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a blog by Chris Barrow

Setting up a "Black Hole" team

Most of Saturday was invested in a 6.5 hour drive from Cornwall to Manchester, where I’m spending the weekend with my family, primarily to celebrate my third son’s 17th birthday and to see my daughters for the first time in over 6 weeks.The drive-time was increased by the famous A30 roadworks, which continue to tempt the long-suffering Cornish traveller by being half-open (an hour to crawl through) and then further by pandemonium at Exeter Services, where alterations to the car park created a 30-minute wait to exit back on to the M5.

Of course, I only have myself to blame – Saturday is known in the South West of England as “changeover day” – when the holidaymakers drive in and out of the peninsula and hotels switch guests – so any intelligent resident stays off the main roads (or should I say “road”, because there is only one reliable route) – but my schedule is such that I wanted to travel – and so suffer the excrutiating delight of battling North with a veritable convoy of caravans, SUV’s and VW Dormobiles with surf boards strapped to the roof.

Exeter Services was also a reminder of the new and astonishing levels of obesity that the British nation are acquiring – the line for Burger King being much longer then that for Marks & Spencer.

Along the way (and the source of today’s title) I chatted with a client who had contacted me during the week in some distress.

Single-handed practice owner – one receptionist, one nurse, one VDP who will become an associate in early 2008.

On my advice, he recruits a business manager to delegate “everything else” and give himself the time to grow the business.

After careful recruitment and interviewing, he chooses a very good candidate, who joins the practice three months ago.

Said business manager-designate attends the DBS workshops to get Barrowed-up.

And then promptly hands in his resignation when my client has spent countless hours training him.

As if that were not bad enough, the nurse (who has been there 9 months) announces her intention to leave, quoting communting challenges as well as dissatisfaction at work.

My client descends into his “black hole” (as I call it).

You know – that place where:

  1. you have had layer after layer of bad news

  2. it all seems to be going sXXt-faced

  3. you think that you are the only person in the world who is in trouble

  4. one step forward, 10 steps back

  5. that everyone else is having a great weekend, making loads of money, enjoying life – except YOU

  6. that you are clearly a failure – not cut out to be a business owner – should have stayed as an associate or an employee

  7. sick of the endless responsibility of ownership

  8. tired, worn out in fact – cannot face another day of it.

Ever been there?

My support team would argue that I’m there a few times every year – I usually get reprimanded by them for writing about it here and in the ezine.

Well at least this client had the presence of mind to write to his coach and articulate the situation and how he was feeling.

So I shared with him my “black hole” antidote – Michael, Tim and Simon.

  1. Michael Myerscough – my personal coach

  2. Tim Thackrah – client and best buddy

  3. Simon Hocken – business partner and best buddy

And – yes – all blokes who have their own “black holes”, who run their own business, who know “what it’s like” and who are sufficiently close to understand the problem and sufficiently far away to not be involved in the outcome or be members of the “cast”.

So when I’m in my “black hole” I call them – and tell them “everything”.

And when I’m finished they perform two invaluable services:

  1. they listen and

  2. they quickly point out that I’m not “to blame”, that every business owner (or Dad, for that matter) goes through stuff like this and that now I’ve stopped doing “poor me” it’s time to get on with the solution.

So when I finished listening to my client yesterday (on the hands-free by the way), I told him:

  1. that I had listened and fully understood his point;

  2. that he wasn’t to blame;

  3. that he wasn’t a failure;

  4. that it was now time to go into solution mode.

Oh – and by the way, I suggested some further tactics to him.

  1. create a “black hole” team and

  2. call them when you need to and

  3. let them call you when they need to.

And if you are wondering why I am writing this blog post at 6.00am on a Sunday morning?

Because I’m in a stuffy room at the Hilton Manchester Airport and I’ve been awake since 4.00am, after 4 hours sleep – groan.

Took my 17-year old (Joshua) out for a birthday meal last night with his two sisters.

After buying him Calzone and beer, then bunging him some cash for his present (as requested), I watched in quiet incredulity as he wandered up and downstairs to the restuarant toilet (so that he could call his mates and arrange the later evenings entertainment) and gave the eye to a couple of bimbos on the next table.

He is blessed with good lucks and cursed with the attitude of a rich 18th Century landowner’s gadabout heir. But I’ve come to accept who he is and manage my expectations.

“Thanks Dad – see ya” as he exited the restuarant early to meet up with the lads.

Today, I’m going to take my daughters out.

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