Yes, I know, you haven’t heard from me for nearly a year, but I do have a good excuse.
The last time I communicated through The Bugle, at the end of January, I had just been discharged from the John Radcliffe heart unit, having undergone open heart surgery for a dissection of the aorta and a leaky valve brought on by it, and then been on life support for three days as a result of a chest infection, acquired presumably during surgery.
Anyway, the good news is that virtually all the risks with this condition (no idea what caused it: the usual genetic factors or high blood pressure do not apply) are in the surgery itself. Survive that – and it’s about an 80/20 deal apparently: good old Pareto at it again – and everything eventually goes back to normal
With the anniversary looming, it doesn’t feel all that normal, if I’m honest, but according to the medics at my six-monthly check-up, I’m effectively cured and clear to resume life more or less as before.
Psychologically however I have determined to take my foot off the pedal and stop feeling guilty if I am not immersed in something connected with gainful employment 40 hours a week. I shall only be penning one of these every quarter from now on, for which you may be grateful! And I’ll only be taking on a small select group of clients to coach/mentor/advise etc.
Likewise, my appearances at networking events will be strictly rationed: I won’t list all the key criteria here, but the word ‘breakfast’ is generally proscribed, and the social quotient will outweigh the business one.
Having been out of circulation for a year, I was also at a loss as to what to write about, but then Amazon came to my rescue – in a good way.
It may seem trite to compare the life and death business of one of Britain’s premier heart units (and boy are they good at the JR) with the delivery of a few CDs, but the similarities are greater than you might think.
It all comes down to one word: PROCESS.
This was brought home to me this very morning. The night before last, I watched an astonishingly good programme on BBC called “The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson” – the lead guitarist with Dr Feelgood, diagnosed two years ago with terminal pancreatic cancer and given less than a year to live.
His story and some of his thoughts resonated with me (do watch it on i-Player if you can: it’s the best thing I’ve seen on TV this year – apart from Saracens winning the Premiership, but let that pass), so at a quarter past midnight, when the programme finished, I decided to order the album he had recorded with Roger Daltrey (I’m a big Who fan too) as his epitaph.
Now we’re all used to the Amazon machine clicking into gear and sending you one e-mail after another, telling you where your precious order is in their gargantuan system and when they expect to deliver it (nearly always accurately).
But here’s the piece de resistance: I’m sitting at my desk deleting the usual dross e-mails that clog up the arteries of your business life (see how I’m getting medical terminology into all this too?) when up pops a message from Amazon: Your package has been posted through your letterbox. Ah-ha, I thought, the system has finally failed: I would surely have heard any delivery being made and in any case the Royal Mail rarely arrives before lunch time at the earliest. Upon investigation though, there it was on the mat. Less than 36 hours after placing the order.
Now you can whinge all you like about Amazon’s tax affairs. Personally, I think that if the government is serious about wanting companies to pay their fair share of tax, then they should enact legislation to see they do, but that’s an argument for another day.
What is indisputable is that the company’s stellar rise to pre-eminence in on-line sales of just about everything is built entirely on inflexibly rigorous systems and processes that very rarely fail. And they still have the ability to surprise you by over-delivering against your already high expectations. Leading to customer loyalty, increased business, etc etc.
It is The E-Myth written in giant neon lights, and it should be a model for every small business in Britain that aspires to grow – yes, including yours.
But what has this to do with the Heart Unit in Oxford? Well, having had more time than I would have liked to watch the unit up close and far too personal, I was able to identify just how much it too depends on rigorous systems and processes to ensure people like me don’t slip through their safety net.
While recuperating, an alarm went off to indicate a patient had stopped breathing. Within ten seconds, half a dozen people descended to resuscitate and stabilise him – successfully as it turned out. But looking round the ward, a dozen or so others were were busily getting on with their own areas of responsibility. Whatever event occurred, every single person knew what their role was (or was not) to ensure the very best outcomes throughout the unit.
And if you can translate that into your business, you will likely receive the same level of gratitude that I feel towards the John Radcliffe (and Amazon!)