Posts Tagged ‘business expansion’

RPM II: The Cornerstone Client Walks

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016









In the second in our weekly series of Resilient People & Momentum (“RPM”), James discusses how to lessen the impact of a key client exit on the firm’s profitable growth plans. No seriously, clients aren’t for life!

Situational Overview: The Cornerstone Client Walks – you have done a fabulous job. It is not personal but the buyer has decided that they can live without your product, service and relationship. You have a cashflow problem. You have a potential reputation problem within (direct reports and peers) and outside the firm (customers and business partners). You have a potential employee problem (productivity and morale). You have a potential investor problem (earnings and value). Is your first thought to seek blame or come up with a great response? I’d say in 80% of these situations I have been privy to the former explodes virally.

Resilient People & Momentum Mindset: I subconsciously expect this to happen in a growing business when I least expect it. How I respond is more important than what has happened. I earn others respect by displaying the right mix of skills, behaviour and expertise. I am willing to be intellectually honest about my own performance. I will listen to and respond sensibly to solicited feedback while ignoring unsolicited feedback that is largely for the other party’s benefit.

Resilient People & Momentum Questions:

  1. Cashflow: where can we create more short-term revenue, not where can we take money from?
  2. Reputation: where can we earn more respect (new ideas, reciprocal opportunities, return the favour), not how can I save face or pass the blame?
  3. Employees: where can we more productively deploy and offer more gratifying work to our employees, not who needs to be harangued or worse, fired?
  4. Investors: where can we display and exude greater confidence in our talent and judgement to investors such that a short-term set back, is just that, a blip on a road to riches, not a mind numbing defeat that forces investors to thrown their hands up in the air?
  5. Development: what can I learn from the treasured client’s reasons for the decision to walk away that I can apply for the future benefit of the firm (better client communication), its’ existing clients (prioritising investment) and our prospects (market positioning)?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Conviction and Reinvention

Monday, March 7th, 2016









I have long been fascinated by how people and businesses apply “conviction” (beliefs, investment, action) when there is an immediate requirement for “reinvention”.

In 1999, opposite where I worked on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong was a large commercial real estate company, whose business was fitting out and renting shared service offices. For many years it had a unremarkable name and neon sign over the 1960s building, overnight it added the sobriquet “.com”. Curious I asked a friend who worked in the building what was happening, “Oh the Chinese owner thought because tech is red-hot right now, why not change the name of the company. Don’t worry as tenants we have seen no changes.”

Now you might not be as brazen in convincing your target audience à la Donald Trump and Mitt Romney that your polar opposite views are instantly credible but there is a mindset change needed first to kick start reinvention. Here is 3 simple questions, apply it to any situation you personally or the organisation are experiencing:

  1. What are the beliefs that inform my convictions today about how I and/or the business needs to look in 12 months time? (relationships with clients/investors/ employees/regulators, changing customer base, financial condition, valuable and profitable offerings, discretionary time and so forth)
  2. How do I apply those convictions today to where I/we plan to invest tomorrow? (capital deployment, people, innovation, strategy implementation)
  3. How do I best put today’s convictions into action tomorrow? (priorities, organisational structure, process, exemplars, skills, behaviours, expertise, technologies, accountabilities, rewards system, communication and feedback and so forth)

I can barely think of a sector where the nature of work is not changing dramatically today. With it comes fear (irrelevant, loss of clients or even, unemployed) and opportunity (new investment in new products and services, new markets and new roles).

People believe what they see, not what they hear or feel. If you really want to convince me today that you are serious about reinvention, I want to see immediate changes of attitudes and behaviour amongst influential figures in the business and new, impressive results fast.

If you are willing to be intellectually honest, click on the link below. Ask yourself where do our current attempts sit on the chart and where do they need to be in the future. The distance between the two points is indicative of the small step or giant leap your business and key people need to take.


Conviction and Reinvention pv only

Endless needs analysis informing our future strategy (AIG), managers preoccupied for hours creating and talking to the media about our “new culture” (Anthony Jenkins at Barclays) or changes to the plaque over the building door won’t cut it for customers, investors, employees and regulators, however, well intentioned. It isn’t easy but I need to see in your actions that you really believe what you are saying, not merely spouting platitudes to buy time or protect your ego.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Interview with Me: Economia

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Nick Martindale, a senior reporter with economia, the “go to” publication for the global accounting profession and their clients, interviewed me on the logic and emotional challenges top managers face when they decide to “go global”. Specifically, the fears that distorts their decision-making and the consequences for their growth objectives. The fears are largely similar in large and small firms, what is different is the impact the consequences may have on top line revenue growth, profit, cashflow, brand perception, employees, investor relations and clients.


Tell The Truth: You Don’t Know Your Clients Well

Monday, February 15th, 2016

We think we know our clients but many of us are kidding ourselves or unwilling to be intellectually honest. If the objective is to profitably grow our business, we can help ourselves by having a finer understanding of the logic and emotion that drives our clients’ decision-making. I am talking about the individuals with the ability to approve, fund, veto or set major strategic initiatives for their organisations and the tactics to implement it.

