My philosophy on achieving both business growth and personal development is based on taking a holistic approach, working on developing a growth mindset, remembering you are the CEO of your business and yourself and making sure you never stop seeking knowledge in every aspect of the sense.
If you recognize the image above, you will notice it is a rear view of the acupuncture meridian points relating to the back of the head and back. Meridian points are used to stimulate the energy flow of the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and you can see that they look like a map and they are all interconnected. The goal of acupuncture is to ‘balance the body’ through stimulating the relevant meridian points with needles and a balanced body is a healthy one.
Back to the world of business and it is absolutely imperative that you view your business in the same way and I often see companies who are majorly imbalanced and it is easy for me to spot one because I was one myself!
Increasing sales is obviously a path to business growth, but not at the expense of lowered operating margins or negatively impacting cash flow. Conversely, another way of increasing operating margins is to cut costs, but if you take this too far, you will strangle the companies ability to grow.
Personal development and business growth go hand-in-hand, but it is imperative to set the overall goal in one camp or the other.
I have seen many an entrepreneur and business person, go on a ‘self-discovery’ mission at the expense of their company and equally, I have seen many a great business fail because the owner was simply not mentally strong and committed enough to get through a tough time, or would not take responsibility for their actions by blaming others and circumstances for their failing profits.
Having been in business since the age of nineteen and experienced huge successes and failures, I talk about my philosophy here from my personal experiences and I started my personal development phase from when I wanted to learn Martial Arts to defend myself after being bullied at school. I quickly became interested in the spiritual aspects and soon after beginning my Martial Arts journey, I was thinking about getting into business and that became an obsession.
My views here are weighted toward business growth and due to my commitment to achieving it, I would spend virtually all of my time developing the three factors below. Remember though that this suited me and it may not suit you and I have no idea as to any ‘formula’ that could optimize the time to spend on each or the ability therefore to predict success or failure, but I do believe that without being totally committed to the goal, you will probably fail.
So let’s begin!
Your mindset is the most critical component of business and personal growth and do you have the right one?
Take a look at this site here for some great information on the subject of mindset.
This is a difficult subject to address in an article and I will delve much deeper in this most important subject in future, but a there is a great quote from a legendary drummer called Joe Morello and it is a spin on the more regular one:
“A quitter never wins and a winner is too stupid to quit.”
That statement applies directly to me as I simply take the attitude of ‘never quitting,’ no matter what.
It is a good idea to study the habits of successful athletes, performers, businessmen and people in general, to get an insight into their thinking, but don’t try to emulate them, just take their experiences and try to see if there are any that fit into your life.
I always looked outside my industry for inspiration and as a musician who learned the piano from the age of seven and the drums around twenty years ago, as well as Martial Arts, Olympic Weightlifting and coming from a Military family, my inspirational choices were easy.
In Martial Arts circles, I could not have had a better instructor than Steve Morris and to simply call him a Martial Artist would do him an incredible injustice although he has to be one of the worlds finest – he would talk about complex subjects such as physiology and anatomy, as well as psychology and a host of other deep subjects with ease. As for the mindset, I have not met anyone with a tougher one and when you also add his supreme physical ability to the mix and who is still going strong in his seventies, you have a remarkable man and someone who had a major influence on my thinking.
David Rigert was inspirational for me in Olympic Weightlifting and the story of how I got into weightlifting will give you some idea of my mindset and also the stupidity of youth!
I was no longer able to practice Martial Arts with intensity through a damaged left hip, which made any rotational movement with weight on that leg extremely painful, so I decided to get into what I thought in my head was a way to strengthen the hip and leg by performing more ‘up and down’ motions such as light squats.
‘Light’ became heavy as I was not experiencing much pain and ‘heavy’ became Olympic Lifting seeing me win one competition and place second in another. The stupidity aspect was that I was simply overloading and wearing out the joint to the point that I required a new left hip!
This was diagnosed in 2002, after the initial injury in the ’90s and I was simply determined not to have the surgery. I was also during the ’90s going through my greatest period of business growth, so you can imagine how occupied my mind was with music, Martial Arts, weightlifting and a hip injury to basically ignore!
