Archive for the ‘Personal Improvement’ Category

A Bad Day

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Most people’s so-called “bad day” is very rarely bad. With extremely rare exception, no one has been shot at, no one has been injured nor have they died. Let’s keep a sense of perspective and positive self-talk about own lives, our family, our business, our clients and our investors. Yes, it may be frustrating, the key investor, customer or prospect rejected an offer we made, the Board aren’t supportive of our great idea or our ability to move with haste has been hindered by others’ procrastination. These things happen. They are mere speed bumps. They are not catastrophic unless you allow them to control your mindset.

© James Berkeley 2017.

Uncommon Leverage

Friday, March 17th, 2017

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On a small number of occasions, I am in a position to, and I have the volition to introduce one of my clients (corporate executive or a HNW private investor) to another member of my global professional communities. My litmus test is a belief that there is a high potential of a mutually-rewarding relationship, formal or informal. My motivation is reciprocal value. The two-way goodwill and value generated between the client and member of my global processional community and both parties with me.

Sometimes there is an immediate reward (a referral, an offer of help or a polite thank you) and on other occasions, a longer-term reward (consideration paid for the value created, more referrals and other non-financial benefits).  I’d say less than 5% of my global communities (circa 2,500 people) ask for my help, unprompted. Of those perhaps only 30% reciprocate with a non-financial reward (referral, reciprocal help, thank you). Less than 20% provide unsolicited feedback on the accuracy of my suggestion and the results that unfolded after the introduction. Only 10% ask for further help unprompted (introductions to others). Yet here is some examples of the reciprocal value created amongst members of my communities with my help in the past 12 months:

  • CEO of a mid-sized European hospitality company introduced to seller of hotel chain, valued at £162M
  • US restaurant franchising business introduced to 6 potential strategic franchising partners in the EMEA region
  • Assertive US buyer of  high growth insurance businesses, introduced to 4 potential sellers, 2 advanced negotiations
  • Asian Family Office introduced to 14 target businesses and 4 direct/co-investors in US and Europe
  • Global insurance executive introduced to 3 new career roles and 4 potential NED roles
  • Publisher of leading financial publication introduced to 3 sponsors and 7 contributors
  • Leading European private equity event host introduced to 3 speakers, and event promoted to 350 potential attendees
  • Real estate advisory firm introduced to 6 sellers of off-market assets totalling $1.9bn
  • Family Office direct investor introduced to 11 potential co-investors
  • 14 high growth entrepreneurs introduced to 33 investors, 4 providers of serviced office space, 22 bankers, 11 lawyers, 14 accountants, 4 graphic designers, 2 web designers and 22 other advisers.

My point here is there are “high potential” people in all our contact databases, who can, and in the right circumstances, have the volition to provide you tremendous reciprocal value. What is there to fear? We know them personally or professionally, we may have spoken this week or perhaps 3 years ago. They have helped others, and you have helped others. They have risen to where they are because they had the volition to ask for help, why should you be any any different? They are not providing reciprocal value to you because

  • In 90% of occasions, you haven’t asked them or in the right way.
  • You lack the discipline and organisation to create leverage.
  • You lack the skills (what language to use) to create leverage
  • You have an attitude problem (“I am too busy”)
  • You seek comfort in pseudo “connectivity” (burgeoning connections or followers on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram) and forego nurturing real relationships (reciprocal value).
  • You don’t hold yourself accountable or accept accountability from others.

All of us have a need to grow our career, our job, our client work, our investor base, our learning and development, our lives, our personal interests and so on. For a great many that is “stop-start”. The problem is nurturing a sufficiently large group of high potential people and gaining their agreement to help (“powerful leverage”) is rarely something that can be accomplished by a shake of the reins. It needs constant nurturing daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.