You don’t accomplish that in a mid or large client organisation by placing yourself in a subservient position to a Risk Manager, an HR Director or a mid level banker. When did they last sit in, and contribute to, the firm’s strategy meeting? How would they be privy to the inner most thoughts of the firm’s top management, the Board and its’ owners? How would they be in a position to influence those individuals’ decisions?

If you must exclusively hang out with these shared service experts or mid-level managers consider the risks. You are placing your future well-being and financial condition at the behest of individuals, who rarely get “air time” with the ultimate decision-maker(s). They have a vague understanding of the competing priorities in the executive office. You are left to sort through the information they wish to share with you, their interpretation of events and their biases. So what is the alternative?

Shoot For The Top.

A senior figure at a Big Four consulting practice admitted to me “I sit across the table from C-level execs all the time but I don’t really know them.” Another, Vice-Chair of a market-leading brokerage and advisory firm, revealed how distant he and his colleagues are from the strategic decision-making process at major European insurance companies, yet they have billion dollar trading relationship. Faced with increased competitive threats, both individuals talked about the increasingly precarious position their organisations are in. In both cases, the businesses haven’t placed sufficient accountability on key people to build relationships with the right people and provide them with immediate and impressive value. Rather they have stayed in the transactional layer of the firm, cultivating relationships with mid level managers, convincing themselves that getting closer to these individuals will enhance their well-being (improved top line revenue, happier clients, stronger brand).

Getting There Fast.

Here is what my best clients do,

  1. Identify who those key people are in Board, ownership and management positions that you ideally need a relationship with to exploit exciting and anticipated needs?
  2. Who do they hang out with? (peers, friends, acquaintances, media and so forth)
  3. Where and with whom do they like to be seen? (professional, personal interests, charity etc.)
  4. Where do they speak, publish and support events?
  5. What are they passionate about? (hobbies, innovation, people and so forth)
  6. How might you meet them and increase your prospects of establishing a peer level relationship? (referral, charitable or professional association boards, shared experiences etc.)
  7. How might you provide immediate value? (a name, an idea, a sponsor, a success practice and so forth)
  8. How might you parlay that into a continuous conversation with reciprocal value? (each time you meet, you both leave with exciting ideas and impressive value, looking ahead to the next social or business gathering)

I find there are a great many people who “get” and studiously study the logic. However they fail due to poor credibility (entry path, lack of substance), an inability to build a rapport (intellect, social skills and chemistry weak) or a lack of trust in themselves (blow up the relationship with their transactional buyer). They can be coached or mentored but many are reluctant or their boss doesn’t see it as a priority. Lo and behold the organisation will forever be at risk to client strategic decisions that it has zero control over and an unwillingness to influence.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.


An Investor’s View: Attracting Intelligent Capital to Innovative Ideas

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

I am thrilled to announce that I have been asked to be a contributor to VC-List, the pre-eminent online source for advice on turning innovative ideas into billion dollar businesses from people, who have invested in, led and advised real businesses. Here is a link to the first article “Getting Started in Raising Venture Capital” drawn from my war stories, experiences and insight with over 75 businesses in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia that have successfully attracted funding from corporate venture capital, traditional VCs, HNW investors and so forth at various stages of their journey:

Getting Started in Raising Venture Capital



James on Insurance Tech and Corporate Venturing

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Wyn Jenkins, Managing Editor of leading global insurance media publication, Intelligent Insurer, interviewed James about the 675% increase in capital flowing from global insurers into corporate venturing since 2013 in search of the next Uber.

Surfing The Corporate Venture Wave

Interview With Me, Thinking Like An Entrepreneur

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

The global marketing and technology firm, IDG, known for its’ research and surveys on success practices,  has interviewed me for a piece on changing the self-talk and thinking amongst executives in large organisations and creating a meaningful environment for innovation to flourish in. Highly relevant for businesses  experiencing sluggish growth and needing help with strategic redirection (hit the growth accelerator) or strategic reinvention (soar to the next level of growth).

Beyond the flim-flam: “Thinking like an entrepreneur”

Real Time Learning

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

In all the talk about data and analytics far too little attention is being devoted to the benefits of immediate information, access to various platforms and the application of valuable information to existing and new forms of knowledge. The wealth management industry is an obvious case in point. Fintech innovation is and will spawn a variety of platforms that can generate information immediately, from the daily movements of portfolio values to the best life insurance rates for a 45 year old HNW business owner with a congenital heart condition. These technology platforms are readily accessible by investment managers, insurers, relationship managers and clients. The challenge for many clients and their advisers is access to too much information. How do you distil it down and customise it to what each client needs to know, not what they can access at the click of a button? How do you maximise the effectiveness of the hour in front of the client (results, not information exchange)? How do you balance that goal with the need to adhere to appropriate regulatory standards?

What it means for wealth managers:  speed will be as important as the quality of their advice.

