It won’t come as any surprise to those of you who know me that I spend a lot of time chatting with people about what matters most to them when it comes to their businesses. This curiosity is part of who I am, but it’s also an integral part of how we operate here at neptik. If we didn’t fully understand what’s going on and what you’re hoping to achieve with your business, then we couldn’t deliver the service we do.
But we’re not here to talk about neptik [not yet, anyway], we’re here to talk about the issues that are most concerning for the people and companies I’ve been speaking with over the past few months.
Over and over I’d be hearing the same stories. These are the things that keep us awake at night:
- The recession
- Keeping the business going
- Energy prices
- Finding new customers
- The war in Ukraine
- Employee retention
- Keeping people happy/engaged
- Rampant inflation
- Managing/forecasting costs
When I was thinking about this list it dawned on me that half of these things we, as business people, are powerless to do anything about.
If we, literally, pull the list apart, the pattern will become clear:
|1. The recession|
|2. Keeping the business going|
|3. Energy prices|
|4. Finding new customers|
|5. The war in Ukraine|
|6. Employee retention|
|8. Keeping people happy/engaged|
|9. Rampant inflation|
|10. Managing/forecasting costs|
You can now see that only the list on the right relates specifically to us and our businesses. These are the things we can actually do something about. The list on the left is the context, and we always have to be mindful of that. These things will influence what we do, but we cannot influence them. In any way whatsoever. So, it’s imperative that we focus all our energy on those things we can do something about.
As the old saying goes ‘Only worry about things you can change’, and I’ve spent my career with this as a central mantra.
There is no quick fix for Brexit. Or for energy prices. Or for any of those bigger contextual issues. To be honest, there’s not even a fix right now, let alone a quick one! So worrying about them is a distraction, and not the best use of our time or energy.
There’s a Chinese proverb which sums this up nicely “That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build their nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
To bring this philosophy to life, here’s an example from the last recession of 2008:
I was the co-founder and sales director of a company called Network Centre which sold network cabling products. We’d set up in 2005 and the first thing we did was look around and see how our competitors did business. We saw that many of their systems were antiquated, inefficient and not particularly customer friendly. So we created systems which were bang up to date, digitised, customer friendly, and both time and cost efficient.
We understood the industry and our customers’ challenges, and used that to shape how we would develop our business. The sales curve was heading in the right direction, and we enjoyed spectacular year on year growth. The only fly in the ointment was that we could not crack the financial services market – then, as now, a huge sector for cabling. Because we were the new kids on the block, we couldn’t gain a distribution agreement for the certified cabling products utilised in this sector. It irked us, but we had plenty of fingers in plenty of other pies, so we weren’t worried about missing out on this for the moment.
Then 2008 came and the financial sector imploded. Our competitors – the ones who’d been enjoying the fruits of selling certified cabling systems to the banks and who’d always seen themselves as slightly ‘superior’ to us, now had a bucketload of clients who weren’t spending and miles of cable they could not shift. So we saw an opportunity [and one thing is true – adversity always brings opportunity – somewhere, for someone].
We came to an agreement with the manufacturers of these cabling system and took their inventory to sell into any market we could [a side note – according to Harvard Business Review, businesses are more likely to invest more money in technology/new solutions during lean times, as they see it as providing competitive advantage when times are tight, and an accelerant for growth when things start bouncing back].
This strategy ensured we did not suffer a lean time during the recession, and it gave us a huge platform for growth. As we went into the recession, we’d turned £3.2m a year. As we came out of it we were doing £4,8m in sales. 3 years later we hit £12.2m.
Why am I sharing this? Because it brings 3 very important factors to life:
- Focus on what you do and what you can change
- Just because times are hard, it does not mean they need to be hard for us/you
- Necessity is the mother of inventive thinking
I do not want to sound glib or make light of these truly challenging times, but I do want you to feel that we are not hostages to circumstance. That there are things that we can do to improve our lot. And that, as sure as night follows day, there are better times up ahead.
On a final note, I have to get back to neptik. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to scroll back and look at the list on the right. Those 5 things – we can help you with every single one of them.
If you want to find out how, give me a shout! 😁