Escaping the 'fog'

The following blog is made up of the best bits of editorial, articles and blogs that I’ve come across in my 38 years of working life, 30 of which I spent as my own boss at a very successful Creative Agency.

I thank all those that have inspired me to make (and write!) my own observations on these subjects. I now want to switch my focus to helping the next generation find the success that I did, and hopefully avoid a few of the pitfalls I didn’t!

Most business experience ‘getting caught in the fog’ and not knowing where they are or where they should go next.

This is very common. Businesses start life in a wave of euphoria, optimism and expectation. The first years are full of opportunity, growth and excitement - and you’ve got the energy to match that atmosphere.

After this initial period, things inevitably start to slow down. Clients don’t renew their contracts. They become slow payers and cash flow becomes an issue. Projects start to go awry and business ideas that you had or products and services you’ve launched just don’t turn out as you’d hoped.

You become tired. You’re in the fog.

This can happen anytime in your first five years and if you’re not ready for it and don’t have the energy or resilience for it then it can be terminal.

It can also creep up on you and it’s very disorientating. Sometimes it can actually be overwhelming. Speak to any business owner and they’ll recognise this.

At this stage many business owners think: “sod that - I’ll go back to the start where it was pain-free and enjoyable”. You’ll try and get back to why you started the business in the first place.

This is a really bad thing to do. You may think that trying to retrace your steps is a sensible strategy, but this is what will take you deep into the fog. And next time, you won’t survive it.

The way to survive and get through the fog is to look at what you have. What’s good? Do more of that.  What’s bad? Why is it bad - what can we do to improve it? The key is to always keep moving forward.

A practical way to determine what’s working and what isn’t is to make a list of all your products, services and the type of clients that use them. Then take the different client types and group them into logical families, before giving them each three scores out of ten.

The first one is for profitability, the second is for longevity (i.e. how long you think people will still want this service), and the final - and perhaps most important one - is how often people want it (i.e. will they buy it often).

Then, follow the scale below:


- this is where you need to be focussing your attention to climb out of the ‘fog’


- this area needs reviewing, but shouldn’t be your primary focus


- think about dropping this group, and dropping them immediately. You need to move forwards, not backwards

This is the mindset and process that you’ll need to follow, over and over again. Each time it will get easier. Your resilience will become polished, and you’ll be ready to cope with being in the ‘fog’.

BusinessJonathan Leafe