Makin’ Music In Business

The ethereal quality of music, with its power to evoke the intangible, reminds us that at the heart of every business strategy should be the goal to connect, to move, and to inspire. Just as a beautiful piece of music is more than the sum of its notes, a successful business strategy is more than the sum of its data points — it’s an artful blend of logic, emotion, and timing.

Harmonising Patterns: The Synchronous Dance of Music, Mathematics, and Business

Music, mathematics, and strategy might seem like disparate fields at first glance, yet they share a profound connection that can enrich and inform business management. At the core of this triad is a common thread: patterns. Music is an auditory tapestry of rhythm and harmony; mathematics is the language of logical patterns; and strategy is the art of planning based on patterns of behaviour and market trends. Let’s explore this interconnection and its implications for business.

The Harmonic Convergence of Music and Mathematics

Music is an art form that moves us, stirring emotions that resonate deep within our psyche. Yet, underlying this ethereal quality is a rigorous structure as precise as any mathematical equation. Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, discovered the numerical relationships between the lengths of strings on instruments and the harmonies they produce, effectively unveiling the music in mathematics.

Similarly, in business, “music” is the emotional intelligence and human-centric approach we use to connect with customers, understand their needs, and create resonating marketing campaigns. The “mathematics” is the data analytics, market research, and financial modelling that underpin our strategies with empirical evidence and predictive insights.

Rhythm and Routine: The Beat of Business

Just as music is built on beats and measures, business operations rely on routines and cycles. There’s a rhythm to the way markets pulse, to the ebb and flow of consumer demand, and to the cycle of product development. In music, a skilled composer arranges notes and chords to create a piece that moves seamlessly from tension to resolution. In business, a strategist organises resources and plans initiatives to navigate a company from challenge to success.

Improvisation and Innovation: Jazzing Up the Strategy

Jazz music is the epitome of spontaneous creation within a framework of understanding. Musicians take a theme and improvise, creating variations that are novel yet still harmonic. In business, this translates to innovation within the confines of market realities and company capabilities. The best strategists, like jazz musicians, are those who can take the familiar and twist it into something fresh and competitive.

The Silent Pause: The Power of Negative Space

In music, silence is as important as sound. The pauses give shape to the melodies and emphasise what is played. In mathematics, the concept of zero — the empty set — is a powerful tool that transforms the field. In business, understanding what not to do, when to pause an initiative, or when to pull back can be as impactful as knowing when to act. Recognising the negative space allows for a clearer view of the overall picture.

Conclusion: Orchestration of Business Success

The business consultant’s role is akin to that of a conductor, who must understand the score (the market), the capabilities of the individual players (the team), and the nuances of timing and dynamics to create a symphony of success. By learning from the relationship between music and mathematics, strategists can develop a more holistic and nuanced approach to business planning. They can craft strategies that not only resonate on a spreadsheet but also strike a chord with the human element of business — the customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Photo by Gustavo Fring

Toxic Boards & What To Do About It

Organisations are complex entities, often reflecting the multifaceted nature of human interactions and the myriad of challenges that come with collective decision-making. At the heart of many organisations is the board of trustees, a group responsible for the overall governance and strategic direction. However, a toxic board of trustees can lead to significant organisational failure, particularly when there is a disconnect between the board and the delivery team. This blog explores the repercussions of such toxicity and mistrust, and how it undermines the capability of skilled delivery teams.

The Crux of Toxicity

A toxic board of trustees is characterised by a culture of scepticism, micromanagement, and an overarching lack of faith in the delivery team’s abilities. This toxicity manifests in various ways, from constant questioning of the team’s decisions to complete disregard for their professional opinions. It creates an environment where distrust is the norm, and where the delivery team’s expertise is undervalued.

