'How are you feeling?'

I have lived my whole life as an entrepreneur. It has never been easy to Integrate business into family life and do my best to ensure that there was a father or husband at home. 

For those who live that life today, my hat's off to you, it is not easy. The same could, of course, be said of a busy career or job. The last thing I wanted was to be so invested in my businesses that I would end up with pictures of multiple former wives on my desk. 

After 40 years of running my own businesses, you would perhaps assume I had figured it all out. The truth is likely the opposite and I find myself with lots to learn still. 

A little over a week ago, we experienced a close family death. We are still dealing with various arrangements and legalities and I have been travelling.

In business, I like to make a decision and move on. I am not the type of person to dwell on the facts after absorbing and analyzing them. I would rather analyze, decide and execute and then move on. 

There is a sensitivity to operating at home like that also. In business, nobody really says “how are you feeling?” 

It is the rare EQ balance to IQ that is ever present at the business table, yet in a family, perhaps more time needs to be spent asking that question. 

My wife has been incredibly strong through this recent family loss. It is easy for me to look at her as a business partner and assume she has just “analyzed, decided and executed” and, to a certain extent, she has. 

I have been travelling overseas since the day after the family loss and I realized that in all my calls to home, it has been “business as usual." Not once did I really ask my wife “how are you feeling?” 

The truth was, I found out that she was feeling sad and perhaps a little lonely. I felt guilty for not spending more time on the phone chatting about how she felt as opposed to simply making decisions about an order of service or a power point slide show. 

Grief takes time and it affects all of us differently and, frankly, many of us in business have a habit of quickly walking through a period of grief as if we have “dealt with it." In fact, it can come back and surprise us that we have emotions and feelings we may not have resolved. 

I look forward to getting home in a few days to give my wife a hug and simply ease the burden a little more than I can when I am away.

Living as a family and raising children is not a simple decision, it is a complex responsibility that demands much more of us than we may be used to giving as business leaders, managers or employees. 

I just need to remember to change hats a little more often and be careful about what role I am in.


Most costly Uber fare ever

Having just landed in the U.K. after a trans Atlantic flight, I was in no mood for the shenanigans that were about to unfold. 

I had booked a rental car through Expedia using a company called Advantage Rental Car. The info I had was that the agency was in the airport with a 24-hour desk. This is important because I would prefer not to drive 10 kilometres to get to the agency frankly. 

To make matters worse, my bag had not arrived and so a painstakingly slow process of filing the claim for the bag had already put me an hour behind schedule. 

I follow the signs to the rental car area, which, it turns out, was a very long walk from the terminal. 

No company called Advantage was in the lot, just the usual premium brands. Gnashing my teeth, I walked back to the airport to check and make sure I had not walked past a desk or booth. On verifying that I had not lost my mind I called my Expedia help line. 

The process with Expedia continued to include lengthy hold times and so I hung up knowing they would call me back with info and decided to get an Uber and go to the Advantage address shown on my Google maps. 

I booked an Uber for the princely sum of £9 and walked back to the rental car area again which was the Uber pick up point. 

My driver showed up and I jumped in the back making sure I was as cheery as possible, there was no reason to give him a bad day. He confirmed we were going to Advantage Rental Cars. I said yes.

He then drove 50 metres and advised me we were there.

I argued that the address I put in was still showing it was 10 km away. He was unable to explain why but insisted I was there. 

I had already had enough so I said thanks and I would try and figure it out. 

I walked in to the rental kiosk area and asked in a loud voice if anybody knew who Advantage Car Rental were, the guy behind the National Rental Car counter looked at me and asked:

“Are you Mark Jennings-Bates?”

Now I was ticked. 

It was at that time that Expedia called me back and said they had spoken to Advantage, who put them on to National who said they could not find my booking. They politely offered me $25 for my troubles and left me to figure it out with National. 

Eventually I was released.

No, I did not get any refund or discount from Uber, which means that my trip cost the equivalent of $320 per kilometre.

I hope the driver enjoyed a coffee on me.

Reverse networking

It has always fascinated me that networking events revolve around various business owners or sales people walking around a room full of people and often blindly presenting you with a business card asking if you would like to buy their widget. 

If instead we were to walk up to someone and ask “is there anything I may be able to help with to improve your business” I think the concept of networking would be turned on it’s head. 

Last week, I was a featured speaker at the Economic Forum of the Americas in Miami. I spoke to the organizers after and complimented them on a well-run event and the quality of the speakers who never once made a sales pitch from stage.

