Archive for July, 2015

In Memoriam: Sir Peter O’Sullevan

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

“It is not what you say but how you express it.”

Those were the immortal words and wisdom Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the iconic British racing Jounalist and commentator shared with me as a 15 year old standing on the roof of a windswept Cheltenham Racecourse grandstand in December 1982.

His passing today reminds me of his generosity and civility in sharing his insights about the career of legendary jockey, Lester Piggott over a period of six months for a school History “O-Level” project. An iconic figure in British broadcasting giving his “free” time to a passionate student of the sport.

We departed that freezing cold day with his closing line, “it gives me such pleasure to help a young chap.”

Your voice may have dimmed today Sir Peter but your wisdom is forever with us.

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Decision Maker or Decision Taker

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

I talked yesterday to an investment manager in a highly acquisitive business at the behest of a client I represent, who thought their firm would have a high level of interest buying them. They had known each other as family friends and my client was certain his friend was the “decision-maker”. The manager’s opening line when asked about their interest was, “Are they desperate to sell the business or just figuring out a fit?” When I asked why he posed the question, he responded, “We are on a buying spree, I am just working out how fast they want to move and how much skin I would need to invest in the game (encouraging his superiors to commit)?” The last comment immediately set the alarm bells wringing. Despite my client’s assurances, his friend is a “decision taker”, not a “decision maker”, at least one, who can sign off on the deal without others approval.

I observe that 70% of the time my clients and prospects conversations with potential prospects, clients and partners ends in failure because they enter the conversation at the wrong level (not seen as a credible peer by the “decision-maker”) or worse talk to and invest time in people, who cannot say “yes” without others’ approval (“decision takers”).

Whether it is selling a business, selling a new product or service or exploring a strategic partnership, here is how to swiftly avoid spending oodles of time talking to “decision takers” and ruthlessly get in front of “decision-makers”:

  1. Be clear exactly what you want to talk about and how the “decision maker” is demonstrably better off from buying, using or hiring your expertise.
  2. Visualise exactly who the “decision maker” (by name or title in that organisation) is, who you must build a trusting relationship with and mutually-explore where you might be of help to each other. If you need others (non-decision makers) help identifying the appropriate individual, use language to position it in away that is beneficial for them (“I know you work with XXX, I thought he would be appreciative of hearing about how my firm could help transform your firm’s future and in so doing he would be appreciative you of you introducing us”).
  3. Work out the shortest, quickest route to that individual (referrals, networking, speaking etc). In larger firms there might very well be multiple “decision-makers” who you need to map out.
  4. How do you create the warmest welcome (identify shared interests, experiences, short-term needs, immediate value) to open the conversation with.
  5. What is the right mindset you need to have entering the room (“We are two peers irrespective of our past or accomplishments having a one-to-one dialogue without fear or guilt to help transform our respective futures.”)
  6. What is the best environment and time to meet the “decision-maker”? (when and where are you going to have an uninterrupted conversation, where will you both feel comfortable and rapidly progress the conversation)
  7. What ideally do you want to accomplish in that meeting and how can use the time most effectively to move towards your goals? In other words, how do you know if it has been a success and what are the signs (decision maker’s responses) that you have maximised your own time usage and the dialogue is moving in your desired direction.

The bane of every client facing person is time wasters. When you are your own worst enemy, it is time to adopt a new approach.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Bank Imbalance

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

This morning the Board Chair of Barclays, the global bank, fired his CEO with analysts suggesting the speed of top line revenue growth, cost reduction and value creation has been underwhelming while acknowledging the progress the Bank has made in re-shaping its’ culture and shared values. The inference being that the bank has spent excessive time and resources on internal versus external issues. The point here is you have to do the following in  parallel, not sequential phases:

  1. Frame and commit resources to your strategic vision of the future
  2. Define and move swiftly through the strategy, tactics and execution towards your desired future state
  3. Define and make cultural changes to the firm’s operating beliefs, employee’s attitudes and their behaviour consistent with your new strategy and your desired future
  4. Allow for mid-course corrections to #2 and #3, where market assumptions and so forth change and need moderate or significant adaption
  5. Seek to exploit the results and value when you arrive at your desired future state (leverage and innovation).

