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What business challenges can I bring to Retreat to Advance?

On a Retreat to Advance retreat you guide the agenda. Once you book you’ll be sent a questionnaire to tell us about you, your business and your requirements. Upon receipt of the completed questionnaire your requirements are evaluated alongside those of your fellow participants and then mapped out across a series of one-to-one and group sessions as well as dinner round-table discussions.

You might be wondering what are the sort of business challenges that get explored on a Retreat to Advance retreat? While every business is unique the following are some of the hot topics that tend to come up time and again.

  • Exit planning and exit strategy – building a business takes dedication, blood, sweat and tears. Know how and when to exit the business to ensure a good outcome for you, your family and for the people within the business is a major challenge faced by owners of SMEs. We will work with you to explore how to plan for a profitable and timely exit; when is the right time and why; what are the signs to look for; how to value your business; the key steps to increasing business valuation; the barriers to a profitable exit.
  • Raising capital – you know there is a growth opportunity in the market; you know you have a unique offer, that you’re well placed and that the time is right. But readying your business to exploit the opportunity is going to require capital that you don’t have. What are the risks/rewards of capital raising; what are the various way to attract additional funding and what cost do they come with; how to structure a deal; how to retain control and what happens if you don’t!
  • Mergers and acquisitions – many businesses operate in markets alongside others with competing or complementary offers, making mergers or acquisitions an enticing way in which for businesses to gain size and strength rapidly. Gaining scale through M&A can bring big benefits, broadening or deepening customer bases, improving efficiency, strengthening competitiveness. Discover how to know whether a merger is right for your business; how to seek a partner; how to structure a partnership; and the ramifications of share dilution.
  • Staffing for success – employing the right people is one of the biggest challenges facing all businesses large and small, but for small- to medium-size businesses it is even harder because often costs constraints make it difficult to get right people on board. Explore how to overcome this hurdle; how to retain, incentivise, motivate and develop your best people; how you can get them to share the risks and rewards without giving everything away; how to balance your team with your own skills/weaknesses.
  • Culture – It has been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Explore how to build a high performance culture that’s right for your business, your clients and your market. Evaluate whether your values/ethics/belief systems are working for you or against you. What do you want your clients to say about you? Or your team? Or your suppliers? And do they? Vision and culture are derived from the feelings and beliefs we have about the business; they are built on the true values of the business owner, which for most remain buried, as very few people are aware of what their defining values are. Vision and culture are so much more than pleasant-sounding statements put into a picture frame and hung up in reception. There’s a science to discovering the deeply buried and transformative values and beliefs that really underpin successful communication inside and outside the business.
  • Skills and ability – do you have what it takes to make your business a success? This is a difficult subject which often requires much soul searching. You know your industry, you know your products – but are you really a CEO? Perhaps you feel your company is not where it should be. Are you capable of taking it the next stage, are you ready and prepared for that next stage, if not why not? Explore the key attributes of a CEO, and how you rate against these. Plus what to do if you’re not. How can you acquire the skills yourself; or how to hire a CEO and still remain relevant in your own business.
  • Teamwork is about understanding what makes us different as individuals in our thinking and our behaviour. Developing personal emotional intelligence as a leader and learning to understand our individual team members at a deeper level will transform our ability to get the best out of them and so transform the management of the business.
  • Leadership and communication – are you a good leader? Do you have a clear vision for your business? Do you lead with self esteem and authenticity? When leaders have a clear vision that allows them to lead with self esteem and authenticity, staff find it easy to follow in the leader’s footsteps and less time needs to be taken up with management activity. True self esteem and authenticity are difficult unless we have true self awareness; all three of which are very rare commodities in today’s world.
  • Personal wellbeing and performance – do you create the right conditions to get the most out of your business’s most important asset? Running a successful business in today’s frantic, competitive world requires real clarity of thought; unfortunately most of us succumb to stress and even anxiety. It is scientifically proven that our efficiency drops easily by as much as 40% when we are stressed, and creative thinking (essential in order to stand above the rest!) gets completely stifled. We therefore need to understand what is causing our stress and anxiety and learn how to deal with it. In addition, we need to learn the ability to change our thinking, so that we can easily move to calm, clarity and creativity.

