Telling the truth about SME life today

Rule 1: It’s all your fault

Botty Rule No 1: You are 100 per cent responsible for what happens to your business. If it goes wrong, it’s all your fault

Now I’ve been accused of being too harsh with this rule. People say, ?Oh Nige, that’s not true because X happened or Y happened to my business?. I say ?Rubbish. It’s all your fault.”

A couple of examples to prove my point here. The first one is the excellent BBC2 TV series Mary Portas, Queen of Shops. Each week retail guru Mary Portas turns up at some local shop that is absolutely down and out and on the verge of bankruptcy. Over the course of the programme, she completely transforms these businesses from struggling loss making enterprises with few, if any, customers, into vibrant, popular businesses that are making good money. 

It’s great TV but it’s also full of excellent lessons, not least of which is that it is the business owner who is responsible for what happens to that business. 

The greengrocer in Hoylake was very eager to blame the arrival of the Sainsbury’s Express shop for their demise, but Mary turned it round. 

The hairdresser in Rochdale had no idea why he was now losing money having been so successful 20 years ago. Again, Mary took responsibility and turned it round. 

Responsibility, you see, is a powerful thing.

I had a friend who ran a swimming-pool business and, believe me, this is a market which has seen massive shrinkage over the past couple of years. It was a family business, 50 years old, and it was on the verge of going under. He saved himself by putting in place a maintenance programme and looking after lots of the pools that he d already installed (truth is, he should have been doing this for years anyway!). 

His two main competitors both went bankrupt the first half of 2010, but he is hanging on in there and surviving because he took responsibility and created a new revenue stream. 

His competitors that had to close down, of course, blamed the recession and everybody else but themselves. They avoided responsibility.

It’s not harsh. It’s true.

Nigel Botterill’s book, Botty’s Rules, is released by Vermilion on August 4.


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