Ask yourself a simple question, “Who are the 6 people in my contact database, who can have the greatest impact on me getting to where I want to be in 12 months time?” Then, “How do I best elicit their support? (give to get). “What do I need to do more of, stop doing, do in a different way or start afresh, today?” Schedule that in you diary this week. Take action.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Judging People

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

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An Asian investor says to me last week, in response to a rare suggestion that he might want to meet a particular individual, “I have so many people asking to meet me when they are in town, I have to decline most offers. Can you send me a few details.” This just after he has taken 15 minutes to frame, who ideally he would like to meet. We have reached a point where we don’t trust our own judgement and those we invest time soliciting advice from. We are constantly second-guessing ourselves in the belief that a better alternative or use of our time will arise. By all means, be judicious with unsolicited requests to meet but stop procrastinating, start having more faith in your own judgement and those around you. You’ll surprise yourself how much faster you will move towards your goals.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Holiday Etiquette

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

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When you tell me “I am sorry I cannot get to this until I return from holiday”, what you really mean is I am not your priority. Fair enough holidays are for rest, relaxation and time with family and friends but if you aspire to a high level of routine discipline – setting aside 20 to 30 mins to respond to brief email, calls and so forth, at the beginning and end of the days is surely not impossible? What is more depressing is coming back to work with 600 unanswered emails and copious voicemail messages with increasing levels of frustration. Walk in with a smile not a frown on your face.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved

 

Learning About Money

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

 

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Where did you learn about money?

This might sound odd to my “foreign” readers in perhaps US, Canada and Australia but I cannot ever remember a conversation with a parent or indeed, a child, who had a formal personal finance “lesson” or training. Yes, they received informal advice about earning, preserving and spending money but not much more. Yet when you think about the life skills that have got us to where we are today and where we probably need to get to tomorrow and the day after, personal finance must rank pretty close to sex education and the hidden dangers of using social media.

  • What common sense advice would you pass onto your son and daughter?
  • Where would you suggest they go for trusted advice?
  • When should they start learning about the prudent use of money?
  • Why is it important at that particular stage of their life?
  • How do you ensure that they never repeat the same mistake twice or an earlier generation’s foible with money?

I thought about my own experiences. There was very little explicit advice about three pools of money: cash, credit and investment. I learned “on the job” through teenage years from the pocket money days, to work experience and part-time jobs in the student days. Thereafter in the early years of my career, it was mostly friends talking about what they were choosing to invest in or acquire. Some friends were inculcated to save up to by a first home. Others, the entrepreneurs, serially invested in start ups and early stage businesses and the bankers pursued stocks and funds. The majority invested in having fun on a Thursday night, a weekend or a boys or girls trip.

There are five lessons about personal financial decision-making we should reflect on:

  1. The Power of Early Years Learning: What is most interesting, is how so many friends of my age group’s beliefs about wealth and personal financial freedom were formed at a very early point in their lives. A great many of those beliefs still inform their behaviour today (saving, spending, preferred asset classes, self-confidence, risk appetite and so on). For example, the friends, who were immersed in buying a first home at all costs, have often led onto acquiring second and third homes or buy-to-let portfolios of residential property.
  2. Geographic Distinctions Narrowing: As a 24 year old, thrust into a group of middle class American college kids on a an insurance underwriting trainee programme in Minnesota, I vividly recall how self-confident and proficient they were in mastering substantial five figure college overdrafts. They had learned something I hadn’t although I was relieved not to have their problem, save for overextending myself on the purchase of a VW Golf. Yet even those distinctions are narrowing, as the cost of university education rises exponentially and kids in the UK leave with substantial debt burdens.
  3. Mindset Before Wealth: You can be rich or poor but your mindset is the “rudder” for your life and the personal choices that you make with your cash, credit and investment alternatives. You can adopt a mindset that there is abundant opportunity in life and I would be remiss in not pursuing it or you can adopt a poverty mindset, I must live in fear of the wolf stealing my wealth. Rarely is anyone taught about personal financial decisions in those terms.
  4. Learning From Our Omissions Trumps Our Failures: We applaud the great decisions we made with money and we beat ourselves up about the poor decisions but we rarely study why we omitted to spend, save or invest money on what turned out to be good investments. Coming to terms with the fears that inhibit clear thinking is fundamental to better decision-making. Wouldn’t our kids be better off if we took note and we passed those lessons on?
  5. Financial Technology Not A Nirvana: Technology is a huge boon to teaching kids today about their desired financial outcomes, alternatives, risk and rewards and selecting the best option in record time but it is not an exact science. Robo-advisers serve a purpose but there is an “art” to making smart personal financial decisions that is set in the answer to the question, “what is the life we want to lead?” and “how do we best adapt to those changing needs?” Only your kids can answer those questions.

