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‘Age essential to business success’

Hilary Briggs – who is managing director of productivity specialist R2P and has more than 15 years’ experience helping small and medium-sized enterprises improve their productivity – claims a longer track record is the true ingredient to success .

“Looking back at one role I did earlier in my career, as managing director of a car component company, with hindsight I could see that I spread myself too thin,” she said. “I had to think hard on every move, as I didn’t have the prior experience to just know what needed to be done, and in what sequence.

“There were problems to be dealt with in virtually every area. My mistake was trying to do a bit on all of them and, in particular, initiating work on developing a strategy. While it made sense, the fundamental issue – as any experienced business person would spot – was cash flow.

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“The poor performance all round meant we were losing money today – and if that didn’t get fixed, we wouldn’t be around for any new projects or fancy long-term strategy,” she added. “Learning from the experience, I now work with a clear list of priorities: cash, existing customers, and new customers.”

Drawing upon this particular experience, as well as several others, Ms Briggs concluded that maturity and experience come with the ability to better prioritise and organise workloads. Furthermore, she said that those with more experience and years are naturally more decisive, less stubborn and hold a wider network of contacts to call on for advice.

While these skills do often come with age, Ms Briggs appreciated that experience in crisis situations can also be found in younger generations – provided they are constantly willing to take note and learn from the obstacles they and others overcome.

“If you want the experience of an older person then seek out opportunities to grow and stretch yourself,” she said. “If you’re willing to learn from each experience then even ones that feel like disasters can add to the tools and knowledge in your box and ensure that you behave as someone with experience beyond your years.”

Overall, Ms Briggs listed her five key benefits to experience as: knowing what to do instinctively; correctly handling people and awkward situations; the ability to recognise the importance of an issue; big contact lists; and knowing how to deal with surprises. Each of these aspects of business are equally important to the running of any type of business operation.

Even though Ms Briggs is particularly concerned with the SME industry, all of the skills she attributes to experience are arguably just as important for financial advisers.

“It all adds up to the ability to focus effort more effectively and get results faster – exactly what’s required in high-pressure situations,” she said.

Adviser comment

Simon Chalk, technical manager of Age Partnership, said: “Wisdom is what clients seek and that can only be found in those who have learnt their trade and served their time. Limitless information is but a mouse-click away, yet clients are hungry for recommendations founded on knowledge and sound judgement. They cannot find that on a computer screen. They know that it is a very human trait and that sage advice takes an age to master. Education plus experience equals wisdom. In my field of equity release, clients want a clearly laid-out plan for their later life. In this regard, being mature is clearly an advantage and fosters empathy.”