 

With a small staff and a large and diverse client list, close attention to our business at every stage is critical. Eddie has helped us to understand our growth strategy, key hires and introduced us to critical steps that have helped us to shape our business strategy going forward. He’s also a great guy, approachable, friendly and an excellent mentor for our personal growth. Eddie’s helped us enormously to advance towards our goals, and set ourselves goals for the future.

Heather Catchpole & Karen Taylor
Co-Founders, Refraction Media

 

Eddie has all the qualities of the perfect mentor. He is honest, discrete, self reflective, wise, inquisitive and he has a generous spirit. I discuss all my biggest business issues with Eddie and his guidance and support has sustained me through some tough challenges.

He brings a depth of wisdom to any situation, and he doesn’t just share his experience with you, he tells you why he did it and his understanding of why his approach worked or didn’t work. He makes the complex simple and breaks problems down to help focus on the real issues.

He’s helped me feel more in control and I’m putting things in place to be proactive rather than reactive and to work ‘on the business’ not ‘in the business’. Eddie inspires me to work smarter, and I feel positive and optimistic about the future direction of Brains.

Rachel Courtright
Managing Director, Brains

 

Eddie’s business and general experience has helped me in many ways. As a young executive and CEO, I have used Eddie as a sounding board for many issues and decisions. His calm broad level of knowledge across international boundaries has assisted me to deal with some very difficult situations. Eddie understands the needs of business and the balance required to maintain financial stability and customers satisfaction. I credit Eddie et al with assisting my development and helping me to rebuild the NSCA.

Adam Baldock
CEO & Managing Director, National Safety Council of Australia

 

 

How does retreat to Advance work?

Our retreats give every business owner the one thing they need to make their business a success: themselves. Turn off the noise and distraction and give the future of your business your full attention. Surrounded by inspiring, like-minded people and the support of experienced mentors to guide you through and keep you on track, you will solve the challenges that need to be surmounted to take your business to the next stage. Of course any process like this isn’t linear but the retreats are structured around seven progressions to create the optimal circumstances for innovative and actionable thinking that will change the future of your business.

  1. Outline: pre-arrival you’ll be sent a detailed questionnaire that will enable us to shape your retreat to your needs. Whether it’s growth, exit or resurrection, put into words if you’ve not already, the overall goal for the next stage of your business.
  2. Identify: perhaps you already know where it is you need to focus your energies to achieve your goal, perhaps not. Completing our identify framework during the first working session on arrival will allow you to spell out your thinking and clearly see where your attention is needed. The resulting document will give you a working plan for the retreat.
  3. Validate: dissect your goal and working plan with your mentor, and allow a critical eye to challenge you and ensure your thinking is sound. At this and any time during the retreat, that insight and advice is available to you on any area of your business maybe you feel less strong.
  4. Think: take this gift of time, with no distractions, no to-do lists, no meetings, to do the thinking that you never get to do, to see your business afresh and to plan out and begin working on what you need to do to meet your objective.
  5. Review: each day the mentors are available for review sessions to discuss what you’ve been working on, provide further insights, advice and to challenge you where necessary.
  6. Conclude: as the end of the retreat draws near so will your conclusions on your next steps. To ensure you capture all the work you’ve done during the retreat you’ll finalise a fully stated plan encapsulating what actions you need to take back to the ‘real world’.
  7. Implement: we all know we leave opportunities like this full of positivity and intention only to fall back into the same pressures of running the business every damn day. We really don’t want you to lose all your hard work – it actually kind of upsets us – so before you leave we’ll be scheduling follow-up sessions to keep you honest, and give you the support you may lack back home.

Throughout the retreat, we invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss your challenges and be inspired. Enjoy the stimulating conversation and alternative perspectives around your business challenges and those of your peers. Healthy and hearty Tuscan cuisine provides the “brain-food” and backdrop for stimulating discussions over meal times. These discussions will be both free, guided (on pre-determined topics, as elected pre-retreat) and driven by you, for example presenting ideas to solicit feedback.

