They say that three’s a crowd, but for me there’s something elegant, memorable and succinct about groups of 3.

I like the grouping of that particular number. We seem to be locked into the number 3 in a way that 1, 2 or a number greater than 3 can’t really get to. Maybe that’s why we feel so comfortable with TLAs, those handy ways of summarising a sometimes difficult concept in  3 easy letters. NGO, PVC, and of course TLA; each industry or milieu has a gazillion of them, serving as shorthand, occasionally inclusive but also sometimes excluding.

Business seems to be fond of the number 3 as well. Getting 3 quotes is always advisable, 3 key metrics is a good management starting point, and a good presentation slide starts with 3 bullet points. I know I’m easy with it, and many times in my writing, from this blog to reports and even books, I find myself grouping my phrases into 3’s. You can see an example in the first line of this post. Another example might be ‘let’s make sure we have a good session tomorrow, keeping it simple, focusing on the basics, and staying on track.’

So I shall continue my attachment to groups of 3. I like it, it works for me, and I think it resonates with my audience.

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A long, long time ago I was in a fish and chip shop in Edinburgh, very close both to the tennis club where I’d just played a couple of sets and to my home. In fact it was a handy stopping off point from one place to the other, solving dinner at the same time.

I was with another English chap that I didn’t know very well. He was in banking, very ambitious and very clear on his career and financial goals. We weren’t very alike but we shared an interest in tennis, that was about it. There were half a dozen people in the queue.

I noticed a scruffy looking small dog come into the chippie and start sniffing around. I said to my tennis pal, in quite a low voice, jokingly, something along the lines of ‘is that a dog in the place where I’ve chosen to get my dinner?’

This drew the attention of an equally scruffy looking man in the line, the owner of the dog as it turned out, who said, not jokingly, something along the lines of ‘of course it’s a dog you [insert anglo saxon epithet of choice here, in a broad local accent]’, which also carried the clear threat of ‘what are you going do about it?’

I instantly raised my eyebrows, as many of us do as a stalling mechanism as we consider the multiple different ways this conversation should progress. My tennis pal shook his head. We moved on, got our food, and left.

What he said afterwards has stuck with me ever since. ‘That was a no win situation. You can’t go there. You’ve so much more to lose than him.’

This is true not just in life but in business too. If you risk being drawn into any competitive situation with a bottom-feeder, be very careful before you decide to engage.

I was in France on a family holiday recently and I was reminded how many men of all sizes in that great country use a man bag – really a glorified purse the size of a very thick smartphone – to keep their keys, cash, bits and bobs handy.

It reminded me of previous family holidays in France, a thousand years ago, when I was the child instead of the parent.

Back then my father – who was way ahead of his time in terms of progressiveness, equal rights and being comfortable in one’s own skin and sexuality – commented on the same thing.

I remember his words. “I’ve always thought the small handbag French men use to be an eminently sensible idea.” This was back in the macho, chauvinist 70’s when a heterosexual British male wouldn’t be seen dead carrying anything remotely resembling a purse or handbag.

I agree with him. And I think that smartphone cases that come with a couple of pockets to hold credit cards and cash are going that way too.

I realise that are two ways you could interpret the title of this blog post. I don’t mean that the good ones want to be measured in their approach, in other words, considered, careful, circumspect, even though that might be a good thing in many situations. I mean that they want to be measured, by us.

Good sales people are confident in their abilities and want to be measured. The better measured they are, as long as the system of measurement is fair, the clearer their effort is, the better they sell, the better they’re rewarded.

The less good don’t want to be measured, or want to be measured less. The less they’re measured, the more they can hide in the grey areas that are equivocal and open to interpretation, wiggle room and excuses. Same for marketers too.

If you’re hiring sales people, and you know you have a product that sells well – not that you can sell well, that other people can sell well – look for the ones that want to be tied down to targets and measurements. They’re the ones who want to see their progress, be judged accurately on their efforts, and be rewarded accordingly.

 

One area that highlights the division between American English and English English, as opposed to other versions of English, is the different pronunciations and accentuations on words.

Take the words laboratory and controversy for example. Our US friends prefer to accent the first syllable and the English prefer to accent the second, and continue to do so, despite the huge influence of American English on our daily European lives.

One difference I can’t get my head around is munging the last syllable of words that end in ‘-ile’. I remember watching an eipsode of the 6 Million Dollar Man back in the mid-seventies and they talked about a dangerous ‘missle’. What the heck’s a missle? In English English we put the accent on the first syllable but still give the second syllable a bit of a dance as well.

Futile is another one. Or Fyewtle as the Americans would say. Now that’s a futile pronunciation if ever there was one.

There are plenty of laudable examples of American English changing the spelling of words for simplicity’s sake. I offer you color, realize, maneuver and celiac for that argument.

But futile, missile, versatile, agile? Why not change the spelling on those too?