In fact, almost everyone I met asked me how they could help me in my endeavours. 

Travelling home through the U.S. it is hard not to read the headlines. I was thinking about Donald “Teflon” Trump and wondering if the age-old approach of demanding people do things “for him” rather than asking what he could do to assist them is working?

In fact, if immigrants are crashing the U.S. border from Guatemala and Honduras, perhaps we need to put ourselves in their shoes for a minute. 

We can guess a few things:

  • The migrants never wanted to leave their homes and families
  • They have seen a lifestyle that they would like to have the freedom to attain. 

So instead of closing borders, imposing sanctions and cutting back on help (which actually exacerbates the problem) could we not ask what we can do to help the countries achieve the level of freedom they aspire to?

We have a brain pool of entrepreneurs, academics and experts who are used to building something from nothing.

If we applied our energy and resources to showing others how to build an economy rather than working to tear it down and control it, might we have different results?


Great roundabout debate

It is spring again (thank goodness) and as traffic starts to flow a little more confidently and smoothly, we see all the signs of poor driving habits magnified because the speeds on the roads have increased slightly. 

I just helped teach a safe winter driving course a few weeks ago and while we teach some advanced driving techniques during the course, we have left the basics up to somebody else. But perhaps the basics are not being covered very well.

I always talk about the things that can make everyone’s life on the road a little easier and safer the night before we do the practical aspect. 

When we ask who in the room thinks they are a skilled driver, many people will suggest they are. When you ask why, the only answer is they have driven for many years.

As in many instances we can in fact learn bad habits repetitively. Drivers if they are lucky experience no penalty. If you are a chef with bad habits and produce bad food you run out of jobs. with driving we just continue o drive badly. 

Some of the worst examples of ignorant driving are IMHO:

Left Lane Hogs 

The left lane is for overtaking. (That was a period. No more to say) You shoulder check for a space to move into and if available you indicate your intentions and change lanes. Once your overtaking manoeuvre is complete you reverse the process. 

4 Way Stop Stoppers 

If it is safe to enter a four-way stop after coming to a complete stop and it is also safe to exit on your chosen lane, then you should proceed to do so. A four-way stop does not mean that if you see traffic 500 metres away proceeding to the stop, then you should stop until everybody is stopped knowing you are first to go. Just flippin’ go. 

Traffic Light Turners 

On a filter, we can proceed; it is always wise to check if it is safe as you proceed. However when the filter is off and you still have a green light, you proceed into the intersection and prepare to turn left. You do not sit at the line by the light ensuring that in heavy traffic, you are the only person to get across the signal. If it is safe to enter the intersection, you should proceed to do so.

Overtaking lane rockets 

This happens all the time and also when you actually try and overtake somebody. You may have a car in front of you that is going slower than the limit and the safe speed for the road in the conditions.

Yet as soon as you attempt to overtake they speed up. This is downright stupid and dangerous.

The same is true for overtaking lanes. In the mountains, they are few and far between, yet you can follow somebody 20 km/h under the safe driving limit for 30 minutes and as soon as they get two lanes in the same environment and conditions, they accelerate to 20 km/h over the limit. Then — you guessed it — they slow down as it goes back to a single lane. Don’t do that. 

Let’s talk about roundabouts 

The first thing to remember is that they are designed to move traffic more efficiently and smoothly without necessarily coming to a stop. 

There are two major problems in Canada. We have mini-roundabouts here compared to much of Europe where they are larger and multi-lanes, which makes the use of indicators very important because you are changing lanes on the roundabout. 

We also have a habit of stupidly giving a priority to pedestrians close to the exit of roundabouts, negating the benefit completely and creating an extremely dangerous situation similar to letting pedestrians cross when you are turning right at traffic lights. 

Perhaps we have compromised and confusing roundabouts to start with. In essence, you simply yield to get on. If there is a suitable gap in the traffic or no traffic, you are able to drive in to the roundabout. If you are taking the first exit, you might indicate right as a courtesy.

If you are going straight ahead on our “mini-roundabouts,” you are probably best not to use indicators, but if you are taking the third exit (a left turn at a four-way stop) it is courteous to indicate left past the first two exits and then change to a right indication to let everyone know you are leaving the roundabout. 

If you think it should be done any other way, please avoid renting a car in Europe, it could end up being a negative experience.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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