The skills, behaviours and expertise to identify small amounts of valuable data, format it into valuable information and apply it to the client’s existing knowledge and their desired objectives will be even more valuable. Equally, the ability to not get lost chasing a strand of interesting information that leads to no discernible benefit for the client (poor usage of the client’s time) will also be prized.  Wealth managers self-talk and thinking about the value the client walks away from them with will need to change (educator and collaborator, not a salesman) in an increasingly digital age. Their marketing approaches will need to evolve faster than they can probably imagine (promote their ability to help clients live the life they want to have, client testimonials, references, case studies etc). Beyond the increasing ability to customise their products, services and relationship to the individual client needs, they will need to reinvent their business models to economically accomplish that in a regulated environment. Their remuneration basis will needs to better align with the value the client perceives they are receiving from the relationship manager, not the investment approach. Their use of powerful language and education skills will be a point of differentiation with their ideal clients in accomplishing that objective.

Internally, wealth managers and advisers organisational structures will need to adapt to faster dissemination of valuable information, at the right time, in the hands of the right person. Superfluous people, technology and processes needs to be abandoned. They need leaner and more agile organisations. They need new collaborations internally with asset class experts and external expertise merged with their own to allow the clients to make smarter lifestyle choices.

The concept of real time learning feels “foreign” to many in the wealth management business, whose desire to help their clients make wise decisions is tempered today by a wall of regulatory requirements. Shouldn’t the focus be on making sure we and the client have ticked the appropriate boxes? Yes of course that is important but your future is also about speed (responsiveness, value “in the moment” and meeting or exceeding your clients expectations). Time not money is your clients scarcest commodity. Your ability to maximise the return on the client’s time invested in accomplishing their personal goals is your future success metric.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Competitors Leaving Christmas Presents

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

One of the joys of autumn in England is escaping to the countryside at the weekend and taking a lazy walk that often ends up at a friendly watering hole. On many of those walks at this time of the year, you pass bushes laden with ripe blackberries and horse chestnut trees laden with conkers. Inevitably, you are not the first to spot them and indeed, many of the obvious places have been stripped bare. On occasion, where the light has created a shadow or stinging nettles have made it difficult to reach them, a plentiful supply of “virgin” berries and conkers sit waiting to be picked with a little ingenuity.

I see the very same situation with many of my best clients. They have an uncanny knack of looking where their competitors have partially or fully withdrawn and spotting difficulties their competitors face that hide profitable growth opportunities for them. What they are skilled at is deciding whether their competitor’s growth difficulties are important. If they are, they dig to find the cause, what are the business fundamentals (market demand, marketing, sales, delivery etc), what has changed in one of those fundamentals to turn the competitor negative on the opportunity and what would we need to do to profit from their difficulties.

When you receive feedback from your sales team, your clients, your prospects, analysts and media reports, can you spot profit in your competitor’s growth difficulties? If so, jump on it immediately. Christmas has arrived early.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Provocative Growth

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

How many times do you go to an industry conference and you hear a speaker or an attendee turn a belief you had about the industry’s future upside down and explain the requisite behavioural change? They back that up with hard evidence or strong anecdotal information. I’ll bet it is no higher than 1 in a 100 event. With the exception of those operating in the technology or innovation arena, I’d say the odds might be even higher.

When everyone’s default position is to say the same thing and a reluctance to stand apart from the crowd, is it no wonder that the listeners struggle to differentiate between businesses on anything other than price or the pace of innovation is so slow? I have coined a term Provocative Growth to provoke, agitate and move businesses faster towards their profitable growth goals.

I am not suggesting you “poke your colleagues in the verbal eye” (the Bernie Ecclestone approach) or merely “grandstand” on a particular issue to draw attention to your own self-importance (the Donald Trump approach), what I am suggesting is your objective is to get the audience to say “I have never thought about it that way before”. If you want to grow your client relationships, dominate a particular market and be seen as the centre of expertise, you must provide irresistible value, provocation and empathy in the moment with clients.

The easiest way to accomplish that is to ask “where can I comfortably take a contrarian position and intellectually support my position (hard evidence or strong anecdotal insights)?” Incorporate it in your dialogue with clients and prospects, intellectual property, marketing exhibits, speeches, published articles, media appearances and so on.

Here is an example, almost universally senior financial services industry executives will bemoan any new regulations and the impact of compliance on the future cost base of the business and sector. I would argue “it is not the regulations, it is BOTH the speed and quality of your response, which is the real issue. In some cases you are creating a sledgehammer to crack a nut, in others you are defending the indefensible and in a few cases your action is spot on. Here is what I saw at (list example)….. Let’s agree where your response falls into one of those three categories and then consider where you could work smarter (technology, people, organisational structure) with my help to enhance the clients’ experience and the firm’s future while meeting or exceeding the regulator’s expectations.”  

Your are right if you say provocation doesn’t come naturally to me or it is seen as counter-cultural in the firm. Just because you are right doesn’t make it right. You are paid to achieve results and enhance the future health and well-being of the firm and its’ clients. You can idly sit by and keep your head down or you can make waves. Your colleagues, business partners and clients will thank you in the long run for provoking the firm into action.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.