Thursday, 19 February 2015

Happy Birthday to Wrexham F.C.

Wrexham F.C., as I’m sure most of the readers of this newspaper will know, recently celebrated its 150th birthday.

Fantastic – sounds like something to celebrate and definitely an achievement. In this day and age, when we routinely replace things rather than make them last another few months, never mind years, surely it’s impressive for any institution to last 150 years.

I wouldn’t argue with that line personally but as usual I’m wondering what are the reasons behind our admiration – can we learn anything by probing behind the headline and making a comparison with the world of business.

There’s a very useful test in business that asks if a company or individual’s actions respond well to the query – so what? As usual with simple statements, if you respond honestly to the question you might find out something useful that you can build on.

In Wrexham FC’s case the answer might be something like this: for 150 years sporting excellence has been striven for and a whole town has been united behind the team as they strove to improve their standing in the league by competing week in week out. Many people have identified with the team and found a sense of purpose in a shared endeavour and also relaxation and an escape from the drudgery of the 9-5 routine. Fitness has been held up as something worthy and an ideal to pursue for youngsters who may have that sort of talent within their grasp.

So, yes Wrexham FC is a socially useful phenomenon without which the town would most definitely be the poorer but what of your business or enterprise. What would you answer to the “so what” question on your 10th anniversary, for example? I suspect that one may be more difficult to answer but hopefully worth the effort.

If you genuinely struggle to find reasons for why you were so keen to announce to all your business contacts that you had just crossed the 10 year milestone – think again. It may point to a lack of balance. Perhaps you have been one-dimensional in your pursuit of profit or never given a second thought to gender diversity or your position as an employer in the community.

Sounding off about a record just for its own sake clearly leaves you open to the charge of being lightweight or lacking in depth. Worse still, perhaps you lack objectives with which your wider customer base can identify. To grow a business requires shared goals and vision – no-one can achieve truly great heights alone and even what appears to be a cause for celebration might offer a good opportunity to reflect on that.

I like a celebration as much as the next person but don’t let the answer to “so what” be disappointing because your 10 years in business equates to the same year repeated 10 times over. Like Wrexham FC, aim for 150 years and aim for the pride that will come when your business community genuinely has good reasons to celebrate with you, even before you remind them to do so!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The power of the written word

There’s an old adage in business that says something to this effect - anything that doesn’t get written down is bound to get forgotten. For me that’s a good maxim and one that I have personally lived my business life to for many years now. In my humble opinion it’s even more valuable in today’s tech-savvy age than in it ever was.

Why? Because writing things down is way more valuable than serving as a mere memory-jogger. Putting pen to paper is one of life’s pleasures and it is a grave mistake to dismiss it as simply a chore or something to avoid at all costs. Sure, writing in a business context can mean a little dullness when it comes to content but no-one should underestimate the feeling of control and creative flow that any writing can give.

For sheer enthusiasm and commitment to the task it would be hard to find a better example of this than Andrew Marr. I know most of us don’t write on the scale he does but the feeling he describes as the act of creative writing gives another dimension to his knowledge is undeniably true for us all. Try it sometime and I guarantee you will be surprised at the results.

We are all of us better than we often give ourselves credit for and writing can reveal the true depth of what we know. It is as if another part of the writer takes over for as long as the writing is taking place.
“Getting in the zone” is probably how this phenomenon would be described in business-speak and that’s not a bad description. It conveys the sense of “somewhere-elseness” and it implies you are now in a special place where serious business will start to happen and happen fast. It engenders a very useful feeling of purposefulness, control and added dimensions that might mean the edge in business we are all looking for.

Be bold – express yourself with considered thought and it will give you a USP. This is especially so nowadays when the majority of business people run a mile from writing things down preferring to take comfort in the fact that we can talk hundreds of times faster than we can write.

I hope you enjoy this column – if you think it’s below par in any way that’s probably because I didn’t trouble to write a written draft before I produced it