Posts Tagged ‘brand’

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.

 

 

 

 

Hot Airbnb

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

howairbnbworks

 

A rocket-propelled growth trajectory creates a “siren call” to investors and garners predictable and less predictable media comment. Executives ride the bandwagon of super valuations (fame, inflated bonuses, celebrity) but all too often the focus on dramatic market expansion and top line growth outpaces risk mitigation initiatives (the boring stuff). Heat melts the shell of the rocket on re-entry and the business becomes highly vulnerable.

This past week, Airbnb came in to sharp focus with me. (1) A European CEO of a “bricks and mortar” global serviced apartment business pointing out that Airbnb is flagrantly allowing its’ hosts in many key European gateway cities to run full-time hospitality businesses (83,000 room listings in Paris) and (2) Personally experiencing their underwhelming response to a cyber hack on my own Airbnb account.

My observation is Airbnb are playing too fast and too loose. They are tripping up on common sense responses to foreseen risks (cyber hacks, hosts flouting local trading rules), not just unforeseen risks. I don’t believe they are alone, there are hundreds of “celebrity” high growth businesses, whose risk mitigation strategies are being lapped by their growth plans.

I am all for disruptive businesses helping raise the levels of customer service. That is capitalism. No business or industry has a “right” to survive. What isn’t acceptable is when a business is acquiescent or adopts approaches (cyber hack) that are so inadequate that trust and integrity is destroyed. Are management asleep while cyber thieves roam freely in their booking system, setting up fake bookings, lifting credit card information, conversing brazenly with hosts and potentially putting “hosts” in physical harm’s way with bogus guests? Are their customers solely responsible for alerting Airbnb to breaches and mitigating the immediate risks (financial theft, loss of personal data, potential physical harm to hosts)? Should  this matter to investors?

Yes, if you are an investor for whom reputational risk is equally as important as financial risk.

There are plenty of disruptive businesses (Ryanair), where executives have assailed their competitors, regulators and their customers for years while the growth trajectory dramatically outpaces the risk mitigation strategies.

The difficulty arises when growth slows, investors ask “why”?

Businesses aren’t in existence to be liked, they are in business to be respected. If you don’t believe that look at Apple, GE, Singapore Airlines and Virgin. When respect is destroyed by leaders failing to prioritise managing risk effectively, customers, shareholders, employees and business partners walk. No one individual or brand is insulated from that certainty.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

What Does A Family Office Do

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

busy-street-in-the-center-of-san-francisco-picjumbo-com

 

Spending time trying to define the differences between a “Private Office”, a “Private Investment Office”, a Single or Multi “Family Office”, is largely an exercise in futility. They are all labels that started with clarity but overtime have diffused into a host of different products, services and relationships serving the needs of HNW and UHNW individuals. There is no faculty. Today, there are hedge funds (SAC), private equity firms (Blue Pool Capital), investment firms (George Soros), lifestyle and concierge service firms, lawyers (DLA Piper), accountants (KPMG), search firms and a host of others morphing into one or more of these labels.

If you are establishing such an organisation today, seeking to utilise their services or do business with them, it is far more valuable to powerfully state, “we are an expert in …..” or ask “what exactly are you an expert in?” A great response, “We are the market-leading expert in accelerating the preservation of UHNW clients’ inter-generational wealth and the generation of income to support their lifestyle needs.” A lousy response, “we are an expert in financial and non-financial needs of UHNW clients including….(a laundry list of services)”

The listener wants to quickly know why THEY should give you the time of day. If you cannot peek their interest quickly, perhaps you are a commodity they can do without or you don’t value your own services highly? Which is it?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Who Transforms The Transformer

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Large advisory firms (Big Four and large management consulting practices) have cornered an expertise in transforming how large businesses deploy capital, manage human resources and IT, accelerate innovation and implement strategy. Yet many of those same “expert” firms are desperately in need of transformation.

How else do you explain the increasing tension between the commodity end of their work (outsourced shared service offerings) and the desire to grow the high-margin, high-value strategic advisory business? It is a fraying piece of string for those, who desire to play in both segments.

The complexity of the advisory businesses is such that an increasing proportion of front line employees time is being reserved for internal issues (tweaking matrix organisation structures, new value propositions, problem solving and fees), at the expense of the client. Yet there are very few people in those firms, who have the skills and volition to want to lead the change (“champion”).

Safety lies in the belief that your brand will get you the first meeting with the large client. Yet a cursory google search reveals very few Partners in these firms, who are demonstrably centres of expertise or objects of strong interest to C-level operatives and the wider global media. Inherently, the transformation business is a pricing battle dressed up in pseudo value-based fees.

Indeed, changing the operating beliefs that inform the behaviour of Partners and Directors in those firms is very hard. The outliers or mavericks in those firms are tolerated to the extent that they inject some colour into client relationships but they are very rarely embraced in the inner sanctum. So you end up with external market forces largely determining the future of these advisory firms.

A client wouldn’t take advice from Hilary Clinton on email etiquette or Donald Trump on diplomatic communication, why would they hire these folks? The only conclusion is that they feel safe in hiring lots of extra pairs of hands from a known brand so long as the price is right.

You’ll have a hard time convincing me that is right for the client and the advisory firm’s future.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.