(This article originally appeared in Business2Business, a business magazine for Banbury, Buckingham and Bicester)

According to the International Olympic Committee, seven values will underpin the 2012 Olympic Games: excellence, respect, courage, inspiration, determination, equality and friendship. These are not just sporting values. they can equally apply to business as well. The more you think about them the more you realise that they have immense relevance in the commercial world of today.  We’re kicking off this series with Inspiration.

Within every successful athlete there is a well of inspiration, and behind every successful business there is an inspirational idea or motive. When I was writing my book about entrepreneurs in the 1980s (Secrets of Success: what you ca n learn from Britain’s entrepreneurs), I found that the more inspired the business owners were the more likely they were to succeed. Those who set up their own company principally in order to have their own business but without some inspirational idea behind it or those who set up  solely in order to have a higher income were not always as successful as those who were motivated by some inspiring dream. Obviously a knowledge of their markets played a big role in both scenarios, but those who were driven by an inspirational concept tended to find their feet more assuredly. They were more motivated, and they were more able to survive early difficulties.

What I’ve also learnt from talking to successful business leaders is that they are not only inspired, they are also inspirational. That, for me, is a key element in business success. It is what really distinguishes a great business owner from an average one. If you can be inspirational it will pay you dividends. You will be amazed. This is something that so many business leaders overlook, yet it is so simple.  Let me explain.

If you are inspirational with your colleagues and inspire them to do their best, then you will really drive your business forward. They will be fired up to do more than they thought they could, and maybe even more than you expected. If you are inspirational with your suppliers then they will understand your needs better, and you are much more likely to have your requirements met exactly as you want.

You need to be inspirational with your clients and potential customers. They need to see just what a difference you can make to them. All too often we assume that this will be obvious. We know our own business so well that we take what we do for granted. I know I do this a lot.. But  your clients will never know everything about you, and they will never completely take on board how you can help them with their specific needs unless you tell them, and then inspire them with the results that you can produce for them.

Another thought: surround yourself with people who inspire you. I have rarely met a successful business person who has not had an inspiring mentor. In fact, they usually have had several, and they make sure that they keep in touch with one or two people who help them to stay focused on their goals and reach them.

So who is going to inspire you?  How will you inspire others?



This is one of the questions posed in a new book Luck: What it means and why it matters, by former cricketer (ex-Middlesex captain) Ed Smith. He argues that luck has become a taboo subject in our culture. This is especially true, he says, in the world of sport. It is also widespread in other areas such as business, where hard work, strategic focus, implementation and talent are seen as the route to success. They all play a part in achieving success, but the role that luck plays is often dismissed.

Smith has touched upon a very uncomfortable truth, which is that we cannot control everything, and that chance performs a bigger role in our lives than we like to thunk. Even though we know this instinctively, we shy away from admitting it openly, When The Guardian reviewed my book on entrepreneurs some years ago it smirked at my comment that luck had played a part in some of the business successes. But I was only telling the truth. More than that, a number of those whom I interviewed pointed to the element of luck in their company’s rise.

How do you explain the experience of  a fast-growing chemicals company, on the look-out for a specific type of acquisition, that not only finds exactly what they want, but discovers afterwards that the acquired company exceeds their wildest dreams? “It was an Aladdin’s cave of chemical processes,” the new owner said to me. Or, what about the company chairman, who needs to fill the post of research director quickly, who mentions this to a friend at lunch, only to be told: “I think I met the person you need this morning, and he wants to move. Your company could very well be the one he’s looking for.” Or, take the case of the start-up management consultant, who goes to a boxing match at the Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane, London, and finds that he is sitting next to his first client, who then introduces him to others.

In his book Ed Smith cites one of the three Nobel laureates who discovered the structure of DNA, John Watson. Watson told Smith that he and Crick were lucky, firstly because he and Crick met at all, and secondly because their principal foreign competitors would not collaborate with each other. If they had, Watson speculates that it would have been they, not Watson, Crick and Wilkins, who would have earned the Nobel prize in 1962.

So be open to the chance event that occurs in your life and recognise its potential for your growth.

so this is quantum theory for the lay person!!

I found myself yesterday wondering around Waterstones and chanced upon the much-hyped new book by TV scientist Brian Cox. His book, on quantum physics, was written for the lay person, he’s said. Well, either I’m a dunce or Prof. Cox has no idea of your average person. What does he expect people like me to make of pages of equations?. His many female admirers will be in a funk.

I closed the book and opted for another without dense mathematics.

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