The Delivery Team’s Plight

Imagine a scenario where you have a delivery team that is more skilled, more qualified, and more experienced than the trustees overseeing them. This team understands the nuances of the day-to-day operations and has the technical know-how to implement strategies effectively. Yet, their hands are tied by a board that does not trust them. This disconnect can lead to several issues:

  1. Stifled Innovation: When a team’s recommendations are consistently overruled or ignored, it stifles creativity and innovation. The team becomes reluctant to propose new ideas, knowing they will likely be dismissed.
  2. Decreased Morale: A lack of trust can demoralise even the most dedicated employees. Over time, this can lead to decreased productivity, a drop in quality, and a high turnover rate.
  3. Inefficient Decision-Making: Boards without the requisite knowledge that second-guess their delivery team can cause delays in decision-making, leading to missed opportunities and an inability to react swiftly to market changes.
  4. Risk Aversion: Boards that operate out of fear or lack of understanding may avoid taking calculated risks, which is often necessary for growth and adaptation.
  5. Reputational Damage: As word spreads about the toxic culture, it becomes harder to attract top talent, and the organisation’s reputation can suffer, which can have long-term effects on sustainability and success.

The Root Causes of Mistrust

So why would a board not trust a competent delivery team? Several factors contribute to this dysfunction:

  • Lack of Understanding: Trustees may not fully understand the complexities of the organisation’s operations and thus default to micromanagement.
  • Ego and Power Dynamics: Some trustees may feel the need to assert their authority or validate their position by challenging the delivery team.
  • Poor Communication: Without transparent and regular communication, misunderstandings can arise, leading to mistrust.
  • Previous Negative Experiences: Past failures or missteps by the delivery team can colour the perception of current trustees, even if the team’s composition has changed.

The Path to Recovery

Addressing the toxicity in the boardroom is essential for organisational health:

  • Education and Training: Trustees should be educated about the organisation’s work and the expertise of the delivery team.
  • Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Establishing clear demarcations between governance and management can prevent overreach (the big one).
  • Build Trust through Engagement: Involving trustees in aspects of delivery without overstepping can build understanding and trust.
  • Performance Metrics: Use objective metrics to assess the delivery team’s performance, creating a basis for trust in their abilities (KPIs, not micro-statistical data).
  • Open Communication Channels: Regular and structured communication between the board and the delivery team can bridge gaps in understanding.


When trustees do not trust their delivery team, they not only undermine the individuals within that team but also jeopardise the organisation’s future. Trust is a two-way street, requiring both the board and the delivery team to engage constructively and with mutual respect. Organisations must strive to build this trust to harness the full potential of their skilled professionals and navigate the path to success.

By addressing these issues head-on, organisations can turn toxic environments into thriving ones where the board and delivery team work in harmony for the greater good.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Net Promoter Score – Just How Sentimental Are We?

Net Promoter Score – your customer feedback score. A measure of customer loyalty.

Steve Jobs was famous for saying that he never asked for Customer feedback. But when Ron Johnson was tasked with creating the Apple Retail store experience he needed a way to benchmark Customer loyalty. That same question had occupied the minds of management consulting firm Bain & Co. They found that many customer surveys failed to measure this important metric, and so they began a journey to develop a single question that could act as a customer loyalty benchmark. We’ll see how Ron fared later in this post.

The first thing they did was to seek out survey questions that had the strongest correlation with a repeat purchase. They examined thousands of surveys and found that just one question could accomplish this. That question is: Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?

This is what the Bain & Co survey question looks like. It’s an 11 point scale from 0 to 10.

The survey starts with 0 rather than 1, since the number 1 can represent a “pole position” for some.

In analyzing the results, Bain decided to group responses into three distinct categories. The first group, known as Detractors, marked the answer 0-6. These guys don’t like you. The next group (answers of 7 or 8) and are known as Passives. They have no energy for your company. The final group really do like you and responded with a 9 or 10. These guys will recommend you and are most likely to repeat purchase.

Your score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. Passives are discarded as they neither like or dislike you — but only for the purpose of the score calculation. Bain also recommends that a text question be added, so that context can be derived from the measurement with Sentiment analysis.

So now we have a score that can measure customer loyalty. It’s called the Net Promoter® Score, or NPS for short. What’s more, it’s a number we can trust because it’s an external measure and it’s a number used by our peers too. Every year Bain & Co publish a survey of scores so you can see how you measure up. Top firms like Apple, Amazon, and Costco score in the high 70’s That’s the number to beat !

