Posts Tagged ‘decision-making’

Cracks In The Nest

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Attached to my Parents loggia at their country home is a retractable sunshade that provides welcome shade to the outside dining area. This winter, a bluetit created a nest in one end of the sunshade, the giveaway was a few cracked shells lieing on the cobbled stones below. This past weekend’s warm weather created the need to open the sunshade and from the nest flew three small bluetits with their Mother hovering nearby. Unfortunately, the cat spotted one of the chicks later in the afternoon and it didn’t make it back to safety.

A huge number of venture businesses are currently incubated in what appear to be “safe” homes for innovation (corporate accelerator, incubator and venture funds), yet the opposite is true. When the overriding “need” arises to focus on the corporate organisation’s key strategic area (sales growth, capital allocation etc.), many of those early-stage venture will be deemed irrelevant, too weak to survive or fall prey to others. Insurance, financial services and the broader “Internet of Things” businesses are particularly vulnerable, yet most people are looking in the exact opposite direction. No one can predict precisely when that might be but history tells us it will happen. What entrepreneurs would be wise to consider is:

  • Why is this the right home for us today, not when we started? (access to capital, talent, innovation, markets, leadership etc.)
  • What changes (foreseen or unforeseen) in the Corporate organisation’s circumstances (balancing short and long-term profitable growth and their investors’ demands) would dramatically change their opinion?
  • Are our preventative (lines of communication) and contingent measures (Plans B and C) sufficiently robust (speed and quality) to safeguard our firm and its’ investors future should our corporate support end at short notice?

Far too many entrepreneurs are so immersed in building their businesses today, they are overlooking the risks attached to “building a home within a corporate home”, at their peril.

© James Berkeley 2017

 

 

Interview With Me: cnbc.com

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

In an interview with CNBC’s online platform, James shines a light on the challenge today for high-growth small businesses seeking to ascend to the next level and successfully transition ownership. Essential insight for entrepreneurs, HNW investors and Family Offices with direct investments in illiquid investments.

How To Sell Your Small Business

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/05/how-to-sell-your-small-business.html

The Perils of Hazy Horizons

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

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One of the senior politicians in the Brexit debate urged voters on British television last night to give serious thought to the type of country and life they want to have in 40 years time. Predicting what will happen in 3 years time, as anyone sitting in the executive office of a global bank in 2004 will attest to is fraught with huge inaccuracies and serious consequences! The pace of change has never been as dramatic (technology, capital, supply of talent, societal changes and so forth).

The art of management is to balance short and long-term profitable growth and make informed decisions about the health and well-being of the organisation. To effect change successfully and bring employees with them, mid-level managers in particular need to understand how they must adjust their own behaviours and actions in highly ambiguous situations.

To make serious predictions about the long-term and to put the risks and benefits and action in the appropriate context anything more than a 5-7 year horizon is really an intellectual not a commercial debate. Even in government funded infrastructure projects and macro inter-governmental policy initiatives (climate change, energy, healthcare, education and so forth). That is why I smile when I see organisations such as Lloyd’s of London’s (2026 Vision) and other global organisations expecting that their best laid plans will be taken seriously by their key constituents. It is a collection of predictions, which the forecasters will never be held accountable for and those asked to implement it struggle to grasp what it really means for them or their colleagues.  Fact.

Let’s get back to pragmatic outcomes, alternatives, assessment of benefits/risks, timing and action within the proposed investment parameters.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Conviction and Reinvention

Monday, March 7th, 2016

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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.

Behind The First Meeting: The Activist Investor Within

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

I detest the way the debate about activist investors and their motives has descended into a force for good or evil. It is corporate pantomime. A round of boos please after the activist has said their lines. Cheers and name calling after the “innocent” CEO or Board Chair rebuttal. AIG, Sothebys, P&G, Yahoo, and the list goes on. The myth is that the activist investor has an agenda and management and the Board don’t. Sparks fly at the first meeting because that is what the activist wants to see happen. This is rubbish and not supported by hard evidence in many situations. In a lively debate on CFO.com this week, titled, When The Activists Attack  here is a perspective I shared from my first hand experiences with businesses and management brought to book by activist investors:

When the Activists Attack

Idiotic Management: Britanic Industries, Newquay Town Council & Fistral Beach

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Fistral Beach in Newquay, Cornwall is a world famous magnet for surfers. Yet a hidden danger with a shark’s bite lurks on arrival for the unsuspecting visitor, particularly foreigners. The car park is run by a ruthless management, Britanic Industries and its’ operator, Smart Parking, with zero interest for the visitor experience and for the express purpose of making hundreds of thousands in car parking penalties. In the height of season the local Town Council receives 40 complaints for unfair practices and doubtless 100s of people are ripped off daily. Visit Britain, the UK’s marketing arm has invested millions behind its’ “GREAT BRITAIN” campaign, yet the experience at Fistral Beach is designed to encourage a “HATE BRITAIN” thought in the mind of visitors.