Our kids in all likelihood may not turn out to be personal finance geniuses, nor can we motivate them to have an awareness of money. What we can do is create an environment where they are wiser than we were, where they learn not just from our successes and failures and where they learn to create an approach that works uniquely for them, not us.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Just An Illusion

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

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Is this a shot from your evening last night, soon to be posted on your instaGLAM account? Today a great many executives, managers, investors and board members are busy trying to be someone that they are not. Fact. They are instantly recognisable by the disparity between the image that they project and what others see.

At a small intimate event last night in London with David Nish, the past CEO of Standard Life and this week appointed as a Non-Executive Director at  HSBC, we discussed the dynamics and consequences of this behaviour.

The dynamics and behaviour are largely the same in businesses of every size. Individuals are prone to projecting views without hard evidence or strong anecdotal information (shout loudest). They are poor listeners (routinely ignore vital feedback). They lack sufficient self-worth in their own talent and judgement (resort to bolstering their credentials with references to famous names). They have a poor level of self-esteem (they are dismissive of others success). They are prone to passive aggressive behaviour to project superiority (constant one-upmanship). They are prone to excessive exaggeration or downright lies about their own success (false claims in bios, CV’s/Resumes). We’ve all met them at various points in our career.

The consequences differ based on the size, priorities and complexity of the organisation. Here are some observations from my own experiences:

An inability to effect a management buyout of a small or family business, where the Founder’s behaviour results in management never acquiring the skills, traits or expertise to run the business in his or her absence.

A loss of respect for a private investor’s judgement amongst their peers and future co-investment opportunities when they make wild, unfounded claims to be invested in the “next unicorn“. Ridiculous, of course but sadly all too often true.

Raging management distrust in the Board when a non-executive director relays unsubstantiated “insider” claims from a key client, institutional investor or employees about the manager’s negative performance without hard evidence or strong anecdotal information.

A destruction of goodwill amongst analysts and the media when the newly appointed CEO of an investment bank, self-invested with “superman” powers, promises near instant changes to the business model that his predecessors have taken decades to create.

The world is littered with people trying to be someone that they are not. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter couldn’t survive if that human need dissipated. We all have a reputation that precedes us in the hyper-connected world we live in. Reinvention, acquiring new skills and educating others is something that we must constantly commit to but without absolute credibility (tangible results and visible behaviour), it is just an illusion.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Your Contacts Are Running On Empty

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Most of us, particularly those entering into or in the second half of their careers are increasingly in peril because our personal and professional networks are not strong enough or sufficiently relevant for the challenges that lie ahead. If the objective is to transition seamlessly, you dramatically increase the odds by identifying, cultivating and nurturing the right relationships now.  You don’t accomplish this by relying on a burgeoning contacts folder, LinkedIn database or Twitter account made up of people, who have long past their usefulness to you or random names.

Who are the five most influential people in your personal and professional life today? Who are likely to be the five most influential people in your future personal and professional life? What needs to change in how you establish, build and leverage your key relationships?

I ask this question because in profitably growing and expanding a business, our networks and the utility of those relationships are fiercely tested. Whether it is launching successfully into a new market or the speed and quality of an organisation’s reinvention it is heavily dependent on your lists, databases and the warmth of your relationships. Who you know is as important as what you know? How you have been providing immediate value is as important as how you resolve the client’s problem or improve their condition? Time, skills, volition and technology are the key enablers.