The 11-point scale is nothing new, however. Thomas Juster came up with the same scale in 1966 as part of a buyer intention study. What’s new is that more and more leading firms are adopting this measure as their benchmark and employing tools that react quickly to feedback.

Dealing with the three categories of respondents

As mentioned above, Detractors simply do not like you. This is where all your bad profits are — “bad profits” because they are not repeatable. It’s very important to be able to identify this group and deal with them right away. The NPS app can send a “sorry for your experience” email immediately. Reacting quickly to a problem can often turn your detractors around! You can create different email messages based on each answer given, too.

As the name implies, Passives don’t really care one way or the other about your company. Typically they feel that they got what they paid for, but are also likely to defect as soon as a competitor appears with a similar offer. Identifying this group and sending them the right communications at the appropriate moment will be important. Sending the wrong message to the wrong group is a schoolboy mistake -one you can avoid with the NPS app.

Promoters are more likely to repeat buy, and are also less sensitive to price. Companies like Enterprise RAC actively use promoters in their marketing referral programs and they credit NPS with the success of that. All your good profits are here, because they are repeatable profits.

Thousands of companies like Lego, Facebook, Dell, and Apple use NPS. Let’s look at a few case studies.
When Ron Johnson was tasked with creating the great Apple store experience, he wanted to convert the local PC user using word-of-mouth and referral. NPS was perfect for that. Apple stores use email at POS to manage the score, so having a robust email capability was important to them too. Their NPS works so well they are also looking to add Net Promoter People, where the question is: “Would you recommend this as a place to work ?”

Container Stores, established in 1978, operate 60 locations across the US. Using the NPS app, they can see in real time the NPS for any given store and react when it goes up or down. That’s right — reacting when a score goes up is just as important as reacting when it goes down. Perhaps something good is happening that can be repeated in other stores! Each store manager can see how their individual unit is performing and their manager can see all stores for their region. If a store get’s a poor individual score, the manager get’s an email right away as does the customer. Being able to deal with detractors right away is a proven method to improve customer loyalty.

Harnessing sentiment analysis
Understanding what words customers are using to describe their experience is an important semantic measurement. The NPS app has built-in sentiment analysis so you can group customers by the words they use in their feedback.

Now that you know more about NPS what’s next?

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are we measuring customer feedback in a robust and consistent way?
  • Are we using different survey methods in different stores or countries?
  • Do we react to feedback right away?
  • Do we know who our Detractors are?
  • Do we know who our Promoters are?

Credits: Net Promoter is a registered trademark of Satmetrix. In this article we used examples from the book The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld with Don Markey. We also referenced the published papers of Economist F. Thomas Juster, who devised the 11-point buyer intention scale.

Photo by Efren Barahona on Unsplash

Economics – Who does it serve?

Our World In the 2020s Has To Address This Issue.

Let’s take a little look back at the things we have been taught about Economics.

OMG…you just switched off and thought ‘boring…I’m not interested’ but here’s why you should be and why I’ve made it easy to understand.

Firstly, and quite astonishingly economics calls itself a science. It is one of the many social sciences that isn’t really a science. Secondly, economists cannot agree on the definition of ‘Economics’ or indeed why it isn’t a science in its present form. But it should be a science…so please, bear with me.

Economics is a belief. It is a guess at what we might need and how we all pay for it. (Or will we?) Maybe we don’t need to pay for it. Maybe this ‘brave new [AI] world’ will provide abundantly for us and ask nothing in return…maybe, just maybe, we are on the threshold of a utopian lifestyle revolution and, well, just maybe, it was how it was supposed to be…all along…can you imagine what would have happened if…

Please read on…

One of my oldest and dearest friends invited me for breakfast the other day. This person has worked hard all of their life. They have taken risks. They pay their dues and they support many good works and charities. They’ve made a small fortune through their hard work and tenacity. They have played by the rules and contributed massively to society. I admire this person very much and I trust them.

We had a great time. We caught up with tales about our family and friends. We talked about life and love. We pretty much have the same beliefs apart from one or two fundamental issues around work. They maintain that work is essential. It is necessary. It is good for the soul. It is what is expected of us. It is good and wholesome. It is honourable. It is the answer to poverty. People just need to go out and work hard if they want to get on in life. “If I can do it”, they said, “anyone can”. They were resolute that work = happiness.

