me grounded and because its only 20 or so miles from the valley where I was born, it reminds me of who I am and my task in hand.

Is it worth it?

What I have learned in later life, hitting some of my bigger goals, is that things don’t change. I will always be that kid from Wales. I will still always look at the menu and not want to eat the most expensive dish or order the flashiest bottle of wine. If something doesn’t help me directly improve the quality of my life or those around me by either saving time or creating last emotion, it’s not worth it.

So why now, what’s the importance of a blog on how we spend our hard earned resources?

It’s looking ever more likely that there is a recession or downturn of some sort around the corner.  Nobody knows to what extent or for how long, however the warning signs are there. They are in capital letters written on the foreheads of each and every one of our politicians. And, whilst us Brits argue amongst ourselves over who is right and who is wrong, we are slowly sinking.

Brexit

The Brexit debate is far from over. Yet our long-standing relationship and partnership with Europe and the bonds with every country in the world negotiated through the wider European relationship they are drawing to a close.

The result, uncertainty. The one thing that drove us in the early years to do something extraordinary and create a life of certainty for ourselves and families.

The hundreds, and soon-to-be thousands, of businesses who are setting up and relocating offshore in countries like the Netherlands, Cyprus, Switzerland and similar destinations, all chose originally to set up their businesses in the UK. Why, because it has been a safe and stable place to conduct business all across the globe.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders are not moving for any other reason other than to protect their businesses from the complexities of what may happen in the future. When you can’t get a clear answer to a question, it’s frustrating. When you can’t get answers to over a thousand questions, now that is another matter. It’s one that causes huge amounts of pain.

Is the certainty of knowing all the rules and regulations of a European head office, where you can trade seamlessly and plan for the future, better than the potential risks of remaining in a very different UK than we grew up in and set up our businesses?

When it’s highly likely the UK will be seriously deflated post Brexit, with added complexities trading globally, significantly higher raw materials and costs, it’s no wonder business leaders are scared.

Good reason

Business leaders would not leave without good reason.

Unlike politicians who have made a decision and, regardless of the warning signs, they refuse to reconsider or canvass a more up-to-date poll, business leaders listen to the warning signs around them on an hour-by-hour basis. They then make decisions accordingly.

So, even though we have evidence to suggest that things are going to be more challenging, we do nothing. It’s like driving a car towards the edge of the cliff but because you are so bloody minded that the decision you set out with was the right one, you are prepared to drive over the edge, whatever the consequences.

The costs associated with businesses moving abroad cannot be dismissed easily. These are huge decisions and plans to leave the UK will only have only been executed if there is significant cause for concern. I don’t agree with Dyson’s move to Singapore, especially as he was so vocal with being Pro Brexit, yet he will have had advice as the landscape changed. Whilst he may passionately believe it was the right thing at the time for him personally, with all the evidence and uncertainty about trading globally, he is parking his personal emotions as he is not prepared to put his global business at risk.

So for the rest of us, the ones who choose to stay, what do we do?

Well we are in this together and we have overcome greater challenges I am sure, just not in our lifetime.

A precious investment

The best thing you can do right now is invest in your business. Whatever the distractions, you have to do what is right for your business.

We continued to grow through the past two recessions. We reduced our personal overheads. And, whilst we’d have loved to have expand even more, we sat on our hands. We spent our energy investing in technology to help our clients save money and accelerate their sales and growth online.

The result was we grew phenomenally, in spite of recession. We didn’t make a single person redundant. In fact, we spent a great deal of time and money investing in our teammates.

There will always be things that you want to spend your money on, but those same things will still be there waiting for you where the skies clear. Right now it’s time to knuckle down and work the hardest we ever have done, focussing on providing the best service possible for our clients.

Storms don’t last forever. Whilst I respect the decisions of business leaders who are leaving, some of us need to stay. We already have a great number of US businesses that take advantage of trading with the UK without the taxation. We need to do our level best and create strong businesses that contribute to society. Business that continue paying towards our NHS, and all the public sector support services we all rely heavily on.

It’s time to look inwards, at ourselves and buckle up. See you out there on the field.

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