Archive for the ‘Business Growth’ Category

The Real World

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Life Ain’t Fair

My eight year old daughter will come to me after a netball match and complain another girl was able to get away with fouling her repeatedly and the referee ignored it. My advice always is you need to adapt to the referee’s interpretation of what is and isn’t permissible on the day, and accept it. Why should that be any different for Serena Williams in her sport? That there are inconsistencies is a fact of life in the real world. The same applies in business, there are management, suppliers and regulators, who give different interpretations of what appears the same policy. Deal with it and move on. Stop playing the “victim”, it demeans you and your legacy.

   

Illogical Business

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

If you insist on focusing on the commodity end of your market (high volume, low margin) and at a minimum, spending three months “getting under the skin” of your ideal prospects (detailed needs analysis), I’d suggest you are trying to square a circle (profitable growth) that cannot be squared.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

Investing To Win

Friday, May 18th, 2018

In a momentous week for sports betting and gaming companies in the United States and UK,  there is a lesson for all of us. Quit whining about events largely out of our control that go against us (legislative changes) and maximise our investment in innovation and readiness for events that go for us.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Kung Hey Fat Choi Mrs May!

Friday, February 16th, 2018

 

Perhaps no international leader would be more grateful for some traditional “Lucky Money” at this Chinese New Year than Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May. Her recent visit to China generated positive headlines (£9 billion of deals, 2500 UK jobs) but the litmus test is to what extent are UK and Chinese private sector companies, particularly those under £500 million of enterprise value able to make significant strides in each other’s market. These companies are the engine of employment growth.

Ralph Jennings, a senior reporter at Forbes interviewed me on the eve of Mrs May’s recent visit

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2018/01/31/chinas-economic-expansion-hits-a-roadblock-at-the-far-end-of-europe

I remain highly skeptical about “symbolic success”, recalling a visit to the much heralded MG Rover plant in 2012, at the behest of a senior executive at the new Chinese owners, SAIC. A couple of months earlier, political leaders from the UK and China stood on the very same steps in Longbridge heralding this partnership as a  symbol of new era in bi-lateral trade. Walk inside, and talk to British and Chinese workers as I did, and there were telltale signs of mistrust, viper tongues, and unflattering comparisons with the Japanese car makers welcome in the North East of Britain. One Chinese manager, Annie Qi, on an earlier planned visit, called me 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time to cancel the entire meeting because she had to drop her kids off at school! “Sorry, go back to London” was the curt one-line response. Car assembly ceased, design continues but the heritage of the MG Rover brand has not been exploited some 10 years later by SAIC. Sustaining these relationships is highly complex and ambiguous, it is a very long game for those with deep pockets and deep pools of patience.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Delusional Co-Investors

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

 

 

“Who are you today?” I meet a great many $30mio-net worth plus co-investors in growth businesses, who arrive as free spirits but quickly find themselves as “prisoners” in their own mind. Convincing themselves that they are a smart investor in ultimately a profitable growth business, management team and market when recent performance and future indicators suggest the exact opposite. To a certain extent, you can understand entrepreneurs travelling through what I term a “delusional growth zone” (burning ambition and unmatched results) but you’d hope private investors and those advising them would avoid enduring extensive self-imprisonment.  In my experience, “letting go” is a lot harder and painful for wealthy investors than most people ever imagine or discuss. Here is the rub: you cannot improve your situation unless you are willing to be intellectually-honest with yourself first (rational assessment), to not “fear” the consequences of moving on (ego) and to embrace rebounding from failure (accomplishment). This really isn’t about them, it is about you.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Poverty Advice

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

There is a word for entrepreneurs and small advisory businesses that insist on only rewarding their employees with hard dollars for successful business they can touch, “sharks”. There is a word for employees, who voluntarily accept those terms, “plankton”. You might enjoy, as I do, recreational gambling (horses) for intellectual interest and fun but why would you commit to that bargain when seeking to feed your family? Unless of course, you enjoy living with a constant fear of falling over the cliff edge, are desperate or are merely seeking to find lifestyle work (substantial means). As an entrepreneur, why would you think that is a fast track to building a powerful, sustainable and profitable business? Clueless.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Wealth Managers Day Of Reckoning

