“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense”
Winston Churchill was known for his inspiring speeches. Unlike most politicians today, he wrote many of his speeches himself. In business, as leaders and managers we could do far worse than be inspired by some of Churchill’s famous speeches.
Never giving in? Often in the face of adversity it is easier not to make the extra effort to achieve the outcome required. As I reflect on my journey of establishing and managing a business, Churchill’s ‘never give in’ speech resonates.
Back when the business was just starting out, we were given a 3 month contract with a major Australian retailer to manage their Christmas overflow. This effectively doubled our existing business and would have prevented the business from failing. After we had signed the contract we then received a phone call saying ‘sorry, we’ve decided not to use you’.
Large Australian retailers are notoriously ruthless in dealing with suppliers, especially small ones. Although we had a contract we were in no financial position to seek redress for them breaking the contract. If we had taken legal action we would have been out of business before the matter was addressed and, we could not afford it anyway. With our backs to the wall, we went back and negotiated successfully with the retailer’s manager and convinced him that the honourable action was to adhere to the contract. This gave us our first big start in the business.
Several years later, our largest customer owed us a six figure sum and was reluctant to pay. Failure to pay would have meant our business would have collapsed unless we were able to secure a bank loan to cover working capital. This was something we were reluctant to do as our houses had been mortgaged to establish the business. Negotiations were not fruitful in reducing the debt owed to us and we became extremely worried. We kept the pressure up without success. Luckily the customer decided to cease using our services but they needed to move their stock. This presented the lever we needed to get paid. Put simply, “no payment no stock” and our business was saved (post note: 12 months later the customer went broke). Never, never give in had saved our business on a number of occasions.
Finally, successfully selling our business was our last example of ‘never, never, never give in’. After 2 failed sales attempts in 12 months it looked as though the business would never be sold and we would not receive a reward for our 15 years of hard work (and worry!). Seven prospective business brokers were interviewed to assist in selling the business and were rejected for one reason or another. It looked like another failure. However, I encouraged one of the brokers to try another approach. After weeks of trying to convince all my partners to use his company’s services, he was appointed to sell the business. This proved a decisive. The broker had international experience and was able to sell the business to an international buyer well above expectations.
I recently read a great blog about not giving in where the author states “Anything worthwhile is worthwhile sticking with until it is done” this applies to not only business but life itself.
In business as in management, staying power or persistence will often win out in the end………sometimes when you least expect it.