Friday, 10 June 2011

Playing the Long Game

If you think "playing the long game" means hoofing the ball forward to the big front-man then, well then frankly I despair; get to the back of the class *serious teacher face*.

I am a great believer in "playing the long game" in business though. In essence this can mean many things: being patient, taking some chances, doing some things that feel right even though you can't see the obvious benefit, being willing to make long term investments, sacrificing short-term profit for long term brand building, etc.

But today (as our banking switch from HBoS to HSBC was completed) I was reminded of a particular aspect of "playing the long game" that always gives me disproportionate pleasure when it bears fruit. I believe in "doing right" by people in business as much as in life and and when I feel slighted or taken advantage of I confess I do bear a grudge, often comforting myself by muttering under my breath that "it's a long game" and believing that retribution will come, eventually.

I won't air too much laundry in public here but suffice to say I enjoyed the call to my 'relationship manager' at HBoS when we informed them we were switching. She seemed genuinely surprised, despite our last meeting ending with me pointing out that they "couldn't be less helpful if they tried" and ushering from the building whilst muttering under my breath ...

I don't think I am alone in this. If you hear Richard Branson speaking you will often hear him name-checking Coutts for nearly bankrupting him by withdrawing his overdraft (with no notice) in Virgin Atlantic's early days.  I like to think that when Coutts broke the news he muttered under his breath "It's a long game" ... and now delights in publicly bad-mouthing them at every opportunity.  Another famous Branson example  is when he was turned away from the Rooftop Gardens nightclub in Knightsbridge for wearing jeans ... and within a year he returned and bought the nightclub.

We won't all get to serve revenge as sweetly or dramatically as Sir Richard ... but playing the long game and remembering that revenge is a dish best served cold can help us all through some of the darker hours.

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