Here is some key questions to ask in your own organisation and your clients:

  1. What proportion of management time, employees time and capital is being directed to internal issues versus external issues? Is that appropriate for the organisation at this stage of its’ growth strategy? If not, what needs to change?
  2. Does the firm’s leadership posses the skills and volition to make appropriate decisions rapidly and exemplify the desired beliefs consistent with the growth strategy? If not the leadership needs expert help to adapt or ultimately change those at the top.
  3. Is the business measuring what matters? Does it possess performance-based job descriptions and metrics for each individual throughout the organisation consistent with the growth strategy? If not, it needs immediate correction.
  4. Are they holding each other to account for accomplishment of key performance-based priorities? If not, starting with top management it needs to create or reinforce accountabilities down the line (carrots and sticks, monetary and non-monetary versions)
  5. Are they hiring, recognising and rewarding people for both the right behaviours and results consistent with the new growth strategy?  If not, it needs immediate adaption of the hiring, performance and rewards systems undertaken by line management not HR.

The banking sector is a poster child for excessive internal focus on compliance and costs. I sat at dinner last night with the regional head of a Top 10 global bank, who is accountable for protecting the bank from financial crimes and compliance breaches. He recounted his daily routine of corralling 12 CEOs of regional operating units, questioning their practices and where necessary forcing them to abandon clients, employees and products. What is obvious from the conversation is that in an effort to protect the bank’s bottom line there is a daily struggle to define “prudent risk taking”, to balance that with profitable growth and to use everyone’s time valuably. Isn’t that a skills set you would expect every banker to have learned at the start of their career?

The reality as Anthony Jenkins dismissal today shows is that those skills are in shorter supply than most imagined.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

“Free” Article: Where Angels Fear To Tread

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Here is a “free” article titled, “Where Angels Fear To Tread” for members of my professional communities, published today in the Global Trader 2015 eBook.

Global Trader is the pre-eminent UK publication for executives with the fiduciary responsibility and a passion for global expansion and investment in their firms.

In the eBook, James explains how to establish a local business in a frontier market, where there is no local consulting or advisory market expertise of note to draw upon. Also known as “how to fly by the seat of your own pants and succeed.”

Drawing on his own experiences in some of the world’s most remote markets working for local and global management teams in major multinationals (Allianz, Hilton, Ericsson) and smaller entrepreneurial organisations, he discusses six conditions and criteria for successful assignments.  How to make critical and informed decisions? How to balance qualitative information in the absence of hard data and analytics? How to live with ambiguity? How to mitigate risk while maximising rewards?

Click here for further details Global Trader 2015 eBook

For those wanting more specific help, applying these and your own ideas write to

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

7 Reasons To Celebrate London

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Today London remembers, 10 years on from the scenes of death and destruction. A city that I have called “home” on and off for 30 years. On 7th July 2005, I was at The Snow Ball in Queenstown, New Zealand with a group of friends when images flashed up on a video screen of the carnage across the city. It seemed distant and surreal in equal measure. What was the bombers’ point? The subsequent alert two weeks later and the manhunt when I was back home are a more vivid memory.

The test is what a city and its’ residents do about it.

Looking around London today, London is thriving. A global metropolis that has

  1. Attracted huge swathes of capital from across the globe.
  2. Unprecedented career opportunities for many people.
  3. The most diverse, talented and creative workforce with a global mindset.
  4. One of the most civilised, safe and secure environments to live, work and socialise in.
  5. The most compelling mix of contemporary culture.
  6. Retained its’ status as one of only two true “global cities” (the other being New York).
  7. The most exciting prospects for the next generation to grow up in.

As with all growing capitalist cities it faces distribution challenges. Adequate housing, infrastructure, health and education provision for all incomes.

The “high” security threat is a badge of honour, a reflection that those with incongruent values seek to cut down the tallest of poppies. We must hope that our security forces and intelligence are one step ahead of those who seek to destroy what we have. Can we be certain? Of course not. My memory flashes back to the early part of my career, the IRA atrocities across the city, the daily roadblocks outside my EC3 office and further afield to New York, where several of my former colleagues from my days working on 104th Floor of the World Trade Center perished.

