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Whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to ignore the X Factor, which seems to take over much more than just our TV schedules for four months of the year.
Through the early auditions, we all laugh and cringe in equal measure as thousands of disillusioned hopefuls attempt to sing in front of the judges. Let’s be honest, this is the best bit of the show. We all love the part when someone who thinks they are the next Leona Lewis is told they actually sounds like a cat being strangled underwater. It is the same on Dragons' Den when someone who thinks they have a brilliant invention that will change the world, is told they've actually wasted the past 5 years of their life (and a whole lot of money) on something that will never get off the ground.
Now, giving this sort of straight-talking, no-nonsense advice might seem harsh at the time, but it’s essential that people face up to these home truths. It is important that the contestants understand the reality of what is required to be a superstar singer or millionaire inventor. And the same applies in business.
Having a positive external influence is essential to achieve success. The mentors on the X Factor are there to coach their acts to greater success, to guide and offer advice. We all need that external influence in our own businesses, to spot things that we miss, to act as a sounding board and help us make the right decisions. So, who's your mentor? Who do you speak to when you have an important decision to make? Your Accountant? Your Business Adviser? A friend in business or a member of the family? Whoever you turn to, make sure that they will always be honest with you and can give you the right advice to help you move your business forward. Often, we are only as strong as the people we have around us. Are you surrounding yourself with the right people?
Whereas the X Factor judges issue opinion based on what they see and hear, as an accountancy practice, Wow are able to issue opinion based on hard evidence - the accounts. And the beauty about the numbers within a business is that they tell you exactly how you are doing – they don’t lie! They give you the perfect insight into whether you are on course to becoming the next singing sensation or will end up doing karaoke in empty bars. And, in this challenging economic climate, now is the time to really get to grips with your numbers and take your business before a panel of experts to find out where you are heading. How often do you produce management accounts or review your expenditure? Do you track your profit against targets? Perhaps now is the time to do more of this.
We also try to remind our clients to enjoy the journey along the way. Just like being on the X Factor, running a small business is a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows. Your entire future is at stake and you want to succeed more than anything. This is more than just a job. Being a popstar or entrepreneur is not something that you can do 9-5 and then forget about.
It can consume you, take over your life and if you are not careful, the lives of those around you. The challenge is to enjoy the experience along the way. When contestants leave the X Factor, they are shown their ‘journey’ on the video screens around the studio. I think it is really important that business owners also take time out to reflect on our own journeys, what we have achieved and what we want to do next (although perhaps without the cheesy video montage with tearful backing music!). As we approach the end of another year, now is a great time to stop and reflect.
We'd all like to win all of the time, but life just isn't like that. The one thing that the X Factor has showed us is that winning the show doesn't necessarily result in a long-term successful career. Just ask Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward & Leon Jackson (if you've not heard those names recently, then I guess that makes the point).
Contrast this with the comparatively successful careers of X Factor 'losers' JLS, Olly Murs & One Direction. In business too, winning a single contract or having one good quarter also doesn't necessarily mean success in the long term. This only comes through hard work, passion and a constant quest for improvement.
If X Factor has shown us anything, it is also that losing doesn't necessarily mean the end. It just means it's time to dust ourselves down and move on to the next challenge. So, what's your next challenge? What does the next 12 months hold for you?
For X Factor winners, their future (in the short term anyway) will be clearly mapped out: Time in the studio recording their first album will be carefully balanced with numerous promotional engagements and TV appearances. And, as businesses across the UK look ahead to their futures, planning their promotional activity for the next year and managing their workload, Wow will be working hard to help them make more profit, pay less tax and have more fun.