Archive for March, 2016

Success Trumps Ego

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

 

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If your ego won’t allow you to share credit with those who have contributed substantially to your success, why should others help you in future (clients, investors, peers, employees, business partners etc)?

Successful people always look more successful when their stories reference people often less successful than themselves, who have helped them in vulnerable situations.

Even Donald Trump in his bombastic interviews rarely avoids talking about the “little people”,  who gave him a helping hand. He just leaves you thinking that only he could walk on water!

Many aspiring business managers and execs would be wise to think about whether their conversations, presentations, speeches, media interviews and marketing collaterals sufficiently share the credit with others.

If it is all about “Me, Me, Me”, why should I return your call, stop to talk or consider working together?

Copyright 2016 James Berkeley. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Just An Illusion

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

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Is this a shot from your evening last night, soon to be posted on your instaGLAM account? Today a great many executives, managers, investors and board members are busy trying to be someone that they are not. Fact. They are instantly recognisable by the disparity between the image that they project and what others see.

At a small intimate event last night in London with David Nish, the past CEO of Standard Life and this week appointed as a Non-Executive Director at  HSBC, we discussed the dynamics and consequences of this behaviour.

The dynamics and behaviour are largely the same in businesses of every size. Individuals are prone to projecting views without hard evidence or strong anecdotal information (shout loudest). They are poor listeners (routinely ignore vital feedback). They lack sufficient self-worth in their own talent and judgement (resort to bolstering their credentials with references to famous names). They have a poor level of self-esteem (they are dismissive of others success). They are prone to passive aggressive behaviour to project superiority (constant one-upmanship). They are prone to excessive exaggeration or downright lies about their own success (false claims in bios, CV’s/Resumes). We’ve all met them at various points in our career.

The consequences differ based on the size, priorities and complexity of the organisation. Here are some observations from my own experiences:

An inability to effect a management buyout of a small or family business, where the Founder’s behaviour results in management never acquiring the skills, traits or expertise to run the business in his or her absence.

A loss of respect for a private investor’s judgement amongst their peers and future co-investment opportunities when they make wild, unfounded claims to be invested in the “next unicorn“. Ridiculous, of course but sadly all too often true.

Raging management distrust in the Board when a non-executive director relays unsubstantiated “insider” claims from a key client, institutional investor or employees about the manager’s negative performance without hard evidence or strong anecdotal information.

A destruction of goodwill amongst analysts and the media when the newly appointed CEO of an investment bank, self-invested with “superman” powers, promises near instant changes to the business model that his predecessors have taken decades to create.

The world is littered with people trying to be someone that they are not. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter couldn’t survive if that human need dissipated. We all have a reputation that precedes us in the hyper-connected world we live in. Reinvention, acquiring new skills and educating others is something that we must constantly commit to but without absolute credibility (tangible results and visible behaviour), it is just an illusion.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

A Fool’s Wisdom

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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In this Trumpian era where people are encouraged to say anything however crass or non-sensical to get noticed on social media platforms, I see so called business advisers increasingly adopting the tactic.

Today on Hotels the global hotel industry’s foremost media blog, a guest contributor and acclaimed expert, writes a two part post suggesting the industry is retarded if it doesn’t adopt a nickel and dimeing strategy! His point is that hotels need to follow car rental and airlines in better educating their customers about the hidden value they are providing, the best way to accomplish that is to charge them for every extra. I read the posts twice to check it wasn’t April 1.

What the writer fails to consider is how much more customers would pay if the product was better. It is this type of poverty mentality that kills growth businesses.

Don’t be drawn into a fool’s wisdom just because it is seemingly coming from a highly credible source. Ridiculous advice really says more about the source’s credibility than the advice itself.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Obese Businesses In A Healthy World

Monday, March 21st, 2016

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If you hire a personal fitness trainer or financial adviser, you would reasonably expect that they visibly are the embodiment of the healthy lifestyle and prudent risk taking that they promote. If you hire a large consulting firm you would reasonably expect that they are the embodiment of  the reinvention and innovation they promote. Specifically,

  • How does our brand stand out in a crowded market when our buyers don’t see the differences?
  • How do we bridge the gap between our existing buyers’ perception about the quality of our work (high) and their propensity to recommend and refer us to new prospects (low)?
  • Which area of the market should we stake out and leverage digital technology to transform our clients’ future?

That thought crossed my mind at the recent launch event of Source Global Research’s UK and global consulting market findings. The hard evidence suggests that many of these large firms don’t have the answers in respect of their own market. Buyers report close to zero differentiation across their service offering and a low propensity to recommend or refer these firms. The consulting firms themselves are directing marketing resources to the entirety of the market without regard to their ideal buyers, largely reliant on foot soldiers knocking on client doors and service offerings driven by production capability rather than client need.

