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“Start with Why” and “Use the Difficulty” to tackle the challenges in the coming months!

06.12.23 | Written by Nick Kilby

Making things happen is really starting to become painful for those seeking to build new homes, or for those in Local Government who are trying to keep services going against the backdrop of rafts of new legislation and dramatically reduced funding due to austerity, inflation and demand.

Two things over the last month have made me reflect on how we should tackle the challenging times ahead. It seems now to be a consensus that the Housing sector will not see a return to growth and more prosperous times until mid-2026. That’s a long time for us all to make the best of a flat (at best) economy with the real threat of a recession.

So where to draw inspiration? I love to read, which is not easy as I am mildly dyslexic, but I try to read a book a week and when I am walking around or driving I have another book on Audible to listen too. The books I listen to are invariably factual or business focused and last week it was Simon Sinek’s excellent book “Start with Why”. Of course you say, everything begins with ‘Why’ but it’s often forgotten in our everyday rush to do our work. 

Why? Well, exactly. Our competition seems set on a race to the bottom on fees, or besmirching each other’s reputations. That seems to me to be soul destroying and beneath both us and them. The real question I have been focusing on is “why us, not them?”. This, alongside our decision to expand our offer to cover national politics and corporate reputation, has given me the opportunity to refresh not only our brand and our services but also refresh the fundamental beliefs behind the company.

I have never wanted Cratus to be like the rest. Some self-proclaim to be the ‘best in class’, but I have always wanted to exceed our clients expectations (well, the reasonable expectations at least!), to add value to the projects we work on, to go the extra mile and to help clients when they need help in the tough times, knowing they are there for us and many have been for us over the years. 

While no organisation is perfect and can always improve, I know that with my colleagues we want to go further. We want to be change makers and take the extra steps in supporting our clients and helping them to exceed their own expectations and those they are working alongside. To fulfil our ambition of being change makers will need all of us to up our game and develop our skills and knowledge as we go. But it’s more exciting to have a clear and ambitious goal than just doing the same as everyone else.

So after reading the book and buying all the team leaders a copy, I felt happier that we had a renewed focus on the “Why?. We also have a renewed understanding of how we can bring the whole of Cratus together behind the new brand, the wider scope of services and grow in our confidence and ambition to earn the respect and support of our clients in the coming years. But what about the immediate challenges we face?

Some of you who know me will remember that I started life in the theatre. And over the years I have had the pleasure to work with or meet many great people from the entertainment sector. But it was one of our biggest and most rewarding planning applications that allowed me the pleasure of meeting Sir Michael Caine. He lives near a rather contentious leisure development we were seeking planning for, and an objector had cleverly seduced him into signing a petition against us – a big win at the time. Soon after a national newspaper published this news Sir Michael discovered he knew our clients and when he looked at the proposals, he loved those too and felt dreadful for signing the petition. We quickly recruited him to support us and he did so with great charm. 

Just recently I stumbled across a clip of him on the Michael Parkinson Show. Explaining his life philosophy to Michael Parkinson, Caine explained: “Yes, use the difficulty. Well, I got it from a… I was rehearsing a play when I was a very young actor. And I had to come into the scene; it was a stage play; I’m behind the flats waiting to open the door. There was an improvised scene between a husband and a wife going on inside. And they got carried away.” 

He went on: “They started throwing things, and he threw a chair, and it lodged in the doorway. And I went to open the door, and I got my head around, and I went, ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t get in’. He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘There’s a chair there’. He said to me, ‘Use the difficulty’.” It was a strange thing for the director to suggest when Caine clearly just wanted to get on stage and perform his actions and dialogue. However, it was those exact words that would provide Caine with his future outlook on life.

The actor continued: “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, if it’s a comedy, fall over it. If it’s a drama, pick it up and smash it.’ He said, ‘Use the difficulty.’ Now, I took that into my own life. 

As we face unexpected costs of second staircases, rising construction costs, inflation, growing homelessness, pressure on the costs of living… We have to start taking these challenges on ourselves. They are not going away and we have to use the difficulty to start fighting back and return to more prosperous times. We cannot sit and wait, it’s time to deal with the challenges head on!

“Start with Why” and “Use the Difficulty” to tackle the challenges in the coming months! 1