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Phil Wickenden: Action stations

Something versus nothing can be everything.

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“Opportunity doesn’t knock; it presents itself when you beat down the door” -or when you tweet, apparently. Adam Greenwood, a teenager travelling between Euston and Glasgow, suffered every train passenger’s worst nightmare: running out of loo paper at the critical moment. Bold action was required. Adam took to Twitter to alert the whole world (including the Virgin social media team) to his quandary:

“I’ve just had a reasonably large poo and there is no toilet roll left on the @virgintrains 19.30 train from Euston to Glasgow pls send help.”

In what turns out to be a rather splendid riposte to sometime social media naysayers (myself included), a Virgin Trains representative at HQ replied to the stranded passenger within minutes, asking for more information:

“@AdamPlaysYT Which coach, Adam? “.

Adam was in coach J. Virgin HG followed: “@AdamPlaysYT We’ll send someone down to you”. In no time at all a uniformed guard appeared at the door, brandishing fresh sheets of lavatory paper.

This inglorious news item has more than one lesson but the one I want to highlight is that the fantastic business outcomes you are hoping for in 2015 (and, indeed, the ones that you have not yet even envisioned but are possible) are highly unlikely to materialise on their own. They might… but they are more likely not. Ninety nine times in 100 instances you will be required to do something first: to take some action. Sometimes this action will be big, other times it will be small. Often we will not know which in advance. However, what is for sure is that the difference in doing something and nothingcan be, ultimately, everything.

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At the start of the year we asked advisers what single thing would make the biggest positive difference to their business. I will share some of those thoughts next week but what is revealing is that only half of those advisers had (at the time of interviewing) a specific plan in place to make it happen.

Important decisions carry risk and take time, sure. So the instinct is to delay because the idea of doing something risky and distracting later is far better than the reality of doing it now. The trouble is, that is nearly always the wrong strategy.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan 

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