18/08/2014

By Andy McGlynn, Creator and co-owner of the Financial Fitness Group and Director of LSF Personal Training


During my stint in the Royal Marines, I spent time on active duty in Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone. While it isn’t immediately obvious how this military experience prepared me to create a series of businesses in the health and fitness sector; I took away some major lessons that have served me well as I built my growing Personal Training & Fitness empire.

I applied to join the Marines at the age of 19, and after attending a 3 day pre-screening course along with the relevant medical and preliminary tests; I started in a troop of 64 recruits and was one of only six of the original troop to finish the training. I was then part of active service unit based out of Plymouth and spent two of the four years out of the country in Northern Ireland, Sierre Leone, the Ukraine, Norway and America. It has been almost 12 years since I left the Marines, but the business lessons I learned still ring true today. Here are the five things the Royal Marines taught me about business:

1. Overcoming challenges

Even when the challenges seem insurmountable; if you have the right motivation, you will find a way to overcome whatever you are facing. One thing that has always stuck with me is to ‘never stop’. We were continually encouraged to think the finish line could be just around the corner [unbeknown to us] and in times of difficulty I still to this day think ‘the end of this issue could just be around the corner – keep the resolve’. Anyone who has done any type of military training and has experienced an instructor screaming in their ear when they’re exhausted and think they can’t go on, knows that you CAN find a way to go on and that this is all down to the right motivation and staying on the end goal – you have to fix the end goal firmly in your mind and live and breath it every minute of every day. The landmarks for growing my business Lifestyle Fitness Personal Training (LSF-PT) have been carried out in exactly the same way. I set a target for the number of trainers that I wanted to have with me in the business by a specific date and there are no lengths or measures that I will not go to [ethically] to achieve the target.

2. Be first and take action

Don’t wait for the “other guy” to do it; be willing to be first. The Marines have a saying: “First to Fight.” As the first ones in, the Marines believe that their training, preparation, and leadership will allow them to overcome the uncertainty factor of not knowing EXACTLY what might happen in battle. These same lessons apply to business. Sir Richard Branson contextualised this for me perfectly when he stated ‘first say yes – then work out how to do it’ – when discussing the approach to business opportunities. Come up with a plan, take action, and adjust, but also have the grace and humility to advise others that you are still learning and working your way through the unknown. Ironically many Managers think it’s a weakness to confess to not knowing how to do something to their subordinates when in fact the workers have sussed out long ago that something may be new to you.

3. Chaos and failure ARE your fault

Take responsibility for the outcome and the results; it may be that within a national business you are let down by one of your managers in a different part of the country and it had absolutely nothing to do with you, however as the Leader and Line Manager you do need to look to see if you can take accountability and where in the business may need better focus and tightening up of procedures.

4. Good leadership

A good leader knows how to help people do what they sometimes do not want to do, by helping them see the bigger goal or prize. Contrary to what some people say, Marines do not all have a “death wish.” In reality, they understand how important their roles are in achieving victory. This is essential whether you are leading people into battle; or leading a team in the corporate world. As a consultant and coach, I see business owners constantly complaining about how their team is “lazy” or “unmotivated.” However, usually this is because the team does not understand the vision for the company as well as how each team member’s tasks contribute to achievement of that vision. Or, it is because you have hired the wrong person. It is YOUR ROLE as the leaders to hire the right people, and then help them make that connection (with your vision).

5. Be present

90% of leadership is being present. I learnt this in the Marines and it is something I will never forget. You can’t lead people from your office. You can’t lead people via email and Powerpoint. If my team are involved in training, I am there with them developing new skills myself. You learn things by being present that you would never learn from reading a manual sat in an office. Visit the people in your team regularly even if geography seems like a barrier. Make the effort and it’s amazing what you can learn, and how you can explain your vision, one on one and really get buy in. If you are not present, you are not leading.