Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Missed Opportunities


“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.” Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Part of running a business is the constant trade off of opportunities through the  evaluation of the “opportunity cost”. Some get missed and some you consciously let pass you by, choosing others in return. However I would argue that the trade-off is even greater today as your business and personal life overlap, and more than often collide as they both compete for that most precious asset of all – “your time”.

In a 24x7 digital environment when your only a swipe away on your mobile device to contact someone and your brain is constantly engaged and therefore often distracted, striving for any kind of work-life balance is near dam impossible. I personally find this slightly ironic when you consider for me Certus spends every day from a client’s perspective making what seems the “impossible possible”.

The harsh reality is that you continually “drop the ball”, if it’s not at work then it’s at home and vice-versa. You are forever scrambling around trying to recover time and before anyone says anything, this isn’t about time management which to me is an outdated concept from an age where the internet and constant communication didn’t exist and the working day was a throwback to the 1970’s of Monday-Friday 9-5 when the world moved at a much slower pace.

Opportunities in both your professional and personal lives will come and go. Ice-Hockey star Wayne Gretzky quotes “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. So the question is - Knowing that you cannot take all the shots which ones do you take?

Recently someone very close to me said “I have choices”, I said “yes you do, but choose nothing then the world just passes you by”. So what is your decision criteria? – the opportunity that yields the greatest financial return? or is the return on investment greater elsewhere in giving your time to others – family and friends and not necessarily for financial gain? This goes against the entrepreneurial mind-set of personal sacrifice as this is the dilemma faced in running a business that is all encompassing and time consuming.

Welcome to My World
Constantly winning new business; ensuring what you have won is delivered; keeping customers happy; keeping your employees happy; all whilst not running out cash plus the myriad of other things that come at you is an everyday occurrence. All too easily you can get swept away and forget about your personal and family life. Friends become distant as you don’t spend time with them, and even more importantly you can become detached from husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends and even your own children, not just physically but mentally as your mind constantly drifts. It really can be seen as life is passing you by and we all know that is not a good thing.

Yin and Yang - Does A Balance Really Exist?
This is the tricky part. At work you can at times feel indestructible and in the face of adversity you often reach new heights of performance you previously thought unattainable – this drives adrenalin and subsequently in my experience extreme behavioural change, again something that is not always positive.

I have never really believed in good and bad experience. I have however always said there is just experience and you learn as much, and probably more in defeat as you do in victory. You never stop learning in both your personal and professional lives. Putting that into practice however is the key to finding “balance” or finding ones “Yin and Yang” - something I would be the first to admit I am not good at and to be totally honest constantly still searching for the answer.

Running a Business - It’s Really Not for Everyone
I am the first to encourage anyone to have a go at starting and building a business, regardless whether if it’s as an independent freelancer; the sweet shop on the high street; a sexy internet startup trying to disrupt existing business models, or a world class dedicated Oracle Cloud Consultancy just wanting to take on the world because it can (big smile!).

However equally I would advise that first you fully understand the commitment involved. If your not 110% committed then don’t do it as you will not only fail, but you will also miss opportunities in your personal life something you can easily look back on with regret.

As with everything, there is always a price to pay and a sacrifice to be made.

Would I Personally Do It All Again?
Running my own business - Honestly, yes I would. Frank Sinatra famously sung “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. So I do answer somewhat with a heavy heart, as I now know doing what I do today is fundamentally in my DNA, it has only taken 25 years for me to realise it!!!

Would I approach things differently? - Absolutely I always have said I made every mistake in the book and the cost has been extremely high, but even then I would still do it. I guess we all wish we all had the knowledge and experience we have amassed in our later lives when we were 18.

I was one told by a respected mentor “Mark, you’re the most unemployable person I know!” I guess when you have been running a business long enough either working as a contractor or heading up an international 50+ strong company, which Certus now is today then I don’t think I could go back to working for someone else. People like me are just “programmed” in a different way.

More importantly “Are there things that would make me stop?” – Of course there are!!! You only live once and your time is precious. If you are running a business purely as you are blinded by the idea you will make a financial fortune then you have got something seriously wrong.

F.Scott Fitzgerald said “our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss”, so on that note a final word of advice to anyone running a business or thinking of starting one up. Regardless how busy you always are, try and remember to stay in touch with your family and friends, most importantly remember to call Mum and Dad! In life these are the most important opportunities so don’t let these pass you by and become missed opportunities as these are the ones that always yield the greatest return.