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Analysis / Business

Darwin And The Art Of Running A Business

Had a conversation with a Greek partner at the Rome Partner conference. He told me about him buying a couple of troubled businesses, and how to help the staff understand the seriousness he had to get them change their behaviour. Bit of a meeting of minds, when he said he had given all the staff quotes from Darwin about only those species which adapt, survive.

That made me think.I took over running a company once and something strange happened. On my first day through the door, a person claiming to be Deputy Chief Exec was very irate with me. It seems the forced loss of the outgoing Chief had not met with the approval of those with their hands in the cookie jar.

‘You better not try changing things round here’ this person said ‘we won’t stand for it’. And there was real anger towards me, and verging on a minor physical threat. Now the hard bit was not to laugh.

Here we had a company with big problems. And the supposed second in command was telling the new boss ‘don’t change anything’. And not in a nice way.

Now, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about me, but this was a decision I made at that moment. It is like Darwin’s theory. A person unfit for the job, and culpable in the many problems, had essentially volunteered to leave – ok without realising it, and this person was really mad about it when I did the deed. Really, really angry.

But in effect I had to do nothing except let Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest play out. This person just dropped off the company evolutionary tree. And a few people ‘volunteered’ in like fashion within three days.

As always, there were a few gems left in the management which were then more easily uncovered. People who cared about their company and not just themselves.

Now, modesty prevents me from commenting on any Darwinian aspects from when I joined Psion. Let’s just say there were a few Darwinian moments early on however. And yes it was helpful, as an incoming Chief Exec it just saves time.

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John Conoley joined Psion in 2008 and has 25 years experience in the technology industry. John has significant experience of working with both direct channels to market and also channel partners such as Value Added Resellers (VARs), Distributors, Systems Integrators and Developers. Before joining Psion, John was head of energy company EON’s Corporate Business Division, responsible for improving the performance and profitability of a division with sales of £1.5bn. Prior to this, John spent many years growing or turning round technology businesses as CEO.