Always be properly prepared and never say thing for effect. This was the advice the head of the UK equities team at Insight Investments told me when I joined as an investment analyst. I was 25 years old and had to meet the CEOs of the UK’s biggest companies to discuss strategy with them – which was extremely daunting. This advice has stayed with me ever since and I am always well prepared for meetings with clients by doing my homework beforehand.
Your word should be your bond. When I was a fund manager in the City, I ran a £17bn UK Equity fund. If I committed to something, I always honoured it. In the long run, being honest and fair will always pay dividends. At Cheviot Insured, our reputation for offering outstanding, honest advice is behind all we do. I believe that if everything you do is driven by what is in the best interest of your clients, then they will be loyal and recommend your services to others.
Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them. I know that I will make new mistakes, but by at least avoiding the old ones, it cuts down on things that can go wrong. We have a directors’ meeting at the start of the year to honestly analyse what we did well and what we did badly. This has helped to significantly improve our ability to grow our client base.
Stay positive and persevere. We have won over clients who initially said no. I kept in touch with them and kept offering them solutions. This paid off in the end.
Keep a good grasp of cash flow forecasts. You can’t pay the bills with anticipated future sales.
Prepare a worst case scenario before taking on any debt or external finance. If you can’t service your debt if things don’t go according to plan then don’t do that project.
Manage expectations. Don’t chase unprofitable sales by giving potential clients unrealistic expectations of what you can deliver. Word will quickly get around if you fail to live up to your promises. It is better to turn down work that you know will not make any money.
Give back to the community you live in. I am personally involved in a Community Foundation initiative called Community Ventures. Our group gives local charities the benefit of our expertise in business by helping them with budgeting, marketing and mentoring.
Recruit people who are willing to show initiative. At Cheviot Insured, we try to have a no-blame culture to encourage people to own up without fear if something has gone wrong.
Give positive feedback and praise when a job is done well.