And if you think processes aren’t your thing, feel free to simply enjoy the peace, good company and mentoring opportunities to work on whatever aspect of your business you like. Or simply relax. We firmly believe that this will do your business a world of good too!

For more information and to discover what to expect visit the program outline for our next Retreat to Advance this coming October 2017.

Why you need a rainmaker in your business

In an article on LinkedIn Pulse I explored the concept of what I call a ‘rainmaker’. The article received lots of views and some really interesting comments. Here you can find a summarised version with the key points or you can head over to LinkedIn to read the article and comments in full.

Recently two owners of a young start-up approached me for help. They were struggling; seriously struggling. These guys had tried to think of every eventuality with regard to their business, but the one thing they had not given sufficient thought was how they would sell this new service they were offering to the marketplace. Or rather, indeed, who would sell it.

For the record, this isn’t a problem that only applies to start-ups. I have seen many the mature business struggle for exactly the same reason.

These business owners who approached me had fallen into the trap, like so many others, of assuming that the service would sell itself. As such, they assumed that they could manage this aspect of the business themselves. And here in my opinion was their main mistake. Their skillsets were not that aligned with the traits of what I call a “rainmaker”. A rainmaker is someone who is uniquely skilled at driving new business/sales. So, here we had a business that was set up correctly, where the owners had done almost everything right, but there was just this one problem: there were no sales coming in. They did not have their rainmaker.

Those of you reading this who have been fortunate enough to work with a great rainmaker will understand when I say they are very rare. My great mentor Lionel told me that in fact when you come across a rainmaker often in fact you will not actually like them, because their characters can be very challenging. But if/when you do find one you need to hold onto them as they are most likely to make a significant difference to the success of your company.

Be aware, they may well not be able to undertake any other role in the company, they are often the type who don’t like to follow processes, they may make awful managers, they will most likely drive you crazy; but they do this one thing – and one thing better than anyone else – and that is drive new business.

In terms of seeking to hire a rainmaker it is challenging to define the traits to look for because they are so rare, but what follows are some characteristics that you might recognise, or want to look out for:

  1. They are individuals who do not respond well to being confined to the office – they like being out and about meeting new prospects.
  2. They don’t like being restricted by company protocol.
  3. Highly competitive is an understatement – they want to out-sell anyone else not just within the team, not just within the business, but within the industry.
  4. Coming second is not an option.
  5. Very little is off-limits in their quest to win a sale.
  6. While they can be difficult to work with, and may drive you crazy, they have a charisma that makes people like them.
  7. This is one of the main differences from your ordinary salesperson – prospects genuinely take to them and want to do business with them.
  8. They are extremely perceptive, particularly at reading their prospective customers – and once they’ve seen a ‘want-to-buy’ signal they seldom let go.
  9. Don’t expect them to manage the administration of their sales well – they just want to get onto the next prospect (unsurprisingly other colleagues, especially admin staff, can find them frustrating).
  10. They don’t like negativity or negative people around them – it sucks the energy from them, and they will avoid negativity wherever they can.
  11. They are typically very well connected – friends become prospects and prospects become friends in their expansive network.
  12. They like to do business at lunches, dinners and events – don’t be surprised if they run over your client entertainment budget.
  13. They tend to be able to talk their way out of any situation/have an answer for everything.
  14. While they are usually highly intelligent they can make total nonsense sound like the truth if needs must.
  15. They are loyal, but only to a degree – ultimately they know who the number one priority is.

I’ve been exceedingly fortunate to work with three great rainmakers during my time in business. One of them almost singularly kept a newspaper going against overwhelming competition. We were a small paper in the territory of a large (now huge) competitor, and wow did that annoy them. The battle went on for three plus years and the larger publisher simply could not fathom how each week we would come out with more sales than them. But really, at the bottom of it was this one person. Sure we had better product, but that wouldn’t really have mattered much against their might. However, what they did not have was a rainmaker. Whereas we did. And one of the best. Moreover, not only was he one the very best, he had built a team of other great sales people. Ultimately the competitor ended up closing their paper. They never did understand why we beat them every week. They believed money and size was sufficient to win, but they were wrong.