  1. Personal Time – how much time in a week is spent renewing relationships and cultivating new ones that discernibly help you with BOTH current and potential future needs? You are all almost certainly spending too much time with people who cannot help you in future. You are doing so because it is easy or safe. You must be concious of the return on your time invested.
  2. Skills Deficit – do you possess the skills, strategically, to decide who you need to cultivate to accomplish your goals and tactically, how to ask for the introduction, how to best present it in their self-interest and how to elicit your desired response? If you don’t get professional help.
  3. Volition – are you maintaining the right mindset? Where do you currently sit on the spectrum, the “Know It All, Know Everyone” (no need to learn new ideas from new people) or the “Intellectually Curious” (drawn to meeting new and impressive people with thoughts on what the future will resemble)? Do you feel comfortable in all social and business settings approaching others, who you may not know and seeking to establish a relationship? Are your best efforts de-railed by “fear” (being made a fool, rejection, in the specific setting)? The latter is a common occurrence even in successful mid-level managers. Conquering it is essential for career progression.
  4. Technology – are your efforts to cultivate new relationships and renew existing relationships with the help of technology having a dramatically positive, negligible or negative impact on both your short and long-term goals? Where is the hard evidence? Where do you need forward-looking help to enhance your personal productivity? To whom are you turning for “qualified” advice? A huge number of executives and managers have allowed their lives to conform to their firm’s technology, in so doing, they are working extreme hours to stay on top of client email, return prospects calls and nurture effective relationships. That doesn’t have to be the case if they are willing collectively to intellectually examine whether there is a better alternative to conform technology to their clients changing needs.

“Your contacts are your lifeblood” one of my first bosses said to me. What I have observed working with some outstanding peers, business partners and clients, is that they need constant attention, cleansing, and good nutrients. If left to their own devices, they will coagulate in ways that are not good for my future health and well-being.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

7 Life Savers Every Business Can Adopt Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

 

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Endlessly overwhelmed by the demands of profitably growing your business? Want to find quick ways to increase the valuable use of your time and reduce your labour intensity? Here is 7 instant improvements that will give you an 5 extra working days every quarter this year and more impressive results:

  1. XpenseTracker – an all inclusive expense tracking and reporting app for business or personal use
  2. Refresh Letters and Templates – every step of your organisation’s client acquisition process, methodology/technology and delivery process to your clients, can reasonably be broken down into a toolkit. Many people waste endless time unclear in their own mind what to write and how to rapidly elicit the response they really want. Stop it. Whether it is a cold call letter, follow up meeting response, response to a media enquiry, meeting agendas, proposal template, chasing overdue invoices, presenting findings and so forth don’t reinvent the wheel. Constantly replenish your toolkit and use technology (intranet, cloud servers etc) to leverage it.
  3. Reciprocal Promotion: find 5 publications and reporters your ideal buyers read and are quoted in. Follow those reporters on Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms. Respond to stories they post with thoughtful and provocative responses. Look out for their presence at industry events and introduce yourself in person. From time to time, suggest article or interview ideas or names of others that might be particularly of interest. You’ll find yourself, increasingly short cutting the process of becoming an object of interest to your ideal buyers, irrespective of your firm’s brand, geographic proximity or other credentials.
  4. Hootsuite – so you want to build a social media presence but don’t know how to accomplish that with minimal time. The Hootsuite app is your lifesaver, allowing you to access, schedule and generate fresh and valuable content.
  5. Citymapper – so you are meeting a new client or exploring a new city with the family, yet unsure how to get from where you are standing to your destination, what the alternatives are and your expected time of arrival. Arguably one of the impressive travel apps ever created provides all those answers and more in real time on your smart phone.
  6. Unroll.me – your frustration with junk email and subscriptions that you never knew you had has reached epidemic proportions. Two bright people, Josh Rosenwald and Jojo Hedaya have transformed the way you view email. Allowing you to instantly and permanently unsubscribe, roll up daily emails into a single email for quick scanning and storage of those most pertinent to your life. How good does that feel? Try it now.
  7. Tiny Scanner – you need to quickly scan, save and send a receipt, a meeting handout or tracked changes for a presentation while working away from the office or home. Here is the simple, fast and highly reliable answer, a brilliant app with free and modestly priced paid options for the iPhone.

