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Fag-packet workings

I found out today that not everyone knows what Fag-packet workings are. Whilst I wonder what the modern equivalent is called, I do hope there is one, as I believe it’s a critical part of business planning.

Fag-packet workings are just a magic way of checking some basic numebrs out before you commit any emotional investment or personality to an idea. It’s a way of sanilty checking the ‘eureka’ moment of, “we’ll make a shedload of cash, it can’t fail”. You just quickly think through and write down in simple numbers* ) key steps:

1. what would it cost?

2. what would we hope to sell it for?

3. how much do we want to make for the effort we feel it’s going to take

4. how many/much would we need to sell

5. does it still sound like a good idea? If YES – now go properly number-crunch, research the market, identify suppliers etc. If no – grab another beer, laugh at yourself, and move on**

*in the olden days, when you could smoke in your local, you’d probably rip the glossy bit off your cigarettes and use that, the alcohol prompting creativity

** this will/should probably happen at least 80% of the time (see pareto)

If something’s not working, it’s time to be brave

It’s the sign of a madman (or a wasp flying into a window) to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. No matter how good an idea seemed, or how much research, money and rationalising you have invested, if you have put together a plan and it’s not working, it’s time to try something new.

This doesn’t always mean you just ditch it and start again, but you could invite feedback from anyone involved (customers, staff, honest friends) to be as critical as they like, and listen to what they say with a view to implementing it. Your goal is to get it right, not win points by defending your idea.

You will almost definitely need to be brave and ditch the ego. But it’s far better than celebrating an excellent result than making excuses for a bad one.

What does success look like?

The best sports people imagine things going right – think David Beckham viewing the ball going in the net – and this guides everything they do. In business, in any project in fact, if you picture the end result it’s so much easier to work out how to get there.

So, look to the future, what does “success” look like? Now, zoom in and what do you see. What needed to happen for that successful scene to appear? Start there.

With massive thanks to Dorret for the phrase “what does success look like?” I use it on a daily basis… : http://www.linkedin.com/in/dorret

Don’t ask for help if all you want is a listener

I’ve learnt that most of the time, when someone asks me what to do, they don’t actually want to be given answers and to-do lists. I’ve spent many an hour coming up with detailed plans, ideas, research ideas only to find that a month later nothing’s happened.

So I have spent some time wondering why …

I have worked out that if you are serious about making things happen, you will have done whatever it takes and just need some help analysing the results. Too often, people ask for help because they want to create the illusion of doing something or they just want someone who will listen to them.

So, I no longer give solutions. I simply ask “what are you going to do about it”, or more often, “what have you done about it”. And it works, people have to be honest about what they are doing with that problem – are they ignoring it by talking about it, or are they serious about fixing it. In which case, they are the person best placed to fix it.

Plans are nothing…

…planning is everything. (Eisenhower)

Oh the times I have seen hours, days, weeks spent writing detailed documents/ Gannts/PowerPoints to explain the 10 minutes of genius agreed at the outset. That 10 minutes of genius starts to dissolve the further you get away from the planning session, so, simple plans, quickly distributed. Pen and paper, a photo of a whiteboard, a hastily written email…. that’s fine. That’s where the value is.

If someone wants a week’s worth of documentation, ask them why, until you get an answer that makes sense. They probably don’t trust you to get the job done and the best way to dispel that belief is to prove them wrong with a fantastic end result. Plans are procrastination – don’t hide behind them.

Business is easier than it looks….

…if you just remember that the numbers are your friend. If you can’t get the maths to work, you are just enjoying a hobby, and that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself you are running a business. Work out what needs to happen to make a profit, THEN release your creativity into the wild to hit those numbers.