Follow us for updates

Business Blog

Read me like a book by starting at the beginning

Things Can Change In A Split Second

Date - 30 March 2016/ Category - Facts Of Life
Facts of life

As quickly as things can go right, they can also go wrong. This is because we forget the influence of external factors beyond our control.

One day you could be training for a boxing match and the next day get hit by a bus. Ok it seems a bit extreme but the point is sometimes things beyond your control can undo even the best laid plans.

In those moments it’s important how we react. While most get caught up in the effects, it’s really important that you can learn to put the emotion of the moment to one side, cut through the politics and find a solution.

I have a great example of how external factors can affect your success; it stems from my time as the commercial manager of a large financial services company.

On day 1 I was given a £1.2 million pound marketing budget and a team of 4 sales people. The cost per acquisition was £2600 adding 461 clients a year (£39 million of contracts worth about £2million in profit after all costs).

By day 365 my budget had been cut to £750,000 (37.5% cut) and a team of 3 sales people, yet I had reduced my cost per acquisition to £550 (78% drop) adding 1360 clients a year (£116 million of contracts worth about £6 million in profit after costs).

On day 375 I was hauled into a meeting to be told that an outside consultant had been called in to look at my cost base and that I needed to cut £120,000 from my budget without affecting sales. The reason for this was because our major shareholder, who didn’t have any direct involvement with the business had been told by an outside consultant that our numbers were not good enough.

Now the above to me was a highly unjustified intervention. The improvement I had orchestrated was second to none; especially in an industry tarnished by a bad reputation and scandal.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the real reason for this £120k request. The external consultant had been brought in to start another new business for the shareholders and they needed £120k to fund it. The CEO had decided that it was to come from my budget.

This itself seems harsh; yet alongside my performance a second arm of the business had been created, with 8 sales staff. It had a similar yearly budget and was designed to replace my team in the long run.

Over the year it created just 40 contracts for the business and lost a large amount of money. The losses incurred had been softened by my performance but overall the shareholders had not seen the growth they expected and as such had called in an outside consultant to suggest a new way forward.

They never knew that one part of their own business was running flat out while the other was failing, they just saw a combined output. Their action were in essence perfectly logical for someone that didn’t know the full facts and had the failures of other departments covered up.

To add to the complications, the person chosen to review my work was the leader of the failing team. Someone much more experienced, who was the sales trainer for the whole business, and whom they paid about 5x my salary. To put it simply, he was too big to be allowed to fail publicly and so despite my good deeds I was the designated person to take the hit.

When I went into the meeting, I laid out in my slides exactly what we had achieved but I quickly learnt that no one had read them. The decision had already been made by the CEO on how to communicate the £120k savings to the shareholders. The other team’s budget remained unaffected.

In that moment I can remember going from a place of happiness to one of complete desolation. How can such an injustice occur?

It’s amazing how quickly things can turn on their head. A few weeks later the same CEO was removed from the business and I was told that I would be replaced because I was too closely associated with the old regime. Again a perception created out of a lack of in depth understanding of the business at hand.

There was simply nothing I could have done to prevent those events unfolding. I did my best, I excelled in my role and even in the face of cut backs kept on doing better. At the end though, because my success was bundled with other people errors I was tarred with a brush that created my own downfall.

In business you have to learn that sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about them. It’s sad, it’s painful and it’s very depressing but the important thing is that you get back up.

You might lose a big customer because they go bust. You might lose your best employee because they move out of the areas. You might lose your main supplier because they decide to go into competition with you. None of these things you can prepare for and they often hit you out of the blue.

Training yourself to react to them is vitally important.

Chapter Summary:

• Situations can change through no fault of your own
• Luck has a big part to play in your success

Read our next blog post “The importance of external factors”.

Tags :

success, change, luck,