Not in all companies will it be as easy to see the impact of a rainmaker as in the example above, and every enterprise is different obviously. But when you consider your company’s needs, I believe you’ll be able to see where this role is – or is lacking – in your business. Then you can ask yourself: Are you in need of this person? Or if you have someone in this role, how are they performing? And if your company is struggling, or even just underperforming, could this be a key factor?

If they answer is yes then you need to find your rainmaker. Now not to be disheartening, I do have to let you know that this will not be easy. As I mentioned before I have only found three rainmakers in 40 years. But find one you must, and when you do you won’t believe the difference it will make to your business.

So whether you are a start-up, or heading up a mature business, give some thought to your rainmaker. Occasionally a product/service can sell itself, but particularly if you are competing in a tough market place then the rainmaker will most likely make all the difference.

If you could use some help getting the most out of your staff and developing your company why not contact me for a free discovery session to see if I’m a good fit to help you and your business.

What can young people bring your business?

In this article I explore what we can learn from the youth in our businesses. When the full-length version was published on LinkedIn Pulse it received more than 2000 views and some wonderful comments. Here you can find a summarised version with the key points or you might like to head over to LinkedIn to read the article in full.

In my early days as a manager, I believed staff should fall in with the way I wanted to do things. As I got older – and colleagues, younger – I realised this new generation would not change. Which meant I had to. From then on, I tried to never close my door, or my ears, to youth.

What we can learn from their enquiries, and their different worldview, is very beneficial for business. To think these days we devour business insights from the likes of Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs, but they were between just 16 and 21 years of age when starting their respective, and rather successful, businesses. Yes, they are indeed extraordinary cases, however, it does demonstrate what insight the young people in our enterprises could have to offer.

And trust me, when you do give young people in your business a platform to query and challenge, be prepared. Often you’ll find what they have to say is far from what you might expect.

In a business that I was once managing we were required to implement a major restructure where we would make more than 10% of the staff redundant. Believing the best way to handle the rumours about the restructure was head on, I called a meeting with all 200 employees. It was, of course, a very charged meeting but it went as well as possible considering. We responded to all the questions we had been expecting and were just about to close the meeting when a last hand was raised. It was a young man.

“I agree with what you are doing and it is long overdue,” he said. “Anyone that works here knows we are overpaid and underworked. My only surprise is that it’s only 10% going; I think could be more like 25%. If I can be of any help, then I’m happy to give you some further advice.”

Give these young people in your business a voice and it might just mean a significant difference for your company because they often view things from a completely alternative perspective.

So how you do take advantage of what the youth in your business has to offer and how do you shape their insights into tangible initiatives you can use in the development of your enterprise? My belief is that as we grow older (and hopefully wiser!) we have much to offer to these young people in return. To help such bright individuals flourish. To go beyond alternative perspectives and interesting ideas. If we pass our experience on we can help them shape those ideas into practical business solutions.

So open your mind to what the young employees in your company can offer you; and open your door to offer your experience in return.

If you enjoyed this, there’s a great example of how I nearly ignored youth to my peril here in the Rare Breed Insights section. If you’d like to explore how to apply these insights in your business, or are looking for sound business advice about any other challenge you’re currently facing, I’d love to help. Learn more about how our business retreats in Tuscany could help your business.

How well do you know your accounts?

Lesson #6: If you don’t know the key KPIs that drive your business – you don’t know your business!

In this lesson, why you need to know your accounts better than the accountants.

Even though I didn’t have much of a schooling I was always good at maths, I’m sure in no small part thanks to the market-stall education I received, where I needed to be very quick with figures. It was quite an education, and if you’re interested in a bit of a laugh you can read about one of my favourite stories here.

