Surviving 35 years in business is an impressive feat. In fact in the recent economic climate, celebrating ANY length of time should be celebrated! Paul Fletcher, MD of FN Worldwide talks to us about how he went from ‘falling into’ his business into growing it to one that operates on a global scale.
“I didn’t have a work permit”
I was working in Germany in 1983 as an electrical engineer and was about to take advantage of a job opportunity in America, but I didn’t have a work permit. Obtaining one is a lengthy process so rather than carry one what I was currently doing and just wait until it happened, I decide to invest the money that I had in a business opportunity that arose – I think it’s important to grab any opportunity’s that present themselves.
“Spend as much time as you can with employees”
It’s so important that you truly gauge their attitude and values. When running a busy company, it’s easy to hire someone on their credentials and qualifications but fail to learn about who they are and what motivates them. We have a big focus on communication within FN Worldwide; if staff are kept in the loop they feel valued and a relationship is built on mutual trust. I’m not saying we haven’t been burnt – we have been more than once but when you find those great members of staff they stay for a long time, it’s worth taking the time to seek them out.
I would say that 51% of our success is purely down to our staff, they are the face of the company. Reputation has aided us in building this business and our employees are expected to maintain that reputation every single time and establish a personal connection with the clients.
“There is a downside to the digital explosion”
When it comes down to it – you are at the mercy of disgruntled customers. We have a big emphasis on our online presence because it’s so prevalent in today’s world; but along with understanding the value of using online platforms to promote your business we have learnt from experience to be pro-active in preventing and locating any bad press/reviews.
“I have a lot of self-belief”
I lead this company, I have to believe that I have the ability do it. I also have an enormous amount of belief in the people that we employ.
To have survived 35 years in business I have to be honest and say that sheer luck and risk taking has largely come into it. ALWAYS take the risk, in the business world its unavoidable and you have to be willing to accept that and have the self confidence that you are making the right decision. If the risk pays off, then great but if not then you will have learnt a crucial lesson that you can take forward – either way you have been successful in the long term.
“I’m still working on a work/life balance”
After 35 years, I’m still trying to figure it out; I’m lucky to have such a patient wife and family.
With the changes in culture and rise of the digital world, I have found it harder to switch off because it’s so easy to be contactable 24 hours a day. In the transportation industry there are more obstacles arising all the time – the responsibilities are multiplying every day, the threat of unknowingly transporting migrants is a huge weight on everyone shoulders right now and we simply cannot afford to be complacent in any area of the business. It’s all about adapting and evolving.
“I don’t have a defined vision of success”
I would describe it as health, happiness and lots of love – but these things rarely come in unison! I find it difficult to consider myself as successful when the circumstances are constantly changing.
When I first began I didn’t have a defined vision of success, I know many would say that was a wrong move but to me, it means that I’ve never felt as if I’ve failed. I’m proud of all that FN has achieved and we will continue to push forward and grow in a number of ways, but I’m not ready to define myself as ‘successful’.
“I’m my greatest inspiration in business!”
Many of the entrepreneurs that are considered ‘inspirations’ were only starting out when I began. I took advantage of a chance business opportunity as turned it into a profitable business. I’m not afraid to say that I’m extremely proud of the hard work I have put in and the skills that I have honest over the years.
I’ve had some failures, both in business and in my personal life but they have led me to learn valuable lessons that I am grateful for. The failures are just as important as the successes because you never stop learning; focusing on personal development is imperative as the goal posts are continually moving in the business world.
“I find giving advice really difficult”
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to business. The one thing I would say is always take the risk; a lack of confidence can be more damaging that not taking advantage of an opportunity.
When you stop believing that you CAN succeed, it’s time to call it a day.