Pick any of the above and you will conservatively save yourself a minimum 1 hour a day, 5 hours in a normal working week, 65 hours in a quarter. Think about that, I am suggesting every three months, you can create an additional 5 working days, at zero cost to you!

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Help I Need Somebody

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

While my focus is on helping mid and large organisations with dramatic growth opportunities, I get asked by early-stage entrepreneurs for a “second opinion” on their business model from time to time. I am often bemused by these “soft” requests, as someone, who has been in the exact same stage of growth.

If you want help, by all means “ask” for it but do realise that there is a strategy and tactics to the request process.

“Strategy” in asking, what do I want to accomplish from applying the requested help? Is it a faster resolution of a past problem, validating a current decision or greater confidence in a future plan?

“Tactics” in the form of how do I get the fastest and best solution? Where external help is required how do I present the “ask” in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties, not just me.

I come across many interesting entrepreneurs, who are clueless in these areas. Consequently, they buttonhole you at events, send “cold” investment presentations or feign interest in articles that you have published.

Can I make a suggestion? Be very transparent upfront about your intentions, find the warmest path to the “expert” and position the request in their self-interest.

I cannot guarantee, I or anyone else will give you our “free” time but you sure dramatically increase the odds in your favour.

Is that helpful advice?

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The 10 Traits of A Great Investor

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

For 35 years since the day I started giving horse racing tips to seventeen year olds willing to lose their pocket money, I have been fascinated by what makes a great investor beyond the obvious (trust). While the skills, and expertise should, and will, vary dependent on the discipline, I have come to observe from watching hundreds of investors that behaviour is arguably the most important factor.

Whether you are evaluating an investor to back your business, invest in their fund, co-invest with them or hire an investor, I think you want to see a high level of the following traits:

  1. Intellectual Curiosity: they have a depth and breadth of curiosity that is unlike most people. Most people have a concentration in particular areas in business, science, culture, sports and so forth.
  2. Commitment to constant learning: they are ferocious in their continual search for new ideas, insights and new ways of doing things that challenge their past beliefs. They assertively find people who have got something to say, aggregate and connect the dots.
  3. Creativity: they are particularly interested in the future, and how that works and what are the change agents in the future. Their inclination is to think, feel and act on lessons learned from past successes, failures, recombinations and so forth and apply that to the future.
  4. Resilience: their beliefs and attitudes demonstrably enhance their resilience. They rebound relatively quickly and they are not damaged “permanently” by losses or failed investment decisions.
  5. Self-esteem: they are able to continually feel good about themselves irrespective of whether they are experiencing success or failure.
  6. Perseverance: they possess the personal focus and discipline to see investments through to a natural conclusion. They are not rolled over by unforeseen events, easily distracted or quit at the first sign of failure.
  7. Love: they implicitly love what they do. I draw a distinction from “blind” or “fake” love. The investor who even though they know it to be wrong ignores reality or feigns interest.
  8. Faith: at the heart of an investor is a belief system and an implicit faith in their own judgement. It is based on a set of shared values, which others will readily sign up to.
  9. Courage: they are not afraid to provoke and indeed, they seek contrarian positions and points of view. They are willing to lead when everyone else sees just fog. For the investor ambiguity spells opportunity, not fear. 
  10. Forgiveness: they don’t hold personal grudges. They are supportive and willingly reward people, who show the right behaviour not just those who achieve success.

You are right if you say there are very few people with this combination of behavioural traits. That is why there are so few exceptional investors. Choose carefully, you’ll profit from reading this before investing a dime, penny or euro.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.