Friday, July 28th, 2017

 

The need for financial advice is at unprecedented levels, what is being increasingly exposed is the “competency and passion deficit” in many private wealth advisory firms. With greater complexity and ambiguity in their private clients’ lives, there is an increasingly unmet need for both increased “speed” (real-time decision-making) and higher “quality” (better performance, lower cost) resources. You cannot achieve that without new thinking, abandoning irrelevant activities and new approaches to regulation and compliance. A great many market practitioners question the sustainability of the robo-adviser retail advice model (Betterment, Wealthify and others) on account of their client acquisition costs but what is undeniable is that without old thinking and systems, they have a huge advantage for those seeking low-cost advice. For small and mid-market firms, who pride themselves on traditional advisory propositions, I confidently predict the next 12 months in N. America and Europe will see record consolidation and exits. The real question for the owners of these businesses, is the shortest route to your “ideal future” a friendly merger or sale now or driving on further into even more hazardous conditions with close to zero visibility?

© James Berkeley 2017.

 

Inconvenience Squared

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Sitting on a EasyJet plane last night in Nice’s Côte d’Azur Airport minutes after boarding and the Captain gets on the microphone apologising that due to inclement weather on route, we must wait 55 minutes on the tarmac in Nice because “he needs to free up the gate”. He then invites those who would like to look around the cockpit to pay him a visit when the engines are off.

Kudos for the leader of the ship for addressing the audience and his openness to entertaining the frustrated passengers (quite how that is squared with EU security protocols preventing access to the cockpit is something of a mystery). Yet the obvious thing to ask is why would you ask 170 customers to be inconvenienced to a great extent in boarding a plane that you know is going nowhere for a considerable amount of time? Why couldn’t you move the plane 200 metres to another stand?

Perhaps you don’t care or perhaps the airline’s priority is more important than that of its’ customers comfort?  I see the same thing in a number of businesses.  Think about the unnecessary inconveniences that you are asking your customers to tolerate for your benefit? What stops you changing your behaviour and applying common sense? Is it a material or immaterial reason (safety or Company Policy)?

Too often our best intentions to manage customers expectations are largely overlooked because we insist on dumb decisions which are clearly not in our clients’ best interests.

© James Berkeley 2017.

 

Cracks In The Nest

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Attached to my Parents loggia at their country home is a retractable sunshade that provides welcome shade to the outside dining area. This winter, a bluetit created a nest in one end of the sunshade, the giveaway was a few cracked shells lieing on the cobbled stones below. This past weekend’s warm weather created the need to open the sunshade and from the nest flew three small bluetits with their Mother hovering nearby. Unfortunately, the cat spotted one of the chicks later in the afternoon and it didn’t make it back to safety.

A huge number of venture businesses are currently incubated in what appear to be “safe” homes for innovation (corporate accelerator, incubator and venture funds), yet the opposite is true. When the overriding “need” arises to focus on the corporate organisation’s key strategic area (sales growth, capital allocation etc.), many of those early-stage venture will be deemed irrelevant, too weak to survive or fall prey to others. Insurance, financial services and the broader “Internet of Things” businesses are particularly vulnerable, yet most people are looking in the exact opposite direction. No one can predict precisely when that might be but history tells us it will happen. What entrepreneurs would be wise to consider is:

  • Why is this the right home for us today, not when we started? (access to capital, talent, innovation, markets, leadership etc.)
  • What changes (foreseen or unforeseen) in the Corporate organisation’s circumstances (balancing short and long-term profitable growth and their investors’ demands) would dramatically change their opinion?
  • Are our preventative (lines of communication) and contingent measures (Plans B and C) sufficiently robust (speed and quality) to safeguard our firm and its’ investors future should our corporate support end at short notice?

