Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Faux Collaboration

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Most conceptual conversations around collaboration, internal or external, are a huge waste of time, yet daily I see  clients, prospects and business partners spending endless hours doing just that. Here is the key questions to ask yourself: Is there real business with real money at stake? Is it mutually-attractive in our immediate future? Is there the requisite commitment on both sides to convert it into cash quickly? If you don’t have a definitive “Yes” to all three questions, stop right now.

I have created over 75 collaborations in support of my firms’ business growth, and hundreds for large and small clients in 15 sectors and in 91 countries in my near 30 year career. Yet only handful really endure for any significant length of time or develop beyond a very specific need.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Truly Connected

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Why does the size of a great many people’s personal networks (number of LinkedIn connections, Instagram followers etc.) say more about their own self-worth than the value they actually confer? If the objective is to build and cultivate an increasing number of peer-level trusting relationships and offer people of interest impressive value that cannot be done anonymously in cyberspace.

I recall an experience with a London-based recruiter keen to impress me with his Global Private Banking and UHNW wealth management connections and return a favour. “If you’d like my help, have a look at my LinkedIn connections and let me know, who I can introduce you to.” After reluctantly following his approach and mentioning three names, he immediately responded, “Sorry they don’t know me well or they’ll confuse you with my candidate work.” We settled on another one at his suggestion, a rather prickly character, running a private investment office with a venerable European family background. “Go and see him, I’m sure it will be a valuable use of your time”.

Five minutes into the meeting, it was abundantly clear that the investor had close to zero relationship with the executive search partner and that in offering the introduction, the recruiter was clueless about the investor’s needs. Indeed, I’d hazard a guess that of the recruiter’s 2000+ LinkedIn connections, perhaps only 15 know him well and he has a contemporary understanding of their needs.

This isn’t exclusive to the executive search sector. I have had recent examples with highly successful Board Chairs, private equity partners, bankers and corporate executives, who are conciously obsessing about the size of their networks, largely for their own ego trip. However when you press hard or follow through, you find 80% of the people in their network, really don’t know them that well, today, or at all.

Don’t assume someone is “truly connected”, however impressive their “past” or the size of their network. Ask for recent examples of highly similar introductions and the results that arose. Listen, do your own homework and make your own judgement.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

The InsurTech Deficit

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Who has done anywhere in the world what you would ideally like to accomplish? Who can help you translate that knowledge into wise decision-making consistent with your own strategic direction and goals? Who can help you acquire the skills, behaviours and expertise to institutionalise that learning?

We have reached a point in certain areas of tech, not least insurtech, where the numbers of entrepreneurs and advisers entering the arena weekly are greater than the number of entrepreneurs and businesses globally progressing from Seed stage to Series C stage. This week in Las Vegas and London, predictably, there will be thousands of promises made. The reality is that there are very few qualified advisers or investors. Certainly those that pass the above “litmus test”. Be careful, very careful.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Trusting Relationships Trump A Deal

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

 

Donald Trump follows through on one of his campaign promises and there are cries of “quelle horreur” and “nein” from his European partners, at the mere thought of any re-negotiation. It begs the very same question in your business, are you putting too much emphasis on signing a contract, and too little on continuing to nurture a peer-level trusting relationship and creating alternatives, where the original signatories (investor, customer, employee or business partner) may change, and the anticipated value derived from the deal is in all likelihood a long way in the future?

© James Berkeley 2017.

 

 

Empty Partnership Offers

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

 

“I am flattered that you would consider partnering with us, here is how it might work…”

 

I have sat with six experienced private investors and bankers talking to entrepreneurs and executives with impressive mid-market and small businesses in the past month. Universally, their entire approach bar one notable exception, is driven by a poverty mindset and fear. “How can we minimise our risk, our upfront investment, our commitment (time, cash, resources and so forth)  and get the other partner to show us their true worth while exerting maximum control?” It is not what you say or the other partner hears that matters, it is how you act.  If you really are a prudent risk taker, act like a peer and let go of the fear. Otherwise stop wasting everyone’s valuable time.

© James Berkeley 2017.

Bring Something Meaningful

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

 

I get approached at a minimum, by 3 people a week proposing some form of “collaboration”. Most commonly, other advisers, entrepreneurs, co-investors and bankers trying to access my investor or client communities and their capital, people or innovation. In most cases, they are decent people with a genuine request, who have been a success in their corporate careers. In their latest entrepreneurial incarnation, they have “capped” out their personal networks and/or they are unable to accomplish their goals without external assistance. Their “well” is running dry and they want me to share my water. They are largely offering symbolic (greater presence or a share of faux-success fees), not meaningful value (a powerful brand or actual cash).

