Thirty four (i)

I thought I’d be first to arrive. It was 8am and we weren’t due to kick off until nine, but Tom (HR) had already settled in, as much as you can settle in to these uniform hotel meeting facilities replete with art no-one would actually buy for themselves. And cheap hotel branded pens that you’ve broken by lunch. And large flasks labeled “coffee” that dispense hot brown liquid only vaguely reminiscent of the good stuff.

“Morning. You’re early!”

“So are you,” Tom replied. “I just woke early and thought I’d head over before the traffic got heavier.”

“Yeah you say that. What you really mean is you love an away day. Go on, admit it!”

“Well I do love the opportunity to think beyond the day-to-day, learn what’s on everyone’s mind, and see how we can make a difference to the business. And of course this is the first with you at the helm.”

“Do we always have them here?”

“Yes”, Tom replied with visibly less enthusiasm.

Everyone was on time. Tom and I were soon joined by Marcus (COO), Sarah (CFO), John (IT), Michelle (Marketing), Yvonne (PR), Georgio (Product Dev), Bob (Sales). Unusually, our Chairman had asked if he might join us too “to get a feel for things”. And Saket, our external team member – the first time an outside party had joined an away day, or so William informed me.

We’d agreed a question to set the theme of the day and I scrawled it in big capitals on a flipchart to get things started:

WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO BE IN BUSINESS IN FIVE YEARS TIME?

You’ll recall the feeling about Attenzi when I joined was simply that it was doing OK. It worked, even if it didn’t seem to be firing consistently on all cylinders. I had subsequently referred to it as Attenzi not sitting squarely in the world. To be honest, I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, but it felt the right way to say it. So this question was designed to encourage some fresh long-term vision, to excite everyone for the journey and to inform the path we needed to plot to take us from here to there.

Perhaps Lorenz Capital’s understandable emphasis on the quarterly numbers had infected the culture more than was perhaps healthy. Not having been around in preceding years, it was probably impossible for me to figure out how the culture became the culture, and I wasn’t convinced it was cultural.

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