No Own Goals

Surviving growth spurts and bouts of adversity (via José)

If there’s one thing we’ve always been absolutely dedicated to as we’ve grown It’s Nice That and INT Works it’s been the pursuit of high quality. Whether that’s been through the way we’ve tried to structure the business, or the attention to detail of our client work, or getting the right angle on a new article, we’ve always been sticklers for doing things as well as we can.

However, as any business grows, develops and stretches to reach the next level, sometimes those ideals have needed to be put on ice in the name of survival. And I don’t think those periods are ever given as much attention as they deserve.

I always called these phases ‘No Own Goals’ periods — a term my dad (who has given us lots of valuable business advice over the years) coined over a lunch.

It’s not the most conceptual idea in the world — and basically means just don’t really mess anything up. Don’t try and do anything special, don’t try and push the standard, just don’t let anything be much worse than it is usually.

Forget putting that extra route in the pitch.

Forget organising that extra bit of training for your direct report.

Forget that day out at a conference to look at what our competitors are doing.

Forget tweaking that regular meeting agenda because you’re not sure it’s working.

Forget writing that new case study for the website.

Just get on and do what’s necessary. Nothing more. Nothing less. Don’t score any own goals.

And in the perfect bubble of exciting, sexy start-ups, it’s not spoken about as much as I think it should be. It’s not always about doubling our audience, or increasing turnover, or getting another 100,000 subscribers — sometimes it’s about making sure we manage to plateau.

The master of this technique is a man I have loved learning from, ex-Chelsea football manager José Mourinho. There is no-one better at not losing when he needs to not lose.

Below is the only team talk I’ve ever managed to find from José on YouTube and it sums this belief up beautifully. It’s only 30 seconds and he says very little, but what he does say is incredibly powerful.

“I’m not putting pressure on you saying we have to win. I do not want to put that kind of pressure. But we cannot lose. We cannot lose.”

It’s simple, direct and completely necessary. And just like in our own business, he knows his team’s time to win and express themselves will come again, but that’s not important right now. His understanding of timing to breed success is impeccable.

It doesn’t mean our grand business aims and ambitions have diminished, just that sometimes it’s much more important not to go bust.

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