Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

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






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









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 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.

Rebuilding Trust

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

England’s most high profile cricketer, and a former neighbour, Kevin Pietersen finds himself out in the cold today chastened by the statement from his past Captain and English Director of Cricket, Andrew Strauss, “I don’t believe any team can function in any sort of capacity if there’s no trust, if we don’t trust each other’s intentions.”

The reasons why as suggested by Pietersen’s supporters have been overlooked in favour of casting blame and aspersion. The general media has reported Strauss’s statement as fact when the answer is a little more nuanced. There is trust. After all why would Strauss even invite Pietersen to a meeting, least he think he wouldn’t show up or offer him an advisory role on the future of cricket. The issue is that there is insufficient level of trust with the right people to bring him into the team environment now, Pietersen’s actions need to have greater impact and there needs to be clearer indicators of success.

Similar objection can and do arise in profitably growing and expanding a business when an investor, client, employee or business partner becomes increasingly uncomfortable with you. It takes two forms, professional, they perceive through your actions and/or behaviour that you are not competent to resolve the matter or personal, there is dwindling personal chemistry and enthusiasm to continue working with you.

Let’s be clear “trust” is defined as the hand-on-heart belief that at all times you will act and behave in the other party’s best interests.

What are the indications “no trust”  is the issue if unlike Pietersen you don’t know for sure? The other party questions your credentials repeatedly. You are continually asked about yourself rather than your ideas or insights on how to improve the investor, client, employee or business partner’s performance. You are brushed off with superficial responses, the other party name drops or seeks to upstage you about their past experiences.

What are you to do? Take your time, don’t jump to the conclusion, answer questions fully. Provide appropraite examples and case studies to support your points. ask a lot of questions about the other party, their motivations for being in the business and hopes. If there are others in the room embrace them in the conversation but keep a focus on the key person you must influence. Find common experiences or perspectives that demonstrate you share similar not dissimilar philosophies. Listen assertively and keep your mouth shut.

What are the indications you are successful? You are asked to go for a drink or meet socially. The other party moves the conversation from the superficial (background, social chat) to the detailed areas of help (business, investment, hiring opportunity, collaboration etc.) There is self-disclosure from the other party about their own failures. The other party confides confidential information (“We are weak in these areas…”). The other party asks for more time together or asks immediately for a further meeting.

The point is that we should be well prepared at countering the “no trust” issue. On a day Pietersen batted imperiously for 7 hours, he lasted 40 minutes before being given out LBW offering no shot to Strauss’s questions. Thankfully profitably building a business is not a game of cricket and  the investor, client, employee or business partner shouldn’t be umpiring.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Avoiding Time Wasters

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Why do so many exploratory conversations with a prospective client, a business partner or a conference attendee reveal so much about our own frailties and poor use of time, and so little of value about the other person? If the objective is to profitably grow our business, we must excel at profitably using our time, particularly when building new relationships. We can in most business situations create more money but we cannot replenish the time lost in fruitless conversations, it is gone forever.

There are times when we can be pretty certain we are using our time wisely talking to or meeting the other person (a strong peer referral). There are times when we can be pretty certain when we are not using our time wisely (no relevance, no respect or no credibility attached to the individual).

The challenge for most people is identifying the “high value” opportunities, which currently reside in the middle ground and applying the right behaviour to unearth them while deflecting the rest.

I am talking about those “mysterious” individuals, who you know little or nothing about their past, their work with people like you and the results they might reasonably generate or the future impact they might have. This difficulty is accentuated in

  • Networking or speaking requests at large formal gatherings (events, conferences and professional associations)
  • Internal meeting and corporate function invitations
  • Participation requests in “virtual” groups (undifferentiated online communities, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and so on)
  • “Meet and greet” marketing in the early days of establishing a new business or entering a new market
  • Amiable characters who find it hard to say “no” or those with high affiliation needs
  • Consensual organisations, associations, groups, industries (hospitality, art) and cultures, where rejection is not easily embraced

I am not suggesting that you must be rude, what I am saying is that you must be “healthily selfish”. Otherwise, you have no one to blame when you have so little time to deploy to productive activities. Here are some powerful techniques and responses to minimise time wasted:

1. “Here is my business card, we should meet” (the random conference approach): “I am curious, what motivated you to think I would be interested?”

2. “We should discuss what we might be able to do together” (the random collaborative offer): “Why do you think that makes sense for both of us?”

3. “Tell me what does your firm do” (the passive aggressive random networking  greeting): “We build trusting relationships with our peers. Why do you ask?”

4. “Let me tell you about what we found/heard/read….” (the segue to a self-aggrandizing story): “Before you start, can you tell me how I am better off from hearing/listening to it?”

5. “You should come to this [meeting, event, social gathering]” (the invitation dressed as a demand): “What results are you seeking and how would I know it is a success”

6. “There are lots of interesting people, it will be great” (the active encourager statement): “Tell me more, what are their interests and reasons for attending?”

6. “You are invited to join my [Club, Professional association, LinkedIn Group etc.]”: “You are kind to think of me, why you think it makes sense.”

7. “I am interested in your new product or service. Can you show me around or explain it?” (the inquisitive neighbour offer): “I would be delighted to assuming it makes sense for both of us. What motivated you to contact me?”

8. “Your attendance would really help move this issue forward?” (the gather the cavalry meeting request): “Thank you for suggesting it, what do you hope to accomplish with or without my participation?”

9. “We would love to have you attend, speak or contribute to the event” (the meeting planner or worse commercial sponsor scrounging for your time and money): “Great, can you tell me what I will walk away with?”

10. “No”

Have a look over the past month at the time you have invested networking, speaking, attending meetings and events, social functions, follow up and so forth, at the request of other individuals. Ask yourself what was a high, moderate and low value use of your time. What were the distinctions about the “high value” situations (relevance, excitement, accomplishments, interaction with peers, dynamic learning etc.)? What did you omit to do which resulted in wasting your time on moderate and low value use of your time (better qualification, greater control of your schedule, greater awareness of your time leakage, less fear of saying “no”, increased self-worth and so forth)? In this coming 4 weeks, assertively plan your time around finding more “high value” opportunities, and schedule them in the diary. Equally, assertively judge the merits of any informal or formal requests for your time, based on your learning over the past month.

You cannot eliminate all time wasters but you can dramatically lessen the impact if you are willing to be healthily selfish with your time.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.