There are often many ways of saying the same thing.

Is the glass half empty or half full? To my way of thinking the glass is irrelevant as long as there is still some wine left in the bottle. But this saying to me relates to whether you are a positive person or whether you lean to the negative, focusing on the downside.

In a similar vein, the full version of the quote above is “Hold the vision, not the obstacles”. It is saying that you should focus on the goals and accept and deal with whatever obstacles you may encounter along the way. If you just focus on the obstacles, these small hills can become insurmountable mountains stopping you from seeing the goal. If you are focused on the desired outcome, then you accept that there may be hills to climb along the way. They are only hills, not mountains.

I came across an American expression. It was “every path has puddles”. It really is much the same meaning. However good the path, it will almost inevitably have puddles if it rains and it will rain at some time. Doesn’t stop you from using the path.

If you are in business, you will be accustomed to having to deal with the unexpected. I have often said that if everything is going smoothly, it just means that you don’t yet know what has gone wrong. It’s just the way.

And of course, it’s not that things are going wrong. That’s almost inevitable. It’s the way you react and deal with each problem. Next!

If you have been involved in buying other businesses, you will be well aware of all this. However carefully you plan, however long you have spent covering all the angles, there will be something and probably many things that will jump up and bite you. It’s just the way. So, you just have to deal with each problem as it arises.

We have bought four businesses over the last 16 years. After each one, we thought we could write the book, but by the time we had bought number three, we realised we were just writing each successive chapter. You learn with each one and so when we bought number four, it was reasonably smooth, but there were still the odd things that we missed initially. You are always learning. You never know it all.

I think that the expression that you cannot put an old head on young shoulders is very true. When I took the plunge and became self-employed at the age of 32, it was all a great new adventure and we all worked hard to make it work. But if we had realised at that time just how little we actually knew, would we have taken that gamble? But you see, we were focused on the vision and not the obstacles. We could and did learn what we needed along the way. That’s just what we did.

That was a while ago and there has been much water under the bridge. It is fascinating to see new accountants coming into the market driven by the vision that drove us. Let’s hope they stay focused on that vision and make it work for them. There’s plenty of work out there for all of us.

Early in my career, I recall saying that one of the things I liked about accountancy was that it was constantly changing. At that time the changes were largely tax driven. That is still the case to a large degree, but technology is also coming into play. Bookkeeping has been transformed in the last few years and that evolution in processes will continue. We are moving away from having people sitting at desks inputting purchase invoices all day into a purchase ledger. Automation is taking hold.

I find the change quite exciting, and it will be interesting to see where we reach in the next few years. I am looking forward to seeing the changes implemented in our own systems.

My first laptop was a Compaq, then a Toshiba, but the last few have all been Dell. But the screens have been getting bigger each time. Because I am nomadic, my laptop is my desktop machine, although in each office I do have a second monitor. Unfortunately, I cannot have two screens on the move. Maybe, one day that will come.

So, what is the vision you are focused on? Is it clear in your mind? I used to talk about having a Behag, that big hairy audacious goal in your head, that you could see but rarely shared for risk of being laughed at, especially by those closest to you. I think we all have a bag, but you also need to have an action plan. Otherwise, it is just a daydream.

Dream but then act. Turn it into reality. Make mistakes, learn, and keep going.

Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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