In any case, back to today’s lesson. After a few years under Lionel’s tutelage he thought that I should run the monthly management accounts meeting, which basically told us how the company was going and how each magazine was performing. Lionel would still chair the meeting but I was to run the agenda. At the first meeting under this new structure Lionel did something that he had never done before. He stopped the meeting mid-flow.

“Eddie,” he said. “I want to ask you some questions about this month’s report.”

He then went on to ask me 10 questions about the management accounts reports and specifically about the key KPIs of the business. Although I was good at maths and understood figures, I hadn’t spent much time digesting the reports and could only answer four of his questions correctly. He closed the meeting, calling it a waste of time. As I went to leave (quickly), I heard a soft “Eddie stay behind please.” (Here we go again, I thought.)

He explained that it took the accounts team a long time to provide us with those figures and that they were our lifeblood.

“They tell us where we have been, and where we are going. They are our road map,”he said. “And the best you could do was answer four out of the 10 questions I asked.”

And so he said that I must learn the key KPIs that made Newbourne profitable, and that I must go through the management accounts every month with these in mind. I had to go beyond just reading them. I must understand and question them. And never again ignore them. He provided sufficient stick to get me to do it: warning that at next month’s meeting I would again be asked 10 questions, and he expected me to get nine out of 10 right.

Luckily I did. And this one lesson, more than any other, has stood me in incredible stead for a career at the helm of businesses. From that day I have always scrutinised the monthly accounts; always made sure I understood the key KPIs that make a company profitable (normally there are only two to three really key ones).

Many times business leaders and executives undervalue the role the finance team play in a business. They spend days compiling figures so directors and managers have a real understanding of last month’s result (good or bad) and the trend for the year. They can provide insights and prescriptive information that is so critical to business planning. So when you think about your key players in your team don’t undervalue your finance team and the figures they provide you with. But equally don’t leave it all to them; you should know your business’s finances inside out and what stories these little figures are telling you. Even at the market stall we knew our key KPIs. Do you know yours?

If you could use some help getting to grips with the finances in your business why not let me help you during our five-day mentoring retreat in Tuscany this October?

This is an article series based on lessons learned from my great mentor Lionel Morely Joel. Read the first article to understand the background and then dip in and out of the lessons as you please. 

Next: How listening to your young employees will improve your business.

Have the courage to face the truth about your business

Lesson #5: Don’t be afraid to change course, even when you are in front.

In this article I discuss the dangers of complacency.

Over the years, there have been amazing success stories of companies who knew they needed to make changes in order to prosper. Not many of us know it but Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram evolved from apps that never gained traction in their previous incarnation. Nor that Suzuki’s origins were in looming and Nokia’s as a paper mill. There are just as many who didn’t. Blockbuster and Blackberry anyone?

Within our group of publications at Newbourne we had a publication called The Baby Book (not the most intriguing name), and it was a very successful publication. We distributed 650,000 copies to expectant mums through 250 UK hospitals. Uniquely at the time, we over-printed the front cover with the name of the hospital, and inside the front and back cover we inserted information specific to each hospital, such as visiting times. So to the expectant mum it looked like the publication was produced by their local hospital.

This was 1975 and no small task to personalise a book for 250 hospitals, but it worked really well and was extremely profitable. Moreover, this one publication generated more than 100,000 reader inquiries per annum, from mums asking for more details from advertisers. After five years we had a database of more than 500,000 names, which in turn allowed us to earn additional income from list broking (there were no data protection laws like today).

At the same time, the Midwives Association were very concerned about the amount of advertising material being made available to mums, so they were calling for more and more and restrictions to be put in place. One day Lionel called me into his office and said we needed to start looking for alternative distribution channels to reach mums. He believed within two years the hospital distribution of The Baby Book would be severely restricted if not stopped entirely.

“That won’t happen,” I disagreed. It was our most profitable title, we had good relationships with all the hospitals and the hospitals wanted the book so why change course?

Lionel insisted we start to plan for such an eventuality, so within the next two years we launched two new baby publications, with very different distribution channels. We now had our contingency in place, and of course (as so often happened), Lionel was right. The Midwives Association’s voice got louder and slowly eroded our distribution at hospitals, to such an extent that within three years only 100 hospitals were still taking personalised copies of The Baby Book.