It’s all about making sure you are able to withstand the hardships and challenges that will come in some shape or form and unless you are extremely lucky, you are going to be ‘tested’ and when I was a young, inexperienced businessman, I saw what I thought were successful business owners in their 40’s and 50’s literally crying in their offices over problems that I have now experienced and dealt with in my stride.
Does that make me a hero? No of course not and let me say it’s a hard thing to see when any human being is suffering, but for me, I simply made myself deal with the problem and that was probably due to my early, more aggressive experiences in Martial Arts giving me the mental toughness to continue.
It is vitally important to also keep an ‘open mind’ and take in as much information as you can about everything in business and life. You will have to recruit people with skill sets and abilities far greater than you if you truly want to succeed and this is an area that some people resist which seriously shuts down growth.
Be self-aware and work on your weaknesses by all means, but don’t be afraid to recruit experts and also be prepared to share your growth with those who help you.
I’m staying with the head pictures for this post as the next component part is Intelligence.
Now I am going to apply my definition of intelligence for the world of business growth and that is the collation of business information that you turn into profitable action!
Let’s say you are a small to medium-sized company (SME) and your customers are public listed companies in the construction sector in the UK.
The first thing to do is to make sure you are fully up-to-date with the overall sector in general. Make sure you study the sector from an investment analysis perspective as it is a good idea to understand where the investment is coming from and going to as well as simply knowing the numbers.
Look at the USA market as from a Global Markets perspective, everything is driven from the USA. You should already know the history of your industry and have an opinion of where it is heading in relation to where it has come from and where your industry is today – also your marketing message should explain exactly what you do and the benefits to your customers and everyone in your company should be aware of this message from the receptionist to your senior executives (remember interconnection).
Your message was the outcome of the research that you conducted in the first place before you started the business and this was probably based on identifying a ‘gap’ in the market or simply wanting to do things better than your competition.
The idea here is to make sure that everything is up-to-date and in my world, we call it ‘real-time’ and it is constantly updated. You can now look at your customers and see where they are in your overall analysis in terms of performance and also identify new target customers, thanks to the analysis and of course, update your services in the same real-time way.
The idea is to be able to converse with your customers at the highest level, to understand the industry implicitly and to be able to anticipate your customer’s needs and build your services to meet them. This is the key to real selling or what I term, ‘educating your customers how to buy from you.’ Be careful though as when I would religiously get to know the history, ‘drivers’ and start to predict the future of my industry, I sometimes came across a little too arrogant and that can be a huge negative.
I started with the holistic approach in this post and I am now going back to it in terms of the next point, which is to put it all into action.
2. Remember You Are A CEO
Everything starts and ends with the CEO and that is why being one can be one of the loneliest jobs on this planet. I am deliberately using this term as to whether you are a start-up, small business or a high growth enterprise, you should adopt the title of CEO and get into the mindset of the responsibilities that go with it.
Remember also that this title applies to you personally as well – you are the CEO of ‘yourself’ and that means taking responsibility for your actions, successes and of course failures.
Your ‘job role’ is really ‘everything’ and in my case when I first started, I researched the hell out of my industry, selling to my customers by the day and learning the basics of accounting by night.
Add to this that I also had to familiarize myself with technology as my industry was Telecommunications, learn about the culture and customs of the Countries I had to visit to see my customers (I went outside of the UK from day one) as well as increasing my overall general knowledge about various subjects that would allow me to converse with people outside of business.
You need to make sure that you then understand your strengths and weaknesses as a CEO and surround yourself with the people to compliment you. In my case, I was and still am, a sales and marketing focussed CEO, which means that I need a strong ‘numbers’ person to handle the financial matters (CFO).
Now I understand finance, but I am not a specialist, just as I understand technology in the same way. In other words, I have done every job in my company simply because I had to and that gave me a basic understanding of each role – one day I was in discussion with a credit controller about why our invoices were not being paid on time and I was told that as a CEO, I didn’t understand the intricacies of credit control.
I explained that before I had the luxury of being able to form a credit management department, I had to chase all of the invoices personally and I was successful because I took a ‘sales approach’ to credit control.
The CEO is responsible for leading and developing a leadership culture. Every aspect of the CEO role is critical, but this is high up the list if not at the top. You can have a great mindset and have all of the qualities technically as a CEO, but if you are not able to lead effectively, then you are dramatically reducing your chances of success and will not be able to get the best out of your team.