Now I really don’t want to diminish what they have achieved or their aspiration for others to achieve what they have…starting from scratch and being kind on the way up. I deeply admire them and love them.

So Why Don’t We Agree?

But the concept of work is a modern phenomenon. It came about because of greed. It happened because humans became a means to an end. It spawned the construct of master and slaves. It became most corrupt when people were made to work in order to create wealth for those that didn’t work. It blended the notion that doing work was subordinated in favour of telling others to do work. Somehow, telling people to work became more rewarding than doing the work. Economics is about the management of grossly disproportionate inputs and outputs.

Modern economics came about when we stopped using our gross domestic product to support people and instead, we were made to feel that it was more important to use people to support and serve the money that was being made from our gross domestic product.

It was power that saw the opportunity to be powerful and this power came from a subtle invention that money became a just reward for our toil and could be used to buy the things that others toiled to produce. Profit was made and it filtered up to the powerful.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

It starts with the word of God. Wait…bear with me (again). There’s a reason it starts with God. Virtually all of our moral constructs, our beliefs and values all started with God…or at least they started with what the church says about God. This doesn’t require that you believe in God, just that you understand where your beliefs came from. They got passed down. They asked us to do the right thing…or else.

So, God says (in the bible) that the first man (Adam) broke the covenant with God and as a result, all men were sent to toil the land with their hands (there’s no mention of getting others to toil with their hands on your behalf). The problem we are facing, more and more, is we are being updated and uprooted by robots and AI. They can work 24/7, they make the right decisions each time, every time and they have far better emotional intelligence.

I know, I hear ya…how can a machine have better emotional intelligence than a human? Well. it’s because they make the right decision each time and every time…humans don’t.

So How Do We Fix It?

Economics is an art form bounded by the science of finality. There is no infinity in economics, there is simply managing the effective use of resources and aligning our expectations downwards towards sustainability. So the glaringly obvious answer to our existential conundrum is that we should work less, live off life’s abundant provision and consume way less than we are doing right now. Interestingly, this is also mentioned in the Bible.

According to Benjamin Davis
“Economics is the science that studies how scarce resources are allocated to meet competing and unlimited wants and how human beings satisfy their material wants and needs.”

According to Bradely R. Schiller 
Economics is the study of how best to allocate scarce resources among competing uses.

According to Jackson and Mclver
“Economics is concerned with the efficient use of limited productive resources for the purpose of attaining the maximum satisfaction of our material wants.”

Two of them claim that it is the study of allocating resources and one claims that it is their practical application. One definition I have seen that sees economics as a PLAN > DO > CHECK > ACT cycle of actions and analysis, is the one put forward by Investopedia. As the name suggests, their slant is towards trade and the investment and allocation of resources. This, I believe, is how we focus our attention on economic ‘output’.

So What Is Economics Again?

“Economics is a social science concerned with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. It studies how individuals, businesses, governments, and nations make choices about how to allocate resources. Economics focuses on the actions of human beings, based on assumptions that humans act with rational behaviour, seeking the most optimal level of benefit or utility. The building blocks of economics are the studies of labour and trade. Since there are many possible applications of human labour and many different ways to acquire resources, it is the task of economics to determine which methods yield the best results.” ***

Nah…not in my book (or God’s)…Economics is a system whereby money is used to serve humans rather than expecting humans to be used to serve money…

*** Investopedia – Guide To Economics – Terms

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

Vision, Mission, Aim, Purpose, Goal…Do They Matter?

vsion, futura

There are many types of organisational statements and they all mean different things to different people. But which ones are worth having? Is there a hierarchy in their importance? And most importantly, do they matter?

Companies all over the world produce these statements without giving a great deal of thought to their meaning. They produce them because they think they should have them. It’s like authors who use quotes by famous people to get their point across. They like the words, they like the sentiment and by adding it to their work they think it validates what they are trying to say.

But it’s lazy. It’s really saying ‘I’ll put these words in, people will think that I’m smart and the words of someone else will support my words’. A bit like company owners that blindly create statements in the hope that it will present the reader with some kind of meaning or purpose that the author wants to attribute to their business.

