Archive for April, 2015

Brain Before The Brawn

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

At dinner with group of high-growth business entrepreneurs and serial investors we had a debate about the priority that should be given (time, capital, resource) to marketing, sales, delivery and for won’t of a better word, the business model. Which should come first? When and Why? The brain or the brawn? Experience has told me that the answer is not sequential. Indeed, entrepreneurs and executives need a strategy for a growth strategy – a framework – within, which knowledge is applied to organisational issues in order to make wise decisions in support of the firm’s strategic goals. It is a simple construct but I find far too many investors, executives and entrepreneurs not applying this advice.

The worst of these “crimes” is seeking to do things on the cheap. A mindset that we must conserve cash at all times. Drawing little or no distinction between expenditure on the “brain” (self-development, mentor, financial adviser or a qualified profitable growth expert) and the “brawn” (print and graphic designers, bookkeepers, sales and business development, subcontractors and so on, who are in abundant supply and  are largely a commodity willing to work on a hourly fee). I used to think that this was a rookie failure of first-time entrepreneurs and executives new to high-growth business expansion. I am not so sure. I think it is a philosophical issue largely informed by the beliefs that an investor, entrepreneur or executive has about their contribution to the world (“how they look at themselves”).

Why is this important?

It can stifle or even kill dramatic growth plans. High potential opportunities are passed over or receive insufficient capital and resource for “fear” that the business will run out of cash. Lesser quality management and employees are hired on the “cheap” to save pennies but the effect is to dramatically increase the amount of uncertainty within the business (failure to market or deliver products and services well) and costs pounds. Consequently, the business has little or no insulation to competitive threats (increased financial and operational risk).

As someone who has sat on all sides of the table with my own money at risk, I am familiar with financial concerns and the corrosive effects this “cheap mentality” has on common sense decision-making. What I have learned is that I can certainly make savings on the “brawn” (have the client undertake some of the work, outsource most activities and so on), what I remind myself is that I must invest in the best “brains” I can reasonably afford to hire in order to be successful. Almost every error I have seen made with the profitable growth and expansion of large and small businesses leads back to an investor, executive or entrepreneur, who allowed a “cheap mentality” to cut corners on the quality of the “brains” they brought into support the growth of their organisation.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.



An Interview With Me From The Street

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Here is the latest interview with Ralph Jennings a reporter from The Street on key business trends influencing profitable growth in China and the impact on international investors and luxury goods companies expectations.

China Is Cutting Back on Foreign Luxury Goods — Here’s Why–heres-why.html

An Interview With Me From Investor’s Business Daily

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Here is an interview with me that appeared  on Investor’s Business Daily exploring the leadership lessons and approaches that can be readily applied from the career of US business titan, Bill Marriott.

J. Willard Marriott Turned Soda Stop Into Hotel King


A Legacy of Inspiration

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Waking up this morning to hear the sad passing of Australian legend, Richie Benaud. A cricketer, commentator and gentleman nonpareil. Above all an inspiration to generations of sports fans.

In business as in sport or life, there are many leaders, who are satisfied by acquiring great financial success and acclaim through their thoughts, words and deeds. There are a smaller number, who pretend to or aspire to leave a legacy of inspiration for those who follow in their footsteps. There is an even more rarefied space  with those leaders, who actually achieve that goal. Why sell yourself short and not shoot for that elevated status in your own career? After all a name on a building is just that a symbolic gesture but a wave of successors, who reference you as their inspiration is a meaningful legacy.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Idiotic Management: AXA Strategic Ventures

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

AXA Strategic Ventures: Least responsive corporate venturing start up. AXA, the French insurer announced with great fanfare in late February the formation of AXA Strategic Ventures. The intent being to invest in companies with the potential to shape the future of the financial industry. This is a highly competitive arena with billions of dollars being injected into early and mid-stage growth businesses by large organisations (Citi, HSBC, USAA, BBVA, Google, Intel and so on).

I brought to AXA’s attention an investment opportunity in an early-stage growth client of mine, which I reasonably felt might have a high potential fit with their publicly stated investment parameters. The General Partner responded with interest within 48 hours requesting a brief synopsis that was sent by return. Over a period of 3.5 weeks 5 offers of a “get to know you” call and an understanding of their interest went unanswered. Finally, a junior analyst responded with a polite but curt “no interest, please keep in touch”.

This is a well-staffed global organisation with a full complement of investment experts, business development and other resources. Why in the world do they think any discerning adviser or client is going to come knocking on their door when their more seasoned competitors provide a dramatically warmer welcome? How difficult is it for management to figure out that they need to proactively communicate in order to build a stronger brand and a point of differentiation with established competitors? It helps that management are exemplars for the desired behaviour and hold their subordinates to account.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Flourishing Business Networks

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Would you say that your personal and professional network is sufficiently diverse for the level of growth your firm anticipates in the next 12, 24, 36 months?