Far too many entrepreneurs are so immersed in building their businesses today, they are overlooking the risks attached to “building a home within a corporate home”, at their peril.

© James Berkeley 2017

 

 

Chasing An Entrepreneur’s Dream

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

SubstandardFullSizeRender

 

I ‘ve had a 40 year passion for the sport of horse racing, in particular national hunt or steeplechase racing. The global heartbeat of the sport lies in Ireland, UK and France. For four days in March, the very best horses and horsemen gather in a natural amphitheatre in the Cotswolds, 100 miles west of London, to compete for 28 races and prize money totalling £5 million. Cheltenham is Glastonbury, Burning Man and the Mid-Autumn Festival wrapped up in a visceral connection with a sport that breaks hearts and delights in equal measure. 260,000 racegoers passed through the gates last week, a great many Irish, to bet, roar approval and dance the night away in the local inns and hostelries until dawn. Male and female, men of the clergy, the soil and the City, grandparents telling tales of old to the young, and the carefree exhibiting their party tricks to any willing audience. Year after year, it is a rite of passage to have “done Cheltenham” from Roscommon to Newbury.

Yet behind this beguiling sport and its’ pinnacle, lies a modern story applicable to any growth business or industry, a tale of a sport where the elite level has created a gargantuan gulf between itself and the rest of the sport (Formula One, America’s Cup). Resilience, separates those who thrive from those who merely survive or throw it in.

Billionaire and multi-millionaire owners, who are willing to satiate their passion “blowing” £10 million a year after-tax in the hope of their horses achieving glory, albeit with zero residual value. Gucci-loafer clad bloodstock agents, trainers, jockeys and vets only too happy to help.

Dramatic scientific and technological improvements (breeding, procurement, nutrition, strength and conditioning) over the past 25 years have enabled the very best trainers to create very powerful systems, backed up by dominant levels of financial capital. Competition at the elite level, will always be sustained because the nature of animals racing against each other and jumping 20 fences is not an exact science. Yet many of those in the “squeezed” middle and the lower rungs of the sport complain that their businesses are near, or at breaking point. The patronage of five powerful men has created a concentration of power and influence in the hands of a very small pool of horsemen. They are paying for glory, the big race winners. Success has bred success and breaking into the chosen clique has become extremely difficult.

Yet there is no shortage of young aspiring horsemen willing to go “all in” chasing their dreams of breeding, selling, training or riding a big race winner. Their passion is such that just like a jobbing Hollywood “runner”, they are willing to embrace the 85 hour working week on a very modest wage, and menial tasks, to work their way up the ladder. Most won’t make it, some will leave the sport with their ego dented and in good health, others won’t be so lucky, retired jockeys with broken bodies, and “burnt out” trainers with deep levels of personal debt. The sport has an incredible level of camaraderie and philanthropy, largely hidden offers of future employment, re-training or housing. It is a sport where attendance at church in the major training centres on a Sunday remains exceedingly high. Thankful for the good life, if not the good luck.

It is a sport like many industries that takes no prisoners, where no one is guaranteed success, billionaire or horse groom. It teaches us that resilience, resilient people and resilient support systems (family, friends and mentors) are key when chasing our passion and ideal career.

The black days, for they will come as certain as the sun will rise over Cheltenham’s Cleave Hill in March 2018. The hopes of many resting precariously on the back of a four-legged animal jig jogging to the start, thousands disappearing into the satchels of on-course bookies pitched in a fierce four-day battle with punters and a great many in the game, acutely aware that fate may deal them a glorious hand or consign them to the “has-been” tray forever. As entrepreneurs, we take many of the same risks and experience similar highs and lows, yet by and large, we are only humbled by defeat if we choose that pathway. Yet, we too must be realistic about the nature of our business, our ideal future and the growth journey we choose. It is great to dream but without resilience, talent and discipline, we won’t get there.  Are you willing to bet sufficiently big on yourself?

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.