Archive for January, 2014

Keys to Identifying the Right Local Partner

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Ellice-Consulting5-150Partnership power: James picks apart why some partnerships between international firms and local businesses thrive, and others don’t. Listen in to hear James’s thoughts drawn from private equity businesses in North America, hospitality companies in the Middle East, professional service firms in Europe, retail brands in China and many more examples. Leave with a clear set of questions and direction you want to head with your next collaborative discussion while avoiding time wasters, the curse of the international business development executive.

Herding Cats or Chasing Mice, No Thanks

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

All of us in support of building profitable businesses must get in front of a larger number and a higher quality group of buyers of our products, services and relationships. Whether those are internal or external “clients” I don’t care. “How” we do that and “what” results are critical.

By and large it requires some form of travel. We need to get in a car, board a train, ride the subway or jump on a plane. Unless of course, you are Barclays, who in an act of desperation this week announced a global employee ban on travel to all internal and most client-facing meetings (is this decade’s Wolf of Wall Street a “virtual” reality?).

Outstanding industry meetings, conferences, trade shows and events serves a vital purpose. Demonstrating credibility (track record of success, your value and potential results), building effective relationships (trust, shared values, intellect, personal chemistry) and converting those relationships into closed business and referral opportunities. It is that simple.

Yet so often I see event organisers and hosts, indeed the whole MICE industry as they are often termed, in a fog (“we need to find out what our sponsors, speakers, exhibitors and attendees want”, “we need to do something different this year”, “we want to attract a  more impressive crowd”). Yet year after year they repeat the same tired format with a “new” tweak. When the answer is very simple.

I coined a term the “RICH” experience, here is what you must provide if you want to stand apart from the crowd:

1. Remarkable content (tell me something I have never considered, challenge myths, help me improve my focus and discipline on profitable growth and the valuable use of my time)

2. Impressive peers (give me opportunities to interact with a diverse and stellar groups of peers, people at the top of their game, cross-industries and geographies, people who aren’t afraid to speak openly, share insights etc.)

3. Compelling value (give me high impact, immediate opportunities for personal and professional growth, new ways to compete, new potential customers, new ways to reach them and they to reach my organisation etc.)

4. Huge excitement (let me leave buzzing with ideas, recounting impressive success stories, shared experiences, fun relationships, “one moment in time” images that immediately make me an object of interest to others).

The finance, asset management, private banking, art, private aviation, leisure, real estate, hospitality, re(insurance), luxury, franchise, auto and other sectors have created a huge global calendar of events that resembles the Formula 1 circus. Some are profitable, some scratch a living off the benevolence of loyal sponsors and exhibitors.

In many sectors, “event fatigue” has set in, there is only so many white table-clothed InterContinental Hotel ballrooms with drab flower arrangements that you can sit down to another three course lunch surrounded by a random group of faces. Spot “Kevin” the impressively coiffeured American CEO of a small Middle Eastern business, backed by new Arabian Gulf riches, espousing how his business will be a Top 10 player in five years. Religously, his name appears as a guest speaker at the next month’s industry event, “didn’t I see you in Singapore or was it San Diego or Dubai?”, out comes the “same old-same old” soundbites in the industry roundtable, headlines appear dutifiably in the local and industry media regurgitating his grand vision and so it goes on. These people are bores, they don’t bring anything meaningful to the party, please their “generous” (heavily discounted) gold sponsorship doesn’t make them an opinion-maker.

I neither want to be part of a group of herding cats ushered from the plenary session to a breakout session or chasing mice around the conference event. I want a RICH experience, are you prepared to give me that in return for my registration fee, three night hotel stay and the business class air fare? Make that clear now.

© James Berkeley 2014. All rights reserved.


Uncommon Partnerships

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Earlier this week I was at a fundraising “thank you” for the National Horse Racing Museum hosted by The Jockey Club in London. The event drew an august crowd of donors and supporters and they received the obligatory overview of the Museum’s plans in the confines of Christie’s, the global auction house. A very convivial evening experience. What later became obvious talking to some of the organisers was the huge missed opportunities to harness the power of the alliance (stronger credibility, attract wealthier and more influential people, provide them increased excitement and perceived value, offer multiple ways  for future contact, repeat contributions, referrals to others and continuous communication). This sadly is the common outcome of most alliances.

My observation based on hundreds of alliance conversations and a handful of powerful alliances that  I have formed for global organisations is that very few take heed of the old real estate sage’s wisdom “you make money on the way in, not the way out.”

In other words, there needs to be strong, factual evidence BEFORE entering the alliance what goals can reasonably be achieved and how to best make that happen, and the results that arise AFTER the duration of the alliance are viewed simply as a bonus.

