Archive for January, 2016

No Xpense Spared

Friday, January 29th, 2016

We cannot live without technology but there are times when the interaction is so appalling you just scream “Give me Fred Flinstone!” On the flip side, you have a stellar experience resolving a user problem, often self-inflicted (!) and you want to rave about the service. XpenseTracker is an ingenious iPhone app, created by Silverware Software. If you are user you won’t need me to say it but it is an incredible time saver for anyone, who hates the tedium and time consuming process of collating and processing expense reports. I guarantee that you can create an extra day of working time for a $5 investment!

My settings for reasons I cannot fathom prevented me exporting the finished expense report to my cloud server. I emailed Scott, the app’s author, we are on friendly terms in a virtual way of doing things. He immediately responded in 2 minutes with a brief “here is how to solve the problem” email, succinct and on point. So far, so good until I pressed the wrong button and the screen froze. A quick email to Scott in his Boston office, and within 3 minutes, no blame attached, “this is what you do”. Boom, solved.

I don’t know about your firm or its’ clients standards in resolving clients problems but ask yourself honestly, does our access, response times and success in permanently resolving our clients’ problems match our brand? If you don’t know the answer I suggest you test it immediately. If you do, and you are happy with the results, ask yourself, how can we reinforce those results such that there is a discernible gap between our competitors and us in future?

Today, HSBC’s online banking incurs a cyber attack, zero customer notification beyond a brief badge on their site. A call to Hiscox, a market-leading global insurer, goes unanswered for 7 hours. Telefonica, a leading European telecoms operator, asks me to wait on “hold” for 22 minutes or use their online chat room, which takes a further 19 minutes to get to the heart of my difficulty with someone, who struggles to assemble an audible sentence in English.

Large global brands are being disrupted by smart, small technology firms in almost every product or service line because the latter have better organised themselves to provide a “high touch, high tech” customer experience.  It is not about size or scale, it is about how smart your people are.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Help I Need Somebody

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

While my focus is on helping mid and large organisations with dramatic growth opportunities, I get asked by early-stage entrepreneurs for a “second opinion” on their business model from time to time. I am often bemused by these “soft” requests, as someone, who has been in the exact same stage of growth.

If you want help, by all means “ask” for it but do realise that there is a strategy and tactics to the request process.

“Strategy” in asking, what do I want to accomplish from applying the requested help? Is it a faster resolution of a past problem, validating a current decision or greater confidence in a future plan?

“Tactics” in the form of how do I get the fastest and best solution? Where external help is required how do I present the “ask” in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties, not just me.

I come across many interesting entrepreneurs, who are clueless in these areas. Consequently, they buttonhole you at events, send “cold” investment presentations or feign interest in articles that you have published.

Can I make a suggestion? Be very transparent upfront about your intentions, find the warmest path to the “expert” and position the request in their self-interest.

I cannot guarantee, I or anyone else will give you our “free” time but you sure dramatically increase the odds in your favour.

Is that helpful advice?

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Eccentric Behaviour

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I love living in London because you sees displays of eccentric human behaviour that defy all logic but are in equal measure very funny. This morning I hopped on a London bus in a rainy Mayfair to be followed in by a well-spoken English gentleman struggling to haul a 7 ft loosely bubble-wrapped, early 19th Century British masterpiece procured from an eminent Bond Street gallery. The sought of place where the red dots on the gallery wall demand a large five or six figure sum. Poor man, wouldn’t his budget stretch to hailing a taxi or the Gallery’s to delivering the piece to his home or workplace?

When we deliver services to our clients, do we seek to save pennies (demand our people spend no more than £25 on a bottle of wine at dinner) or promote overly cumbersome client processes (onboarding) for no good reason, after we have been paid pounds? Is our mindset and self-talk one of abundant opportunity or desperately fearing poverty? Is that reflected correctly in how we ask our people to behave and act with our clients’ best interests at heart (exemplars, policies and procedures)? You would be surprised how often that there is a huge misalignment, which instantly dilutes client and employee trust and weakens loyalty to top management and the firm.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Illusionary Growth Plans

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I remember a middle ranking executive of a US$3 billion US multinational approaching me for help in articulating his growth plans for the Latin America region. “You consultants are experts at wow presentations. I need to impress my boss”. After a little bit of further digging he wanted me to take his strands of thought, apply some magic and craft them into a meaningful growth strategy presentation with his name on it. In so doing create an illusion that he was the master of his own destiny.

There is a point at which consultants hide their ego and help clients. When they do, I believe ethically it needs to be with appropriate attribution. “Oh no, he’ll see it is not my ideas!”

I find with many executives they want the glory without the risk.

They fear being exposed sometimes rightly, as an imposter.

They fear that visibly paying for help will be seen in the organisation as a sign of weakness rather than strength. As if it is right to use scare resources to hire a consultant but not admit they helped.

They fear that presenting ideas that are not their own will diminish their own credibility amongst their peers.

They fear themselves. They don’t trust their own judgement when they look in the mirror.

When you walk into a meeting dangling your ego and constantly seek validation from others, this is what happens.

When your mindset is that there are others smarter than me. I would be wise to seek their input. I am confident defending the reasons for hiring them. The shared wisdom when applied to key organisational issues will help all of us dramatically accelerate the speed and probability of meeting or exceeding our goals, it is easy to move forward.

There is enough set backs in profitably growing a business to humble all of us but if we don’t take stock of our own mindset and self-talk, we are deluding ourselves that we will be successful.

Interview With Me: The Street

Monday, January 4th, 2016

The Street’s China reporter, Ralph Jennings explores with James: profitable growth and expansion in China, warmer ties with foreign companies and governments, and the future of the politically-sensitive defence sector.

China Privatizes Arms Production as It Quietly Seeks Global Customers

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13409665/2/china-privatizes-arms-production-as-it-quietly-seeks-global-customers.html