Monthly Archives: November 2012


Don’t believe in luck

When I was in my early twenties a very successful businessman once said to me that he didn’t believe in luck. “I make my own luck” he said. “Making money is about staying focused and never forgetting why you’re in business”. I must say he made an impression on me but there was something cold about him, something that made me feel uncomfortable about emulating his style. 

Last Saturday night I had to give an impromptu fill in speech during the finals of the Young Belgian Talent competition in Brussels, and although it was not so much aimed at the young musicians in the hall but the business leaders and sponsors, I decided to re-visit the topic on luck and the conversation I had with the businessman all those years ago. 

It is clear to me that no matter how good you are at what you do, no talent scout is going to knock on your door unless you go to the places where talent scouts hang about.

The simple truth is that even if you are an amazing musician and even if you do manage to meet the person that can give you your big break, you have to ask yourself the fundamental question – Why should they? Think about it. Talent scouts, agents, whatever you want to call them, have probably met tens or hundreds of musicians like you, so why should they pick you? The answer is simple:

You will have:

  1. Engaged them with an interesting and challenging question
  2. Made an emotional connection as well as an intellectual one
  3. Allowed them to believe that they can help you. (No agent or entrepreneur likes to see a person in front of them that thinks they can make it on their own. First reaction is – then why are you talking to me)?
  4. Re-assured them that you have got it together, that you have the stamina to cope with doing what you do, day in, day out – no matter what the circumstances
  5. Made them feel that you are a nice person and could be fun to have around. (After all you’re going to have to spend a lot of time together over the next years).

In the strictest sense of the word I don’t believe in luck. But if you accept the definition of luck as being ‘Where preparation and opportunity meet’ then I am the biggest believer in the world. There is no ‘luck’ without preparation and no luck without making the most of every opportunity that comes our way.  In fact I go further, opportunities almost never come our way, we have to go out and find them! So perhaps after all the business man was right, it was probably just his attitude that failed to engage me.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:34+00:001 Comment

Moving Home

Just imagine, after much searching, you’ve found the ideal house. It’s in the right location and offers all the facilities you need. Sure it’s looking a bit tired and could do with some investment but then again you are never short of ideas and are optimistic of how it can be improved, so you make a generous offer in the hope that the seller will agree.

Now the next job is to convince everyone in the family that the new house will live up to your expectations and will be of benefit to everyone.  You expect the usual resistance, reluctance and apathy, even perhaps a few dramatic outbursts.  But just imagine for a moment that you get your backing and can even convince the bank and your friends too. It’s now moving day and everything’s going just fine, but there is one big different about this move from all others: not all of the existing family are going to move out.

You’ll move in some of your family, kicking out some of the unwanted existing inhabitants to make room for them. Just imagine this. Imagine how the original inhabitants will have to put up with you walking around, what is now your house, having to listen to your comments about how bad it is  and how everything needs changing and improving and how could anyone let things get this bad? 

This is how it is when one business buys another. The purchased company has to spend all its time justifying why things are the way they are and the purchaser just can’t help him or herself in criticizing everything he or she sees. Along with this, the purchaser did not calculate all the hidden moving costs (unexpected extra legal bills, taxes, open claims and short term costs that the seller conveniently forgot to mention and the due diligence team failed to pick up on).  When you consider all these things and the anger and frustration experienced on both sides of the deal, it really is a wonder that any acquisition works in the long term at all. I know of companies that have employees that, more than ten years after being taken over, still do not consider themselves as part of the new organization.

Some of the most challenging (read interesting) change assignments are those involving aggressive takeovers.

All the change manager needs is a client that understands the importance of creative transition strategies and powerful communication.

Here’s looking out for the next one!

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:24:34+00:000 Comments

How much power does the CEO have really?

You’ve finally made it to the top, only to find that the power you thought you could exercise is an illusion. The images of decisive and powerful leadership that attracted you to the role in the first place are rapidly fading. Let’s look at the facts?

  • You need to satisfy the shareholders, some want drastic cuts while others want you to spend and invest for long term sustainability.
  • Your management team want to keep on doing what they were doing before you got the job they had set their eyes on.
  • Your employees are looking for a clear vision for the future. They believe that you can solve their problems and realize the true value of the share option scheme they signed into, all those years ago.
  • The workers council are watching your every move. They don’t trust a word you say.  They think they can find hidden agendas, even when there are none.
  • The business press are looking for a story but its only sensational items that fill their pages.
  • You want to look far ahead but there are targets to be met and the next quarter results are only five weeks away.
  • You are constantly being compared with your predecessors and reminded of their limitations and the reasons why they are probably not around anymore.
  • Your core suppliers are trying to grab the chance of re-negotiating better deals, subtly threatening consistency of supply if they don’t get their way.
  • Your key customers too want better deals. For some unknown reason your sales director suggested to them that they should contact you directly.
  • Your creditors are looking nervous. What they need right now is a safe pair of hands and re-assurance that their repayments will be met.
  • The legal department is pressing you for a decision on how to proceed with an open claim that is dangerously close to exploding.

“Would you like a cup of coffee and a sandwich?” Your PA asks. Right at that moment, a big man with a big smile, who you have never seen before, barges past her into your office: “So you’re the newbie! Fancy a spot of lunch?”

Welcome to your new job!

Have a nice week,


2016-11-17T08:24:35+00:000 Comments

Cuts, cuts and more cuts – now we are going ‘Lean’!

A CEO’s job is never easy. Sit in any shareholder meeting and you will soon hear shareholders complaining about costs. They will talk about ‘lean’ it’s the new buzz word and they will come up with examples of similar companies to yours that can do what you are doing at a fraction of the cost. Companies that pay their people less, that have downsized far, far below yours.

2016-11-17T08:24:35+00:002 Comments