Business Lessons I Learnt From a Spy

12006567_10154139478697971_846648316011775085_oGrowing up I had been told the story that my father was in the Air Force and was a dog handler and that was the story I gave whenever I was asked ‘what does your father do?’. It was not a complete lie, as that is how he started his career. Many years on after he left the military, I discovered my father had in fact climbed the military ranks, landed himself a few degrees and had in fact become an intelligence officer, a fancy name for a spy. It all added up when looking back, endless months of his unexplained absence and various visits and references to countries that force one to raise an eyebrow. The stories are very vague and no details ever slip his lips but the intensity and seriousness of the work he used to do, is only now becoming known to me. When questioned by my inquisitive peers he often informs us “Hollywood has it all wrong, the only thing that comes close is the film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Russia House”
People think it’s exciting and grill me with many questions about what’s its like to have a spy in your family. The answer is always the same “He wouldn’t be a very good spy if his own children knew what he was up to.” The truth is I had no idea and now many years on, I’m finding this stuff out at the same time as others who are asking him the hard questions.
casbah290In the development of my business my father has always been a bit of mentor, I have witnessed some choices he has made blow up in his face but for the best part there is a world of wisdom in my father and I have learnt a few business truths through him and his spy work. The lessons he taught me to help grow my business have proven valid and I shall share a few with you.
Liabilities: In the same book as “You are who you socialise with”. Pick your company well. Good calibre people with a positive outlook, and morals and ethics that align with you will only push you higher. Mingling with those who bring you down, those who have chosen to stunt their career with poor life choices and people who choose not to amount to anything will only result in you falling to such levels. In the field, anyone who was likely to get you killed was someone you avoided at all costs. In Business it should be the same;, those who will kill your business should be avoided.
HR-in-AFG290Know your enemy: I shudder to think at what was possibly on the agenda when my father referenced “the enemy”. The business world is far less confronting but can be just as permanent. Whilst in business there is no enemy per se and no one wishes the other party six feet under at the end of it all, we do still face competition. If you want to take them on, you have to know them inside out. You have to have worked for them, know what drives them, motivates them, scares them and excites them. Know the opposition, but in the business world it does not stop there. The number one rule when it came to the competition was “if you copy them you can only ever be as good as them”. My father advised not to copy the competition, know them inside out but never copy them. Better them. In the world of business those who are at the very top are those that do something crazy, they don’t copy the competition they completely bypass them.
us-soldier-plays-oud290x200Relationships: In most business circles the skill set needed to carry out the required revenue making exercise is relatively easily gained. A few years at some sort of educational institute and you’re now qualified in whatever field you’re required. In the trades its very similar. With an apprenticeship under your belt you’re now competent, and in retail fields it’s very similar. From this point, anyone can establish and run a small business but very few do. Why? Because doing what you do is not hard. Rather, developing life long relationships with clients is the hard part. People don’t buy what you do. Instead they buy ‘you’. Selling an existing business nearly always sees the new owners battle to generate the turnover the previous owner had. This is because the database of clients don’t have a relationship with the new owner. They know and love the old business owner and can be reluctant to deal with the new one. In small business, spend the time building the relationships with clients, you will become part of their family and they yours. This does open up opportunities for you to get emotionally wounded, but trust is a two way street and its well worth it.

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