Take Special Forces soldiers in the Military, they are without a doubt, at the top of their game in every sense of the word. But what makes them ‘Special’?
There are a lot of resources on the subject, so Google and take a look for yourself, but what you have are a group of elite soldiers, who are totally committed to their tasks and are excellent leaders.
I have gone in one sense, to the ‘top of the tree’ as far as the Military goes and I must stress that all Military personnel show a level of commitment, determination and leadership is at the heart of Military teaching.
Remember we were fighting battles long before we were building companies and business strategy is simply a ‘flow down’ from Military strategy.
You can never have enough knowledge, but also remember that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!
I was not at all academic at school, largely because I had very little self-confidence. I performed poorly in my exams and reached the educational standards at the age of nineteen, that I should have reached three years earlier.
Starting my own company literally forced me to learn and soon I developed a thirst for knowledge unlike ever before – it was like a switch had been ‘flicked’ in my brain and I then started to by books on subjects that I thought I hated at school – Physics, Biology, and Chemistry for example.
I also started to read a lot about business and successful business leaders – I didn’t really care at that time who the authors were, I was simply gaining as much subject matter as I could.
Working Internationally, I was immediately fascinated about not only conducting business in other Countries but also their customs and culture, which probably explains a very large library of cookery books from around the world as I love food and in short I had the best of everything as far as I was concerned – business, International travel, and eating!
On the subject of eating, I will talk about combining business and in a social environment. I have personally witnessed high-level and high-value business deals, that have been worked on for months, involving a huge expense and not to mention the huge demand on people, literally collapse at the dinner table.
It is hard to imagine that the simple act of having dinner with a client could result in a lost deal, so let me explain:
It was a company that I was part of, in terms as far as being a shareholder and the Sales Director and the Chairman and I disagreed on an issue concerning a very successful salesperson, who I wanted to fire. It had nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with his personality and character. There is a saying in the recruiting/staffing industry that goes something like this:
‘You hire someone for what they know and fire them for who they are.’
Now we had a large, prestigious account, that I had personally created and this person was assigned to develop it, which he was doing well with at the time.
The contact was all telephone-based and he came to me telling me that the client had invited him up for dinner and also he would bring the ‘big boss’ to the dinner to introduce us to him and develop the account further. I was invited as well and naturally, I accepted.
We met at a nice wine bar initially for a few pre-dinner drinks and everything seemed to go smoothly and then we went to the restaurant for dinner.
I was raised by my Grandparents, who instilled a strict sense of table manners into me as soon as I could hold cutlery, so I was well aware of how to behave.
In short, the meal was a disaster as the conversation from our salesperson was all about increasing our levels of business and how we were the best company to deal with, combined with a total lack of all-round etiquette, including waving a gold credit card to a waitress in the distance shouting to bring over the bill!
It cost us the entire account with my contact saying that the big boss said that if we were the example of the ‘best’ then what were the rest like and any company that takes no care over having a simple dinner, will take no care over the minute details required to manage the account as we moved up the hierarchy.
No amount of reasoning from my original contact with the boss would change his mind and he told my contact that he should not continue to deal with us even at his level.
Of course, as Sales Director, I took full responsibility and from that day forward, I would make sure that each salesperson who would ever attend any social function would be coached on how to behave.
It was a very expensive lesson.
I hope I have conveyed the importance of knowledge and that it must be extended to many fields and I will stress again that a little knowledge can be dangerous. So take a subject and learn it to a degree that gives you the confidence to speak about it with confidence and it is also a good idea to stress how much you actually know and I do this openly, which again leaves the door open for discussion and further learning.
Right now, I am fascinated by Artificial Intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies and blockchain – I have always had a fascination for technology in general, so I came across AI many years ago, but only now we are seeing real and consistent examples of the technology in use and with regard to blockchain, we have the opportunity to disrupt industry in a positive way, so am learning what I can from this site.
I’ve touched on three critical components here and they give a lead into many other sub-components, which I will go into deeper in later articles.
But for now, take the above as a framework and shape it to yourself and your own business and personal development and of course, increased growth and profits!
Last modified: August 28, 2019