We’ve never been big on holidays. There are many possible reasons but when you live and work in places that other people spend their hard earned cash to visit for a few fleeting days or weeks in the year, where do you go? Having said that I do have various locations on my bucket list and some of these are quite quirky. So for instance, I think it would be quite cool to visit Winslow, Arizona. If you are wondering why, think Eagles – “Standing on a corner in …”
Anyway, Helen and I are getting away for a few days. Over the years we have always been wrapped up in the business and have never felt comfortable leaving it for too long. So, this is a slight departure. The excuse was Helen’s birthday 2 years ago. I got tickets for Billy Joel in New York. Then came Covid and postponements and finally cancellation. The refund was still sitting in my bank account when her birthday came around again, so I got her the same birthday present all over again. Cheapskate! And, of course, I get to go as well.
Where am I going with this? Well, you see, it struck me that when we do different things, and when it is for the first time, we are stretched and we grow, however little. Certainly, going to New York will be a different kind of experience for both of us. You may be a seasoned traveller, but we are not and so this is a big (if short) deal for us. It will change us and our outlook, however imperceptibly but there will be no going back. We must inevitably be different people. This line of thought started when I was considering the effect on you as a person of running your own business. It changes you. Travelling changes you. You are no longer scared of spiders. You must deal with all the highs and lows. You work through the stressful cash flows, staffing issues, technology breakdowns and all the rest. You cannot help but become a new and better version of yourself, as long as you don’t crack up of course.
When it is your business there are only 2 people who can sort out a problem. You and the person you engage to fix the problems. But it all starts with you. There is no-one else. Now some of these problems are big and I mean business threatening. You learn from the experience. Some are smaller and just troublesome, but you still learn, just not so much. These experiences change you and once changed, there is no going back to how you used to be. Your comfort zone is expanding and so is your knowledge and understanding.
When I think back to how I was when I first went onto a business, I wonder how we ever survived. I think that the long hours and hard work masked the lack of experience. Just the same we thought we knew it all. But that hard work and long hours grew that first business substantially. Our current business has grown much more but then it has been run by a more experienced and seasoned management team.
I don’t know how long you have been in business, or even whether you are in business at all. But if you look back at that younger version of you, would you choose to be that naïve wet behind the ears idiot that grew into you now? Just think if you could go back to that age but keep the head you have now. What could you have achieved?
It is often said that you learn by your mistakes. I know I have made plenty so is that why I have learned so much? I don’t think that is all of it. I think your attitude has a big influence. We have always been keen to learn and develop and so have tried to use technology to our advantage. Most of what we do is either on our computer network or in the cloud. We generally have no paper files. We like tidy, order and efficiency.
How many offices have you been into where you cannot see the desks for papers and files? I have known lawyers where it was not just the desks, but you could not see the floor for papers and files. In one (in Edinburgh) there was a path from the door to the desk through all the piles on the floor. How can anyone work like that? There is another expression I heard – tidy desk, tidy mind.
So, if you want someone to learn and to grow, I guess that means that you must give them the room to go and make mistakes. What do you think? If you constantly tell them what to do and never let them take the initiative, how will they evolve into the person you want them to become.
I suppose that I find business to be endlessly fascinating. There are so many factors in every situation that you must take into account. You have to know your trade but then you must keep up with technology while managing the human beings that you work alongside. Every decision is like a move on a chess board. There are always alternatives, but which combination will lead to the result that you want.
But with every game you get better at chess!
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Alan E Long
The Long Partnership