The best advice I ever received? “Never forget that it can be hard to distinguish between a rising market and a genius.” You’ve probably never heard of the man who told me that: a New Zealander called Sir John Buchanan (though he never insisted on the title) who was finance director of BP in its heyday.
I once vowed that the word ‘Brexit’ would never darken this column, but with a sort of final decision - or final indecision - looming, I’m going to do what politicians do all the time and break a promise.
Someone told me recently that Millennials approach finding a job in the same way they search for a date on Tinder. As my social media expertise only extends as far as Instagram, I asked him to explain.
“Respect, integrity, communication, excellence.” These were the official core values of Enron, one of the most fraudulent businesses ever formed. I thought of that the other day when the sales director came in saying that it was about time we had a new mission statement.
What is the optimum number of slides you can put in a presentation? The question occurred to me the other day when our sales director Brian gave a pitch to a potentially massive new client. He used 85 slides and ignored all my not so subtle hints that he delete a few.
When Mark Parker became CEO of Nike in 2006, he asked Steve Jobs for advice. Apple’s founding genius didn’t mince his words, telling Parker: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
“I do not think that I know what I do not know.” Socrates said that. The great Greek philosopher does not normally feature in any of those greatest management gurus of alltime lists, but maybe he should.
“A good website is not just a marketing tool to drive people to your products.” This was the first thing the speaker, at a seminar on digital business in a hotel in the Midlands, had said that caught my attention. The woman in front of me must have been impressed too - for the first time that morning, she made a note on her yellow pad and underlined it.
If I have one wish for 2018, it is that, after a year in which the entire world seems to have dumbed down, it gets a bit smarter again. I’m not holding out a lot of hope but as the owner of a decent-sized company such as Mole Graphics, you must always - as that giant of 20th century philosophy Eric Idle put it - look on the bright side.
“How much time do you spend networking?” It’s a question an old university friend, now working as a HR consultant, asked me the other day. I immediately got defensive because a non-executive director had told me, at our last board meeting, that we didn’t do enough off it.
Do print buyers care about social media? If I was to answer that question honestly, I’d have to say “I hope not”. I’d like to say we are conspicuous by our absence but that’s wrong – we’re not there and very few people, let alone clients, have noticed.
Every so often I’m reminded why I loathe marketing departments. This is an unhealthy state of mind, I know, as they are Mole Graphics’ principal customers, but they always seem to have a high horse in the vicinity to climb onto whenever you’ve made a mistake or, worse, they’ve made a mistake and want to blame someone.
There's an awful lot ducks can reach us about teamwork. I like the way they sleep in the open, in a row - hence the expression "ducks in a row" - and the duck on both ends of the row sleeps with one eye open so they can spot any hazards. If their sleep is disrupted, the ducks reshuffle so the ones who were keeping watch move to the middle of the row and get some kip.
The other day I asked my sales director to name his favourite book on sales. "Influence by Robert Cialdini", he replied. When I asked him why it was his favourite, he laughed and said: "Because it's the only one I've ever read."