Just before the PM’s announcement on Monday night, I got sent a Boris bingo card on WhatsApp. You may have seen it. World-beating, Rampant, unforeseen, unprecedented were all on there as well as the stock phrases we have all become used to.

But one word that was not on there was the word “If”. Because “If” featured heavily.

“If” is a word that owner-managers hate. We prefer “control”. If is the complete opposite of control. If means we have no real control.

But of course we do. We know that this will end at some point. We all have a reasonable idea of the timeframe and its actually not much different to what most sensible people have been predicting for the past six months.

At some point, we’ll all be able to get back to the things we are good at.

But what are they? I mean how many things are you really good at? Think about it. It’s a tricky one isn’t it?

The answer is probably only one. And its whatever it is that you do for a living. Or if you’re in one of those industries in hibernation whilst the Pandemic continues, what you used to do for a living. Before you became a part-time classroom assistant.

Ok; maybe you’re a county level triathlete in your spare time or are good enough to make the shortlist for The Great British Sewing Bee. And of course, you do have a mug on your desk with a cute picture of your favourite child which says “Best Dad / Mum in the World”. But let’s face it, the jury on that one probably had one eye on their future birthday and Christmas presents and let’s not forget that the company they bought it from sells about 50,000 of them a year so you’re probably kidding yourself on that one.

The probability is that in respect of the stuff you do outside normal working hours, you are no better than mediocre.

And what else would you expect? To be really good at something requires practice. Lots of it. And the right sort of practice as well. Practicing the right things not just doing the same thing over and over again in the same mediocre way.

This is where the 10,000 hours of practice (1,000 hours per year for 10 years) theory comes in.

This is pretty well documented but is best illustrated in the book “Bounce – the myth of talent and the power of practice”. If you’re not likely to read the book, there’s a great 3-minute video on YouTube about it which gives you the gist.

So, whatever you do, you will probably become good at. The best way to sum this up is the saying “your focus is your reality”. The first time I heard that phrase was by friend of the firm Steve Backley and his latest video with business partner Roger Black is about the importance of self-awareness and knowing your own strengths.

I often talk about this with clients who have had a good year or two and are starting to think about what to do with their spare profits. At any given moment, almost all our clients (and owner-managers generally of course) fall into one of two categories. They either want more money or they want more time.

Normally you start out in the first category and then when you’ve become good at what you do, you find yourself in the second category. Occasionally something goes wrong (a business disaster or maybe the big one; a divorce) and you find yourself back in the first category.

There are of course clients who are in neither category, but they are usually retired and quite often missing doing the thing that they became really good at that enabled them to retire in the first place.

Everyone is different but the sweet spot seems to be spending about 3 days a week working and earning money doing what you’re good at and the rest of the week managing your investments and doing the things you enjoy (but aren’t good at).

If you can manage that before you’re too old to enjoy the benefits of all your hard work, I think you can consider your career a success.

But the flip side to knowing your own strengths is knowing your own weaknesses. Or perhaps admitting to your own weaknesses. Most of us know our weaknesses deep down but do we actually own up to them? Because if we did, we might have to do something about them.

And we probably don’t want that. Because that might require practice to become good at those things. 10,000 hours if we want to be really good which is a bloody long time to spend doing something you don’t want to do.

But tackling your weaknesses is key to ensuring that you are able to capitalise on your strengths. I’ve seen many businesses with amazing products, customer service or sales skills let down but failure to acknowledge the importance of sound financial management or embracing of technology. Or vice-versa even.

So Monday’s announcement of another lockdown should be seen as an opportunity. It’s a third lockdown but hopefully it’s the last lockdown. The last lockdown before owner-managers can get back to rebuilding their businesses and finances and repairing whatever damage the last year has done.

The one thing that keeps us all happy is the feeling of making progress. And this lockdown feels like we are right back where we started at the end of March last year.

But sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. So with that in mind, just in case you weren’t on our mailing list in those mad weeks back then, I’ve linked this email to the first of my Seven habits (Time to sharpen the saw) series which started in April and the Ten vital ingredients for a successful recovery series which started in August. Apologies if any of my predictions weren’t 100% accurate.

Alternatively, if you need a lift, its worth signing up for the marvellous BackleyBlack Mindsetting programme and letting Steve and Roger give you a lift.

The finish line is in sight. 2021 will be better than 2020. Normal life will return. The businesses which succeed the most will be those who made the most of their downtime.

Self Aware / Strengths

Interview with Steve Backley and Roger Black 

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Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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