An astronomical guide to success

As I’ve said countless times before, talent and hard work alone are insufficient indicators of success. I’ve watched people — gifted, dynamic, vibrant people — forge on with slavish dedication to their art and earn precious little recognition for their labours, with not a scintilla of success to show for it. So what’s missing?

We’re told to work hard and smart and in time we’d reap the rewards for our efforts. Some do, that’s obvious, but not everyone, that’s for sure.

Those who know me best know that I have passion for science, and that’s where I look for guidance when the world begins to sag a bit in the middle, or become worn at the edges. Take care, though, to avoid confirmation bias — seeking things that confirm your beliefs is to risk becoming a stranger to more substantial evidence.

Imagine the complete lack of surprise when I read the findings of three scientists who chose to measure the role of luck in success:

The results of this elucidating simulation, which dovetail with a growing number of studies based on real-world data, strongly suggest that luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success.

It’s occurred to me, through studious observation of the world, that there are three main driving forces to success, or — in their absence — failure, and I’ve often found it best to characterise these three fundamental forces as an astronomical guide.

Saturn

Saturn is sheer blind luck and nothing else. Nature doesn’t care about whimsical things such as what we consider to be fair, or whether you’re burdened with a staggering and immeasurable talent — if you are, excellent, because you won the genetic lotto, but this is a different game and a new role of the dice.

The thing about luck is, what’s good luck for someone is sometimes bad luck for someone else.

Acting upon good luck (fortune) is sometimes like an art, where:

  1. you have to be both aware of the moment (and sometimes good fortune comes dressed in the ragged garb of the bad);
  2. and be both cognizant and cunning enough to see opportunities in the scenarios created by bad luck and have the guile to turn them into something good for yourself, or perhaps others, too.

Where possible, I avoid trading on the misfortunes of others.

Jupiter

Jupiter is who you know and the extent of their connections. Steve Jobs was an immigrant who was put up for adoption as an infant, which is not the best start in life! However, growing up in California to affluent white caucasian parents with notable mentors such as Andrew Grove, a founding father of Intel, didn’t do the juvenile Jobs much harm.

It’s impossible to replicate the sheer good fortune (Saturn) that Jobs enjoyed, but it is possible to position yourself among influential people and the reap the rewards of that personal and social investment over time.

As a business owner, we take leaps into the unknown — educated risks, but risks nonetheless. I’d been working from a home office for a while and decided to make the next great leap by taking an office at the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley, a decision that has proved to be a success on multiple fronts: formidable talent; genuine personalities; and access to opportunities that would otherwise be beyond reach.

When I think about the work I’ve had over the almost two decades Octane Interactive Limited has been trading, word-of-mouth marketing has been by far the greatest source of clients.

However, like Jobs, position and connections are one thing, but there is another component which is essential if you wish to make the most of these giants of success…

Pluto

Out there in the vast ink black reaches of space, nestled amongst the debris of the surplus parts to a once proto Solar System, mingling in and almost obscured by the Kuiper belt, a vast ring of shattered rock and ice beyond the orbit of Neptune, is the diminutive “planetoid” Pluto, the embodiment of what you know and what you’re good at — a mere speck compared to Saturn and Jupiter.

Often such things as talent, intelligence, hard work, diligence, and so forth are worthless in isolation — Vincent van Gogh is but one example of a constellation of artists that failed to shine during the fleeting period of their own lifetime. However, if you choose to bring your personal Pluto into orbit of those giant engines of success, Saturn and Jupiter, then you increase the chances of good things happening.

When I moved into the Digital Media Centre, I had access to a network of influential, talented, and knowledgeable people — something that’s difficult to replicate. As an example, when I go for a coffee from the resident barista, there’s a chance of bumping into someone new and interesting and starting a conversation … you get the idea.

Is there a connection between word-of-mouth marketing and Steve Jobs? Unless you are and continue to be good — if not excellent — at what you do, who you know and the fortune you court are without value, because neither are sustainable drivers of success over the long-term without the talent to build upon.

In fairness to his biological parents, it wasn’t chance that the infant Jobs found himself on the shores of the United States of America, the land of opportunities, though at the time no-one could have predicted he would become the creative titan we knew him to have been.