Yet the majority of alliances I see in professional service firms, financial services, and international growth and expansion initiatives are not formed on that basis. Little wonder that that 90% of partnership or alliance discussions never result in any business being done, 75% of actual partnerships or alliances formed cease to be effective within a year and no more than 10% of partnerships or alliances run the duration of their projected lifespan.

Here is a few key steps for any business or not-for-profit to undertake BEFORE expanding valuable time, money and effort on alliance discussions:

  1. Strong Personal Chemistry (share same values, trust, social skills, empathy and so on)
  2. Track record of success with other alliances and strong references
  3. Each partner’s self-interests and desired outcomes are transparent
  4. Each partner comfortably shares their strategies and  agreed investment plans
  5. There is a demonstrable short-term opportunity (name of an individual, organisation) with a clear “need”, where the power of the alliance will result in a dramatic improvement to the individual or organisation and mutual benefit to both partners.

Let me remind you what doesn’t work. Detailed conceptual discussions based on perfect paper exercises. Effective alliances are about people with the requisite skills and volition doing something together, not thinking about doing something together.

© James Berkeley 2014. All rights reserved.


How do Organisations Expand Globally?

Monday, January 27th, 2014


James hops on the latest A380 stateside and shares the lessons learned from his work with executives at Hilton, Caesars Entertainment, Hardees, AON, and Napster, who have successfully spread their wings to all corners of the planet. He discusses the importance of strategy, why marketing plans usurp business plans and what it takes to get the best out of regional and local business executives many miles from home.

Attracting and Retaining and Nurturing Talent

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014


Creating an appealing workplace that attracts the brightest and best people doesn’t have to involve HR policies and lavish pay. Listen to three lessons from James’s best clients, who have got it right through setting clear accountabilities, making intelligent use of managers’ time, and incentivising the right behaviours in their frontline people.

Enabling The Customer To Buy

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Three experiences in the course of a rain-sodden quiet January week in London: a midday stop by the flagship Apple store on Regent Street.

Me: “Good morning, I would like to talk to someone about buying an Apple iPad Air.”

Front-of-House sales person: “I am sorry we don’t have anyone available right now.”

Me: “What are my options? There don’t appear to be many people here (30 customers max).

Front-of-House sales person: “You must make a reservation in my system (scroll through his iPad, wait 1 minute). I can offer you a time slot at 4:15pm (now 10:30am) or we can perhaps find a date later in the week.”

Me: “Sorry, neither is convenient, nor am I in the area. I will leave it.” £0 expenditure, repeat business or referral potential “low”.

A few minutes later a request to a sales person at the flagship Ralph Lauren store in Mayfair to exchange a £250 sweater given as a gift to me and purchased by a family member in Hong Kong (they have a worldwide refund policy). “I am sorry sir if we cannot identify the bar code as coming from our store I am not at liberty to accede to your request.” Me: “Why does that preclude you not adhering to your brand’s customer promise?” Sales person, “Urgh, that’s the way it is, sir.” £0 expenditure, repeat business or referral potential “low”.

A call to the very welcoming Cotswold country inn, The King’s Head in the picturesque village of Bledington. A request for a family room at short notice for this weekend and dinner in their great restaurant. “Sir, we are fully booked this weekend both in the hotel and restaurant. However we know you have have been a frequent guest. Give me 15 minutes and let me see if I can do something. Would you be available should I contact you? (Yes) I have your details in front of me, would you prefer we call you back or send you a quick email? (Call) If we can accommodate you, do you have a preference over which room you would like, and a time to eat (Yes)?” 10 minutes later: “I have good news. I have you your preferred room, and a table for dinner both nights.” We arrive at the hotel and there is a personalised note on the bed from the Manager, “Welcome to the King’s Head. We are delighted to help you out at short notice, we really enjoy having you as a guest.” Weekend expenditure £450, repeat business and referral potential “high”.

These are three very common experiences for upscale expenditure in England today. Many large, famous and global brands in an effort to maximise efficiency and profitability are increasingly forcing the customer to conform to their policies. They are consciously “blind” to what the customer’s obvious need is. Their front line people lack the authority to apply common sense. Smaller, arguably hungrier and more entrepreneurial  businesses recognise that

  • Upscale and luxury customer buying decisions are increasingly “unstructured”
  • Cash and repeat business is being directed towards businesses that make it easy for the customer to say “yes” (multiple options to buy)
  • Speed is as important as the quality of the response
  • Converting credibility and interest into immediate sales and repeat business necessitates putting the customer’s interests before their own

In search of profitable growth, is your business in the Apple, Ralph Lauren or the King’s Head mode of customer service? What changes in behaviours and skills are needed to achieve your business goals?

