Telling the truth about SME life today

We all need to learn to live with ourselves

I tend to do things at the last minute. It drives both my wife and business partner mad. In fact, my wife frequently refers to me as “Last minute dot Barling”.

When catching a train, I regard anything over a minute or two spent waiting on the platform as time wasted. And I bring this attitude to work. In general, if it doesn’t have to be done now, it doesn’t get done. The flip side is that if it really needs to happen, it does.

The danger is that this detailed dissection of my personality threatens to be one of the most irrelevant and boring blogs of all time, but the point isn’t the rightness or wrongness of my approach. Rather, the point is that we all have personality traits that lead to ways of working which are hard to change. We can either struggle with this, or embrace who we are, then organise to get the best out of everyone.

There’s a hard truth that takes a long time to learn: We might be able to change a little, but mostly we need to learn to live with ourselves. 

My checklist for doing this successfully in business includes the following:

  • Play to your strengths. Do more of what you do well;
  • Cover your weaknesses. Try to control the downside, and avoid jobs that don’t play to those strengths; and
  • Partner (recruit or marry!) people who complement your strengths and cover your weaknesses.

Take me as an example: I work well under pressure because I become very productive, so I can volunteer for pressure situations.

I cover my weaknesses with the people that I work with and with various rules that I have learned I can keep. For instance, if there’s a job which is important but not urgent I try to agree with someone else the deadline that I will complete it by. That way I have a date and time to work to.

It’s probably not a coincidence that both my wife and business partner are very different from me. Two are better than one, and despite the occasional tensions, I enjoy both business and married life; partly because we have recognised and play to our strengths and cover our weaknesses.

Chris Barling is co-founder and chairman of ecommerce software and EPOS systems specialist, SellerDeck.



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