If you listen in a Chrome browser on a PC the embedded player will stop after 30 seconds and nobody knows why. If that’s you, listen direct on Spotify.
Freedom at last
Last week reminded me why business is more fun than having your own backyard panda enclosure.
I had my first business trip after lockdown 2.0 and oh my God I’ve missed it so much.
Yes, I’m privileged in that “business trip” largely means being in restaurants having enjoyable chats with people I really like. And thinking up exciting plans over various local refreshments. If I was an auditor or HR trainer I’m sure I’d feel different.
But I’m OK with privilege if you made it happen yourself. We designed that job because we wanted to, it’s heaps of fun and it works well for the businesses.
The zombie-film vibe was strong, making my way through deserted airports to huddle with fellow-survivors in the post-Apocalyptic wasteland.
Don’t rush things
There was a lot to catch up on. We had some long-term strategy to consider as our business emerges from two years of savage beatings.
We allowed a couple of days. If you just fly in, have some formal meetings and leave, you’re like a Prime Minister flying in for the factory visit.
You get a highlights package of information that tells you what a good job everyone’s doing.
You get photographed in your fluoro and hardhat, give everyone a thumbs up and fly out none the wiser.
Longer visits give you time to learn what’s really going on. It lets you hold a many-faceted situation up to the light and consider it from all angles.
You have time to come up with a bunch of ideas: sensible daytime ones and mad late-night ones. You can sleep on them and re-group to see which ones pass the test.
We came up with new directions and investment ideas, including some from the mad late-night category. By the end of the visit, they were all agreed and approved so we could hit the ground running in 2022.
In my hotel room at 1am, our business partner texted me a stream of further thoughts after his cab ride home.
His final message:
“I’m fucking pumped!”
Something no human ever said after a Zoom call.
Making these plans in person creates the energy your team needs to move up the ladder next year.
How to make friends
We also fitted in a lot of pleasant hours catching up with industry friends and clients.
I don’t know if you remember restaurants, incredible places where you can just sit down, ask for food and they just bring it right to you on a plate.
Rather than having a pile of nasty plastic boxes dumped on your doorstep, so you can forage through them like a common street rat.
Restaurants and bars are the ideal environment to hear what people really think. And to get to know them as people, without their corporate defence shields up.
I really value the friendships you build in these situations.
Think of how you met your friends. Making friends is best done by wasting time together, without any kind of “objective”.
It’s not an agenda item you can lock in with an allocated 45-minute catch-up on a Tuesday morning. You can’t go “KPI: three friend acquisitions per month”.
(Though there are plenty of people on LinkedIn who would think that sounds like a cool plan.)
It’s hard to find a context for just hanging out when you’re an adult, but you have to find them. It’s the best way to find people who’ll give you the truth, good or bad, and who will have your back in some future sticky situation.
Worst review ever
Not everyone agrees with me on this.
I’ll share with you the worst review my book has received, this one-star pasting on Amazon:
I quite enjoyed the review, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And the book does suggest that you plan who will hate your brand, because strong feelings either way are better than ambivalence.
In defence of my arrogant old-school viewpoint, good finance people – of any generation – understand that revenue isn’t just a number that appears by magic each month.
Getting reliable revenue is the hardest thing there is. All other problems can be fixed, but without sales, you don’t have a business.
Remember the people who bring that money through the door.
The money that pays your salary.
Those people are out there connecting with customers.
If you’re an introvert, or lazy, it’s so easy to justify your digital hermit behaviour as the new normal.
You can always find an excuse for not pushing yourself out of the safe, warm burrow you’ve built for yourself. I’m not saying you’re a bad person for making that choice, all choices are valid.
But don’t complain if you don’t get reach your success goals. To get there, you must do the uncomfortable stuff.
If you run a business, it needs you making quality, in-person contact with the important people. Staff at all levels, clients, key suppliers, industry players.
Wherever they are.
If you aren’t running a business, but want to do that one day, better start practicing now.
Or you’ll just keep thinking small for the rest of your career.
We’re at risk of doing that as a country right now, wishing for a zero risk life without understanding the long-term costs. This Australian Financial Review piece by Jacob Greber puts it well: Australia’s stuck in a mental swamp of its own making. It’s paywalled but I’ve put a quote from it below.
Christmas: a good brain re-set time
As things wind down for the year, now is your chance to go out.
Get your arse out of the house and see some people. You might find it uncomfortable at first, but it’s no different to exercise or eating vegetables. Push through.
Re-learn how to enjoy the random chaos of humans being together.
Feel the energy you get from face-to-face conversations.
And wind the hell down. Put your laptop away. It’s been a shit year for so many of us, and sometimes you don’t realise a break is more productive than trying to soldier on.
I’m doing that. This is the last story for the year.
Thanks for reading my stuff. It’s an ongoing delight to hear from people who are out there giving things a shot, and if any of the stories have helped, that’s all the reward I need.
Hope you get some time with the people you love. See you in ’22.
You know what would make a good Xmas gift? That one-star book we spoke of earlier. It’s the ideal height to lift up your monitor stand for Zoom calls, and a good weight for whacking insects on your summer holiday.
I think you can still get it delivered in time for Xmas, or better yet visit your local Dymocks, Berkelouw, Harry Hartogs or other indy store and get it there. I’ve been visiting lots of them signing copies over the last month and book store people are all delightful. Go and say hello to them.
Here’s a section of the Jacob Greber story: