Recessions come slowly.

Or quickly.

It depends on your perspective.

It depends where you are standing.

2008.

If you’re happily running a smart, functional, profitable little business in early 2008, you probably don’t see a recession coming.

If you’re some twat working in the city – smirking, snorting and stockpiling personal cash whilst you fuck around with everybody else’s – you probably do.

Either way.

In 2008.

Recession came.

Recession. 

The 2008 recession manifested in my world as a pause button.

Clients didn’t say ‘yes’ any more.

And they didn’t say ‘no’.

They started – one by one – to say, ‘not yet’.

They waited.

Uncertainly does that to most people.

It paralyses them.

Snap. 

One Wednesday morning.

In the summer of 2008.

I’d had enough.

So I stood up.

I snapped into action.

I removed my head from my arse.

I created a cash flow projection based on what was happening right now.

And I retrieved, from one filing cabinet or another, my business plan.

I blew the dust from the cover and peered inside.

It was a document called (metaphorically), ‘What we have always done’.

And it now lay neatly alongside a cash flow forecast called (metaphorically) ‘What we’re going to get’.

It felt like I was a living example of that phrase.

You know the one.

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’ll get what you’ve always got.

Except it was worse than that.

It was an updated version of that phrase.

Because the recession had killed the, ‘…what you’ve always got’ bit.

So my version of that phrase read:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’re fucked.

Thursday.

I went home early on that Wednesday.

At about 2pm.

I stayed up all night.

I reinvented the entire business.

And I called a meeting with my two Co-Directors the following morning.

Thursday.

10am.

The Deal.

I was a 90% shareholder.

They had 5% each.

I asked them to prepare for a really significant chat.

And a new deal.

I asked them to hear me out.

And to not interrupt until the end.

This is what I told them.

I have changed the business fundamentally.

I have re-cashflowed based on performance somewhere between where we actually are now, and a much better version of us.

A smarter version.

A harder working version.

Where the leaders get paid less.

For a while.

It’s a version where me, the MD, works 7 days each week for 6 months.

For no pay.

And you, if you choose to stay, get paid £10,000 less – each – for a full year.

And I need you to work 5 to 6 very long days – each week.

For that year.

It is a version with 8 less employees.

From tomorrow.

Because I am starting the process of making 8 people redundant.

Today.

Here’s the list.

It is also a version of our business that, before any of the Directors gets paid, accrues £5,000 per month in reserves.

From next month.

Every month.

So that in times of trouble in the future – we are strong.

We will have reserves.

It is a version that will make us stronger and more robust than ever before.

And stronger and more robust – I think – than anyone like us.

It is also a version where you can see, in the cash flow, if things go to plan (and only if things go to plan) – you get the £10,000 salary drop back.

As a lump sum.

In two years.

And then, as you can see – significant, incremental pay rises thereafter.

Again based on the achievement of the goals I have set.

I am going to do this.

With or without you.

But – for the avoidance of doubt – I want you both at my side.

I can do this faster and better with you.

Let me know, by the end of today please, what you want to do.

I was unwavering.

I believed in the new plan.

Not just because it was a smart, powerful and well considered plan.

Not just because we were going to be much better than we were before (we were pretty shit as a business… £0 reserves for example.

And prioritising stupidly with spend).

But because I was leading from the front.

I believe in me.

I really was going to do this with or without them.

And when I said to them I would understand if they left.

I meant it.

I was ready for it.

Not operationally.

But mentally.

onebestway.

This business was called onebestway.

Mark and Paul stayed.

And we recovered.

We traded on for over 6 years.

Through to 2014.

When I decided to close the businesses and move on.

And I am pleased that Paul and Mark are, as I understand it, doing OK elsewhere today.

They are both excellent people.

And I owe them both a lot.

They trusted me.

And the deal I put on the table was – eventually – delivered.

In fact they got their salary shortfall back in under a year from memory.

I was proud of that.

And of myself.

And of them.

Takeaway.

The takeaway for you?

The world is changing.

It continues to change.

And so must you.

Fast.

So much so that I don’t think that this phrase is accurate any more:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’ll get what you’ve always got.

I actually think that, as unpalatable as it sounds.

My version – is:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’re fucked.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    We’re going through exactly the same process… right now.
    Your story has made me more determined tj do it properly.
    Thank you.

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