But these statements mean EVERYTHING to the reader and you better live up to their meaning…or else.

Forest Mars, Sr. (yes, of the Mars Corporation) introduced it in 1947 in a memo, saying “the objective of our businesses is to create mutual benefit for all stakeholders.” And then they went ahead and made unhealthy products that their customer’s loved. The ‘benefit’ to which Mars referred is the enjoyment and satisfaction of his customers, he never considered their health.

This was the old principals of Taylorism where employees were grateful to have a job and employers put shareholders first. In many western businesses, it is a legal requirement for boards to put businesses first.

But this generation of business owners, entrepreneurs and thought leaders want more. They want PURPOSE to mean something. They will mend and make do instead of consuming more. They will consider sustainability ahead of profit. They want social integrity ahead of greed. They want the world to be a better place and top of their agenda is healthy people. They take these things seriously and so must you.

“We must accept the discomfort of the truth, as well as the discomfort of bringing to life a new way of doing business,” says Mars Corporation “Our kids are watching us. And we won’t be able to tell them we didn’t know.”

So choose your words carefully and mean every one of them. Your customers are your kid’s generation and you better not mess with them, they know what they want and they are uncompromising in what they do.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

PURPOSE – Mission Critical or Hipster Wishy-Washy?

RanDenHeYi model – Purpose Driven Management

What’s your Purpose for Business

At the heart of everyone is the desire to do well. There’s something at our core that wants to make a difference. To see a better world and to be part of making it happen. We feel a pull towards creating something better than what our parents had. The need to make improvements so that those that come after us are better off. This is the meaning of purpose.

Few leaders and even fewer business leaders see purpose as a completely new operating system. A new way of doing business. A new approach to management. But for the ones that do, the results have been astonishing.

Zhang Huimin is one of those radicals. He’s the CEO of the worlds biggest appliance manufacturers based in Qingdao, China. Zhang Huimin took the step of removing ALL middle management from his corporation. Instead, he offered them a chance to become entrepreneurs within the organisation but autonomous and free to set their own rules. These new business leaders set their own strategy, prices, salaries, bonuses and managed their own recruitment.

Companies like Roche India and GE (as well as US Special Forces) have adopted his RenDanHeYi management system with amazing results. Many of the worlds great leadership thought leaders hail the transformation as remarkable.

And Zhang Ruimin’s secret to it all is purpose. He recognised that everyone is deeply motivated to work where they can make a difference in the lives of others. It was quantum physics that caught Huimin’s attention. For centuries, astrologers, scientists and physicians all agreed that atoms were made of matter. They had mass, substance and it could be measured. A beam of light was just light particles bouncing off or penetrating a surface.

But when the beam of light was measured as energy, something happened. Light waves were formed and these were a frequency or energy and so light is made up of both particles and energy. A symbiosis of differing but measurable elements that worked together but in different ways. The mass or particles of business are its substance, what it does, what it produces, its output. The energy of a business its purpose. Purpose is the glue that makes businesses perform to reach their aims and objectives, its vision.

Teams may well understand the product, how it’s made and what it does, but they are driven to succeed because they all believe that what they are doing makes a difference to their customers’ lives. It improves them.

Purpose is the main ingredient in any business. Without purpose, teams flounder and the most talented leave.

My thoughts here have been developed after reading Zero Distance by Danah Zohar.

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

Solace of Quantum

About Business Sucess

Success – What really makes a business work? How do we get the likes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google and their like all springing up and driving stellar performance on the Stock Exchange? Well, the answer isn’t really that hard to understand.

In 2012, the world’s largest supplier of domestic appliances, Haier, based in Qingdao, China was revolutionised by its CEO Zhang Ruimin who developed a system of management that he called

For the past 130 years, we have all followed a model devised by the father of business management Frederick Taylor. It became known as Taylorism and companies like Ford Motor Company and GE were key practitioners. Companies built whole departments around the nature and construct of departments such as design, marketing, sales, accounts etc etc.

People worked in silos created by Taylor’s departmental model and it worked very well if you wanted a Ford pop in black (it was all you could have at the time). Modernist thinkers played with the model and introduced us to concepts like mass customisation, customer derived brand variants and other wonderful subsets of management.

