Archive for the ‘Personal Improvement’ Category

Keeping Company

Monday, June 18th, 2018

If you don’t think you “belong” in particular company, you are probably right. Do something about it now (become an increasing person of interest) or forget about it. Bemoaning to others, achieves nothing but create angst.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Natural Conversation

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

 

 

I think of getting to know people in a business social setting (a hosted event or forum), akin to peeling an onion. The enjoyment is asking small considered questions in an arc that encourage others to reveal themselves, listening attentively, and the depth and breadth of my intellectual curiosity that is stirred by their responses. It sounds simple but how many times have you been seated next to someone, who enjoys and excels at that pursuit? There is a name for them, great conversationalists. It is not something that is taught in school or learned staring into a backlit phone screen. It is best learned watching others, who excel in a natural, not staged, conversation and building your own intellectual firepower (reading, watching, experiencing). Individuals, who are comfortable in themselves to the extent that they don’t feel an abject need to impose their thinking on others (agenda hunters, as I think of them) or to consider diametrically opposed viewpoints.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

We Have All The Time In The World

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

 

Louis Armstrong made a wonderful record and a great refrain, do you have “time enough for life to unfold?” All of us do in reality unless we are suffering a severe illness or injury, yet a great many smart people structure it disastrously or use it woefully. Just today, the Harvard-educated US hospitality executive, whose calendar works in 15 minute increments, lo and behold by 7:30am shows up 25 minutes late, full of apologies and we achieve close to zero. The European fintech entrepreneur, who insists on taking “urgent” calls when we meet, describes himself “crazy busy” and turns a focused 45 minute capital raising conversation into a rambling 90 minute dialogue of half finished ideas and no clear, next steps. Even my public-funded doctor’s surgery doesn’t schedule back-to-back appointments and the doctors have regularly scheduled times for returning calls. There is a reason why the “cares of the world are rarely behind us”, YOU and your lousy system!

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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

young-woman-enjoying-first-spring-sun-outside-picjumbo-com

 

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

woman-using-her-smartphone-while-working-remotely-on-laptop-picjumbo-com

 

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

man-checking-his-iphone-working-at-home-office-picjumbo-com

 

 

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

 

euro-coins-close-up-picjumbo-com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

picjumbo.com_HNCK1089

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.