I think the most important component of growth, and in fact the most important characteristic of modern business people, is energy. Energy is often underrated as a personality trait, or as a personal commodity at all. But the truth is, energy is essential to grow anything – the energy of the sun is essential to grow plants, and our personal energy is essential to grow businesses or disrupt markets and change the order of things.
On the back of Exposure’s business cards we have the symbols that represent the second law of thermodynamics, which states ‘in a close system, energy cannot be lost’. Most markets are closed systems of one sort or another, so I truly believe that if you put any sort of energy into the market, that energy will come back to you somewhere. It might not be linear, it might not be obvious, but as you put energy out, you’ll attract energy back to you. You will create purpose and direction and a chain of events that unlock potential. There’s a lot of potential energy out there, and your application of energy into that is what starts the fire, is what starts process and chemical reaction.
That’s the physics of it, but I have a more spiritual view of it, which is karma. What goes around, comes around. I’m a passionate believer that being energetic is the first, most critical component of growth. Being focused in your energy, like a laser beam, is even better. And what’s so interesting about it is I’ve experienced this in every stage of my career, in every environment I’ve ever worked in – if I start to make stuff happen, if I start to organise meetings, if I start making presentations and websites, suddenly the phone rings. And it won’t be someone I was talking to. And it won’t be someone they were talking to. But the energy my colleagues and I are putting into the market will always come back to us, and we’ll be ready to take that call.
And that’s actually why I’m very rarely scared of failure. Because energy creates by products, creates new relationships, creates new opportunities. So almost whatever you do, doing something is nearly always better than doing nothing. If you want something to happen, if you want to achieve growth, you have got to bring the energy, you’ve got to be the spark that creates flames. And so many businesses I’ve seen over the course of my career have failed because they fear of engaging with the market – there was an absolute conviction that the thing had to be absolutely perfect before it was launched, but that’s what leaves you inert. And you don’t want to be inert, you don’t want to be passive. You want to be active, and lots of businesses that succeed, even those with terrible ideas, do so simply because somebody was out there making it happen.
Back in the good old days of media sales, I was once asked in a job interview what I thought the most important characteristic of a salesperson was, and I said personality. And I didn’t get the job because the interviewers said the most important quality of a salesperson was the ability to listen. I want to upturn that old sales belief because clearly as a salesperson you need to listen, but it’s not THE most important thing, because more often than not, charisma, personality and energy will trump supposedly good listening skills. Why? Because clients lie. Because clients articulate what they want badly. Because clients don’t know what they want. But everybody responds to positive energy. Everybody responds to go ideas. So, that’s not to say you need to be a jumping jack, you can actually exude energy from quite a tranquil place. But you have to have energy, because if you don’t, no-one else is going to give it to you.
And what’s really interesting in recruitment of good people is that good personal energy is harder to acquire than technical skills or market knowledge. I think it was Rocco Forte who was once asked how he trained his staff to be so nice, and he said ‘I don’t train them to be nice, I only employ nice people’ and there’s such a gem of wisdom in that. When I’m recruiting I’m only looking for people who’ve got the right energy. Because if they’re too passive in the kind of business I run, clients won’t like it. Clients want to see a demonstration of energy and enthusiasm; they want that likability. They want charm and insight and wit. People respond much better to that than they do to rational ideas. I’ve never been in a circumstance where I’ve seen a decision made on pure reason and logic. They’re always made on emotion. And I think that’s important to bear in mind, particularly in the modern world where we have so many more choices, so many more options, the ‘Do I like it?’ factor is really important. It will be justified in all sorts of objective ways, but the truth, in my mind, is subjective.
So ultimately for me, growth is about personal energy, your ability to put that energy into a market, your ability to inspire other people in the market to reciprocate that energy and give you their energy in return; and that’s the real driver of growth, your ability to inspire.