Stein On ... Take responsibility by staying in control

Over the years there have been some fantastic speakers at HTA conferences.

Some of my favourites include the body language expert Allan Pease, the rally driver Penny Mallory and the jockey Richard Dunwoody. It was Dunwoody who introduced me to the mantra "Control the controllables". In essence his message was "focus only on the things you are responsible for and can control and influence", and it is one I agree with 100 per cent. These are the things that should occupy your time.

We have a lot of macro, or wider, influences on our industry at the moment that will affect us directly or indirectly. For example, if the euro-zone continues to be turbulent, we will all suffer. Such things are generally the things you are not responsible for and do not control. They include inflation, recession, Europe, Government spending, regulation, competition, what other people say and do - and the weather. Quite a big list, but it does leave a few things you can do something about.

Understandably there is a lot of anxiety or insecurity around in our sector at the moment, perhaps because of all the "uncontrollables" influencing businesses. I do find, however, that the businesses doing well have focused on the "controllables" and have not let their energy, drive and enthusiasm be sapped by other elements. These people are the ones moving forward with their businesses - they recognise there are still opportunities in our sector to capitalise on. They recognise what is going on in the outside world and do not ignore it, but neither do they fret about what negative effects it might have on their businesses, while doing everything to make sure they are as ship-shape and sea worthy as possible.

So what, you may ask, are the controllables? Your product, your staff and customer service, your expenses, and your marketing are four key areas. If you do not focus on these, your business will end up suffering and we may move to a two-tier industry. The top-tier will be those that control the controllables, the bottom tier will be those drained and depleted by the uncontrollables.

Isn't it a much better feeling to be in control?

Neville Stein is managing director of the Ovation Business Consultancy.

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