Zhang Ruimin realised that an organisation the size of Haier had stagnated and was unable to grow through anything other than marginal gains. An efficiency here, a trimming of the fat there. Staffing levels grew but the output was very sluggish. He had no influence over the performance of the business. It was grinding to a halt (well, almost).

So he thought long and hard about what to do and came up with a management system that breaks down Taylorism and replaces it with a system known as Quantum Management. QM is a system that creates entrepreneurial teams at every level in the organisation. The only way he could really get this to work was when he also made the decision to surrender all of his power at the top, cleared away all middle management and turned many of them into CEOs of their own self-organising microenterprise.

All decision making powers, hiring of staff, remuneration packages were devolved to the microenterprise. Zhang Ruimin provides just the vision, inspiration and resources to the team and establishes the organisation-wide culture of each group consistently across the whole organisation. The ‘energy’ for this revolution came from the employees. ALL employees are driven by purpose…they want to make the world a better place. This is the energy that powers a quantum management system.

Companies such as Roche India, GE Appliances and the USA Green Berets have adopted Quantum Management in all that they do. So why Quantum? Well, Isaak Newton was convinced that all atoms were made of matter, substance, mass. Quantum scientists discovered that there was a second element called energy. Businesses are made up of matter (the substance of what it is and what it produces) and energy (the will of employees to drive a business to success, the purpose) – Quantum.

If you’d like to read more about it you can do so here… QUANTUM MANAGEMENT

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Here’s What You Don’t Know…And It’s Serious

What You need to Know

Firstly…I do have an axe to grind but it’s one that is entirely focused on your success.

I’ve had two spells living and working in this amazing city. Its people are wonderful and kind. It sits in a great big valley surrounded by nature. It really is like a big village nestled in the foothills of God’s own country.

I’ve been lucky enough to sit at a few top tables around the world where big things are planned and great (and not so great) ideas hatched. Sadly, many of these truly great intentions are reviewed unkindly through hindsight…despite one or two of us being at pains to point out why they would be.

I was once told of a Sheffield man standing in the rain at a bus stop as a Rolls Royce glided silently past…he could never imagine ever being in a position to own one of these great cars but he worked tirelessly to ensure that its owner joined him in the bus queue.

And here is what you don’t know about you and your business. Sheffield is a tough place to conduct business. Its people are uncompromising and have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. They are dour and tight fisted. They make do and mend. They voice their strong opinions and fight over seemingly insignificant things. They come from a city that has developed a ‘might-do’ attitude and it’s had several non-descript leaders all of whom became embittered by fruitless years of dogged but poor performance. We set our sights as low as we possibly can and often fail to get there.

Over the past few months, I’ve committed to buying everything that I can locally and from independent businesses. I want to continue doing this if I can. If I can…

But to be honest, I’ve been forced to endure some of the worst possible customer experiences of my life by taking this stance. From auto garages to upholsterers, food shops to clothing retailers, hair salons to hardware stores…I would not give the combined customer experience more than 4/10 with one or two brighter exceptions.

I’ve lived in many places around the world and in these places I would score them a pretty healthy 8/10 for their attitude towards success. Every business has its SALES PREVENTION OFFICERS…and these range from initial customer engagement, with what appear to be real live people, to online sales platforms that are clumsy, slow and inefficient.

So Sheffield, if you really do want to play with the grown ups…have really good people review your business from top to bottom. Use people that know what they are looking for and know what is needed to succeed. People that have run exceptional businesses themselves.

I’ll have a New Year £100 bet with any of you (and I never gamble) that I can find at least THREE of these SPOs in your business…but to find everything that really stifles growth and success, that may take us a little while longer…but we will get there…

We truly wish you a prosperous 2021 and one where you set aside the things that prevent it.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

The Stranger In The Workplace


the stanger in the workplace

“When we return to normal…”

With gentle pressure on the old handle, I push and the door swings open. It’s silent in here and a little eerie. The tables and chairs look like any other office. The window blinds are a little bit crooked. That kind of thing used to really bother me but it doesn’t today. The desks are tidy, the in-trays are empty, the printer switched off and then I see it, a ghostly shadow on the wall. A stranger standing just out of sight. As the door closes it surprises them a little. Wearing a distant look of quiet menace across his face, enhanced by the piercing threat in his eyes and look of dangerous certainty etched across his forehead, he steps into the half light.

