Archive for June, 2018

The “Ask”

Thursday, June 28th, 2018


How direct is acceptable when making the “ask” in a business or social setting? That question had me thinking watching a young huckster approach two pretty girls that he clearly had never met at London’s Masterpiece art fair last night with the line “I’d like to take you out, can I have your telephone numbers?”. That they handed them over with a nervous giggle and 30 seconds of mumbling conversation shocked my wife. In an insta-glam world of dating, perhaps that is increasingly the norm. Do we really forsake building a trusting relationship for a quick response? In business, in my experience, that only works for life insurance salesman and charlatans.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Video Action Replay (“VAR”) Uncovered

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

The public debate about the introduction of video action replay “VAR” at this year’s World Cup is largely centred on a binary question: is the technology applied accurately or not by the officials? The real question that John Naisbitt talked about in his book “High Tech, High Touch” is are we happy with the consequences  of technological change on our lives, relationships and societies, at a macro and micro level? That is a far more profound question, about any new technology that we might bring into our business or home. The only certainty is that we are not “neutral”.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Article: Voice of America News

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Ralph Jennings, a reporter with VOA, sought James’s views on the rising geo-political tensions in the South China Sea, as European allies Britain and France take more assertive steps

Teaching Expertise

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

One of the most overlooked aspects of hiring expertise, is separating great teachers (how to do it) from great intellects (what to do). The former is a lot more valuable.

If you are novice standing on a riverbank trying to learn to fish for trout, as I was last week, we often run into passionate “intellects”, who seek to tell you everything they know about casting in a given moment. When what we really need is a great teacher, who excels at discussion, practice, feedback and application in that very same moment and exudes patience.

Who do your clients see you as? Is that the same person you see yourself as?

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Private Equity Relationships

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

One of the interesting dynamics, I see regularly at social events amongst the global private equity community (investment partners, portfolio company managers and non-executive directors), is a surprisingly small number of people truly at ease with their own success.  I am talking about people, who project fear (credibility), portray guilt (success) or don’t act as a peer (socially confident). Given this is a business that is founded on building superior peer-level trusting partnerships within and outside firms, you’d think individuals with those qualities will be in even greater demand in the future than simply those with impressive analytic skills.

© James Berkeley. 2018 All Rights Reserved.

Keeping Company

Monday, June 18th, 2018

If you don’t think you “belong” in particular company, you are probably right. Do something about it now (become an increasing person of interest) or forget about it. Bemoaning to others, achieves nothing but create angst.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

A Champion’s Mindset

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

There are moments in sport, add an “s” for my American friends, where supreme champions earn legendary status. Watching Rafael Nadal close out an 11th French Open at Roland Garros and Bob Baffert mastermind a second Triple Crown at Belmont, N.Y. this past weekend, we were witness to two rare examples. In Nadal’s case, the “King of the Clay”, we expect him to win but it really isn’t that easy.

Consider his Quarter Final opponent, Diego Schwatrzman, whose stratospheric rise has taken the diminutive Argentinian from No. 41 to No.11 in the ATP rankings over the past 12 months. He talked last Summer about the importance of his own “mindset” over a relaxed post-victory dinner at Pepes Bodega in the scenic resort stop in Bastad, Sweden.

Here in the Bois de Boulogne, Schwartman, a 5’7″ ball of energy, took the first set off Nadal, and appeared on an unstoppable roll until rain intervened. Returning the next day, Nadal had the strength of character to wipe the next three sets and to savour Schwartzman’s passing comment at the press conference, “He (Nadal) has the best mindset of history.”

3,000 miles west, just east of the New York City limits, at a little before 6pm EST on Saturday, Justify, did just that for legendary West Coast trainer, Bob Baffert’s high opinion of his horse. The 12 furlongs of the “Big Sandy” has scuttled many of Baffert’s and his rivals’ previous contenders for immortality with one rare exception, American Pharoah in 2015.

