20 October 2019
Last year I shared a series of blog posts called The Greatest Advice I Can Ever Give You. In these posts I looked back on 30 years in business and put pen to paper on some of the lessons I have picked up along the way, with a promise to share more of those lessons and advice in coming posts.
In the series, I wrote about the importance of having a magic formula, of listening to people who know what they are talking about and of being honest with yourself.
A year later, these lessons are just as valuable in my story so far as ever, yet there are more that I have added in those 12 months. These have become a solid part of my formula now. It would be fair to say that every single day, I learn something new. That is so important to me. In nature, you’re either growing or you’re dying; the same is true in life. If you’re not learning something new, or pushing yourself, every day, you’re not growing, you’re wilting. It really is that simple.
You can’t beat learning from those who are at the top of their game for this growth. No matter what that game is, there are so many transferrable lessons that you’re guaranteed to learn something.
Secondly, learning from those who’ve been in your shoes or who already are there, is also incredibly valuable. We all have our own lived experiences, we see the world in different ways and we have unique approaches to life. Because of that, there is always something we can learn from one another. That’s one of the reasons I share these posts.
With that in mind, here is part four of the series, sharing some more of the advice I have collected along the way.
Start the metronome
The only way to achieve something is to get started. It is absolutely that simple. It’s all too easy to obsess over process, to spend hours, days, months working out how you’re going to do something. But what if you just did it? What if you got the metronome going, started the fly wheel?
You can always change and adjust, testing as you go along. But you can’t know what works or doesn’t if you’re not doing it in the first place, right? So the greatest piece of advice is quite simply to get started.
Keep the small business mentality
As you grow bigger as a business, it is completely natural to begin to rest on your laurels without even realising it. In those early days, you scramble for every lead, you hunt down every opportunity, because if you don’t, you won’t survive. There are no two ways about it.
Yet, when you get bigger and you gain momentum, it’s very easy to find yourself sitting back a little if you are not careful. Whilst you don’t have to hunt down every single opportunity and chase every penny, you do have to respect the areas that make you successful.
It’s very easy to underestimate certain things that might make you more effective, or just start to do something in a different way because someone new takes over the process. We call it the ‘Doctor Who’ moment, when something we used to do falls into the tardis never to be seen again. Make sure you work out what is absolutely essential to your success and the success of everyone around you, and stick to it like glue.
The golden rule of management
There is one, incredibly simple rule in management: ‘People respect what you inspect’.
When you’re juggling the day-to-day of running a busy business, there are inevitably things that you don’t have time, or forget to follow up. How many times have you set a task for someone and haven’t followed up? Whilst I would hope that you’re teams are independent enough to deliver the results regardless, there are often those times when a task falls further down the to-do list because no one is following up on it.
So how do you ensure that no matter how busy you are, you follow up with your teams whilst still empowering people to own their own areas of the business? Not just to get the job done but to praise what they are doing well and to work with them to improve the things that are not going well. I have found that the solution is to automate as much of this as possible.
At UKFast for example, we have screens pulling the live data that celebrate when something goes right. We count the number of tickets and jobs our tech team complete and celebrate the ones who lead the pack. We have a bell on the sales floor that the team ring if they complete a deal and a gong if they beat their largest deal they have ever done.
The most useful of all our data tools is our daily report system. These reports send a pop-up at the end of each day asking every team member how their day was. You can highlight any problem, however small, Give feedback on a customer or a team mate, there is no end to the feedback we receive and no two days are ever the same.
If you have a culture of open feedback, no problem can ever get too large and the little things that would have become big issues get sorted, fast and before they gather momentum. The reports couldn’t be more simple either. The reports do vary and managers can set their own questions, but primarily they usually revolve around, asking three simple questions: what are you proud of today, are you struggling with anything, do you have any feedback/ideas to share?
What does surprise people is that we respond too. We have a 12-month feedback form and I never leave one unanswered. My favourite question on it is :”If you were managing director for a day, what would you implement or change?”
We have had so many amazing ideas and processes change because of fantastic feedback on this system.
This simple system popping up at the end of the day not only ensures that the team have an outlet to share what they need support with, it also reminds them that we do care and we are here to listen. Accountability works two ways and nowadays I often explain that “I work for the team, not the other way around.”
Dreams don’t have deadlines
I cannot stress this enough: dreams don’t have deadlines! You never know what is around the next corner, so how can you predict when your dream will come true? I’ve always dreamed of working in music and whilst my journey started there, I have veered off into technology, building, hospitality and beyond, yet now I am coming back toward music. I escape to the studio at any and every opportunity! Yes, I may be 20 years past taking a change of course from music, but that doesn’t mean that my dream is over. It means it was stalled, on the back burner, for a little while.
A dream only fails when you give up on it.
These are just a small snapshot of the lessons that have stood out to me this week. There are so many more to share, too many to list. Let me know in the comments what advice you have to share, or if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in my coming posts or podcasts.
I talk more about the subject of dreams, deadlines and goals in this week’s podcast. Subscribe on your podcast platform to automatically download the episode when it is released tomorrow morning. As ever, let me know what you think in the reviews and on social media.