Conclusion

Watch for the waxing and the waning of Saturn (the ebb and flow of chance) and Jupiter (the dynamic motion of people in the social and professional networks you move amongst).

Cultivate an open mind, be aware of chance, be ruthless, nurture self confidence, harness cunning, have a big heart, but ahead of everything else, love what you do with a passion.


The 20-80 rule

You’ve heard about the 80-20 rule. What about the 20-80 rule? I’m guessing not.

Some time after a running a marketing campaign, which attracted a scant few new clients, we ran into difficulties with one particular new client.

Now, it’s worth prefacing this with an explanation about their particular circumstances. Having spent a large four-figure sum on a major overhaul to their website, in the end, there was almost nothing to show for it. Worse, due to some naivete on their own part — and I didn’t get a complete picture of things — there was no legal recourse.

I came along to “firefight”, which had been about 75% of the work Octane had been doing since 2001; clearing up the chaos caused by a number of web design agencies who seemed to be popping up like mushrooms between 2000-2006 who either failed to do the job or had no intention of doing so.

As you’d imagine, the budget was tight and the profit margin became razor thin. Complicating things further was the clash of personalities, which — for me at least — manifest itself in a fundamental lack of appreciation for the task at hand, its scale, and the challenge of accomplishing much of what had been asked of the previous web designers but on a fraction of the budget.

I didn’t have either the time or the patience for capturing the Moon and putting it on a lollipop stick for a fraction of the price, deliverable by last week. At the same time, a number of other clients had been growing more vocal and more difficult to deal with.

In fairness, these were hard times, but we weren’t doing great either. I came to a realisation — that 20% of the clients were responsible for 80% of the problems we were having, such as:

  • poor lines of communication;
  • late or non payment (I took two clients to court and won both claims);
  • high-maintenance support requirements, but an unwillingness to pay for the service;
  • difficult and obstructive personnel;
  • unethical and immoral business practices.

… the list went on.

It was a difficult a decision to make (not some much were there was a lack of morals and ethics), and more so given the economic climate, but I made the decision to cut that 20% lose, and — over time — reaped the rewards, the most immediate benefit was that we had more time and resources to deal with the work coming from the remaining 80% of the client base.

Photograph from Pixabay.


Reduce costs. Explore new ideas. Expand your business.

Reduce costs. Explore new ideas. Expand your business. In simple terms, that’s what Octane’s been helping businesses do for almost two decades.

As the owner of a small business, it’s sometimes difficult reading the terrain ahead of you — a wrong turn often has a commensurate cost associated with it.

A typical Octane client would be:

    • An SME with a tight team: some working in an office; some working on the go; or from home, perhaps.
    • Has data that’s vital to the business, but it’s in different formats (sheets of paper, spreadsheet, incompatible file formats, and sometimes out of date or wrong) and in different places.
    • Aware of alternative workflows, or software packages, but — as an SME with a limited budget — those alternatives are either expensive, too specific, or both.
    • Employees often working to their limits, with little time to do anything else.

    It’s a common scenario, one we’ve seen several times, but it isn’t intractable.

    What is it that Octane does for small-to-medium sized businesses? We create fast and secure software that’s designed:

    • to manage and share critical data;
    • control workflows and assets (job tickets, bookings, orders et cetera) from anywhere;
    • and automate project management amongst a team.

We create software specific to the needs of a business.

Simple as 1, 2, 3…

Hmm, perhaps not quite that simple, but there are 3 distinct phases to enhancing the workflow of your business. So let’s look at what Octane’s done for some of its existing clients.

1: Reducing costs

Take fictional Task X, which is costing your business 2 minutes in lost time due to inefficiencies each time it’s performed. Now let’s imagine Task X is performed once per hour:

  • 2 minutes × 8 hours = 16 minutes.
  • 16 minutes × 50 weeks = 800 minutes.
  • 800 minutes × 3 employees = 2,400 minutes.
  • 2,400 minutes is 40 hours, which at — for example — £15 per hour is £600 per annum.

