Creativity is a breath of fresh air
Once a month, or thereabouts, I spend the best part of a day in the company of other entrepreneurs all trying to move their businesses forward through sharing ideas. The Friday we spend with each other (it is usually a Friday) is convened with the objective of ‘Getting Stuff Done’ and I am amazed at the speed stuff happens. This is not networking.
There are always a couple of presentations from people who have made significant progress in their business, or who have great business skills to share. This week I picked up some cracking ideas around social media, followed by a welcome refresher on selling – yes, that dirty word. All types of business are looking for clients with cash, and you can craft your product and client proposition ‘til the cows come home, but if you have got no buyers…
However the core part of the day is when we split into small groups to brainstorm ‘wishues’. A wishue is either an issue that needs resolving, or a wish that we would like granted. I found myself in a group that included a small publisher, someone organising fitness holidays in Thailand, someone who teaches speed reading to corporates – oh, and someone who runs a tantric sex clinic.
The energy and insights that came from this diverse group was amazing, and gave me some great ideas. All weekend I have been locked in my study mapping out what I am going to do next. I got one idea that has been staring me in the face for almost two years, but I had not seen it.
It is incredibly liberating, even if only temporarily, to spend time with entrepreneurial people from outside financial services. Unhampered by the yoke of regulation, they possess a creativity that has been slowly strangled to death within our industry.
Actually, that is wrong – the financial industry has been very creative, but in the wrong ways. Instead of finding ways to encourage better savings in households, or ways to make the costs of investing lower, the industry has come up with other ways of making money, and wrongfully extracting money from consumers. Payment protection insurance and Libor are two recent scandals – and there are plenty more. But that is another story.
Spending quality, structured time with non-financial services people is something too few of us seem to do. Instead too many of us would rather test our ideas on colleagues within the industry, or friends and family who do not want to offend us. For example, asking your spouse if your presentation sounds good is like them asking you: “Does my bum look fat in this?” What are you going to say?
What struck me (and not for the first time) was how much effort we put into cultivating professional connections, when right under our noses there are other people who are having better, deeper and more trusted relationships with the people we want to work with. Working with ‘centres of influence’ may ultimately be more rewarding than working on professional connections, but why not do both? More importantly perhaps, these centres of influence often possess a ‘can do’ and a ‘do it now’ attitude – how refreshing.
Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning