Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

High Touch Trumping Parking Tech

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

 

High tech is dramatically improving the way we live (transportation, medicine, education and so forth). Yet in some areas particularly related to prevention it is trumping a high touch customer experience for close to zero benefit. Nowhere more so than the indiscriminate use of ANPR technology to record number plates entering and leaving car parks. The technology isn’t smart enough. In a recent example, to inquire about a hotel night stay and meet a fellow guest, it required entering late night through a car park using the technology. For reasons that were out of my control I had to wait for an extended period outside the hotel’s front door. There was close to zero signage visible about the snake pit I had driven into or even awareness of what lay in store until a further two weeks had elapsed when in the mail arrived a £100 penalty notice. Apparently I had stayed longer than permitted even though I wasn’t technically parked and indeed was interacting with the hotel’s front desk. When I sought to appeal you are directed to a cumbersome and legalese riddled process that exclusively treats you like a transgressor.

Thankfully, the common sense intervention of the Hotel’s Deputy General Manager, Jena Smith, was able to right a wrong. When investors look at early-stage tech businesses, the right question to ask is, this business addressing a human need, solving a human problem or kindling the human spirit. Quite clearly, the owners of Parking Eye, Capita, who shelled out £54 million four years ago for Parking Eye, never stopped to consider that simple question. Or if they did, they have come to a warped conclusion that driving away huge volumes of repeat and referral business from the surrounding businesses, generating huge negative media publicity and hiding behind weak boiler-plate defences, is a great advert for the CEO and their Board’s genius.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking IX

Friday, April 8th, 2016

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  • Most businesses don’t lack great ideas today, they lack people with the skills and volition to apply and monetise great ideas
  • The problem is not the regulatory changes forced on banks, insurers, pharma etc, it is the ability of management and employees to respond effectively and efficiently (skills, behaviour and expertise)
  • The media and politicians express “shock” and “revulsion” at those using offshore tax havens to mitigate their tax liabilities but barely a whimper about at the cyber security criminals, who initiated the breach.
  • Man’s ingenuity is such that we can send a rocket into space and return it to the exact same position it departed, yet our “precision” capabilities when it is applied to tracking terrorist threats, cyber, people smuggling, are largely scrambled and ineffective.
  • Global markets have largely recovered the losses incurred at the outset of this year, yet the business media continues to run “recession scare” stories.
  • Every company is becoming a digital company, the consequences differ based on the quality of the management and employees, the amount of uncertainty within the business and the competitive threats
  • Microsoft and Google beat the best human at image recognition in 2015 but there is little evidence that humans will be replaced by computers in assessing and underwriting risk, which largely depends on art and science.
  • Value chains in almost every sector are being compressed and traditional functions increasingly being made redundant, as technology facilitates the faster dissemination of information and the application of knowledge to critical decision-making (capital deployment, human resources, innovation, strategy implementation). There is no going back.
  • Contrary to popular myth what new entrants into the workforce want today (interesting work, a gratifying job, career progression and equitable rewards) hasn’t changed in decades, what has changed is the ability of businesses to deliver it. Understanding why and doing something about it, is where the valuable debate lies.
  • In all the chest-beating about diversity and progressive organisations, by far the most disadvantaged and impactful on society are not single issue “victims” (sex, race, nationality, age etc) but those individuals with diverse pasts (educational backgrounds and life experiences), who are routinely rejected by businesses driven to hire and promote “people like us”.
  • The fanfare about “Self-Management”, as practised by organisations such as Zappos, speaks louder about the concept than the results the business has achieved in the real world. Separate the fad from reality.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Corporate Innovation Comedy

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

There are certain fashion or fad trends which when worn by 60 year old men, skinny jeans come to mind, are just plain wrong unless you are Mick Jagger. In all the buzz about innovation, reinvention and disruption it is comedic watching the attempts of some corporate organisations in finance, banking and insurance to embrace it effectively.

The CEO stands up and says

1. “Innovation is the new normal”: err, innovation is not a rheostat with an on/off switch in outstanding innovative companies such as 3M, Merck, Apple etc.

2. “When I was at Google….”: err, you met with a middle manager or silo function (risk management) that is not even situated in the Corporate HQ. Ssh, the guy is an ex employee of ours suffering a mid life crisis but it sounds cool?

3. “We are on the side of the disruptive businesses…”: really, where is the hard evidence? Ah you have put in an order for the Tesla when the lease on the Merc expires.

4. “Let me tell you about our work with [Uber, Airbnb]…..”: your “credentials” are killing me, how are a series of actions unique to one firm now a hot trend?

5. “We took our Leadership Team to Silicon Valley….”: so you flew into San Jose on the Gulfstream, spoke to a few random clients and friends and are now immersed with ground-breaking ideas, really? Ever tried the pilgrimage to Lourdes? Thought not.