So that’s one task, and I’ve seen much worse. Each time you add an employee, Task X costs your business another £200 per annum. Imagine what would happen if that process was to occur at the management level, or take 3-5 minutes.

Whether you’re in academia, event management, healthcare, or manufacturing, chances are Octane knows how to help you and your business:

  • Reduce data error, loss, and duplication.
  • Improve efficiencies, and provide more accurate data.
  • Save costs over time (increase ROI).
  • Automate complex business processes.

2: Explore new ideas

Once the first phase is complete, your business starts to save both time and costs, month over month.

  • With the recovered time, we begin exploring new ideas.
  • With the saved finances, we begin funding those ideas.

Both of those things were either infeasible or impractical before.

3: Expand your business

Over time, the cost benefit of the software comes into its own:

  • Each new idea becomes a new method of improving services, saving time, and reducing costs.
  • Enjoying an increase in the bandwidth of business processes, the team grows.
  • You enter into a positive feedback loop of ideas and expansion, resulting in a growth in profits.

What would it cost?

What we do depends on what you need. However, anything from £10,000-80,000 and above over several years is not uncommon. Does that sound like a lot? As an expense, perhaps, but we deal in investments — and over the lifetime of the application, three things would be happening:

  1. a continual saving of time and costs;
  2. each new idea (as a distinct feature) would increase turnover;
  3. the software would be earning its keep … and then some.

Together, we build and maintain a platform that gives your business an edge over its competitors.

Questions?

If you have a question, catch us either on Twitter, our Page on Facebook, or here via the contact form.


Kapitex Healthcare Limited website overhaul

Kapitex Healthcare Limited — a market leader in the development and manufacture of medical devices for use in tracheostomy and laryngectomy — has been a client of Octane for almost two decades.

In 2010, we switched their website from static website (web pages written in HTML) to one powered by the content management system ExpressionEngine, allowing Octane to manage the website on behalf of Kapitex. As of 2017, we completed the second major overhaul, retaining ExpressionEngine, but introducing some significant improvements.

Overhaul to the Kapitex Healthcare Limited website.
Overhaul to the Kapitex Healthcare Limited website.

What we achieved

  • We assembled a team focused on managing and maintaining the website, using services such as Slack, Dropbox, and Google Docs to coordinate our efforts, and collaborate.
  • Simplification of a comprehensive and growing product range.
  • Website works on mobile devices, equating to more potential users.
  • Designated members of the team manage almost everything.
  • Use of modern web technologies helped reduce costs by simplifying development.
  • Flexible and customisable designs to manage and maintain a range of digital assets.

Visit the Kapitex Healthcare Limited website.

Questions?

If you have a question, catch us either on Twitter, our Page on Facebook, or here via the contact form.


False starts. Red cards. Race fixing, with a difference.

While watching the BBC coverage of the European Indoor Athletics Championships from Belgrade in Serbia, a few of the track events were littered with false starts.

Here’s the thing: In spite of the fact that everyone hates them, the governing organisation, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), appear to have no appetite for fixing things.

Yes, there’s a fix.

So, what’s the problem?

At the moment, should an athlete step out of the blocks ahead of their competitors, a false start is triggered. If it’s deemed to be an actual false start (there’s a review process), the athlete is shown a red card and that’s them out of the race. This process could continue, with several athletes getting removed from the race.

Boo!

This process is disruptive: distracting the other athletes; unsettling the crowd; and — because the event drags on — messes with the schedule.

So here’s an idea: Let them run the damn race, and if there’s an infringement, let them sort it out after the race with the appropriate and judicious use of technological assistance that is already at their disposal.

One race. An adjudication with an appeals process. Everyone moves on.

So what did we gain?

Like business, athletics has stakeholders. But sometimes, the process gets underneath the feet of those stakeholders. If the goal is to entertain, don’t drag the audience into the process, and for goodness sake don’t reveal the officiousness of that process — it’s flat out boring!

It’s about optimising the workflow, to keep things moving.

If you’re running a business but it feels like you’re racing against Olympic legend Usain Bolt, get in touch and let’s see if there’s something Octane could do to reduce costs, explore new ideas, and expand your business.