The management of the large car park, Smart Parking, provide a perfect experience where the use of high technology enables a low touch customer experience. Reliant on camera sensors and nothing else, they keep electronic records of entry and exit to the car park. They daily fine innocent families, who are unable to find a car parking space in this half mile square beach, gather their beach equipment, walk 800 yards to the sole parking meter and have the right payment within 10 minutes. They rely on signs that don’t make clear payment is due from the time your car passed the entry sensor to the time you return to the car, pack up and physically pass the exit sensor, which can be half a mile from the place you are parked. They then issue penalty charge notices upto 16 days after the event, by which time you have no doubt destroyed the parking ticket if you have paid by cash. If you seek to Appeal, wait you are in for a 6 month determination of whether your claim is legitimate. You will receive the plaintiff, Smart Parking’s boilerplate template 24 page document, usually copied and pasted with hundreds of factual errors. It is death by a hundred shark bites.

If you think that this is a great way to encourage first time visitors, build tourism revenues and attract investment into a town, which outside of the holiday season has a number of severe social and economic issues, you are deluded. However that is precisely what the idiotic management of Britanic Industries, the leaseholder, think makes sense. Their decision-making process is flawed. The Newquay Town Council are impotent. Indeed the Mayor won’t even respond to written offers of help with smarter parking ideas.

Technology is a powerful enabler when it is used effectively to enable a higher touch customer experience (Uber, Amazon and Spotify). Equally, when it is used poorly it can have serious and catastrophic consequences.

Does your organisation’s decision-making process give sufficient thought to the desired outcomes, the benefits and risks of technology and the appropriate course of action? Does it solely look from your firm’s perspective or that of its’ customers? Fistral Beach has shown what happens when the sharks are left to run riot with technology and the lifeguard is asleep.

© James Berkeley 2015. 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.

No Xpense Spared

Friday, January 29th, 2016

We cannot live without technology but there are times when the interaction is so appalling you just scream “Give me Fred Flinstone!” On the flip side, you have a stellar experience resolving a user problem, often self-inflicted (!) and you want to rave about the service. XpenseTracker is an ingenious iPhone app, created by Silverware Software. If you are user you won’t need me to say it but it is an incredible time saver for anyone, who hates the tedium and time consuming process of collating and processing expense reports. I guarantee that you can create an extra day of working time for a $5 investment!

My settings for reasons I cannot fathom prevented me exporting the finished expense report to my cloud server. I emailed Scott, the app’s author, we are on friendly terms in a virtual way of doing things. He immediately responded in 2 minutes with a brief “here is how to solve the problem” email, succinct and on point. So far, so good until I pressed the wrong button and the screen froze. A quick email to Scott in his Boston office, and within 3 minutes, no blame attached, “this is what you do”. Boom, solved.

I don’t know about your firm or its’ clients standards in resolving clients problems but ask yourself honestly, does our access, response times and success in permanently resolving our clients’ problems match our brand? If you don’t know the answer I suggest you test it immediately. If you do, and you are happy with the results, ask yourself, how can we reinforce those results such that there is a discernible gap between our competitors and us in future?

Today, HSBC’s online banking incurs a cyber attack, zero customer notification beyond a brief badge on their site. A call to Hiscox, a market-leading global insurer, goes unanswered for 7 hours. Telefonica, a leading European telecoms operator, asks me to wait on “hold” for 22 minutes or use their online chat room, which takes a further 19 minutes to get to the heart of my difficulty with someone, who struggles to assemble an audible sentence in English.

Large global brands are being disrupted by smart, small technology firms in almost every product or service line because the latter have better organised themselves to provide a “high touch, high tech” customer experience.  It is not about size or scale, it is about how smart your people are.

© James Berkeley 2016. 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.

Eccentric Behaviour

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I love living in London because you sees displays of eccentric human behaviour that defy all logic but are in equal measure very funny. This morning I hopped on a London bus in a rainy Mayfair to be followed in by a well-spoken English gentleman struggling to haul a 7 ft loosely bubble-wrapped, early 19th Century British masterpiece procured from an eminent Bond Street gallery. The sought of place where the red dots on the gallery wall demand a large five or six figure sum. Poor man, wouldn’t his budget stretch to hailing a taxi or the Gallery’s to delivering the piece to his home or workplace?

When we deliver services to our clients, do we seek to save pennies (demand our people spend no more than £25 on a bottle of wine at dinner) or promote overly cumbersome client processes (onboarding) for no good reason, after we have been paid pounds? Is our mindset and self-talk one of abundant opportunity or desperately fearing poverty? Is that reflected correctly in how we ask our people to behave and act with our clients’ best interests at heart (exemplars, policies and procedures)? You would be surprised how often that there is a huge misalignment, which instantly dilutes client and employee trust and weakens loyalty to top management and the firm.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.