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Practice –and patience – makes perfect when it comes to business.
Practice –and patience – makes perfect when it comes to business.

Do you already have a sales prodigy working in your business?

While natural skill can play a part in anyone’s success, the element that makes the biggest difference comes down to another factor entirely – the willingness to learn, explains DAVID BROWN.

We’ve all met those people who are blessed with skills that the rest of us don’t have.
Whether it be in business, playing the piano, memorising information, or even excelling at golf, these people exhibit their skills with effortless ease while the rest of us flap around like fish on a jetty!

We tend to credit them with exceptional natural skill – and for many of them skill is an important factor, but not always as much as you would initially think.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell introduces us to the ‘10,000 hours rule’ – the transformative impact of spending 10,000 hours of concentrated learning on a specialised task.

Gladwell credits much of the success of many famous people to the time they spent developing their craft as much as their natural talent.

With 10,000 hours of training, he maintains, most people can achieve a world-class level in a particular field, simply by putting in the time to hone their skills.

This is backed up by Matthew Syed in his book Bounce.

Syed focused on the high percentage of young men and women, including himself, who lived on the same street and achieved national level success in table tennis.

The odds that one street in an English city could possibly have such a high statistical probability of generating so many champions, in a relatively low- profile sport, is low.

Clearly the environment, which included a table tennis facility which was open 24 hours a day, along with a local coach who excelled at teaching the sport, played a significant role.

Nature and nurture

Hungarian behavioural psychologist Laszlo Polgar studied the impact of starting early and subjecting a child to intensive training in a particular field. He based his conclusions on the family history of 400 famous child prodigies.

Eventually, Polgar decided to test his theories on his own family.

He deliberately chose a partner – his Russian-born wife – who was willing to go along with his plan to turn their future children into prodigies.

They selected chess as their avenue for learning and, upon the birth of each of their three daughters, subjected them to intensive training.

All three went on to become world-class players, despite the fact that women are noticeably underrepresented in the elite levels of the game.

“The staff member who seems unable to sell diamonds could become your best diamond seller if you are willing to invest the time in their training and support.”

So, what does all of this mean for your retail business?

You may not share the intensity of Laszlo, but evidence tends to show that you can teach yourself, and your staff, whatever skills you wish.

The key to success is whether or not you are willing to commit the time and energy required to get results. Now, this does not mean you need to start hiring five-year-olds to get them up to speed by a reasonable age!

Nor does it mean you have to spend 10,000 hours to master a new skill – which equates to six hours of practice a day for 4.5 years – or expect that from your staff.

The central point of both Gladwell and Syed’s books is that expertise and skill can be learned rather than innate – anyone can master a skill with sufficient desire and willingness.

The staff member who seems unable to sell diamonds could become your best diamond seller if you are willing to invest the time in their training and support.

Foster your skills

At the same time, business success itself says less about talent and more about your ability to embrace the topic and spend the time understanding the skills you need.

Understanding numbers is a case in point. Many business owners feel that handling their company’s financial affairs is something that only a select few can do, but this is not the case. No-one is born an accountant!

Getting your head around your finances and overall business performance is about taking the time to understand the different factors involved.

While some have an innate ability to grasp numbers, for the vast majority it is something that is learned – and the more you expose yourself to the necessary lessons, the quicker you will comprehend the data required.

So, in order to be successful, take the time to develop your skills – and those of your staff – in the areas of expertise that will pay the highest dividends for your business.



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David Brown

Contributor • Retail Edge Consultants

David Brown is co-founder and business mentor with Retail Edge Consultants. Learn more:

Showcase Australia (JIMACO)

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