Words from the Wise – Tim Cookson

23 December 2011
Words from the Wise – Tim Cookson

Tim Cookson, chairman, Acquire Services and Epsys, reveals his business secrets

What can I do better tomorrow that I did well today? The majority of those I had the privilege of working for in my early career were perfectionists and championed the need for continuous improvement. If you want to be successful then never be satisfied, you must always want to do better.

One size fits all, fits no one In our sector, it's routine that a range of complex, inter-linked activities take place to deliver our sales promises. It's impossible to create one arrangement that will meet every customer's needs. It's essential that your business is structured to match the unique requirements of your customer base and that your service offers are shaped to meet their particular wishes.

The purpose of business is to make or do something and sell it The closer you get to this notion the better. When I was with Marriott they used to insist that management consistently identified non-value effort and then eradicate it. It's amazing how much junk gets in the way of doing what is essential to sustained success.

Better the certainty of misery than the misery of uncertainty Anyone who is planning to make any sort of material change and believes no one in their organisation knows about it is kidding themselves. Worrying about how you pitch the change and what the repercussions will be is a waste of time. Just get on and do it. And when you finally make the announcement, assume no one will be surprised!

Encourage your team to seek forgiveness rather than permission When I started out it was the norm for a client's request to land on the mat on Monday whereupon you could seek advice and counsel before responding late on Wednesday. Now, if the reply isn't back in an hour everyone starts twitching. Managers must be encouraged to be decisive. If you adopt this approach then you must understand that people will make mistakes. Don't make them feel bad when this happens… the first time that is!

Happy customers don't generally leave I am always amused when someone tells me they were shocked when they lost a client. Rarely does that happen without warning. It's essential that managers actually ask their customers if everything is all right. When the reply is "fine" or "OK" - don't believe them, and instead enquire what needs to be done to ensure their response is "excellent" or "brilliant".

my heroes
Don Revie My childhood hero. He was probably the most fastidious man when it came to preparation and knowing everything there is to know about the opposition.

Margaret Thatcher The lady knew what she wanted and never yielded even when it would have been easy to.

Peter Gravells My first ever chairman. He was from a different era and at times a very demanding individual. He taught me to fall in love with our language and to always take care of the customer.

My grandfather He was what everyone's grandad should be. He made everything seem so simple and always wore a smile.

1993-96 Group managing director, the Brand Group
1996-97 President and managing director, Marriott Management Services (UK)
1997-99 Managing director, Gardner Merchant
1999-03 Managing director, Senate Food Services
Chairman, Acquire Services and Epsys

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