Basic Business Advice: Don’t Buy a Turtle


Footballers, eh? What a load of simpletons. Put their left boot on first. Left shin pad. One of them is always pulling his shirt over his head as they come out of the tunnel. Was it Paolo di Canio who insisted on wearing his underpants inside out? And Raymond Domenech, the former manager of France, who reputedly refused to select players if their stars weren’t aligned correctly…

Superstitious nonsense. Forget it. Roll your sleeves up, give Hazard a kicking early doors and get stuck in.

Not that cricketers are any better. Left pad, left glove, lucky numbers on their shirts, kiss the badge, lift one foot off the ground when the score is 111… And then there’s Neil McKenzie of Hampshire. He once scored a century after a teammate taped his bat to the ceiling. Guess what he does now before every innings? Oh, and he won’t go out to bat until he’s put down all the toilet seats in the dressing room.

Well thank goodness we’re businessmen. Thank goodness we’re logical, in control, focused on our KPIs, ROI and P&L. What you can measure you can manage. And you certainly can’t manage if some damn fool has stuck a cricket bat to the ceiling.

No sir. Superstition has no place in business.

Or does it?

After all, today is Friday 13th. That must have given all you paraskevidekatriaphobics pause for thought. Careful you didn’t spill the salt. No black cats in front of the car. And don’t forget to salute that magpie.

Can’t do any harm.

Besides, who are the most superstitious people on earth? The Chinese.

And whose economy has marched resolutely ahead for the last twenty years and will soon be the biggest in the world? Precisely.

So lesson number one – remember your feng shui: even Disney used it when they opened Disneyland Hong Kong in 2005. After consulting a feng shui expert, the angle of the front gate was altered by 12 degree – and a bend went into the walkway from the station to the front gate, so the positive chi didn’t shoot straight past the entrance and into the China Sea.

So that’s settled – your desk should be facing as much of the room as possible, with your back against a wall. Number two – plants in the office, to make sure there is positive energy to improve both personal and business growth. And above all, water: I’m away on holiday next week – I’m expecting a shortage of goldfish in North Yorkshire when I get back.

Not that it stops there. In China the number 4 is unlucky; the number 8 is considered very lucky – and no-one who’s serious about their business keeps a turtle as a pet. Obviously it slows you down, and it slows your business down.

Why are we superstitious? Especially in business, where logic, analysis and good management should hold sway. Psychologists will tell us that any form of superstition – or habitual behaviour – gives us a feeling of control and/or confidence. Which of us hasn’t got up in the morning and thought, ‘Important meeting today. Time for my lucky tie.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that: anything that makes you feel more confident has to be good: after all, if you think you can, you very probably will.

And maybe you can turn superstition to your advantage: maybe Friday 13th gives us the chance to think about our marketing in a different way. A few years ago Icelandair ran a promotion allowing customers to add an excursion for $7 – providing the whole trip was booked by 7/7/07. Back in China, packs of 8 tennis balls sell for more than the same tennis balls in packs of ten. And there’s always reverse psychology: five of the eleven Friday the 13th movies – a seriously successful franchise – have been released on that supposedly-unlucky date.

Anyway, enough for this week. Time to go and see a potential client. Just as soon as I’ve put the toilet seat down, pulled my iPad off the ceiling and made sure neither of the boys has bought a pet turtle…

I’m away on holiday next week. Enjoy half term week if you’re taking the time off, and the blog will be back – tanned, full of après-ski and probably with a calf strain – on Friday 27th.

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One comment

  1. Me · February 12, 2015

    Probably the best blog yet! But is it superstition or OCD?

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