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.



The Biggest Mistakes Organisations Make

Monday, January 20th, 2014


James gives a primer on the biggest lessons for entrepreneurs and executives wanting to avoid the pitfalls to profitable growth. He looks at the impact on international expansion, evolving a business brand and operating in a volatile marketplace.


Ultra High Net Worth Clients, Ultra High Net Debt Advisers

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Headline sales in 2013 of premium art, private jets, houses, superyachts, bloodstock and the other foibles of  ultra high net worth individuals create impressive column inches for the advisers, brokers, dealers and auction houses. A certain spring arises in the step of those individuals welcoming you into their offices. However behind the perma grin, firm handshake and the Ralph Lauren Black Label double-breasted suit lies an unspoken truth. Whisper it quietly, the cash banked tells a dramatically different story. The wealthy Russian client’s private office has withheld the most recent payment, the Chinese billionaire is not responding to the request for settlement of his account, and the Indonesian client is pre-occupied with the recent changes in government policy on the fortunes of his business. The list goes on…..

Advisers and intermediaries have largely improved their pre-sale credit checks over the last decade. However, their cashflow methodology has hardly changed. I am referring to how they convert revenue into cash banked. The balance sheets, particularly amongst the top 10 firms in each sector of premium art, private jet, real estate, bloodstock, real estate, jewellery are littered with outstanding debtors.  It is painful but not terminal. Routinely, executive memos are issued in the third and fourth quarter of the financial year advising all non-essential planned expenditure (headcount, travel and entertainment, marketing, longer-term client initiatives etc.) is to be put “on hold”. Get below this tier in each sector and there are firms whose very survival is on the line.

It is like Kate Moss coming to terms with twenty years of hard living in the bathroom mirror. Not such a pretty sight away from the flashlights of the fashion world’s jeunesse doree.

My observation is that many of these advisory and intermediary businesses suffer from a lack of goal congruency and mutual self-interest in the middle management layers of these businesses.   The best intentions of executive management are distorted in the day to day dealings with the clients. Cash collection is not seen as important in the organisation or an executive priority. There is no carrot or stick. Indeed, in many cases the client’s principle contact in the firm is not accountable for banking the cash. It is the responsibility of administrative or finance people. When pressure is applied on the principle contact, fearful of losing the cherished relationship or not knowing how the UHNW individual will react to his “honour” being questioned, the adviser or broker procrastinates. He or she makes up excuses to “Finance” why Client X is unavailable or it is the wrong time to ask (another valuable consignment is on the way or they are in delicate negotiations to buy a replacement yacht or plane).

Here is what these firms need to immediately act upon:

1. What are the desired behaviours and results we seek from our clients ? (our terms and conditions are routinely adhered to with very few exceptions, no debtors beyond 90 days and so on)

2. What are the desired behaviours and results we seek from our advisers/brokers? (high-level of self-worth and self-confidence, act as a peer not a pawn of the client, favourable terms agreed at all times, preventative and contingent action in place for cash collection, accountable for their own behaviour and performance)

3. Where are the mis-alignments?

4. What is the priority? (consider the seriousness, urgency and growth of each issue)

5. What action is required? (clearer business goals and accountabilities, improved individual skills and behaviour, improved tools and communication, improved experience and so on)

6. How do we make that happen? (stronger exemplars and avatars in senior management, training, development, more effective individual performance and reward, other carrots and sticks)

My experience is that sustained improvements can be dramatic if leaders in these businesses and their subordinates have the skills and volition to make cash collection a priority and where necessary, seek external help.

© James Berkeley 2014.




Profile of My Best Clients

Thursday, January 16th, 2014


James takes a tour around the world and talks about the importance of leadership in his best clients’ successful attainment of profitable growth. He illustrates in local examples why leaders must display high levels of self-confidence, resilience and resolve to turn global aspirations into impressive local results. Equally those very same local executives must readily accept what they don’t know and willingly collaborate internally or externally with others, when necessary to achieve their personal and the organisation’s goals.

Why Rely on Outside Consultants

Monday, January 13th, 2014


“Consultants” are an ugly word in many businesses. Armed with their methodologies and matrices they paint a perfect picture of a profitable growth, yet the results are more often than not disappointing. In the real world, successful strategy implementation is more about maintaining top management’s focus and discipline than simply knowing what to do and how to do it. James explains where managers can gain real benefit and huge value from a consultant, and the role of a “business” fitness trainer.