Archive for the ‘Business Acquisition’ Category

Friends Reunited

Friday, October 6th, 2017

The squirrel in the garden this morning made his usual tour of the more verdant patches of the garden but on his way home, he made a stop at a less verdant area that was once one of his favourite hunting grounds. Turning over a few empty conker nut shells, he found a couple of worms drawn to the surface by the increasing cover of autumn leaves and increasing soil moisture. It reminds me in business, how easy it is to forget the converging value that lies with past friends, past school and university acquaintances, past customers, past investors, past employees, past business partners, past media contacts and so forth, who we have ignored for a good few years. Yet circumstances change in some of theirs and our lives causing our interests to increasingly converge rather than diverge. Yet for most people that is an accidental occurrence. In a world with greater connectivity, there is no real excuse unless you are poorly disciplined. My advice, on a quarterly basis throughout the year, trawl through 2014 and prior email inboxes, client and prospect files, personal photo storage boxes or albums. Write down a list of 40 names. Over a gentle two hours, perform a maximum 3-minute google or social media search, highlighting those that are of “known” and “questionable” converging value. Make a diary note to call the top half of your list (“knowns”), and at a minimum, drop a brief four sentence “re-connecting” email to the rest.

Explain that “I’ve been remiss in keeping in touch but I heard/read/saw something of interest (new job announcement, award, an interview) and thought it might be an opportune time to talk? Recently, I have undertaken ____ assignment/project/deal/experience with ___ (high relevance to the other party)  and it reminded me of our past relationship. I would love to hear your news and what you are priorities are today and share my news.  I am in your neighbourhood visiting clients/friends on dd/mm, would you have 30 minutes or time for coffee/breakfast or lunch?”

If 50% respond, you have 20 people of interest. If you are accurate with 50% in terms of their mutual interest, you have 10 new people of short-term interest. Meet two of them a week, you have 10 valuable relationships to nurture over the next month, where you at a minimum start with some meaningful trust, past affiliation and a discernible interest in how you might be of help.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Why Should They Care?

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

I hate being “pitched” ideas, it immediately feels like my interests (building a trusting relationship) are being subordinated to advance your interests (line your pockets). Yet we all need to attract ideal customers or investors with a memorable description of our impressive value. How else can they recall when they need your product, service or proposed investment? You need a clear crisp 1 or 2 sentence statement. It needs to embrace:

  • Legitimate immediate value
  • Impressive results from its’ application and use
  • Improved performance, not problem solving
  • Your target audience’s aspirations
  • It needs to be specific, not too general

It is not about your approach, technology or ideas. Nor is it a sales tag line.

“We have created a platform to resolve the shortcomings of wealth managers, who put their interests before their customers” is interesting but it tells me little about what is really in it for me.

Contrast this with “We dramatically improve HNW investors’ performance, security and peace of mind in complex and ambiguous situations”, which begs the immediate question “great, tell me what would you suggest in this situation?” You have given the other party a reason to care about you (their self-interest), to immediately delve into a pragmatic not conceptual discussion and to recommend you to others.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Investor Accountability

Friday, December 16th, 2016

“What is the one action I have undertaken today to positively nurture our investment pipeline?”

If you want to continually stay on an upward investment curve, it comes down to simple things: individual accountability within an investment firm. Whether you are a HNW individual, a Family Office direct and co-investing, a private equity or venture capital fund manager or an adviser deploying your own and others money, it doesn’t matter.   Be intellectually honest and answer the question, before you leave your office.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Acending To The Top Step

Monday, October 17th, 2016

 

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Why do so many people consciously ignore the biggest risk to getting the business or opportunity, the absence of a peer-level trusting relationship with the individual(s), whose power and influence can scupper their ability to meet their client’s objectives? If the risk is obvious, why don’t they address it BEFORE they bid for the business or seek the opportunity. Do we have an attitude deficit (we are not a peer of those people or our immediate mid-level buyer won’t let us near them) or a skills deficit (intellectual firepower, use of language, comfort in a corporate strategic discussion and so forth)?

My experience is that the procrastination says more about how the individual views themselves (self-worth, value, scarcity) and less about the reality of the situation that they are faced with. If you are not willing to invest the time, skills and resources to address the risk (establish a peer-level trusting relationship) in advance, you are probably not “worthy” of the business or opportunity in future. Harsh but true?

© 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.

 

Rates of Interest

Friday, September 18th, 2015

What do rising interest rates mean for your clients’ future (incr cost of capital, incr saving, reduced profit etc.)? What does the pace of rising interest rates mean for your clients future (impact on business objectives, market assumptions, competitive position)? What should the quality of your clients’ response to rising interest rates look like (business model changes, people’s skills, market position etc)?

If you are not thinking about how your clients must change their own thinking and self-talk, you are probably missing the most obvious immediate new business opportunity in the next 12 months. Put in on the agenda at the next client meeting.

 

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Profitable Feedback

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

An email survey request lands this morning in my inbox from the UK’s Conservative Party Chairman, Andrew Feldman (I am not a member), titled “I want to hear what you think”. It asks a friendly and logical set of “screening” questions about my future intent to become more involved in supporting the Party. What the questions fail to  address are my emotional imperatives (the “why” questions) in getting involved.

It is a common shortcoming of so many feedback or consultative initiatives in businesses, large and small, who are encouraged to “get closer to their clients” or “better understand their client needs”. Face-to-face dialogue, focus groups, surveys and third party feedback that stops shorts of eliciting the really valuable responses due to weak questions or questioning techniques. The result is a low value process, which moves the questioner an inch, not a mile, closer to gaining the other person’s future commitment.

Do you want to know what your customers think or do you want to better understand what might motivate them to act upon anything you might suggest they do? The former gives you information, the latter gives you the expressway to cash or increased commitment. That’s a huge difference.

© 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.

 

Buying “Cheap” Votes

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Here in the UK, 36 hours before an election, we have every political leader desperately promising “sweetners” to assorted members of the electorate to get their support in Thursday’s tight General Election. Am I alone in thinking the more these statements are lobbed from the political trenches the less impact they have on landing (perceived credibility and impact)? If the opinion polls and betting markets are correct, we will end up with an elected government where all these promises are up for negotiation in the hard bargaining that follows (largely worthless).

There is a similar effect in selling a business, when buyers in an auction start making last minute “promises” on investment, jobs and the preservation of cherished assets, when in all probability they cannot expect to make money doing so. The net effect is that their credibility is severely hurt when they need it most, at the closing and in the 90 days thereafter, to persuade key strategic areas of the business and constituents to support their growth plans.

Of course, if your only goal is to get elected or close the sale and not govern effectively or grow the business profitably, you have little to worry about.

 

© 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.