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The Grit and the Pearl – by Jo Haigh

One of our natural and most beautiful gems is formed when an individual grain of sand infiltrates an oyster.

Jo Haigh

Jo Haigh

This irritant is dealt with not by expulsion but rather a patient approach of layering the grit with a white substance that relieves the irritation, allowing the pearl (something that is then highly regarded) to be created.

Business is challenging at the moment for many people and for some the cause of the challenge is beyond their direct control.

When things go wrong, as they frequently do, there is a temptation to claim the unfairness of the situation and divert blame.  Naturally this does little to improve the situation and is in fact more likely to, at best, prolong it.

Oysters act on reflect to protect themselves  from the harsh abrasion of the sand by taking remedial action immediately. They don’t wait for the problem to become so onerous they are unable to deal with it but nor do they expect instant results (it can take an oyster up to 3 years to create the ultimate resulting pearl).

Of course oysters can only work at a certain pace and this measured approach is clearly acceptable under Mother Nature’s guidance.

A business faced with an irritant, dependant on the crisis may not have either the desire or the time to wait. The point is, however, that taking at least some measure to the approach may in fact bring about not just improvements but actually something very desirable.

The oyster has a natural reflex action to recognise the irritant and knows instantly what to do. For the business man or woman natural reflexes could bring either the right or wrong results, sadly these are not evidenced without the ability of hindsight.

However a crisis, by and large, causes one of two reactions; fight or flight.

My experience has shown me that the more crises you have dealt with the less they feel as such and become just part and parcel of running a company. Then standing back, if only momentarily (maybe an hour, a day or more) to carefully consider the options becomes the natural norm.

So which way to turn? There are a number of decision making models; some have more merits than others. Whichever route you choose though the ultimate test is the ability to MAKE a decision.

Here are some models;

The 7 step route:

  1. Identify the decision to be made – exactly what are you trying to decide.
  2. Understand the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities such a decision will create
  3. Identify options – list the choices
  4. Gather information and data on each option
  5. Evaluate pro’s and con’s of each alternative
  6. Select the best option (may be necessary to loop back to re-check)
  7. Develop a plan of action and implement it

A further process is a 6 step approach; this is a very traditional decision making tool:

  1. Define the situation and decode the outcome
  2. Research and identify options
  3. Compare and contrast each alternative and its consequences
  4. Make a decision and choose an alternative
  5. Design and implement an action plan
  6. Evaluate results

A rational decision making model however works as follows:

  1. Define the situation or decision to be dealt with
  2. Identify the important criteria for the process and the result
  3. Consider all possible solutions
  4. Calculate the consequences of these solutions versus the likelihood of satisfying the criteria
  5. Choose the best option

Whichever route you choose you may like to consider what General George S. Patton said about plans;

“A good plan, executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”


Jo Haigh
Partner at fds Corporate Finance Services

Jo Haigh is a partner in fds Corporate Finance Services, with bases in London, Birmingham and Yorkshire, and a partner in the fdsGroup, a specialist training and development business.

An experienced dealmaker, Jo specialises in putting together the right deal at the right time and in the right format for growing businesses throughout the country. She has bought and sold over 300 companies in the last 20 years specialising in owner managed companies.

She is a regular presenter for the Institute of Directors on corporate governance and mergers and acquisitions. More >>

As part of the Academy for Chief Executives Community, professional speakers such as Jo provide excellent, practical and, in many cases, hard-hitting topics for MDs and CEOs. They know that by inspiring the leader of a business to change their thinking and to help them formulate an individual plan for the future, leaders develop themselves and grow their companies. Find out more on

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