How I changed series part 1 of 6: The crisp packet revelation

Over the last 30 years, I’ve built a successful business, ATG-IT. Now, I’m taking everything I’ve learned about management and combining that with my extensive experience, to focus on empowering business owners and staff to be the best they can be.

The Beginning

I walked into work one day in 2015 and there was a crisp packet outside my door.

I thought I had a fantastic culture in my business – after all, even through the biggest recession in a lifetime we were still making money, things were good. I decided I was going to do a bit of an experiment: “Let's leave the crisp packet there and see how long it takes the buggers to pick it up.” Because that's what I thought of them (my staff) at the time - they were buggers, they were an absolute pain in my side. I didn't hate them, but after nearly 26 years I saw them as a necessary evil - these employees that I paid and treated well, in my mind just didn’t get it.

“Why can't they just pick up this crisp packet?”

This crisp packet was the catalyst. I left it there and nobody picked it up, or certainly not on the first day or the second or in fact the first week. Like a lot of other small business owners, I thought that my staff were my biggest issue and without them running my business would be so much easier. On top of their failure to pick up the crisp packet, I had lots of other issues with my staff, and I’ll explain what sorts of other things I was struggling with at the time.

Don’t laugh, but I had a major problem with teabags. I wondered why, when they made a cup of tea and went to put the teabag in the bin it had to hit the wall first? It sounds stupid, but I thought, ‘Why can they not even do that?’

Why, when a hot lead came in from the website, did it take marketing a week to give it to the sales guy – by which time it had become a lukewarm lead?  

Why when a customer called and left a message, didn’t it get passed on the whoever it was for?

Why were the company cars left filthy?

Why did engineers not book their time correctly?

Why, when we had paid for a 9am delivery from a supplier, did we wait till the middle of the afternoon before anybody noticed that we hadn’t had the delivery - I would have been on the phone to the supplier at 10 past 9?

There were hundreds and hundreds of these things that they just didn't do, and I just didn't get. I thought: “I've got common sense, so why don’t they have common sense? Because it's bloody obvious, isn't it? Why can't they just do these things?”

Of course, this eats you up over time - the staff, who you try to encourage, develop and nurture, to give them the best and pay them the right money - and they just don't get it! it drove me around the bend.

At the same time, I was developing a house, remodelling it, and had, at times, up to 20 builders on site. This went on for a year as I kept having to sack the builders, who were always doing things wrong.  

Simple things like painting a wall without putting a sheet down on the oak floor, ending up with paint splatters on it – just plain stupid. They’d paint around a socket and get paint all over it and I’d think, ‘Why wouldn’t they take the socket off the wall, paint behind it and then screw it back on? It seemed obvious to me.

A visual representation of a bad builder.

A visual representation of a bad builder.

The final straw was when I came home one day to discover they’d hung an oak door in the en-suite which hit the toilet when you opened it. So, I sacked the carpenter. The next day, my when my wife saw yet another carpenter coming down the drive, she said, ‘How long is this one going to last?’ Then she gave me a disapproving, and frankly disappointed, look.


I didn’t know it then, but this was a key moment for me. The next day, everything changed.


 The next article 2 of 6 will be posted next week

To find out more about me and my journey, please visit

To find out more about ATG-IT please visit

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Mark matthewsComment