Indeed, I walked away thinking that many boutique and solo consulting firms including my own are actually way ahead of many large global consultants. Forced by necessity, small entrepreneurial firms have created strong and clear value propositions, identified and directed limited marketing resources to their ideal buyers not every buyer, prioritised building a strong marketing gravity to their brand and created a range of offerings at increasing price points that are tightly customised to their target client’s needs. For once, the grass is indeed greener on the small guy’s side of the fence.

This isn’t an isolated phenomena. Clients of large advisory firms in global equities and fixed income research, investment banking, re(insurance) broking, private equity, private banking and so forth are coming to a conclusion that the large firms and traditional value chain is not working for their benefit. While small firms are creating new value propositions, new ways to attract clients, new ways to integrate high tech into the client experience and so forth, the larger players are largely falling back on trying to sell more of the same in more ingenious manners (leverage) and defending their turf. The trouble is that they don’t have watertight doors. Technology is rapidly providing faster and more impressive ways to apply knowledge to capital and human resources. Size alone is not a guarantee of future survival.

Everyone talks about “disruption” today as if it demands a new or unique response before, during or after an event. I don’t look at it that way. I see it that many large and mid-sized advisory firms in different sectors have got away from the marketing focus, discipline and resolve to compete effectively. They have layered complexity (bureaucracy) over what started out as a simple business with a simple marketing structure and process. The world has and will always change (new regulation, new technology, new capital sources, new competition will arise).

If they prioritise, hire and develop the requisite marketing skills, have their people do the right things, hold them accountable and reward them appropriately, they will have control and relevance. If they sail away from that imperative, they will have increasing insecurity and fear, which ultimately will lead to increasing mergers or worse, extinction.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Referral Momentum

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

A trusted source sends you a referral. How you handle the solicited or unsolicited help says more about your own professionalism and value than the results that often arise from the introduction? Your “responsiveness” to the referral source (speed of sending a “thank you”, time taken to set up a follow up call or meeting). Your “respect” for the referral source (time, care and attention given to the referral). Your future “reciprocal value” to the referral source (the increased chances of more valuable help being sent your way).

Collectively, there is a momentum which can positively build and strengthen trusting peer-level relationships, have a “blip” effect on your relationship or indeed have a negative impact. That ball is largely in your court.

Most people don’t do this well because they lack a focused and disciplined process and structure. Ask yourself, “Are we suitably set up to impress our referral sources?” If not, “what must change immediately?” A week’s unanswered call or return email,  an inability to leave a voicemail message or a failure to update the referral source on the progress, is not unfortunate, it is amateur.

Ironically, friends, colleagues and business partners who know you well are in my observation some of the worst culprits.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Perils of Hazy Horizons

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

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One of the senior politicians in the Brexit debate urged voters on British television last night to give serious thought to the type of country and life they want to have in 40 years time. Predicting what will happen in 3 years time, as anyone sitting in the executive office of a global bank in 2004 will attest to is fraught with huge inaccuracies and serious consequences! The pace of change has never been as dramatic (technology, capital, supply of talent, societal changes and so forth).

The art of management is to balance short and long-term profitable growth and make informed decisions about the health and well-being of the organisation. To effect change successfully and bring employees with them, mid-level managers in particular need to understand how they must adjust their own behaviours and actions in highly ambiguous situations.

To make serious predictions about the long-term and to put the risks and benefits and action in the appropriate context anything more than a 5-7 year horizon is really an intellectual not a commercial debate. Even in government funded infrastructure projects and macro inter-governmental policy initiatives (climate change, energy, healthcare, education and so forth). That is why I smile when I see organisations such as Lloyd’s of London’s (2026 Vision) and other global organisations expecting that their best laid plans will be taken seriously by their key constituents. It is a collection of predictions, which the forecasters will never be held accountable for and those asked to implement it struggle to grasp what it really means for them or their colleagues.  Fact.

Let’s get back to pragmatic outcomes, alternatives, assessment of benefits/risks, timing and action within the proposed investment parameters.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Conviction and Reinvention

Monday, March 7th, 2016

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I have long been fascinated by how people and businesses apply “conviction” (beliefs, investment, action) when there is an immediate requirement for “reinvention”.

In 1999, opposite where I worked on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong was a large commercial real estate company, whose business was fitting out and renting shared service offices. For many years it had a unremarkable name and neon sign over the 1960s building, overnight it added the sobriquet “.com”. Curious I asked a friend who worked in the building what was happening, “Oh the Chinese owner thought because tech is red-hot right now, why not change the name of the company. Don’t worry as tenants we have seen no changes.”

