Its that time of year when lots of awards are handed out and competitions reach their conclusion.

The accounting industry has two reasons to be proud this week. First, trainee accountant Peter Sawkins walked off with the prestigious Great British Bake-Off title. Then not be outdone, the rest of the profession came together as one to push the entire profession to the top of a league table of the professions that swear the most. Yes, really.

I’m not quite sure why our profession in particular should swear more than other professions although I have a suspicion that the constant changes to the furlough scheme just when we’d mastered each phase may have resulted in a collective “for f***’s sake” uttered across the nation’s accounting firms.

Of course, it’s not just the problem of ever-changing rules in 2020 that might help contribute to the contents of the office swear jar but the constant range of problems we are required to resolve.

Interestingly, solving problems (usually other people’s) is not something that they specifically teach you when you do your professional exams. But the range of subjects covered and the need for calm objectivity are a good grounding.

That’s right. We’re objective. You are mistaking boring and emotionless for objective. It’s an easy mistake to make.

The ability to solve problems and the need to reflect is the subject of this week’s video with Steve Backley and Roger Black.

For Steve and Roger, in their athletics careers, the biggest problem to overcome was injury. As Steve says, “you can’t see it coming and stops you in your tracks”. A bit like the impact of Coronavirus on business then!

Many of you will have businesses that have evolved over many years and despite some upheaval back in the Spring are now back to similar levels of trade as previously. Perhaps your plans only extend as far as to keep it ticking along whilst building up some kind of investment fund ready for retirement.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there are also many businesses who are in the growth phase and are trying to maximise their potential. Even if the growth target you have set yourself is only 10%, you will find that 90% of your problems and challenges will be associated with the direct and indirect consequences of that 10% growth.

As Steve says, “if you’re not solving problems then you’re not at the cutting edge and you’re not pushing hard enough”.

The problems you might need to solve in 2021 as we emerge from Pandemic normal into a post Covid recession will include:

  • Dealing with the uncertainty of a changing business environment
  • Innovation from competitors and changing technology
  • Funding growth
  • Getting the right staff (and keeping them!)
  • Government policy and regulation including the impact of the dreaded B word – Brexit!
  • Demanding customers
  • Lack of time to deal with all the above!

And of course, variations and combinations of all the above.

The most successful businesses will find a way of overcoming each problem by diagnosing the problem first, identifying the resources required to fix the problem, considering the consequences of potential solutions (will the solution to one problem create another?) and mapping out an implementation strategy.

Panic is not an option.

Some of my best and most successful clients are really good at catastrophising as part of their thought process.

Catastrophising is not really a technique but capitalises on the natural human emotion of anxiety to think about all the things that can go wrong.

During the Pandemic, the leaders of the countries who have suffered the least financially and in terms of mortality (because ultimately the two things seem to have a close correlation), catastrophised early. We were all familiar with the scenes of people suspected of having Coronavirus being dragged from their apartments in China for example. But many democratic countries such as New Zealand and South Korea catastrophised to a greater degree and much quicker than most European countries.

Catastrophising creates urgency and necessity and “necessity is the mother of invention” as they say.

And if you don’t know where to start, start with the numbers. Understanding your real break-even point is critical. You can develop a plan from there. But there are plenty of other start points including one of the A4G Breakthrough programmes, enrolling on the Backley Black Mindsetting programme or maybe just developing your own strategic plan.

With a much greater degree of certainty resulting from the arrival this week of the first batch of vaccines, there really is no excuse for not making the changes you need to make to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

If you’re waiting on an unavoidable delay, then fair enough. If you’ve got personal reasons why you don’t want to spend any more time than is necessary on the business, that’s good.

But if you’re just holding back and trying to find reasons to justify why you haven’t acted, then the probability is that you’ve actually solved whatever problem you had but the answer involves something which is outside your comfort zone.

If that’s the case, listen to your accountant and just f***ing do it. I’ll put another £ in the Christmas swear jar.

Have a good weekend.

Solving problems and reflecting

Interview with Steve Backley and Roger Black 

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer

FCA

Managing Partner

01474 853856

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