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What have I learned from running my business for so long?

by Nick Holcombe | Sep 21, 2015

It has been suggested that in my musings for this edition I write something about what I’ve learned (in a nutshell) from running my own business for such a long time.

At first I felt modest about the request. It seemed to me a bit odd to be telling the readers about something I feel most of them are so good at already. But then I had to agree, whatever is said about how I have run this business , it is definitely true that it has been run for a long time.

So how has that happened?

One thing I have noted in the last ten years is that people who invest in their IT at appropriate levels seem to have a high correlation with success. Whether the IT investment is causal to success is beyond my scope to determine, but the statistics appear to be more than anecdotal.

I recall (in the pre PC era) writing software on a hand held calculator which helped my team come top of an engineering survey camp at university. I recall at that time achieving perfect marks in a three hour examination that had been designed for the days before programmable calculators had been invented. I did this by applying programs I had written and finishing, to the astonishment of the examiner, in thirty minutes. Our lecturer thought I had tossed in the towel early, but by delegating to the machine, the answers were complete. He was astonished! It nearly seemed to be magical (or I had some inside knowledge of the answers) until I showed him the programs. They changed the examinations thereafter to make it harder to automate the process of solving the questions.

These examples aren’t meant to exemplify how clever I was, just that I had already spotted that whenever possible you should delegate those things you can to the computer, the TOM (totally obedient moron). Computers do work enormously relentlessly for you if you can articulate to them the problem they need to solve.

I continue to delegate the complex and time consuming tasks at Dorchester to software, spending much of my time writing software for our own business. Our programmers’ time is spent writing software for other people’s businesses.

There was a more important reliance that I learned at an earlier time, probably at secondary school. A person can’t do everything themselves, they need to delegate to other people. Unlike computers, people are not totally obedient nor are they morons (well at least most of them aren’t). One needs to be able to identify great people with great values. I have criteria that those people must meet. To be frank, much of it revolves around them being “nice” people, and then they need to be clever as well and passionate about their work. Whilst people in general aren’t as obedient as computers, good people, whether they stick to the company line entirely or not, are the basis for a great business and a great life.

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