Mike Finnigan has asked me to write something for his new book - Impossible to Inevitable. So, I'm including it here as the first in a series.
I first met Mike Finnigan at the Reebok Stadium at the conclusion to a thrilling Lancashire derby between Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, my team. It was August 2003. At the time Mike was working for Sam Allardyce and Bolton Wanderers. Our emotions at that first meet could not have been more different. I was elated as my team had equalized in the last minute of the game after looking dead and buried at half time with the scores at 2-0 to the Whites.
He had a lot to say about the game, about the belief of the team and what it was that led to a seemingly unassailable lead being lost. I was struck then by his charisma and positivity. Since then we have helped each other out.
I’ll give you one example. At late notice I asked him to come and join me at an Insider breakfast event on leadership in Lancashire. It was a hard event to get people out of bed for at the crack of dawn. One speaker didn’t even turn up. But it was and is a really important issue. People running businesses need to be aware of their responsibilities, of their mission and how absolutely bloody brilliant it is to have that ability to turn someone’s day from a good one to great one.
Finn was the star attraction. He energized the room. He didn’t literally grab people by the lapels and tell them to smile, shout, scream and laugh, but he might as well have done.
One of the other panel members, a really good guy called Clive Memmott, came out of himself that day. He was running Business Link in Preston at the time and must have had one of those jobs where you can either be sucked under the quicksand with the politics or bureaucracy, or you come out fighting. I saw Clive fight that day. I truly believe Finn showed him a glimpse of what he could be if he knew he couldn’t possibly fail.
And me? I’m a cynical journalist by background. Looking at the matrix of organizational roles that Finn first showed me I’ve probably been a terrorist in the past. I’ve also worked with people who are energy sappers. I won’t have it any more. You have that one opportunity to make your mark. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you matter and people around you will react to how you are. When I’m old and grey and look back on these fantastic years at Insider, I’ll rightly be pleased with a few different articles, the odd witty headline and some crazy design on a front cover like our smiley face in February 2009 when everyone was ready to throw themselves off one of the tall (and empty) buildings in Manchester city centre.
But the one aspect of the job that brings me the most pride is the development of the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with. Seeing them bloom sometimes brings a lump to my throat. They’ve done it all themselves because they are keen to get on. But we all help each other out and have that environment of self improvement, positivity and risk taking. If you ask them, they might have a different take on it all, but I know what I’ve seen. It is so important to recognize that no-one sets out to have a crap day and be rubbish. Some people might not be up to the standards we set, and they’ll be happier somewhere else.
And I’m dead serious about this as well. Mike Finnigan taught me the value of positive thinking and the infectious nature of positive people. My wife Rachel is one, she has lifted my life and filled me with joy. My children have that zeal. When they are not, it is because they are hungry, or tired.
Mike Finnigan is endlessly entertaining to be around. When he left his last business to set up i2i he said he “just wanted to be great around people”. What a job! What a statement. What a guy. You can be great around me anytime.