6. “I was speaking at a Tech investors event in Silicon Valley…”: you are now on first name terms with Marc Andreesen and Fred Wilson. Keep that one for the next earnings call.

7. “We are passionate about the future. We are announcing a new corporate venturing team with a $100 million of capital”: wow, so third rate entrepreneurs line up outside our headquarters. After all why would a stack of cash and a conservative reputation not appeal to serious tech entrepreneurs? Oh, nevermind.

8. “I am really excited by the power of blockchain as a powerful asset”: half the audience look blankly. The venerable City reinsurance broker or Wall Street banker racks his brain “watch chain?”, as the CEO fumbles like an adolescent boy trying to unhook the girl’s bra, in explaining blockchain’s virtues and his excitement.

9. “I have asked our Divisional Heads to set up an offsite meeting on Innovation and Disruption….”: yay, a chance to invite Wired’s David Rowan to talk to us about 10 transformative technologies. Oh hell, which futurologist should we invite? No giggling or fumbling for the iPhone and that important email when he or she stands up.

10. “It is time for the results of our Annual Report on Megatrends, we spoke to our global community of risk managers…..”: ah, that is the fella situated down the end of the first floor corridor with an actuarial background and a handful of junior direct reports. I don’t remember seeing his face in the Corporate Strategy meeting, perhaps he was at his daughter’s soccer game.

I kid you not, these are all genuine one-liners. Sorry I am bent double admiring the CEO’s shiny white teeth and folksy humour. Nice touch.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Resilient Growth

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Why do annual budget discussions reveal so little about the growth prospects of the business and so much about the fears of those running the business?

I have come to observe that more energy is exercised in the haggle and obfuscation between line managers and their direct reports than the value derived from the process.

Should we have objectives and goals? Absolutely.

Should we place greater emphasis on a set of tactical targets that in of itself are arbitrary (based on a “best guess”) or a set of broader strategic outcomes that more profoundly describe what we want the business to look like in 12 months time?

In many high growth, mid sized businesses, where the overriding imperative for the owners is to build equity or transition the business (divestment, IPO and so on) I think there is a compelling case for the latter. Yet that is very rarely the case. The business may have doubled or quadrupled in size but the management focus and discipline and rewards system is largely unchanged (tactical targets).

I come across a lot of strong and dynamic businesses who are in self-congratulatory mode.

Senior Manager: “We have met or exceeded our budget for the last 8 quarters.”

Me: “Great, what SHOULD you have achieved in the prevailing conditions?”

I am met typically by quiet silence or a “what do you mean” response.

My point here is are you really focused on what really matters to the Owners (building equity or preparing a transition)?

Here is a quick set of strategic outcomes, my best clients use to drive their business:

1. Sustained Sales and Profit Growth (over past 3 years).
2. Market-leading Sales & Marketing Processes (array of rainmakers, leverage high tech, increasing market gravity, abundant mindset, room to accelerate growth)
3. Compelling value proposition and market position. (impressive clarity internally and externally about how the firm’s ideal clients are better off or better supported after using the firm’s products and services)
4. High Quality Management & Employees (high level of familiarity, clarity and implementation skills, behaviour and expertise supporting these strategic outcomes)
5. Breakthrough Client Relationship Approaches (acquisition, innovation, retention, profitable growth)
6. Market-Dominating Fees & Value (zero aged debt, 50%+ fees “banked” next 6/12 months, balanced growth, low working capital needs)
7. Intellectual Property Institutionalised (proprietary IP copyrighted, constant creation, internal R&D “laboratory”, systematic approaches)
8. Tremendous Loyalty (seductive rapport with key people, impressive career growth, diverse and dynamic environment, aligned rewards and value creation)

Go back to your 2016 business plans and accountabilities for key managers.

Producing Results Are each of the requisite improvements in each area set in stone? Are there influential exemplars lined up to reinforce this behaviour daily (mid-management)? Is the frequency and quality of performance assessments appropriate?

Rewarding Results Does the rewards system appropriately support or hinder your future health and well-being (bonus, long term incentives, recognition, promotions and so forth)?

I strongly suspect many people will be shocked how loosely the wheels are bolted onto their bus and how susceptible their best laid growth plans are to unforeseen events. Waste no time, take action now if you want to increase your resilience.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Agile Management

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

So the CEO of Swiss Reinsurance Company faced with increasing amounts of uncertainty and rising competitive threat levels in 2016 trumpets this week an “agile capital” strategy. In simple terms, capital allocation will seek to keep pace with foreseen and unforeseen business opportunities. I make no value judgement about his firm’s future but shouldn’t that be something everyone should be doing already in his organisation?

