The English Disease in Business

There are times in a career when you stop for a second and realise people are actually using you as a resource, it tends to happen when you reach and tip over a threshold of experience, successful experience I guess, and that’s when you realise people come to you for guidance, mentoring and direction. This tends to be more frequent with individuals entering that anxiety laden phase of setting up your first business and they look for people that have been there, done that, worn the t-shirt, etc.

Or perhaps they recognise the scars of success, like the old lion with his pride around him, reaching the end of his term, scares etched deep in his skin from fighting off the competition, drowsy from the lack of sleep for so many years from keeping an ever watchful eye on his creation, a little frayed and ragged round the edges from age finally catching up with him, perhaps this is what people recognise and are drawn to, the scars of successful commerce illustrated clearly for all to see.

It’s quite funny as I don’t see it, some say experience shows but they never seem to explain in what way, such a surreal comment to say “your experience shows”, has someone put a sign on the back of my wheelchair saying “this man has business experience”; or perhaps people register on a subconscious level that this man is atomising the air with expensive aftershave and is therefore successful; or it could be that I just talk a lot and they associate my rambling with someone that must know what they’re talking about due to the diatribe that exits uninhibited from his mouth.

Expertise in a subject or in business actually does show in an outward expression of confidence, talking knowledgably on an issue that is founded in hard won experience does show, creates an air of success, does draw less experienced business people, does give some credibility to what one is saying, confidence is the key, based in actual experiential learning, and never forgetting some key principles:

1. You never know it all
2. You must listen to other people’s opinions, two ears and one mouth for a reason
3. To give others a voice you must empower them to do so without fear of negative response
4. Be honest and open about your view, with due diligence to never hurt people’s feelings deliberately

So I look back onto the meetings I have had, over 20+ years must be in the low thousands, easily 200 a year of different types, but they have changed over the years as I have alluded too early in this jumble of thoughts. Once I sought meetings out to convince others, the more successful I have become this has turned 180o and people seek out the battle scared, battered old lion and want to convince me, win me over for one reason or another, gain my knowledge in some way, and there is nothing wrong with this at all.

Actually I seek to pass on this knowledge in a variety of ways, I think it is the duty of every person with a skills set to pass this knowledge on to the next generation. I do this by working with two Universities that in themselves have quite different strengths; my aspiration is to engage the next generation of entrepreneurs and business men and women. I work with people on projects and with others that contribute as equally as I do to create a vision we may have, a project or venture, sometimes an adventure. But this is not a one way street, I learn just as much from people I work with as I hope they do from me, gosh it’s what keeps me going, learning, discovering, adding to personal and group knowledge. But modesty prevents me extolling the virtues of working with me further, let’s just leave it as a two way exchange, the whole of which is greater than the parts individuals bring to it, and hopefully the end result of rigorous team commerce is greater too.

This doesn’t really explain the key difference when people seek out this past killer big cat of the fat cat’s boardroom, and this is where the difficulty lies, people that want my time often waffle around, and it takes unnecessary time to work out what the heck it is they want from me, like by being upfront and open about their need is rude in some way, would slur my ancestors’ name or cause some malevolent misfortune to fall upon those whose ears receive this truth. Individuals or small groups spend their valuable time, and mine, and beat around the vagary bush until a halt is drawn to this blind-man’s-bluff, until I use my stalking skills gained from years of commercial hunting, and once again this big old lion brings down his target and roars,

what is it you want from me?

This is the English Disease, they don’t like to say upfront what it is they want, what help they need, what specifically is being problematic that they need assistance with. The amount of wasted time I have spent listening to drivel and diatribe, my thoughts screaming in my skull, “what the hell do you want?” until finally I can take no more and ask them.

But herein lies the irony of this English Condition, as I reframe from saying anything until I burst out with “what is it you want from me?” does this mean I too suffer from the English Condition by not asking sooner?