Three men in a two-man tent

Curium | 25 May 2017 | News | General News

Three men in a two-man tent: Managing Director Andy Dawson reflects on choosing camping over a career as an investment analyst, company strategies, delivery and financial results

Having just graduated from Nottingham University in the summer of 1991, I faced a real dilemma.

The economy around that time was not the best, but I had managed to secure a place on the Royal Insurance graduate programme. However, my real desire in life (or so I thought) was to enter the City.

So, there I was, late June 1991, just about to set off on a lads’ camping trip to France the next day, and the postman arrived. I opened a letter fearing a last bill before departing Nottingham but, no, it was a job interview for an investment analyst role at Norwich Union.

Unfortunately, it involved a combined assessment centre that very week. What should I do: go on holiday and enjoy myself before the rat race, or take a trip to Norwich?

Fast forward to 23 May 2017 and the student with a passion for investment analysis is still here. I enjoy tracking the well-being of my favourite companies, habitually reading Shares Magazine and Investors Chronicle.

I pay particular attention to companies in our Midlands heartland. We’re fortunate to have some fantastic businesses on our doorstep, and many may need help.

Yesterday, I listened to Severn Trent’s results webcast, and I was drawn both to the strength of the results and how CEO, Liv Garfield, presented them clearly and articulately.

Severn Trent is in an industry under the regulatory (AMP7 coming) and political microscope, so jargon-busters beware! But, the presentation was clear and succinct, and Severn Trent’s simple and effective strategy slide resonated with me.

When companies and CEOs talk ‘strategy’, they can make life very complicated both for themselves and their teams/employees. Obviously, a sound, well thought out strategy it key; that’s a given. But, how you execute your strategy and how well you articulate it to all your stakeholders are the key enablers.

For example:

  • We spend £4bn on strategy consultancy in Europe each year
  • 90% strategies fail to deliver their intended results
  • 95% employees do not understand the strategy
  • 70% projects fail at execution

I’ve followed Severn Trent for a while now, and while I am sure that there remains lots to do, the company is giving itself the best chance of success. Messages are clear, the approach is easy to follow and Severn Trent is clearly focussed on its customers and people, as well as other stakeholders.

All of the Executive team are there to field analyst questions, and their passion for the business comes out when they speak –  a strong team ethos and culture! Peter Drucker famously summarised this as, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Once you have set the strategy, it is all about execution and delivery. If you are passionate about the business you are in, with a strong delivery focus while ensuring customers and employees are engaged, then you give yourself the best possible chance of success.

So, what happened in the summer of 1991? Let’s just say that I don’t camp these days. It turned out that the four-man tent to house the three of us was in fact a two-man tent. The tent spent most of its time flat on the floor, much to the amusement of our fellow campers!

But, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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