How to ‘Take Control’ and Change your Business Life



I see plenty of people getting distracted in their work. Usually they focus on stuff that is easy to do rather than the stuff that is important to do. I sort of get that.

What I struggle with however, is people getting distracted by the things they can’t do anything about. That’s just a waste of time.

We live in a world full of distractions. There are plenty of things going on out there that affect our businesses. In some cases they have a direct influence on our ability to be successful. Think about it. In the last five years we have seen the prices for most of the world’s major commodities such as oil, iron ore, coal and even milk powder collapse to previously unimagined levels. We’ve seen major economies such as Greece, and to a lesser extent Spain and Italy fail. An enormous influx of refugees from the Middle East has raided Europe’s borders, resulting in uncertainty with global ramifications. More recently Britain’s public have voted to leave the European Union, with short and long term consequences for both sides. And at the time of writing, the United States of America is on the verge of electing either one of two poorly qualified – and some would say dangerous – people to become their next President.

All of these happenings have the ability to impact the business environment that we operate in. They create uncertainty. They contribute to negative debate, which in turn influences the attitudes of the people we deal with every day. I often see people rolling out the list of excuses for their poor performance. These matters regularly surface. They are usually accompanied by complaints about traffic, the government, taxes, and sometimes even the weather.

Here’s the point. None of us can do anythng about this stuff. Sure, it affects us. It affects our business. I have recently seen a very good business with very good people that is at risk of failing, primarily because of the exchange rate. BUT ….. there is nothing that we – you and I – can do about it.

In other words, there are, and always will be, a number of things going on out there that are out of our control, and yet, impact our business. The first question to ask is, can I do anything about that? If not, move on.

Instead we should be focussing on the things we can control. Even in the most inhospitable of environments, if we do the very best that we can to manage the things that we can influence, we have a good chance of being very successful.

So what are the things we can control?

A few years back, I set about trying to understand the things that affect our business outcomes and that we can control. I began by listing all the things I’d done as a business manager. I tallied everything from running a surf lifesaving club, selling Xerox copiers, through building my own computer and office equipment dealership to studying at Stanford University. I listed the various issues and outcomes from my UK consultancy adventure and my time as CEO at Australia’s largest Commercial Real Estate organisation, Colliers.

I devoted one line of my yellow pad for each “thing”. In no particular order, the list included:
– Organise patrol captains and roster
– Raise money for new inflatable rescue craft
– Negotiate a major leasing fee
– Systems review and decision
– Lead property management presentation
– Give a speech to new recruits
– Restructure divisions and decrease headcount
– Replace underperforming manager
– Rescue a lost client …… and so on

After two days I had 30 items per page and 20 pages of assorted experiences. I threw my pile of pages into a desk drawer for a couple of days and pondered what I would do with my new list. Three days later I pulled the assorted papers from their resting place and began putting my thoughts into some form of logical order.

Moving down the margin, I categorised the list into headings. It may have been a banking matter, a branding challenge, an employment issue or a sales opportunity. I analysed the points and refined the definitions in the margins. My first cut produced 20 or so headings. Too many, I thought. I re-categorised a couple of times. It took two days to complete the list but then, after some creative thinking, everything on those 20 pages fitted under just 7 headings.

And here’s the best bit. Everything we do in business falls under one of those 7 headings. And all of those headings represent the things we can control.

Since developing this little list of mine, I’ve delivered more than 1,000 business presentations, completed three further major turnarounds as a CEO and sat on several company boards including a major retail group, a private equity firm, a transport and logistics group, a global franchise network and a telecommunications company. I’ve also chaired a private School board and a National Sporting Association. And after all those experiences I haven’t found anything in what I’ve done that doesn’t fit under one of my seven headings.

At the 9th Annual PCOA Conference and Exhibition is being held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre between 27 and 29 November 2016. I am looking forward to sharing what I call “The 7 Principles of Profit” with the attendees. I’ll be there with Tourism New Zealand.

Early-bird registrations are open and the full conference program can be found here 

About the author:
1165 _PCOA 2016_Bruce Cotterill_Headshot 2Bruce Cotterill is a Company Director and 5 time CEO who advises business leaders on Leadership, Governance, and Management. He is the creator of the “7 Principles of Profit” concept and is an expert in improving business performance. He is a regular conference speaker and from his base in New Zealand has delivered keynote presentations to business audiences around the world.