Here is four outcomes that the Board and management in my very best clients rigorously apply, hold each other accountable for and align rewards around:

1. Performance in allocating capital.

2. Performance in people decision-making.

3. Performance in innovation.

4. Performance in implementing strategy.

It reminds me of those classic boxing fights of the 70s and 80s, when fighters such as Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and so on prided themselves on their agility and their ability to outsmart a more fearsome opponent by constantly dancing around the ring. Some commentators hated the tactics, suggesting it lessened a great contest but the point was those fighters ended up winning the fight, not because they had more power but because they were smarter. Agility was but one of their strengths. Perhaps many insurance and financial services CEOs are waking up to the fact that standing flat footed in the ring is a bum idea in a tough fight, hooray.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

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”

http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/10596/beyond-flim-flam-thinking-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.

Complexifying Uncovered

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s blog post, I run into another client taking a simple idea and voluntarily promoting a more complex alternative without regard to the client’s benefit.

Our capacity to take complex ideas and turn them into simple, pragmatic ideas that are easy to grasp, implement and provide a tangible benefit for our clients is essential to all organisation’s success. Whether it is front or back of house processes, new ways to compete, new ways to distribute products or services, new ways to integrate technology and so on. Yet many organisations and intelligent people are so in love with their new methodologies or technologies that they promote greater complexity without regard to the client’s benefit (results and value). Indeed, adding complexity is often used as a defensive measure to protect historical practices, existing business or market share in the belief that the client or individual isn’t smart enough to decipher the smokescreen. It is called “complexifying” and manifests itself in bureaucratic behaviour. Governments are masters of this dark art.

I developed this process visual while working with several clients in the past few months on new approaches in their sector where converging forces are causing significant disruption. Someone says I have a great new idea and I often ask the other parties to write down and agree on the process visual where are they today “T” and where the new idea or process would position them in future “F”. Grasping the movement from “T” to “F”, provides a highly insightful understanding of the idea’s worth and more importantly, the priority that should be given to it.

Prioritising Improvements pv jpg-page-001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking V

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
  • No one really knows when markets valuations are at a “peak”, most commentators and investors (Prem Watsa, Sir Michael Moritz and others) are merely applying “gut instinct” like the rest of us
  • After 7 years of “easy money” is it a surprise that we have record market prices (stocks, art and so on)
  • More people have lost money calling a market collapse than a market rise, be careful who you listen to
  • Well run businesses with strong “real” earnings and high quality management and employees will always outperform in the long-term those firms that lack those attributes
  • When retail and institutional investors have greater access to information and knowledge in real-time at less cost, why should tomorrow’s investment cycle follow yesterday’s cycle? We live in a different age.
  • With “real” unemployment and the growth of start ups in many G20 countries at near record levels, wouldn’t policymakers, politicians and media be better off talking more about our “future” prosperity than our “past” grievances
  • When I read polls suggesting  that electorates are more “disengaged” with politicians and their political parties than ever before doesn’t that tell us more about our own fears (education, self-improvement, reinvention)?
  • When you study empirical evidence, we are probably living in the most prosperous and safest decade in the past 100 years, why doesn’t it feel like that when I turn on the television news or pick up a newspaper
  • We are right to be concerned about the legacy we are leaving our children (underfunded entitlements, increasing complexity, wealth gaps) but we rarely reflect on how much wiser they will be than us (technology, health, education and other improvements)
  • We look too much at the rise of China, India and other high growth markets as a threat, when we should consider it as an opportunity
  • If you are well positioned (investor, business or employee) in healthcare, education, technology, travel and dare I say it in financial services, you are in sectors with 10 years of very strong growth
  • How many cases can you point to where great regulation has saved us from a downturn? Wouldn’t we better placed putting the onus on executives to show good judgement rather than leave it to our politicians and mandarins to tie them in knots?
  • We confuse largely “symbolic” action (an executive foregoing a bonus) all too often with “meaningful” improvements (smarter strategic decision-making, hiring better quality management and employees)
  • We “deify” celebrity leaders (Jack Welch, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Richard Branson) and often overstate the transfer value of their “unique” approaches. In other words their ideas were perfectly suited to the prevailing conditions in their environment but those same conditions rarely exist or in the same order in our own environment
  • Wouldn’t we better served by harnessing the power of “Big People” (an ability to apply knowledge more wisely) than “Big Data” (carving out granules of worthwhile data that must be formatted into meaningful information)?
  • In the hype around Uber, Lyft, Xiaomi and so on why are commentators, investors and analysts not asking more vociferously why so many multinationals failed to exploit these sources of innovation when they were in a far stronger position to do so? Is the boom in corporate venturing a recognition that management in many large multinationals have given up on finding hidden gems within their own business?
  • Twitter and other social media ads, why would they take precedence for a B2B business over boosting the number of peer referrals obtained from existing clients? Don’t get lost in the consumer hype.
  • When did your firm last buy from a cold caller? Wouldn’t those sending spam SMS, email and print flyers be better served attempting to forge a trusting relationship with real buyers? Perhaps they are not very bright.

 

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.