I am firmly of the belief that reading expands the mind, and I generally get something out if every book I read. I've just finished a short book on the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's called Thirteen Days and was written by Robert F. Kennedy. The book itself is quite factual and it isn't until I reached the conclusions after the crisis wax over that I thought of practical applications towards business. In the chapter "Some of the things we learned..." Robert Kennedy stated that he felt it of significant importance during the crisis that there were different points of view throughout the process. The group of people that sat together to deliberate and report back to the President (the ex comm group) had people from different backgrounds and had different ideas on how to handle the crisis. Robert Kennedy believes that from this group, the right decisions and course of action was achieved because "opinion, even fact, can be best judged by conflict, by debate." He even goes so far as to say that this lack of conflict was part of the failure of an earlier Kennedy administration operation in Cuba - the Bay of Pigs invasion.
In terms of the way this can bring about lessons for business for me, is as far as business decisions are made. Too often one part if the business makes decisions that affect other parts of the business without consulting them. Taking the time to have different viewpoints and for this to provide the opportunity for the decision to be debated can only be healthy. I liken this to the coalition government we have had in this country for nearly the last five years. Although we don't 100% what has happened behind the closed doors of government, it appears from the outside that each party have had to agree on policy. In many cases this has resulted in policy being adapted to keep both parties happy - and for the common good of the country.
The book also reminds me of another book I read fairly recently, called Why Your Boss Is Programmed to Be a Dictator: A Book for Anyone Who Has a Boss or Is a Boss by Chetan Dhruve. It's well worth a read and in one chapter he tells about the mistakes made in the run up to the invasion of Iraq because the military's advisers told their boss (President George W. Bush) what they thought he wanted to hear. More debate would probably have resulted in a different course of action and many fewer lives lost.
In terms of how this affects me directly in my quest to open my own estate agency, it's looking at finding people to have this conversation with. My father is a prime candidate, having had his own businesses, including an estate agency. I can have several conversations with him regarding this and to run my ideas past him. The unfortunate part is that he lives 300 miles away and a face-to-face conversation will be the only way I'd want to do it.
I can have these conversations with my wife, but she doesn't have the level of experience or interest in estate agency to be able to give me a considered opinion.
I'm going to start looking at the mentoring services I see advertised and see if there is a business adviser that can spend maybe a few hours a week with me. I don't know a great deal about this, but I will look I to it and see if there is someone out there to give me the discussion that Robert Kennedy suggests is healthy in the decision making process.