Business is awash with shorthand.

Good shorthand uses TLAs or jargon that everyone understands to save time and effort. Bad shorthand leaves people unproductive, confused and alienated.

I’ve always used ‘mktg’ as a shorthand for marketing. So much so that I use it in the domain name for my business website, M4 Marketing. It’s a nice short domain. The only problem I have is that I have to spell out the domain name over the phone, which is not ideal.

I think that the mktg shorthand is good shorthand, no? It’s like ‘mgmt’ for management. Pretty much everyone knows that shorthand and uses it freely.

Time, as I’m fond of boring you over the last nearly 5 years, is a most precious resource. Which is why we should, in my opinion, be really good at managing it. Yet we’re not, really, compared to other precious resources like money, water, temperature, sales, sales pipeline, marketing leads, fuel and so on, which we’re really good at measuring.

That’s because most have a monetary value easily attached to them. Time does as well, or should, but tends not to, unless you charge by the hour.

Some Irish folk have a fairly relaxed approach to measuring time, or at least estimating its duration. That’s why in our house we have a joke about Irish minutes and English minutes. I’m English and when I say I’ll be about 5 minutes, I’ll be about 5 minutes. When her ladyship and others say they’ll ‘just be 2 minutes’, or ‘I’ll be back in 15 minutes’, I ask if that’s Irish minutes or English minutes.

Then I know what’s going on. It’s like saying you’ll ‘just be 2 ticks‘. How you can ever be close to 2 seconds? Drives me mad.

Working in, or for, a small business is fun. How much fun, I never knew until I was much older.

With a small business, if you’re involved in a non-technical role – in other words you’re on the business side, including sales and marketing – you get to do lots of different things. The variety is great, at least it is for me. You also get to do these lots of things relatively well, rather than spectacularly well in one niche area. You can be part-finder, part-minder and part-grinder if you want.

As your small business becomes more successful and grows, you find yourself doing fewer things, and you need to do those fewer things better. It becomes a medium-sized business.

When I did my Master’s degree in Business Administration a hundred years ago, there were courses on offer in running a small business. I had never worked in a small business, nor had anyone in my immediately family. We weren’t particularly entrepreneurial, we had worked for large organisations. Consequently I had little or no interest in finding out about how a small business worked.

It’s ironic how over time I’ve migrated from working for large companies to working for, with and running small companies.

August is a deceptively busy month.

On the surface, everyone’s on holiday and you can’t get anything done. If you’re relying on getting stuff back from suppliers, partners, or customers, you’re done for. It’s the holiday month. Don’t ask me for an answer, a budget, or a decision, it’s not happening.

But August is a deceptively busy month because everyone comes back on the first of September and immediately has to hit top gear until the next silly season hits around mid-December til the second week of January. To be ready to go in September we have to do the work in August, getting everything ready and managing our projects and our lead times.

August is a great month for getting the work done, undisturbed, so you’re ready to go when the wheels start screeching in the autumn.

As long as you don’t need anything back from anyone, that is. It’s a great month if you only need you to produce what it is you’re producing. But, interaction, collaboration? Forget it. Shoulda got that done in July…

Water is essential to life, human life anyway. We can’t live without it, much as we can’t live without oxygen. No oxygen and we’re done for in a minute or two. No water and we’ve got a few days of excruciating agony before we slip away.

We’re supposed to have at least 2 litres of the stuff per day, that’s 8 glasses. The more the better too. They say that if you’re 1% down on hydration you might be 25% down on performance.

Me, I can’t stand the stuff. It’s boring, I don’t find it particularly refreshing, unless I’ve had a salty meal or I’ve been exercising hard. I inherited this from my mother. She can’t stand water, so much so that she never bothered to learn how to swim. She’s not shy of the shower, she simply doesn’t like water.

When we were kids we didn’t have water with our meals. We drank milk. I hardly had water as a kid, and I did OK, except I’m on the short side, and I don’t think you can blame the lack of water for that.

About a decade ago, I paid for one of those full health check-ups with a private hospital. It was partly discounted by the company’s health insurance and I felt I should go in for a 50-thousand mile service. I remember scoring very well on the hearing test, nearly off the chart. The doctor said to me in the debrief that my hearing was very good. ‘Pardon?’, I said in reply. I know, I thought it was funny, a had-to-be-there moment.

The doctor didn’t laugh either, but what she did say was that I could take me 8 cups of water in any form I wanted: tea, coffee, cordial. I don’t think beer counted.

This was music to my ears, but I have since heard conflicting reports that it really should be ‘unpolluted’ water. I do track my water intake and it’s rarely 2 litres per day, and usually 50% of it is tea or coffee. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years.

On the odd day that I do make a concerted effort to up my water intake, I find that I need to use the bathroom almost every half an hour. That’s simply not practical when you’re in meetings, presentations or travelling.