Now you might not be as brazen in convincing your target audience à la Donald Trump and Mitt Romney that your polar opposite views are instantly credible but there is a mindset change needed first to kick start reinvention. Here is 3 simple questions, apply it to any situation you personally or the organisation are experiencing:

  1. What are the beliefs that inform my convictions today about how I and/or the business needs to look in 12 months time? (relationships with clients/investors/ employees/regulators, changing customer base, financial condition, valuable and profitable offerings, discretionary time and so forth)
  2. How do I apply those convictions today to where I/we plan to invest tomorrow? (capital deployment, people, innovation, strategy implementation)
  3. How do I best put today’s convictions into action tomorrow? (priorities, organisational structure, process, exemplars, skills, behaviours, expertise, technologies, accountabilities, rewards system, communication and feedback and so forth)

I can barely think of a sector where the nature of work is not changing dramatically today. With it comes fear (irrelevant, loss of clients or even, unemployed) and opportunity (new investment in new products and services, new markets and new roles).

People believe what they see, not what they hear or feel. If you really want to convince me today that you are serious about reinvention, I want to see immediate changes of attitudes and behaviour amongst influential figures in the business and new, impressive results fast.

If you are willing to be intellectually honest, click on the link below. Ask yourself where do our current attempts sit on the chart and where do they need to be in the future. The distance between the two points is indicative of the small step or giant leap your business and key people need to take.

 

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Endless needs analysis informing our future strategy (AIG), managers preoccupied for hours creating and talking to the media about our “new culture” (Anthony Jenkins at Barclays) or changes to the plaque over the building door won’t cut it for customers, investors, employees and regulators, however, well intentioned. It isn’t easy but I need to see in your actions that you really believe what you are saying, not merely spouting platitudes to buy time or protect your ego.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Speaking at Private Equity International’s 2016 Operating Partners Forum: Europe

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I am excited to be asked to moderate a panel session titled, “Constructing a Long-Term Game Plan for Operating Partners” at next month’s pre-eminent European private equity event.

If you want to meet, network and leave with powerful industry insights to guide your future, you should really consider Private Equity International’s Operating Partners Forum: Europe. The event runs from Tuesday, 19th to Wednesday. 20th April, 2016. It is held at the Institute of Directors in London.

While there is an obvious appeal to those immersed in the sector, I have observed that there is huge value to be gained for top management in corporate organisations highly curious about a closer personal or professional relationship with General Partners in private equity firms, Limited Partners, Operating Partners and Consultants. Specifically, those people who are confident that their personal skills, behavioural traits and expertise could deliver impressive value and results to attendees, today (buyout, minority investor, expertise etc) or at a future date in their career (NED, Operating Partner etc)

Registration help: please contact William Russell at PEI william.r@peimedia.com , mention my name.

I’ll be hosting a breakfast on Tuesday, 19th for the first 5 attendees who would like to join me in close proximity to the event. Please email if you are interested in joining me james@elliceconsulting.com Details to follow.

If you would like to meet in person at the event, please email or call me at +44 203 440 5072.

For those unable to attend, I will be circulating a 1-2 page snapshot of key learning points. If you would appreciate reading this, email me to be added to the circulation list.

 

Here is today’s press release:

Berkeley to Discuss Constructing a Long-Term Game Plan for Operating Partners  

London, England— 1st March, 2016

James Berkeley, Managing Director of ELLICE CONSULTING LIMITED will be moderating a panel discussion on the role, credibility and the future of Operating Partners in the value creation process. The panel session is scheduled for Tuesday, 19th April, 2016 and will be held at the Institute of Directors in London. Private Equity International’s annual Operating Partners Forum has become the premier event for anyone involved with value creation in the European private equity community.

“The contribution of Operating Partners in creating value has never been higher, yet the views about their worth has never been more polarised”, notes Berkeley, an expert in the profitable growth and expansion of private equity-backed portfolio companies. “The future for Operating Partners is about “FAST”. Formidable skills, expertise and behavioural traits. Absolute credibility with key constituents. Seductive rapport with top managers and sponsors. Tremendous return on investment. The good news, it has never been easier for Operating Partners to stand out from the crowd so long as they possess the requisite competencies and passion.”

Berkeley notes, “A long-term game plan presumes that all parties have absolute clarity about the objectives and they are quickly able to decipher the shortest route to that destination. It is no longer acceptable for top management to spend 6 months formulating strategy when it can be done in 6 hours. Hence the real value of an Operating Partner is increasingly as a catalyst for speed not just the quality of decision-making, at the portfolio company level. That places a huge emphasis on an Operating Partner’s behavioural skills in both the formulation and implementation stages of a growth strategy.”

James Berkeley helps Sponsors and top management seeking dramatic growth opportunities. He has worked extensively with private equity firms and portfolio company managers globally to achieve unprecedented top line growth, market-leading margin expansion and impressive value creation through his distinctive approaches to marketing, leveraging relationships, branding and pricing.

Whether it is consulting Sponsors and 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: www.elliceconsulting.com

E-Mail: james@elliceconsulting.com

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