Business leaders learn how to drown puppies

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Learning how to drown puppies isn’t as cruel as the phrase sounds.

Like “going forward” and “picking the low-hanging fruit” the phrase “drowning puppies” is a piece of business jargon.

It refers to a cherished idea or money making scheme that just isn’t doing the business and needs to be killed off.

Venture Day at Cranfield University today (Thursday) heard some business horror stories, how people have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds through trying to keep cherished “puppies” alive.

Derek Sims, the MD and owner at Sims Toyota, took his business from £7.5million to £23million turnover in three years. But he’s had his share of failure, too.

His business “near-death experience” saw him lose £1.75million on a franchise arrangement when a deal with a world name in the motor trade went sour.

“The big isue was we didn’t sell enough cars!” Mr Sims told a seminar. “Sales dropped and we were losing £100,000 a month.”

But he found himself on the wrong side of a contract, which meant him losing out. He warned the business audience to be careful of flattery. His businesses had been doing well, so he believed he had the golden touch, especially when they told him he was brilliant. “But they only want you to dig their trenches,” he said.

Dairy entrepreneur Jon Thornes, MBE, founded Cool Milk which has 800,000 customers. But he has also started 30-40 other businesses with varying degrees of success.

One of his messages to the other entrepreneurs was to be careful of what staff say because they could be more interested in getting paid next month. They also get to be protective of puppies instead of helping to drown them.

He said: “If you give ideas to staff, they lie to you. You can’t believe staff, they want to get paid!”