The lesson was very simple. Just because you are in front it does not mean you are going to stay there, especially if circumstances beyond your control are looming in the background.

Thinking of print publishing more generally is another good example, this time where a whole industry failed to look ahead not just a single company. Through the newspaper industry ran “Rivers of Gold” (recruitment, real estate and classified advertising). Then websites started being launched, not by the publishers but independently. I remember a very well-known newspaper publisher saying to me that a recruitment website wouldn’t work. He thought it was a waste of time (how he regrets that statement now) and he was not alone. The Rivers of Gold were deep, many thought endless, and by the time they realised what was happening for many it was too late.

Custom publishing was no different. In 2009 at Edge (formerly Edge Custom Media), where I was CEO for seven years, we were doing really well, winning many new clients and all looked good. But it soon become apparent that custom publishing was going to be affected to the migration to online publishing just as much – or more – than mainstream publishing. So we decide to completely change direction and transform ourselves into a content-marketing agency.

“Why? When you are doing so well, winning all these new accounts. Why change, why reposition?” one of our major competitors asked me when we rebranded. But thank God we did. Edge made it through the transition and through the financial crisis, while many of our original peers were not so fortunate.

So what is it that separates those companies that evolve and prosper from the rest? I think author Steve Tobak puts it well:

“The truth is staring you right in the face. Every company I’ve watched go down the tubes in agonising slow motion – from Sun to Blackberry – had one thing in common: executives and directors living in denial. Don’t live in denial. Have the courage to face the truth and deal with reality.”

The world is changing at such fast pace, what is successful today can become irrelevant tomorrow. It’s more difficult to predict the future than ever before, but if you stick your head in the sand, one thing’s for sure you will get run over.

If you could use some help wrestling with challenges in your business why not join our mentoring retreat in Tuscany this October?

This is an article series based on lessons learned from my great mentor Lionel Morely Joel. Read the first article to understand the background and then dip in and out of the lessons as you please. 

Next: Why you need to know the finances better than your accountants.

How to mentor staff

Lesson #1: Getting the best from your staff comes from teaching them how to swim.

In the first lesson in this series I explore how you can mentor staff to enable them to contribute more to your business.

The day after Lionel had surprised me with his offer, I had my first mentor session with him (I was no less petrified at this stage.)

“Before we begin Eddie,” he said. “I think it would be a good idea if you could get rid of the gold rings, the gold necklace and the gold bracelet.” I thought I looked good, but clearly my attire was not working for me.

Lionel then said he was going to teach me how to swim, which I thought was a most unusual start to our first meeting.

However, I soon learnt with Lionel that he was never just going to tell me anything without a story attached.

“There are three ways I could mentor you,” he said.

“I can take you to the pool, throw you in walk around the other side and wait for you, but you may drown on the way across.

“I can throw you in, jump in with you and hold you up until we reach other side, but that would mean you would never learn to swim alone.

“Or I can throw you in, jump in with you, swim alongside you and when you start to go under, gently lift you up.”

As I had nearly drowned several time in my uninspiring career to date the first option didn’t look too good to me. The second sounded ok, but clearly that was not going to work for Lionel. So we settled on option number three, as of course he’d intended us to.

And that is exactly what he did in those 10 years. He left me alone but never let me drown (though I came close several times). He was always there for me, helping me when he realised that I could not make it alone.

We all make mistakes and as a mentor Lionel knew I would make mistakes – and needed to make mistakes in order to learn – but he was clever enough to minimise those mistakes, ensuring limited harm to the business. He knew I could only learn from my own mistakes. If you cannot accept mistakes will happen with staff then you will have a difficult time developing them.

Just like me, every successful businessperson can name the person/people who helped them achieve their success – who’s yours? If you’d like to talk to me about our mentoring retreat in Tuscany this October contact me for a no-strings chat to see if I’m a good fit to help you and your business.

