It’s interesting where work can take you sometimes. I recently found myself providing consultancy support to a task near Uralsk in the north west of Kazakhstan.  I have to say that initially I wasn’t looking forward to the trip.  I imagined that an area so remote would present some infrastructure and logistical challenges.

I was also concerned that the timing of the trip wasn’t good.  The uncertain environment created by the Brexit vote had yielded lots of clients wanting their business plans to be tested by the War Game method; many of them ramping up for financial presentations to senior management / Boards in September / October.  I knew it was potentially going to be challenging to keep track of demand whilst working out of Central Asia.

The reality was an enjoyable kick in the pants, and a reminder that preconceptions can be dangerous.  Kazakhstan is in a phase that one of my friends would describe as its ‘goldilocks period’ i.e. there are significant opportunities and sufficient infrastructure to make things happen, but not many companies are present because they believe the environment to be too austere and risky.

So for me, lesson #1 from being in Kazakhstan was: Don’t listen to the chatter or people’s misguided perceptions on things….go and see for yourself what opportunities exist.

I spent a lot of time during the task being driven around the Kazakh steppe.  The scenery had a hypnotic and absorbing quality, with enough subtle variations that it never became mundane, but nothing so remarkable that it broke your train of thought.

With little connectivity to the outside world during these drives, I found myself, for the first time in a long while, able to let my mind wander without diary pressures.  I took the chance to think back over the last five years; time I have devoted to building Quirk Solutions Ltd to where we are today.  I reflected on the successes and failures I have been through and what I have learned.

I came to the following conclusions:

  • I need to sit back and think more. The time is Kazakhstan had allowed me the space to pause.  To think. To make some considered decisions instead of rushing to act. It has been so positive for me that I will continue making the time for ‘head space’ when back in the UK.
  • Over the 5 years of running the business, I have learned (the hard way) that there is a balance to be struck between determination to chase an opportunity down and chasing mirages that ultimately come to nothing. My time in Uralsk had allowed me the space to differentiate between those organisations contacting us merely out of curiosity, and those who were actively in need of our service offering to cope with planning in the post-Brexit environment.
  • Things take time; be patient. A client wants a sense of relationship, not to be bounced through a transactional and high pressure sales process.  Getting to know the client first and not rushing things, means that the client gets exactly what they want, not what you think they want. The breaks in connectivity that I had in Kazakhstan actually enhanced this approach – it forced both sides to slow down and helped to grow relationships more gradually.
  • Encouraging those around you to challenge you, your thoughts and plans is healthy. I have a lot of time & respect for Nick Massey and what he has achieved, so when he recently got in touch to say he felt wargaming was an ideal mechanism for testing business plans in the post-Brexit environment, it gave me a reinvigorated mandate for action.

Its true that the outcome of the EU referendum has been a considerable upheaval in what we know.  But, much like my preconceptions of Kazakhstan, you’ll never find out what opportunities lie in the post-Brexit ecosphere unless you go and look for yourself.

Then, with some time to think, to identify the real opportunities, some patience and a degree of healthy challenge, who knows where you could end up?  It could even be a small town outside Uralsk.

If you would like to disrupt your thinking and use our capability to improve your business plans in this uncharted environment, visit our website or contact me or one of the team directly.

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