I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic career within an outstanding business for over 21 years. There have been many highs and lows. I have made many positive decisions and made many mistakes, but the mistakes have been a hugely valuable source of learning to me.
My business journey has been hugely enjoyable and rewarding, but, at times very frustrating. I have had to smash through many a glass ceiling to achieve the next level and to engage the people working with me.
It is these experiences which shape you as an individual and as a leader. Each day brings a new challenge, a new experience and a new chapter!
My goal was always to manage, develop and grow the business while ensuring that our employees were rewarded and fulfilled within their roles.
My aim was to create something unique, something to be proud of and something that would give me and my family financial independence. This business was a great vehicle to help me realise my potential and the potential of those working with me and I am hugely humbled and grateful for all the opportunities it provided me with, and of course all of the lessons it taught me.
I worked through the ranks, I was curious about anything and everything that I didn’t understand. I grew to love the role of purchasing and became purchasing manager back in 1999 and after completing a degree in purchasing and supply chain management in 2006 I became a shareholder and earned a seat on the board as commercial and operations director soon after.
I became MD of the business back in 2012 – I had fulfilled one of my BIG GOALS! The first year was all about learning the ropes, understanding the role, and really trying to understand how developing a highly-motivated team and keeping them engaged was key to success, it was tough but worth it!
The following 3 years the team achieved wonderful things, the business more than doubled in size from £12M to £25M and profitability grew by over 500%. Things were going well.
The success of the company attracted many an eye and it became highly sought after. After 4 enjoyable, but challenging years, at the helm, the business was subsequently bought by a hugely successful multinational player in the IT & Communications market and it was this series of events that changed my direction.
My very existence was brought into question, my objectives, the goals I had set myself, the people I had set them with, my colleagues and friends whom I respected enormously, trusted and relied upon as part of our shared journey. The realisation hit me, everything had changed!
One Sunday Morning I woke up and decided this was not for me, it was not my path! It was someone else’s! My script had changed, it was unfamiliar, I was not prepared, and I had not experienced the frequency and the nature of obstacles ahead of me. I knew I had to get back on my path, back on my script and become the master of my own destiny again.
Today I found myself walking up Pendle Hill, a local hill steeped in magic, witchcraft and wizardry.
Pendle Hill is a towering presence on east Lancashire’s skyline. The hill is one of the natural wonders that make up this picturesque landscape. It’s a source of inspiration to people like me who are in awe of its majestic beauty.
Pendle has witnessed the lifechanging period of the industrial revolution. These are JRR Tolkien’s words about the area:
“The fact that one of British history’s ugliest episodes was played out in such an area of splendour is a stark reminder that human interests little reflect the beauty of the world we inhabit”
Lancashire folk often regale tales of the Lancashire Witches and the sad fate of the eleven men and women who were accused of witchcraft and sent to trial to be executed in 1612.
Back on script, back to the walk!
Whilst jumping out of the car, I thought I had prepared well, a clear head, dog in tow, dog lead, poo bags and phone, basic warm clothes, weather OK and no sign of rain.
I arrived and started the incline. Within minutes it started drizzling, but I was prepared! Off I marched sweating and pretty much out of breath. I made regular stops to catch breath and to recover.
Half way up I felt dizzy and sick and I thought a couple of times about coming back down. We’d had some exercise (me and the dog Jasper), so what was the harm in turning back? But no, I was determined to carry on. I wanted the sense of fulfilment I’d get from getting to the top and admiring the views. “I’m going to conquer” the hill I kept saying to myself, but I stopped again and thought about coming back down.
Eventually I got to the summit -slowly I regained my breath, and I was taking in the stunning views of The Shire (Fence) and Mordor (all the industrial local towns).
I was suddenly struck by the sense of fulfilment I had by reaching the top, and immediately thought, I can’t wait to do that again. Maybe I could try something bigger next time….
I was prepared. My goal was to feel fulfilled through exercise and achieving the day’s goal.
My objective was to climb up to the top, not turning around, carrying on through the “sick” barrier self-imposed by being so unfit, and I did.
I’d prepared. Just enough , I was wet, but no broken bones and I was warm and hydrated enough – exhilarating!
It struck me right then, whilst admiring the rolling landscape, that the path to the top, the preparation required, the unconscious thought of the rituals and routines that take place before starting a journey could be likened to my life, or anyone’s life, in business.
Understand your purpose. Understand your objective and your goals. Be prepared. Take action and start the journey. Take note of mistakes and obstacles along the way. Stop regularly, assess health, direction and external factors. Reimagine the purpose and vision. Is it, still right? Is it still on track? Do adjustments needs to be made? If all ok, carry on.
Achieve your purpose! Get that sense of fulfilment we all crave. Do it for you. It’s your path. Make sure it points to your purpose, not someone else’s.
I was also thinking about the thought of stopping half way up. Of failing to achieve my goal, no one likes failing. To start on the journey only to come back down without achieving it would be a failure, or would it? That all depends on your personal outlook… for me, if the goal was correct, the objective was right but the preparations were not made correctly (i.e. not enough clothing, not the right type of clothing, not hydrated enough, no fuel or energy to get to the top) or external factors had created unforeseen obstacles – does that mean we fail?
Let me ask you a question……
If a man walked up the hill in shorts and t-shirt after drinking 10 pints in The Pendle Witch before the climb – only to find out half way up it was thundering and lightening but he chose to carry on – he would risk his health, his happiness, potentially his life, versus the man that stopped half way – took stock of the situation, returned to the bottom of the hill, came back the next day sober, armed with the gear, a map (i.e. better prepared) and a plan….
Who would be the smarter man? We all know the answer to that. It’s not failure, it’s simply understanding the job at hand, understanding the gains from achieving it, and understanding the preparations needed to give us the best chance of success…
Some of the greatest business and political leaders have just done that. For example, Henry T Ford experienced huge growth after implementing the moving production line, but something was not right, his people started to leave in their droves – he had to stop, take stock and adjust the plan to motivate his team so they wanted to stay and he did!
Apple drove Steve Jobs out of the driving seat of the business, only to realise the business was declining in his absence. The business took stock and brought him back to take the business onto it’s next stage of growth.
My purpose has not changed. My purpose was always about helping the business and the people to grow, spending time developing it so that I may achieve my life’s ambitions – to create and develop something unique, something to be proud of, something that would give myself and my family financial independence, something of a vehicle to help me realise my potential and the potential of those working with me.
I’m now on my path again and I’m stood at the foot of the mountain, well prepared. Its sunny and warm and I’m excited about the journey ahead….
A life changing event….
My expertise, passion and enthusiasm for people and business has been enhanced by this episode on the hill. All businesses and their people need to know their destination and equally importantly they need goals too, and it all needs communicating clearly and regularly. The business and the people within it need to understand the challenges and opportunities they may face and be supported to make the necessary preparations for the journey ahead.
My business, Forward Thinking, will help you develop or reconnect with your destination, we’ll create clarity of vision and help make the necessary plans for the journey in front of you, transforming your people and your business results in the process. Please get in touch if you think I can help. If you provide the tea, I’ll bring the map …..but beware, once you see it, you can’t unsee it…. and it’ll take you on a journey that will change your life!