I look at him before his eyes adjust to the clawing darkness and know that I don’t fear him. I know that whatever happens next, I am in control, I have the upper hand and there is nothing he can do about it. I was at the top of my game and it felt good.

I used to live in fear. I feared losing everything. I feared for my existence and I feared what could happen to me. I feared the subtle threats. I feared being unfairly called out. But my world has changed and that fear has gone. No matter what, he can’t hurt me any longer.

Before this virus took hold and before everything changed, I used to work for someone I feared in a job that I didn’t want to lose. I did exactly as I was told, I hated it, I hated him, I hated me. He had control over everything. He had control over what I thought, what I did and how it used to make me feel. He knew it and he used it.

Over the past weeks and months, I have seen that it doesn’t need to be that way. I’d lived through it all. I’d survived. My family has spent time together. We’ve had time to reassess our values. We know what is important and what isn’t. We knew that time was precious and stuff wasn’t. We knew that relationships mattered and working all hours didn’t. We knew that it was the small things that we cared about. We’ve enjoyed being family and spending time together. We feel free.

“ok, the party’s over, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. We need to hit the ground running from day one and we need to work over and above to make up the ground we have lost. Don’t just stand there looking lost, get the lights while I fire everything back up. There are fewer of us now and it’s going to be tougher. We will have to do what we need to in order to……..”

“In a minute,” I heard myself interrupting him, “I just want to spend a little time settling myself back in and get my head around being here again. I want to see how it feels”

He looked at me differently. He looked a little lost. He knew things had changed. The power had shifted. He no longer held a gun to my head. I was here because I chose to be. If I’m not here tomorrow it’s because I choose to be somewhere else.

If you are the boss and your people are returning back to work, know that you are the stranger in the workplace if you think things will get back to how it was. Everything has changed. Everyone has changed. Be ready to create a workspace where people want to be and choose to be. Look at your values. Look at whether your aims are aims that people can buy into. Look at becoming more flexible and treat your employees like customers…see what will attract them to you and keep them with you. Don’t be that stranger anymore.

And remember, it’s always the best and most talented people that leave first…because they can.

Photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash

Knowing Everything But Understanding Nothing

Managing your Business the right way

Running a business is simply managing a series of events, linked to the resources it has available to it, in order to achieve a series of desired outcomes. Inputs manipulated and ordered to change their current state into a new state of outputs (or outcomes).

The reason most businesses exist is to add value to the inputs, in order to create desirable outcomes where the sum of the value of this outcome is greater than the initial cost of the input added to the cost of changing their state into an outcome. we term this difference as profit. People who invest in their business hope for a better return on that investment than they would by leaving it deposited in a less risky vehicle such as a bank or building society.

Businesses go through several stages and in many cases, several iterations. The first great idea should lead onto the second, third, fourth etc. Start up finance is often low but as the business grows, mezzanine finance (bank loans/family loans/friends loans etc) and even onto angel investment through selling a share of the potential in exchange for cash to grow.

People that start business are very often not the best people to run their businesses. They are the ideas people, the passion people and the main shareholders (usually). They have the vision for the business. They can see all of the parts, they can see the marketability, they usually understand their target audience. But the art is to get everything in place to manage the resources effectively and grow through the steps. Steps are when a business has to fund the increase in resources whilst driving the sales income to cover the cost of this increase (growth).

Funding growth is the hardest thing for any business to manage well. Businesses rarely ever run out of ides, they hardly ever run out of markets, but 90% of the time they fail because they run out of cash. Real cash, not the transactional notional cash we see in the P&L account, cash that they own.

Business leaders often see everything, they see the components of success, they know that if they can organise them well they will reap the rewards…very few truly know the order in which things must happen or where the steps are that will drain them of cash.

Managing a business is managing cash…it’s the only thing that I guarantee you will run out of from time to time…don’t let it close you down.