Yet we celebrate the vibrant, innovative and exciting city we call “home” and the fantastic future it provides for our families, friends and colleagues.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Join Me at Private Equity International’s 2015 Operating Partners Forum: New York

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Special Offer: I am hosting breakfast in New York on Wednesday 14th October for the first 5 members of my professional community, who reply to  


Berkeley to Discuss Maximising Value Creation and Alternative Operational Models

London, England— 3rd July, 2015

James Berkeley, Managing Director of ELLICE CONSULTING LIMITED will be moderating a panel discussion on alternative operating approaches to enhancing the speed and quality of equity value creation during the deal cycle. The panel session is scheduled for 13th October, 2015 and will be held at the Convene Conference Center in New York. Private Equity International’s 5th annual Operating Partners Forum has become the premier event for anyone involved with value creation in the private equity community.
“Private equity firms still struggle with execution, which in a hyper-competitive deal making environment is becoming a huge issue”, notes Berkeley, an expert in the profitable growth and expansion of private equity-backed portfolio companies. “In most situations, I observe the issue is one of focus and discipline, and most importantly, resolve, to see that priorities are addressed rapidly by portfolio company managers and early in the value creation phase. The outstanding PE firms have consistent and repeatable approaches to priority setting that identifies where speed enhances quality (equity value creation), and where quality enhances the speed towards an impressive exit. ”
James Berkeley offers dramatic growth opportunities to private equity portfolio companies. He has worked extensively with private equity firms and portfolio company managers globally 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 value creation plans, changing pricing strategies or an enhanced focused on talent in high-performing organisations, he is 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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Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking VI

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
  • When foreign politicians and others express “surprise” at the course of negotiations with Greek politicians, I cannot take them seriously. Greeks have haggled for millennia.
  • We are far too often “taken in” by symbolic (a new title) rather than meaningful gestures (opportunity to learn a new skill) that helps us thrive in our  lives
  • We want our kids to better their lives (broaden their horizons) but begrudge or put up defences preventing others (intelligent migrants) doing the same in Europe
  • We seek to rationalise the irrational too often. There are people with diametrically opposed values (IS) where our only option is to confront them for better or worse.
  • The “golden age” if it ever existed in many industries (pubs, betting shops, casinos, insurance salesmen) is over squeezed by convergent forces (technology, globalisation, demographic changes, social values). It isn’t making a comeback.
  • New digital music streaming services (Apple, Tidal) will succeed or fail on their ability to sustain their brand power. I’d be much more confident about the former and much more circumspect about Jay Z’s future.
  • There is more charities and not-for-profits persisting with events, hosts and dispassionate audiences than at any point this side of the millennium. Time for a change!
  • The gulf between what is a “cool”, innovative or trailblazing experience in capital and provincial cities has never been wider.
  • If cars and lorries in major urban cities are required to have roll bars, why are cyclists not required to where helmets?
  • Does the rise of festivals (Glastonbury, Coachella) and mass participation events (exotic marathons, Iron Man) say more about our desire of being “part of something” (one of a kind experiences) or “getting in” (oneupmanship)?

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.



Its The Management, Stupid

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

McKinsey has cottoned on to what I have been saying for several years. The insurance sector’s obsession with data and analytics is irrelevant if the management of the businesses aren’t willing or able to change their beliefs and attitudes.

In a year when weekly landmark deals have rained down like confetti in all corners of the industry, it raises the following questions:

  1. Why is the industry is so in love with hiring C-level executives from within?
  2. If so many leaders are poorly qualified or unwilling to address business complexity, operating models, IT and performance management as McKinsey suggest, why aren’t Board Chairs and shareholders more assertive in casting a wider net?
  3. What would it take to attract leaders with the skills and volition to challenge widely held beliefs and make meaningful changes that transform insurers’ operating performance?

Therein lies the key future challenge for the sector and the experts who are able to help answer those valuable questions will be able to charge whatever they want.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.