I am a huge believer in collaboration as a powerful form of leverage. However, first, it needs to pass my litmus test:

  1. Combined, there is a scarcity and dramatically enhanced value that will significantly impact the speed and quality of my client acquisition prospects.
  2. There is an attractive short-term business opportunity of mutual interest (potential client, visible need with a strong fit and ease of implementation).
  3. I can and definitely want to help after considering prudent risk and potential reward.

I’d suggest I am not alone if you think about the quantum of conceptual collaborative discussions that you are presented with. Do you possess these simple questions, to reach a fast conclusion or do you allow multiple meetings and information exchanges to follow before reaching a conclusion?

Above all, is the other party bringing something meaningful? Yes or No.

Nothing more is required.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

The Media Mirror

Friday, April 1st, 2016

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Why do so many business media interviews tell us less about the individual’s story and more about their fears? If the objective of talking to a “friendly” reporter is to increase the likelihood that you are seen as an object of  interest (credibility, intellect, empathy) amongst your key constituents (clients, prospects, shareholders, employees, business partners etc), you would be wise to start by understanding the reporter’s objectives.

1. What logical and emotional priorities is he/she seeking to accomplish?
2. Why interview me? (unique story)
3. Why now? (event or occurrence)
4. Why in the manner suggested? (environment, conditions etc)
5. How is the reporter better off or better supported after the interview is published?

I see a great many successful business folk, investors and board chairs expressing anguish at what they see in the “media mirror”. “He twisted my words”, “She portrayed me in an ugly or vulgar light” or “They lied to me”.

The reporter is the easy soft target for their frustration when the real culprit is the individual themselves. They failed to ask themselves the right questions before agreeing to the interview and they walked into the interview I’ll-prepared with their ego dangling out front.

Media promotion is an important part of building a marketing gravity to businesses that  want to lower acquisition overheads and accelerate top line revenues. Doing it right is more important than not doing it at all.

 

Copyright James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

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.

 

 

 

“Free” Article: Where Angels Fear To Tread

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Here is a “free” article titled, “Where Angels Fear To Tread” for members of my professional communities, published today in the Global Trader 2015 eBook.

Global Trader is the pre-eminent UK publication for executives with the fiduciary responsibility and a passion for global expansion and investment in their firms.

In the eBook, James explains how to establish a local business in a frontier market, where there is no local consulting or advisory market expertise of note to draw upon. Also known as “how to fly by the seat of your own pants and succeed.”

Drawing on his own experiences in some of the world’s most remote markets working for local and global management teams in major multinationals (Allianz, Hilton, Ericsson) and smaller entrepreneurial organisations, he discusses six conditions and criteria for successful assignments.  How to make critical and informed decisions? How to balance qualitative information in the absence of hard data and analytics? How to live with ambiguity? How to mitigate risk while maximising rewards?

Click here for further details Global Trader 2015 eBook

For those wanting more specific help, applying these and your own ideas write to james@elliceconsulting.com

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s Spend The Night Together

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

The classic Rolling Stones refrain ends with “Now I need you more than ever”. Many experienced professionals in advisory businesses often have a very similar mindset when it comes to entering into collaborative discussions with other firms in order to profit from a client opportunity. Here is why they are more often wrong than right.  Trust trumps money. No amount of riches will arise if promises and expectations are not openly shared or honoured to the satisfaction of both parties.

In the opening conversation, my best clients at a minimum, ask five powerful questions:

1. “I am curious, what motivated you to contact us about this opportunity?” Find out the business and personal reasons.

2. “Do you a short term opportunity in mind?” You want to hear a buyer’s name, organisation and need. If the other party cannot provide that level of clarity, your retort is “I will happily tell you briefly about my firm’s expertise and an ideal client. However experience tells me it is a poor use of our valuable time to have a detailed conversation about a conceptual collaboration that may very well not happen.” Stop there, don’t go into the following questions.

3. “What stops you doing this yourself?” Identify the perceived or actual gaps in the potential partner’s competency and passion to address the client’s need.

4. “What has been the secret of past collaborations with people like me?” You want to find both the substance (expertise, knowledge, contacts) and the style (personal chemistry, appearance, image) that best suits the other party.

5. “What are your expectations about the investment each of us would ideally make in the relationship (communication, priority, accountability marketing, sales, revenue sharing, resources, branding and so on)?” You want to lay the cards on the table. Note, not all the cards are of equal value or importance in meeting or exceeding your client’s expectations so devote time accordingly.

In my experience, on average most service businesses will have between 10 to 40 such exploratory conversations in any given year. Typically, there is 1-10 hours spent on due diligence. 80% result in “it was great to meet you” and no business. Only 5% result in a long-term relationship. In other words this can be a huge “time dump” if you don’t apply the rigour I am suggesting. Equally, no advisory business can ignore alliances as a growth alternative.

Know where you are headed, ask the right questions and use your time wisely.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.