At the end of the Summer, every year on Property Entrepreneur, we spend time reviewing the past year to reflect, be introspective, and get ready for the year ahead.
We do this by reviewing the successes, addressing the failure’s, identifying the lessons learned, and consolidating these into ten mantras. Ahead of the end of this summer, I share with you here in this article, the top ten lessons I learnt last year and I trust they provide some high value insight, inform your decision-making process, help you to set your strategy and guide you to make well considered decisions as you move forward into the Autumn months.
Many of you will know Ray Dalio, who wrote the book ‘Principles’, in which he talks about the failure loop of the human mindset. It is human nature to fall into the cycle of making the same mistakes over and over and over again. By never consciously breaking the cycle, your ability to progress year on year is limited.
The intention of creating these mantras is that we will not only remember them and learn from them but we will progress forward with them.
- For the easy life, pay good people good money
There is a saying we use on Property Entrepreneur that says “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you pay for an amateur.”
Whether it’s trades, professional services, employees, or suppliers opting for the cheapest tends to be a false economy. As we start to build our businesses, we realise that our team should be an investment, not an expense. There is huge value to be gained by paying good people good money to take things forward.
In previous years there have been multiple occasions where, as a group of companies, we have chosen low cost options and expected a high value result. This year, we realised through the step change of some of our companies, that if you want to build market-leading businesses, you need to pay for market-leading expertise.
The net result of this, especially at a senior level is there is less requirement to tell people how to do things or set them up, instead you clearly direct what needs to be achieved and they will bring 70% of what is required to the table.
- Time off is a requirement, not a luxury
As a lifelong entrepreneur, established high performer and self-confessed workaholic, I’ve spent years begrudging early finishes, never taking lunch breaks, feeling like I should work when on holiday and slipping on to the laptop at weekends.
This year, having been completely overworked and close to burnout, I adopted a stricter lifestyle. I took time off. Previously, I would work half day on a Saturday or put in a few hours on a Sunday, but this year I purposely spent time off the grid, turned off my phone and deliberately carved out some time away from the businesses.
Now, I find if I work really hard Monday to Friday, and commit to having Saturday and Sunday off, by the time I get to Sunday afternoon I feel recharged, I feel refreshed, and I’m looking forward to returning to the businesses on a Monday.
- Hire slow, fire fast
We’ve all heard this before but it’s probably one of the last things that we actually execute in practice.
When we need to recruit, we need someone yesterday. We feel panicked and rush to find somebody, compromising a short recruitment process for someone who may not quite fit but may remain in the business for some time.
I learnt this year that it’s better to have a gap in the business for a short period of time and wait for the right person rather than rush the process and employ somebody who is not perfect for the role. You could be committed to that decision for months and years to come.
Equivalently, where a team member is not delivering to the highest performance level, this also presents a similar challenge.
The A players are easy. You invest in them, you develop them, you give them enough runway to develop and in turn they and the business grow on a similar trajectory.
The C players are easy. They are either incompetent in their role or not the right culture fit and the decision to exit them from the business is very straight forward.
The challenge is where you have B players in your business. They just about do the job to an acceptable standard or they’re a great culture fit but perhaps just can’t pull the trigger.
It’s not until the B players actually leave the business and you re-recruit for their role that you realise you should have made the difficult decision several months previous.
It’s an easy trap to fall into as an entrepreneur, as a leader, as an employer and as a business owner, yet it is one of the highest value lessons we can learn.
When we need somebody in our business, hire slow, recruit right and do it once.
When something is not absolutely perfect in the business, address it quickly, be proactive and make those difficult decisions today in the interest of getting the best results tomorrow.
- Fast growth is highly disruptive
We’ve had several periods of growth at PPN UK since we started and many of these have been aggressive.
For five consecutive years we were in the top 2% of fast growth companies in the UK but it is not a journey for the faint hearted.
Businesses do not grow in a linear fashion, they grow in a cyclical fashion – they need to step change, they need to restructure and teams can change entirely in a single 12-18 month period.
This year, having experienced two years of stability, high service levels and strong profits we decided to invest again and enter another aggressive growth curve.
What we did not expect was to achieve a year’s worth of growth in only eight weeks, it created a huge bottle neck and challenge for the organisation.
Growth needs to be well considered, it needs to be strategic and for larger companies, it needs to be forward funded. You need to take on the overheads of a large business before you have the revenue to justify them.
A fast growth curve is a highly disruptive experience. It creates pressure and stress on both the business and team. What may well result in higher revenues and more profits may also result in painful experiences, in service failures and in short term damage to the business.
Slow and steady is often the one that actually wins the race.
- Happiness comes from fulfilment, not from finances
In 2019, I decided to level up everything that I did in my life which included a bigger house, a brand-new Mercedes, an R8 Supercar and sought enjoyment and satisfaction in life from the tangible things.
At the end of the year, I had all the materialistic things that symbolise success but I had very limited sense of happiness. There was no fulfilment or enjoyment from these things.
So, as 2020 started, I decided to visit the other side of the coin. I bought a narrowboat, reduced my outgoings to £750 a month and decided to experience what a life of frugal hedonism would be like.
After ten months of living on the canal, I cruised back into Nottingham and realised that I’d had more fulfilment and happiness having next to nothing then I had in the previous year owning everything that a lot of people aspire to achieve.
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