In our previous blogs we have looked at the challenge of close-to-Zero economic growth and raised the following actions for consideration in your business, whether you are a one-person business or a more corporate entity:
3. Staff Morale.
These elements of business always bear relevance. Fact is, when things are going well and economic growth is flying, we all lose sight of them. That’s why I chose to discuss Complacency first – it is our fat-and-happy state where nothing can go wrong, … go wrong. Beware and avoid the hardship of missing the chance to streamline your business. Apart from Complacency, practically everything else works in combination rather than in any order. The same goes for this blog’s elements.
In Part 3 I would like to suggest some actions around three final issues: Hard Work, New Opportunities and Relationships.
1. Hard Work:
I must admit, I am old school. Many years ago in Nedfin Bank, our MD introduced the “next big thing” idea – Work Smarter Not Harder. We had post-its [they’re not that old, you know!], personal note pads, diaries and notice board posters. We all had to work smarter, not harder. It was a bit like losing weight; I tried and tried to work smarter but hard work just kept on coming back. I went home earlier to force smarter work and then came in early to catch up on yesterday. I thought smart, acted smart, threw out lots of questions and had lots of answers but, alas, smarter eluded me. Hard Work won most of the small successes and in between, a little Smart helped.
Identify with me? If not, count your lucky stars! I have seen young men in the sub-Prime days begin to hold onto their business. When it was quiet, they did other things, lived in different places, bought motorbikes to save fuel and basically hussled while they waited. No other smart idea could keep their businesses alive and survival brought out the best in them under the worst of situations. But survive they did. Hard work did that and if there was a modicum of Smart work, that just helped. I know I’m being simplistic and that many great Smart ideas have made people fabulously rich. But, my sense is why we know them so well is that there are so few of them. The rest have worked their guts out to get where they are today. You make your call, never denigrating Smart if you can possibly think of it, but Hard will probably be the way through to better economic times.
By the way, two of the smartest things you will ever do is Delegate – well-explained tasks to people you know can do them [or be supervised to learn to do them] – and, Develop a Succession Plan. The former we will take as understood, but the latter is like getting excited about doing your Last Will and Testament. But, who will run your business if you’re incapacitated? Do you have Income Protection insurance for long-term illnesses? What would happen if you never come back to work – who would keep the business going? What does your Will say about your shares and to whom do they devolve? Knowing that “it happens to the other guys”, many of us sadly leave these questions unanswered and cause much family strife and employee harm when something “happens to us”. Think about it and DO something about it.
Mom always said, “Opportunity only knocks once.” I loved her dearly but, coming through the Second World War it must have felt like that for her generation. But we know that it is simply not true. Indeed, we live in an age of multiple opportunities – which to choose and expend our energy on, is our dilemma. We have opportunities coming out of our ears and need to remember a few [I’m sure you can think of more] basic guidelines to avoid mistakes:
- Focus is the opposite of Diversion. A simple Resource Set will categorise an opportunity as one you can take and one you should leave. If you don’t have the resources, “stretch” may just prove too thin.
- Good strategies comprise of what you decline and what you accept. Saying “No”, is also good strategy. Saying “Yes” to everything is bad strategy.
- Stay within your core skills or be very careful. Origination was my core when I ventured there. RMD Meats was non-core and therefore a high risk for me. You can only justify the latter if you have demonstrated that you know how to run a business in spite of the product. Know when you are out of core and learn quickly about the product, and its industry.
- Know adjacent businesses and pursue them if you seek more opportunity. Bond origination and Insurance are adjacent. In theory, so is Estate Agency but estate agents will tell you very different so listen to their advice.
- Take your team with you. The old analogy of riding into the sunset whilst the posse breathes in your dust, is true. Don’t go it alone; you might end up there.
I wrote a blog called Relational Affinity so I don’t really want to repeat myself. However, most business depends on relationships. They mean the difference between transactional business – doing many deals with different people – and, relational business – doing many deals with the same people [in a spirit of mutual respect and trust].
When Zero is your reality, the good news about relationships is that they become a higher barrier to entry. Think of it this way: It is really hard to break into origination when you have to develop new relationships rather than enjoying doing the business with long-standing relationships. On the other hand, holding onto long-standing relationships is even more important when Zero is your reality than in the “good times” when “everyone” is buying and selling.
Cherish your relationships is all I’m saying. Keep them strong, loyal and resilient as they are a very source of your success.
That’s All Folks! is the famous ending of Walt Disney cartoons. Some of you will say: Thank Goodness!
But “positive” is not just the opposite of “negative”. It is also the advice that comes from experience; the advice we sometimes know but just need reminding of. Nothing is new in the last three blogs but, I can tell you, failure to heed some of these elements of business, have taught many businesses very harsh lessons. On the other hand, heeding some or all of them, has kept many a business alive and enabled it to prosper and even take emerging Opportunities, when times were less than favourable.
Homeloan Junction cannot promise you good news all the time. Personally, I find these blogs daunting when politicians and the like are stealing or talking rubbish to adherents, and we’re on the cusp [25th] of a Rating review. It is tough to be positive and I won’t be simply do it to sound like I am. But, sound advice, in the face of very low economic growth, is also positive and even, caring. We care about the businesses that associate with us and we care about the decade-and-longer relationships that we have nurtured over the years. Our success is linked to your success and that commercial umbilical cord means far more to us than you imagine. In that spirit of inter-dependency we write; hoping that something of value is imparted to you in your personal and business capacities.
Yours in Property.