This is an article series based on lessons learned from my great mentor Lionel Morely Joel. Read the first article to understand the background and then dip in and out of the lessons as you please.

Next: Always treat people the way you want to be treated.

To whom do you owe your success?

Lesson #0: Behind every successful businessperson is the person/people to whom they owe their success. Meet mine.

After being in media for some 40 plus years, you wouldn’t think deciding upon the theme for an article series would be that hard. But with the proliferation of digital content it seems everything has been said 100 times and so many new post merely a rehashing. The last thing I wanted to do was add to the noise and waste business people’s time. As a business advisor, time is the very commodity I help clients use as wisely as they can. But yet here I am, with some 40 years in business, hopefully a wealth of knowledge and experience that I wish to share. What to do?

And then it hit me. The very premise of my business now (mentoring business leaders) is learning from another’s experience. Not dry business articles that after nodding your head in agreement you forget 10 minutes later. Another person’s very human experience and the knowledge they have gleaned from that experience. Learning from their successes and their mistakes. For success in business has as much to do with learning what not to do as much as what to do. When I reflect now on my career the thoughts are more often about the mistakes I made, rather than what I got right.

So in the ensuing blog series I have decided to share my experience with you by telling you my story… It’s pretty colourful, so I hope you’ll like it.

All stories must have a beginning and there’s only one way to begin this one, and that’s by introducing you to my great friend and mentor Lionel. The person that had faith in me, saw something in me that no one else had, and then put all his experience into teaching me, every day for 10 years.

I had left school young, very young. I didn’t really even leave; I just simply stopped going and no one seemed to miss me. My dad was in the merchant navy and my wonderful mum probably just thought I was still going to school. Not that I was doing nothing, I had a great variety of jobs although most of them are probably best not discussed here.

When I was 19 my older brother said: “You cannot continue being a **** all your life, you need a real job… and I have one for you.”

The job was as an office junior in a publishing company in Stoke Newington, London, called Newbourne Publications. And so it was that I started there in 1968. In the following four years while I moved up first to production assistant and then to production manager, I was still wheeling and dealing on the side (but that’s also a story for another day).

Then came the day that I will never forget, the day that changed my life.

I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. It was the chairman’s secretary. “Lionel Morely Joel would like to see you in his office,” she said.

“Oh God,” I thought. “What have I done?” Had tales of my wheeling and dealing got back to the chairman? After four years at Newbourne I had hardly ever spoken to the man. I was bloody petrified, my usual veneer of confidence (or arrogance) drained right away.

After knocking at his door, I was admitted into the office. There was Lionel – 6’4”, Van Dyke beard, long grey hair swept back – smoking this huge cigar. As I sat down in front of his desk that was bigger than the room I was living in at the time the fear really set in.

Now up until this point I thought I was pretty sharp. How wrong I was. The first thing he said to me was: “I’ve been watching you.” (Yep, I thought, I’d been caught.)

Then, he continued: “You know there are three owners of Newbourne, and we are all about the same age.”

Confusion danced at the edges of my fear. I had not yet said a word (rather hard when you are petrified).

“We need someone one day to run this business,” he went on.

I still had no idea what he was talking about (I must have looked so naive!), when he dropped the bombshell.

“I think that could be you.”

So, he told me, “I am going to mentor you for the next 10 years and if in 10 years you are still here we will give you 25% of the business.”

And almost every day from that day we would talk, and I would listen.

Ten years on, I was called back to that big desk, where Lionel and the other two directors gave me a sheet of paper. It said I now owned 25% of the business. And outside in the car park was a brand-new Jaguar. Well, didn’t I just think I’d made it! In fact I’d only just started.

Over the coming weeks I am going to try and pass on to you the wisdom I learnt from Lionel during those 10 years that has so guided me in my business life thereafter – and I hope it may help you in some way. It would be very sad in life if what we are taught by people like Lionel is not passed on. These lessons cross the borders of industry, business size and hierarchy. These are fundamental skills that will help business people perform better and achieve more in their business lives. So please, read, digest, and do let me know what you think, I’d love your feedback.

All the best,

Eddie

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