Coming off two wet-track and gruelling victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Baffert talked about the importance of the horse’s mindset when the gates opened, and the need to be on the lead at the first turn, to not surrender control of the race. True to form, urged on by his pilot Mike “Big Money” Smith, Justify’s exuberance and determination ensured he grabbed hold of the race early on and ground his rivals into the dirt. What sets Baffert apart is his ability to sustain a champion’s mindset in his best horses when others cannot. Some say, his training approach honed in the unforgiving Quarter Horse world of Arizona is too tough but the results belie that easy line.

Perhaps there is a simple explanation with Nadal and Baffert, we are bystanders watching supreme artists at work. Seeing is truly believing.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

The Relationship Drifter

Monday, June 11th, 2018

One of the more insidious traits of the investment advisory world, particularly common with early-stage businesses and funds seeking to raise capital while claiming poverty, is what I term the “relationship drifter”.  Individuals, who show up and get “hot and heavy” seeking your help (often for free) in the form of advice and introductions to high potential investors. Yet as soon as you cease to be of further value, they drift out of your life without a trace of their existence or thanks. There is zero commitment or respect. They feast on a burgeoning pool of naive or well-intentioned people (often amiable characters) doing them a “favour” that is never returned.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Five British Myths

Friday, June 8th, 2018

This past week has been a whirlwind of evening cocktails in London, here is a few reflections:

  • “This is a time to start battening down the hatches with valuations of businesses at unsustainable levels reminiscent of 2006.” Yet talking to over 40 entrepreneurs this week, particularly with strong and dynamic mid-sized and smaller businesses the reality sharply contradicts that statement. Order books are near record levels, access to cheap capital persists and a great many are experiencing double-digit growth in existing and new markets.
  • “Brexit is an uncontrollable mess”. In the company of the chief protagonists, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond on Tuesday night at Lancaster House, yes, the process resembles a tartan-kilted drunk on Edinburgh’s Princes Street staggering home but isn’t it premature to start fretting about the impact, positive or negative, for businesses and families that is many years ahead?
  • “Me Too has changed everything.” Really? Looking across the room at three events, which are highly representative of London as a financial centre, there are still far too few women in influential positions (banking, private equity, real estate, professional services and so forth). Yet those, who have succeeded are treated to the naked eye with absolute respect and dignity.
  • “Cyber warfare is a battle we cannot win.” Talking to Robert Hannigan, the past Head of Britain’s GCHQ, the real battle that is within our power and control, is the attraction and retention of the finest technologists and engineers. It is leaders in government agencies, and businesses, who are able to sustain a visceral connection between the purpose of those organisations, to safeguard people’s lives, and the ability to do the job without the constraints of endless bureaucracy. Leadership is a bigger issue than money but no one talks about that.
  • “Ultra High Net Worths are abandoning London in their droves.” A major New York real estate developer suggested to me 3,000 of them had become resident in Monaco over the past 12 months, Roman Abramovich’s travails are adding weight to the exodus. The facts and strong anecdotal evidence don’t support that view. My daughter’s private school in Central London has record levels of international families including Russians schooling their children in her Senior School. Almost exclusively those wealthy Parents are resident here, working and pursuing career opportunities. Last night in London’s famed, Annabel’s nightclub, it was a hive of lavish spending by London’s superich. Brits are in a minority. You cannot find the same opportunities to spend gargantuan incomes on fun and excitement in Europe, anywhere quite like London, on a balmy Thursday night.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Pick My Pocket

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

If you don’t have a clear threshold, where free marketing advice stops and paid advice starts, you’ll forever have your pocket picked by clients, prospects, investors, business partners and friends. I’d urge you to adopt a “pick my brain fee” (say $500 or a $1,000) for an hour of unfettered advice to a for-profit business. Instantly, 80% of these requests will immediately cease. Those that agree to it, will reward you with a committed paying client or business partner. Here is a golden rule: you might offer some free insights on “what” they might do, say, act upon etc. but they must agree to pay you before you start explaining “how” they might accomplish their objectives. Repeat after me, “I am not a charity unless I choose to be. My time is scarce and valuable.”

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.