When world champion boxer Mike Tyson was asked by a reporter some years ago whether he was worried about his opponent Evander Holyfield and his fight plan he answered, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. As it happens, whilst Tyson did punch Evander Holyfield many times, Holyfield eventually triumphed.
But what do you do, or could you do, when the best laid plans are swept aside by the unseen, the unexpected?
In our business we prudently operate an actively monitored risk register, where we seek to identify issues that could be a challenge for us, be they around systems, personnel, or, in theory, just about anything. And so we should, as this helps prevent minor issues becoming major ones and makes immense sense.
However, as I say to our senior management team, almost always, the biggest risks are the ones that we don’t see, the Exocet coming out of the blue, be it a global pandemic, a sudden act of war, or in my case, a serious accident. On Sunday the 10th of April, two months before the date of writing this article, the whiteout which had kept my son and two great friends off the mountains in Chamonix, cleared to a bright blue sky with the ski slopes beckoning.
Four hours later I was lying on the ground with my left arm smashed out of my shoulder, with only soft tissue (miraculously intact) connecting it to my body. My son was basically holding my arm, which was at an impossible angle; I was surrounded by doctors from a helicopter and in pain that was literally indescribable. Past accidents from a long life including a broken nose, a broken wrist, a broken elbow and a broken finger had hurt but this was pain on another level; there was no escape, all one could do was scream and scream until finally relief arrived from an intravenous shot of ketamine and my first, and I hope last, ever drug trip!
This morning, just nine weeks later, I’ve showered myself, got dressed, made a cup of coffee and some breakfast, driven to the supermarket and back and now I’m writing this article.
Whilst I would never have wished to have the experience of the past two months, I have learned some invaluable lessons which I hope might be helpful to relay.
Whilst we often cannot control how we initially react to a crisis, we can quickly decide how to respond. Reactions are often determined by our senses and by emotion. These are often unhelpful. However, our rational conscious mind can be used to determine our response, perhaps seconds, minutes or a few hours later.
Whilst we cannot know the unknown, we can visualise future scenarios and we can prepare for the unexpected.
During the 21 days I spent in hospital and the six weeks following my surgery, I have had a chance to reflect on how really a lifetime of planning and building an amazing team, it turns out, helped me so much in this situation:
1. Team: Years before the accident we had determined that we would always ski as a group, so when I crashed after somebody inadvertently cut across the front of my skis at over 60 kph, my son was by my side within seconds.
2. Insurance: We always buy supplementary insurance when we get our ski passes so immediately we had the contact details and the costs covered for emergency helicopter assistance.
3. Insurance: When the French hospital admitted me there were no issues with extensive scans as I had my GHIC card.
4. Insurance: When the French surgeons advised that having seen the extent of the injuries, they would be unable to operate, my wife was immediately able to contact our travel insurers to claim on our repatriation insurance.
5. Enough insurance: When we learned that there was a threat to my arteries and nerves because of the bone fractures and therefore a need to be transported horizontally back to the UK, the fact that we had £10 million of insurance meant that the best possible transport, two private ambulances and a private medically equipped jet, could be called upon.
6. Expertise: Our experience in dealing with the complexities of claims meant that when we made the claim, we had already put together a comprehensive file of all the scans and a doctor’s opinion which refuted the insurers initial offer of a taxi and a seat in premium economy to get me back to the UK.
7. Connecting to the best professional help: The extent of the injuries made it clear that we would need the best possible surgeon to operate on the injury to have any chance of utilising the arm again. Many we approached said they couldn’t do it. Through our network of contacts we got to a star surgeon. Our initial enquiry was met with a “he cannot fit it in”, so we found a route to make a face-to-face presentation of the case and he cancelled a clinic to do the work (which incidentally he said could only be done through a major NHS hospital as no private hospital would have had the range of facilities needed for all of the preparation required for the procedure – we had no idea this could be the case).
8. Technology: Our commitment to remote working, set up prior to the pandemic as well as being enhanced during the pandemic meant that I was able to be pretty effective in returning to key aspects of my work, even prior to my surgery.
9. Team: Both client work and corporate work all functioned perfectly well when I was completely out of action and continues to do so whilst I gradually return to normal hours (aside from a couple of extra hours a day of physio for at least another year).
• Get into response mode and out of reaction mode as quickly as possible.
• Build your best possible team: Key people from your circle of family and friends; proactive experienced professional advisors; people who care when the chips are down and if needed will fight as hard as necessary on your behalf.
• Make a plan with your team as soon as possible (and ensure your team can do so without you).
• Be prepared to adapt,; be open to advice even if you don’t like it.
• Persist until you succeed. We had some major obstacles in a situation that was completely unknown to us that needed to be overcome; as one surgeon who reluctantly had said if pushed he would do the surgery, this is a one shot deal and you need to get it right first time. We appreciated his invaluable advice and his frankness.
• Get to the best possible specialists;: ensure your team are very well connected.
• Have insurance and have your advisors make sure it is enough.
I’m fortunate and grateful to have an amazing team. First and foremost my wife, who is truly a lioness. Also my children, friends and clients, my doctor, my physio, my trainer and my incredible team at HFMC Wealth. Thanks to all of these people I should get most functions back and maybe, if the nerve damage is reversed and there are some signs that it will be, be able to get back on my bike and perhaps even back into the mountains on a pair of skis.
I’m also fortunate it was only my left arm and not my neck. Many have suffered far worse. For that I must thank providence.
I really hope you all enjoy the rest of the issue, which has some very practical advice on a variety of key financial issues.