If YES, how can you best leverage your network to be even more valuable to your firm’s growth plans and your personal success?

If NO, where must you start to transform your network(s) to be more relevant and valuable to your colleagues, clients, shareholders and business partners?

My observation is that in the first third of our careers, we are largely growing and refining our networks. In the second third of our career, our networks atrophy into three groups.

(1) Some people we know well who remain highly relevant to our future.

(2) Some people we know well who could remain highly relevant but first, we must consciously and willingly adapt our relationship and how we interact.

(3) Some people we know well who are no longer relevant to our future (retired, past offerings, past expertise, past function).

A great many people will change their frequency of contact with people they know well by accident or circumstance. A minority actually make it a priority to do so. So that in the final third of their career, many people struggle to reinvent themselves and their value to others because their network is largely made up of people, who are no longer highly relevant to their firm’s future.

Rather like roses in the garden, if our future is to be appealing, the seeds of valuable present and future relationships need to planted and watered well (reciprocal help and value offered). Some relationships will bloom every year and others just once or twice before they die. Each Winter, the dead rose plants need to be removed, the flowerbeds weeded and the soil nurtured for the existing roses to bloom again next Summer. Further, there needs to be a commitment to reinvest in new roses each Spring such that every year we add greater variety, colour and freshness.

Is your garden (network) sufficiently seductive for those you wish to attract (ideal buyers, peers, shareholders, business partners) to convince them to spend time in your company (meet) and immerse themselves in your attractive offerings (buy your products, services and relationships)?

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Easter Treasure Hunt

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

One of the fun reminders of childhood is Easter treasure hunts around the garden for the hidden chocolate eggs. In the Spring sunshine, some of the eggs are easily spotted and others require rather more ingenuity. Yet young kids with a paucity of experience but a nose for the prize, move with unerring accuracy to collect their treasure.

It reminds me of a common failure many businesses make when contemplating entry into a new market and the fears that inhibit success. Convention states that we must know all the fine details of how to market, sell and deliver services to our target clients and we must have established an appropriate business model to do that efficiently and effectively.  So much thinking before we start doing that often we find the prizes have disappeared because a larger competitor has swept into the market or our assumptions are no longer valid due to other disruptive forces.

My observation  is that when you have sufficient knowledge of what you are looking for (the chocolate egg) and the wherewithal to work out the quickest path to your goal (wisdom), you are far better served getting started. You almost certainly will have to make one or more changes of direction along the way because even veterans make invalid assumptions or unforeseen obstacles conspire to scupper the best plans. If you are prepared for it that shouldn’t deter your ability to accomplish your goals. After all the eggs won’t stay hidden forever and worse, there is no  guarantee they won’t melt in the spring sunshine.

Happy Easter wherever you may be.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Invited Speaker at Private Equity International’s 2015 Operating Partners Forum: Europe

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

James Berkeley to Discuss Innovative Ways to Maximise the Value of Operating Partners

London, England— 1st April, 2015

James Berkeley, Managing Director of ELLICE CONSULTING LIMITED will be moderating a panel discussion on uncommon ways to apply Operating Partners wisdom to maximise value creation during the deal cycle. The panel session is scheduled for 16th April, 2015 and will be held at the Institute of Directors in London.  Private Equity International’s Operating Partners Forum is the pre-eminent peer-to-peer gathering for professionals in European private equity, who are focused on value creation at the portfolio company level, the operating partners.

“Private equity funds need impressive operating partners more today than at any point in the past decade”, notes Berkeley, an expert in the profitable growth and expansion of private equity-backed portfolio companies. “Amid a dearth of buyouts and a focus in Europe on operational improvement rather than a dependence on growth, operating partners’ expertise, knowledge and contacts are a key point of difference. Yet many private equity funds are self-limiting their Operating Partners impact on the future of portfolio companies for no obvious reason.”

James Berkeley offers dramatic growth opportunities to private equity portfolio companies. He has worked extensively with private equity owners and management internationally to boost top line growth and maximise margins and value through his distinctive approaches to marketing, leveraging relationships, branding and pricing.

Whether it is consulting top management on profitable growth issues, critiquing business acquisition, changing pricing structures or reconfiguring the entire business and delivery model, he has become well-known for his Profitable Growth Regime.

James’s counsel has been sort by senior executives at an array of private equity-owned businesses such as Hilton Worldwide, ASIMCO Technologies, Caesars Entertainment, CKE Restaurants and over 40 other market-leading organisations around the world.

For additional information, contact:

James Berkeley, Managing Director

Name of Company: Ellice Consulting Ltd

Phone: +44 (0)2034405072

Web Site:


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