I heard this week that my first boss (a lovely man called Ron Lakin who gave me my first job in accountancy) had sadly passed away which got me thinking about some of the values I acquired in the first year when I was working in his department.

We all have values of course, albeit they might not always be what we say they are.

At A4G, we have what we call our core values all of which come under three main headings:

  • Growth
  • Win-Win
  • Systems

In terms of the first one, it’s the reason for our name. A4G is an abbreviation of Accountants for Growth, our original slogan.

But growth can mean many things. It could be in financial terms (Turnover, profit, cashflow) but it is more significantly in terms of the skills we have, the range of help we can provide, the numbers of people we can help and the quality of the advice we can provide. For our staff, especially our trainees, it is about growing as people and professionals. My belief is that if you can get all those things right, then the financials take care of themselves.

But of course, it then comes down to a discussion about how the benefits of such success can be shared. And that’s where a win-win mindset is important. It was an issue I covered in detail in my article last year called The Importance of a win-win (and even a lose-win) mindset.

For the partners at A4G, we want that win-win mindset to extend in both directions, to our staff via pay rises and bonuses and to our clients by providing them with the help they need to be more successful (whatever the definition of success is to them).

We try and achieve all that by systemising whatever we can. That means anything that repeats on a regular basis should be systemised. This might seem counter-intuitive to providing a personal service but the more you’ve systemised, the more time your team have for the things that can’t be systemised particularly those unique problems that clients need our help with.

Everything we do thereafter should be done in order to achieve those core values.

But what are your values and how well do you and your team act in order to achieve them? It’s a subject I discussed with Steve and Roger on the latest BackleyBlack Mindsetting video.

This stuff applies whether you’re a one-man band with just yourself to worry about, or you’re running the biggest organisation in the country.

If you’re a one-man band, you are probably pretty clear on those values. But how’s your willpower been this week? Can you honestly say that all your actions when you’re working from home have been completely focussed on delivering those values?

As your business grows, the day to day challenges you have to cope with grow, it’s easy to spend a whole day just dealing with wave after wave of urgent but perhaps not important issues. Come 6pm, is it a case of “another day another dollar” or have you made real progress?

As I scribbled down my ideas for this article, like the rest of you, I was distracted by the shocking numbers of positive tests, hospitalisations and deaths being reported. The implications of the decisions you and I make this week pale into insignificance against the impact of decisions being made by Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Jonathan Van Tam and Chris Whitty. What are the core values driving their decisions at the moment?

To minimise deaths? To minimise the damage to the economy? To just get us through the next few months until the vaccine saves our bacon? No-one really knows.

One of the challenges of governing a democracy that is so divided after the fallout from Brexit is the difficulty in finding a way of dealing with the Pandemic that the majority of the population can get behind (I nearly wrote “all” but that would be an impossibility).

This isn’t just us of course. France, Italy, Spain and most disastrously the USA have strategies which flip-flop from one extreme to the other. Western democracies have fared worst in all this.

There are countries who employed a total elimination strategy. Taiwan for example, a country of 24m which suffered cases of COVID well before we did, has had 7 deaths and has an economy which is now growing.

But as Steve mentions in the clip, we all have forces pulling us in different directions to the way we would otherwise go. And some of those influences are pulling in opposite directions to each other.

If you’re in charge of the country’s response to the Pandemic, you’ve got the Daily Mirror saying we should lockdown more, The Sun saying we should lockdown less, The Daily Mail saying we should lockdown more and lockdown less depending on what page you’re reading and groups on Facebook and Twitter saying Covid is the invention of a paedophile ring operating out of a pizza restaurant in New York (or something like that!).

As a few of my clients have observed in the past few weeks, getting people in Britain to all pull in the same direction seems to be an impossibility. In the end does your core value become trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no-one?

For owner-managers, we also have external forces pulling us away from the actions that contribute to achieving our core values even if those forces won’t publish a fake picture of us dressed as a clown.

External forces include the need to feed a family, employees who want more money, business partners whose interests are different to our own, customers who want a service tailored beyond what is commercially possible or our own desire to just to take it easy!

It takes a strong-willed and perhaps selfish individual to ignore those external forces and stick to the path that achieves those values.

As dark as the days currently are, there are better days ahead and when they arrive those who will be successful (and probably happiest) will be the ones who are able to stay true to themselves and to their core values and beliefs whatever they are.

Have a good weekend.

Aligning values with actions

Interview with Steve Backley and Roger Black 

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer

FCA

Managing Partner

01474 853856

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