Complacency leads to downturns – it all started in Stoke
By Neil Perkins
On Friday March 27th, I would have been running my 47th White Collar Boxing Show – March Madness. After this I had a bumper year lined up with our July show ‘Summer Sizzler’ October we were at the ICC with Barratt & David Wilson Homes and the big one – the 50th show in November, that one was going to be special.
I jokingly told many of you the story of my drive to Stoke and the ‘judgement’ served upon me, this was at the end of January. Not even I knew the judgement would go this far!
I own three companies – Henrietta Street Gym, Fighting Fit Events and Neil Perkins Property. On the 4th January the gym was less than 30 members off capacity (Gym), I was finishing the onboarding for new team members meaning I was never required ‘operationally’ and my March show (events) was looking like been a stacked card. I was venturing up the M6 to my favourite place in the world to buy not one, but two properties. I’d pre agreed prices and was just giving the second one a first viewing having seen the other one prior. I’d lined up some investors, was putting my own money in and on paper this was a great investment.
I was winning at life, I pulled over at the services as I was early for my 10.30am first viewing. With my new clothes on (I am not one for material things), I catch a glimpse of myself in the refection in the window at the service station. I have been training regularly, sleeping well (I’m no longer opening my gym at 6am and locking up at 9pm every day) and I’m eating better. Plus, I have not got money in the bank – I’ve got money in every account, with zero’s on the end – I am looking good! The Streets played in my head, you know the song? – ‘fit but you know it’. I stroll into the Starbucks and order a coconut milk cappuccino, the attractive young girl serving me embarrassingly asks for the £3 something it was, I hand over a crisp a £20 note, she gives me a £10 note, a £5 note and some change with a pound coin in it. I pour the coins in her hand, smile and tell her she can keep that. She looks at me and smiles, I strut out with my coconut cappuccino like a dog with ten dicks.
I arrive in Stoke for my 10.30am viewing, early on I realise this is not going to be my day. The estate agent (who I know) is shaking her head at me. There is an immaculately dressed man on his phone next to her, he gets in his car and drives off. He has offered the asking price on both the properties whilst viewing them. I sulk around Stoke for another two hours waiting for another viewing, the agent was 45 minutes late with intermittent phone calls to say ‘they’re 10 minutes away’ this one had ‘minor structural damage’ – a crack that ran up the side of the house that you could fit your hand in. Running late, I got in my car and drove home, without any new properties in the empire and having spent £5 on a shit a coffee from Starbucks – it was overpaid for so I could engage in some poor flirting with a girl who on paper was young enough to be my daughter. Stoke on a good day is sub 60 minutes door to door, this journey took me two hours. The journey back I had five significant phone calls.
- Phone call one: a fighter is having to withdraw as he has torn his bicep – he would be one of the headline bouts.
- Phone call two: a fighter (a huge ticket seller) has sparred at another gym and has a suspected fractured sternum
- Phone call three: a trainer was late for his morning class and we are getting emails in complaining as it is a repeat occurrence.
- Phone call four: a fighter has injured himself playing football and won’t be able to box
- Phone call five: expect an email off the members as they’re unhappy about some of the classes and the new coaches.
I get home bursting for a piss, the shit coffee had got to my bladder and I’d just done 2 hours on the M6. After nearly wetting myself (just) I burst through the door and have the most relieved piss in the world. From the downstairs toilet, I walk in the back room to find the dog who I’d left longer than I expected had shit in his crate – this wasn’t a good day.
Over the next week I started delving into the problems with the gym. I have some informal responses and everyone is been very politically correct. I fire and email out to the members asking for feedback with a direct email back to my personal email, like the fisherman casting his line out, I then sit and wait for responses. The fish were biting, within 48 hours I’d had 38 ‘constructive feedback’ responses. This was painful, in the following week I had more ‘constructive feedback’ fed through directly from fresh sources. It appeared that I had a few problems. There was disparity in levels of coaching, disparity in the level of delivery and a high degree of complacency from the established team members. With the cushion of multiple income streams, I start strategizing, not panicking, but I’m aware I need to fix issues with a long-term solution. I think what are my primary issues and how am I going to solve them?
The route of the problems stem from clarity of my expectations to the team, coaches not understanding organization culture and not engaging with our community. My issues came from me not providing adequate training, not communicating expectations with Key Performance Indicators and not leading consistently – everything that goes wrong under my roof is my fault. My biggest issue was complacency.
With a cohort under of boxers training for the March 27th show I decide not to take any immediate action yet. One team member who had received a fair degree of ‘feedback’ antagonises a member again and I remove him immediately, the rest of my issues can wait until after the show. The feedback is reinforced when my figures come in for January, a gyms busiest month of the year – we’ve shrunk by 8 members. I sit and observe the gym over the next few weeks as the dust settles. Habits of complacency of the team creep back in and I observe the ‘feedback’ and start looking at the problems and planning resolutions.
Boxing taught me that you can give away around as long as you win the fight. One thing people fail to realise about me is that when I am a calm exterior, I’m the most frantic on the inside. Like the duck effortlessly gliding along the water, my feet are paddling like mad beneath the surface.
Early on in February, I’d lost interest in our March show. I use funds from my events company to pay for my holidays. I’d planned both Turkey (summer) and Jamaica (winter) this year with the bumper card throughout the year– our March show might have made enough profit to buy me a drink at the after party. I was planning beyond March. The Monday (23rd March) prior to the show, I was contacting the team and booking one to ones where I would discuss…
- Clear expectations and KPI
- The issues that I had with respect of their performance
- The direction we were going as a gym
I’d prepared a new timetable, with the start of a new financial year I had new contracts in place for the team and I was phasing in a couple of new team members. After hearing the feedback at the end of January, I’d spent February planning and the countdown was on to March 27th where we start again. We’d get this chapter done and then race out of the blocks coming back better than before.
During the final weeks of preparation of the show, I was confident in my plan moving forward with respect to the team. I remind myself as I often do, that I am in control of everything that happens in my life, my outcomes are dependant on my actions. With this mindset, I’d started to observe our March show a lot more closely and dare I say it – I began to become excited about it. The characters had started to reveal themselves through the fight camps and the stories and personal development of the participants was starting to unravel – this one albeit not a financial barnburner, was going to be a good night. There were some great contests and it would be a significant event not only for the established members for their social night out, but also to showcase to recent members what we can get them to achieve – all this builds our unbelievable community. March 27th wasn’t go to signify the end of a bad quarter, it was going to be the start of an exciting new quarter. With this mindset, my February figures come in, we’ve grown by 2 members – whilst I still feel we’re underperforming and I have issues to resolve. I now have 36 spaces left for new members isn’t too bad when a month ago it feels like your world is falling apart and your business still isn’t performing how you feel it should be.
The reality of looking at yourself in a reflection and getting a false sense of security is something I have done before, Stafford services wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. The key is learning to click back into reality and to take action. 15 years of running a business has shown me repeatedly that complacency leads to downturns in performance, you then re-plan, regroup and come back better than before. As a boxer, my 4 losses (amateur and pro) came off the back on stoppage or KO wins – when you start to believe your own bullshit.
I’ll just have to wait a little longer to put my plan into place. Now I’m ready to be first out of the blocks and do everything bigger, badder and better than before. The moral of the story. Never tip at a service in Stafford and flirt with a woman half your age.
I love running shows and watching people evolve through the process. On the morning of every show I have the same playlist that I always listen to whilst in the shower. The first song is topical with the current climate and it’s the same song I’ve played in the shower on the morning when I was boxing.
Here is the link to the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwXhI0I2iaM
We’ll be back, better than before.