You may have noticed from last week's holiday snaps, that I am reading Jim Collins latest book (written in 2011) called "Great by Choice". If you are familiar with his second book "Good to Great" the Hedgehog Concept, Stockdale Paradox, First Who (right people on the bus), Level 5 Leadership etc. then you may well find this book, which builds on the principles he had discovered and written about on Good to Great, an interesting read.
In fact, as I recall first reading G to G, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Em and Jeanne as we paused for a quick bite to eat, on Monday this week, in what was an exhausting day, as we cleared the final stock and shop fittings out of the Banstead shop.
I recalled how it was when we left my previous attempt at expansion, our shop in Guildford, back in 1991. I'd mortgaged my house up to the hilt in 1989 to open it. It traded ok for a year or so, although a bit underwhelming. When, in 1991, the landlord wanted to raise the rent from a highish (then) £28K to £62K, in one fell swoop, we simply didn’t have the money to pay it, and so I decided that we would have to close it down. I don’t now recall how long the lease was, but technically I couldn’t get out of it, (once you’ve signed a lease you are responsible for paying the rent till its end, unless you can find a new tenant or the landlord takes pity on you). So, having closed it and failed to find a new tenant, I had then to sit back and wait to see if the sky was going to fall in on me. In the end it didn’t, mainly, I suspect, because, the Art of Living had little value in it after some poor trading times, my house wasn’t worth taking, because with falling house prices (at this time), I was actually in negative equity, so I was, as someone unkindly put it, a man of straw!
On top of that, the company had a huge overdraft (of around £90K...a lot on money in the 90's), that, in the end took us 9 years (until 2000) to pay off, and in the meanwhile we were living very hand to mouth, paying bills as late as we dared, just to just survive. This may sound a bit melodramatic, in fact, it wasn’t for the most part, but looking back it was quite a test of character, resilience, and belief that in the end we would prevail. As indeed we did.
During this time, to avoid getting into this position in the future, we'd made three significant changes. We computerised our accounts system, ditto our stock control system, which for a small business was very avant garde in1993. But Interestingly though, whilst these things have their place and certainly helped me sleep at night and keep our stock holding under control, by far the biggest change was introducing the concept of "Investors in People", to the business (in the late nineties). The effect of this was dramatic.
In 1997 we turned over approximately half a million pounds, 4 years later we were approaching a million, and this was simply because of the way we looked after and trained our people. People who suddenly found themselves able to answer the questions our customers asked, rather than coming to find me or Babette to help. And, of course, they also got more job satisfaction, because they were better informed. And, along with that greater job satisfaction came a great desire to stay with the company. So, although I'm over simplifying what we did, and glossing over the myriad of mistakes I've made through this process and since, it was overall, a win win. And is a great example of just how important getting and retaining the right people is for, probably any business, but certainly it was for us (and still is).
Why does the book remind me of this conversation. In it, (and I'm only up to page 50 so far), Collins makes a vital observation of the great companies, who he describes as having the "Self Discipline" to achieve a daily "20 Mile March" never deviating from it, in good times or bad (an analogy for a consistent achievable approach to everything they do, not too little nor too much).. What I had done in 1989 was to stretch us far too far, in the belief that as we had two successful shops, that that would guarantee success of a third.
It didn’t. Too much was left to chance, and we certainly hadn’t trained our new people sufficiently to do the job we were expecting them to do. Nor had I prepared us for failure should it happen. I was lucky to not end up homeless. So I learned lots from this experience and in the lean years that followed...
Ok, to ingratiate myself with Nick Squire (my poor long suffering friend who very sadly drives .....shush best not say it out loud, just in a whisper.. an X5... ) I'm going to tell you about three offers that this generous soul (generous when you consider what a ribbing he gets in these emails, for which it seems, I remain resolutely unrepentant and which he continues to read? What’s the attraction for him? Is this masochism or notoriety I wonder?) has offered us. These products are only discounted because George East (now renamed Dayes or Daves if you remove the tail) has an over stock of them. So, to remove any doubt in your mind, they are perfect stock, but at a knock down price.
Traditional Pottery Mixing Bowl...in Stoneware
Firstly, there's lovely traditional pale blue Mixing Bowl, 5 litre capacity, so biggish, and made of stoneware, so tougher and more chip resistant than ordinary pottery/china. Usual price for us is £19.95, and these are a mere £9.95…so about half price.
Tala Jam Pan
Secondly there's quite a decently made Jam Pan (Maslin), that we don’t normally run because it's not suitable for induction, but does work happily on Gas, Electric Radiant ring, Ceramic and Aga. The Tala website has it at £65.00, I found it on Amazon for £33.14.
Our price this weekend is £19.95.
If you have induction hob then this won't be any good to you. In which case, Bryony Dyer MD at Dexam, is doing an offer on her version, which is induction friendly. Normally about £65.00ish and this will be £49.00ish in a week’s or so’s time. If we are really organised we might have arranged it so that you can pre-order one of these this weekend…I’ll leave that to Andi to tell if he’s managed it… If not, I’ll let you know as soon as stock arrives. (Of course I managed it!.... Pre-Order here. Andi)
Tala 3 Piece Saucepan Set
And thirdly, the Tala 3 piece Saucepan set in stainless steel, and you know I've just got one out on my desk and it really is rather nice quality. A 3mm or 4mm base that will give reasonable heat spread, nicely polished body outside and a practical brushed finish inside. Stay cool stainless handle and when you pick it up it doesn't feel flimsy or too light . Yup, a lot of pan for the money. A good set and perhaps ideal starter set to send away to Uni, with offspring in tow, a bit posh maybe for a student, but it’ll come back in one piece (ok, 3 pieces) and depends on how, much they cook and you feel moved to spend, I suppose. Would love come into this equation.…not sure?
I mentioned this set a week or two ago and they're now in stock at £99.99. I said then that we'd sell it at well under a hundred pounds, which on reflection was a touch optimistic. However, so as not to disappoint you, or to break a careless promise, use Code DIDNTHINKITHROUGH (careful how you spell that) to get it down to £89.00!
That’s it for this week.
I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.