Demetriou: Business warnings ahead of the Ides of March

Demetriou: Business warnings ahead of the Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March?

Polling friends and colleagues as to their understanding of the phrase has elicited responses that ran the gamut of silly, clever, and lack of knowledge. “Some Roman guy got killed,” “a group of people think they are better off with you dead,” “it means stay the hell home on March 15,” “Et tu, Brute?” “Frankly it means nothing to me. Should it?” “Caesar, not a fan of the day,” and my favorite, “Back in Detroit it was, don’t let your mouth write checks that your ass can’t cash.” One elite business professional, who shall go nameless, pointed to the Ides of April (Tax Day) as the real reason to beware.

Simply, the Ides refers to the middle of the month, specifically the 15th in March.

“Beware the Ides of March” is the line from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, written in 1599 by William Shakespeare. Caesar, in life and in the play, had become despised by the Roman Senate. A mystic issued the warning. When the day arrived, Caesar mocked the mystic saying that the Ides had arrived, and no harm had befallen him.  Not so.  He was stabbed 23 times by a cohort of 60 senators before the day was out.

By now you are probably asking, “What does this have to do with business?” Truthfully, only a little. March is the final month of the first quarter of the year. With just two weeks remaining before the books are closed, many owners are wary that they will not hit their financial goals. It may provoke a four-letter word or two if those goals are missed by a significant margin.

As we wind our way in day-to-day operations, little warnings or situations are the normal course of events and dealt with as they arise. Yet, the little can disguise the more profound problems brewing just below the surface.

A prime example would be employee morale. Quite often upper management is not aware of the turmoil or dissatisfaction of their workers until it is too late. Employee exodus can be challenging, disruptive and expensive.

Another example is having team leaders that become so singularly focused on their business unit that silos are created at the expense of a unified strategic vision. While striving to achieve individual goals is not a bad thing, it is important for top management to ensure the overall goals of the company remain the focus. Mid-March is far enough into the calendar to be a stopping point, a pause for understanding and adjustments.

Owners and executives who ignore the turbulence, much like Caesar disregarded the sentiment of the senators, are writing the script for downfall. Disregarding warnings no matter where they occur in the calendar is something we should guard against.  Would you not stop, or at least slow down for a caution light?

Consider the Ides as your warning.