Stephen Archer at Spring Partnerships avoids complacency

Stephen Archer is CEO of business growth consultancy Spring Partnerships. Established in 2002, the company now boasts annual sales of £3.2 million and an impressive list of blue-chip clients, though reaching this level has not been easy.

Attitudes and aptitudes

I’ve come to realise how important it is to hire a person according to their attitude. In the past, I’ve taken on people because they have an impressive CV and have ticked all the right boxes, but sometimes these things can blind you. I once employed a woman who demonstrated a reasonable level of competence, only to later discover quite by chance that she had been sending abusive emails to some of our top clients, including one major German multinational company! She caused a lot of trouble because she had totally the wrong attitude and, although we managed to salvage the relationship with the client, her actions could have been disastrous for us. Now I’ve learnt first-hand that good social and communication skills are as important as having the right credentials.

Beware of business complacency

You can’t take your eye off the ball in business because, just when you think that you couldn’t be doing any better, things are almost certainly about to go pear-shaped.

In 1991, I did a lot of business with a big company, Lancaster Holidays – the parent company of a travel firm called Intasun. When Intasun went under, it took Lancaster with it. Looking back, I knew something wasn’t quite right, but when I spoke to Lancaster’s directors they assured me that everything was fine. I should have listened to my gut feeling and got our money out sooner. Failing to do so wiped out an entire year’s profits and very nearly ruined us. It just goes to show that in business it’s essential to remain vigilant at all times.

Stress can sink your business ship

As an employer, it’s important to recognise when people are experiencing too much pressure. On at least one occasion I’ve seen employees deeply troubled and, earlier on in my business life, I admit I failed to recognise or deal with it. That isn’t good because it means the people working for you are often suffering through months of misery. Stress is the unseen illness of industry and I think it’s important for employers to pick up on it before it starts to have a real impact on their operation. Nowadays, if I noticed that one of my workers was overly stressed, I would address the situation and encourage them to take time out or sound off about what’s worrying them.

Prevention is always better than cure

If you don’t stay abreast of the law then you are losing touch with things that can adversely affect you. Once, I fired somebody with very good reason and was quickly faced with an industrial tribunal. The litigation against me was totally unsound and, although there was no doubt that we would win the case, it became expedient to settle out of court. In hindsight, had I thought about what might happen, I would have done things differently. It’s frustrating and wasteful having to defend yourself in a situation that you know you will eventually win, so now I believe in the old adage that prevention is far better than cure.

Networking is your future

Never underestimate the power of networking – it really will benefit your business in the future. There have been periods when I have neglected to do enough networking and, quite frankly, you can never do enough. It’s not just about throwing mud at a wall and seeing how much of it sticks; it’s about throwing mud at a wall so far away that you don’t get to see whether it sticks or not, but you know some of it will.

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...

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Growth Strategy