The challenges faced as a family in December 1996 were without doubt the most painful in my life. The company that I owned went into Members Voluntary Liquidation. As a family we lost all source of income and lost all of our business and personal assets and property, however was left with the house, our home….and yet that took some fighting to keep. It was December 1996 and 2 weeks before Christmas that I decided to close the business.
Not only did our family suffer and as I reflect today and have reflected in the past, so did the families of 23 others who depended on my ability to run a business and who worked alongside me.
As background, and prior to taking on this business I was in the Armed Forces and in an environment where leadership was direct and where there was little room for ‘negotiating’ with others. Also, my mum and dad started the business in 1981 and so when I took over in August 1992, it had been in their successful ownership for 11 years.
It took me only 4 years to change all of that.
When I look back at those 4 years in the business I do sometimes shudder at the very thought of how I behaved in both word and action as a person and more importantly as the Managing Director and owner of the business; the person who was to lead this successful and established business into another ‘era’ now that my mum and dad retired from the organisation.
I can recall how especially I dealt with one person in the company who I was desperate to ‘get rid of’ mainly because of our personality differences who, incidentally, did eventually leave. I also recall putting my interests ahead of others and how I threatened indiviuals with their livelihood.
That period in December of 1996 was tough yet I had some luck in March 1997 in securing a job some 70 miles away from our home. So, for 3 years travelled back and forward by bus and also had to get a second job to be able to ‘pay the bills’. I got nervous every time I went to the cash machine to draw out money and only ever took out £10 (and a behaviour that is still with me today!)
So, what is the point of all that I write and believe me, I only scratch the surface of how this ‘failure’ in 1996 had a significant impact. However as is regularly said, we learn from failure and so what did I learn? I learned that people are the most important element of a business or an organisation or a team.
I learned that leadership is about how you make someone feel and that my/your behaviour has a significant impact. I learned that I needed to change my behaviour and become more ‘emotionally intelligent’.
The foundation for success and what I do now in business, is based on the learnings that I share in this Article and in my opinion can sometimes be greater than theories and what is written in books. The reality is clear.
Business is easy. People are Complex and success depends on Leadership at many levels.
By the way, the job I undertook in March 1997 was to help business develop and I was part of the Enterprise culture where I helped over 500 business both at start-up phase and also for businesses looking at growth. Sharing my experience had a great influence on business survivability and today in my business, those lessons learned still drive my professional work.