Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Framing Your Ideal Investor

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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“We need more investors, can you help?” is a request I hear daily from entrepreneurs and executives, co-investors and seasoned corporate finance experts. The obvious response is “yes, maybe or no”. Sometimes the obvious is not the most helpful to gain control of the conversation and kick start movement. Let’s frame the real “need”. Remove the irrelevant, focus on the relevant information. You will get dramatically quicker towards your goal.

  1. You’ve asked for capital raising assistance. Are you talking about your ability to attract follow-on investments from your current investors, new investments from your current investors, new investors for your current businesses or new investors for new businesses? What is it exactly?
  2. Then, I am curious where is your current marketing time and money being deployed? Is it being directed to all investors, or those within a specific geography, deal size, stage, investor type? There are 5 generic types of investor for you. Those that are apathetic, pretenders, aspirants, serial developers and leading-edge investors. The first three make up the majority of your audience and are the most price-sensitive, the final two are highly value-driven. Who exactly are you currently talking to? Would you recognise the differences (past relationships, capabilities, substance, style etc)? Let’s agree who you should be talking to?
  3. Then, what are the existing or anticipated needs or needs that you can create for your ideal investors that you are uniquely able to address? How is your investor better off or personally better supported after realising their investment with your help? (Financial, intellectual, social, cultural improvements)
  4. Then, who ideally has a need now or one that could be readily developed for that “return” on their investment? Who has the means and authority to approve the investment? Who can move quickly? Who is not overly prescriptive about the your “past”?
  5. How do you best reach those investors and they you? (referrals, networking, publishing, speaking, awards, media interviews etc)
  6. How do you create the ideal conditions? (eager to meet you, strong word-of-mouth)
  7. How do you create the ideal time? (no disruptions, no delays)
  8. How do you create the ideal location? (neutral, zero distractions)
  9. How do you create the strongest first impression? (impressive content, credibility, rapport)
  10. What competitive, distinctive or leading-edge offerings do you have to draw them in as a current or a future investor? (increasing investment, intimacy)
  11. Are there gaps where you need to add new offerings or to create greater differentiation (value) between existing investor offerings?
  12. What have you jointly agreed to do next? (exchange information, call, meeting)

You can see quickly here that framing your investor question, creates a dramatically sharper point on your arrow.

 

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Stanford for Start-Ups

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

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“There is nothing special about Stanford, everyone around the Bay Area tech scene has been there”.

Those were the throwaway words from a West Coast adviser, when I first mentioned that I had been asked to speak to this year’s class in Stanford’s Continuing Education program. Of course, those comments were directed to the university students, not the global audience of largely mature students and entrepreneurs enthusiastically engaged in a discussion about capital raising. Here is my findings from a really informative session:

  1. The dynamics of raising money at any stage are largely similar but the consequences vary immensely. When less than 25% of seed-funded startups fail to get to the third funding round (they have died, been acquired or are self-sustaining), many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of building and nurturing really strong personal support systems. Family, friends and wise counsellors, who have your best interests at heart, are willing to provide frank solicited advice and a supportive shoulder, when it doesn’t work out.
  2. The in vogue buzzwords are “agile money”. I prefer to talk about “resilient money.” Finding investors sufficiently agile to adapt to your changing needs is helpful but finding those that are sufficiently resilient in the tough and the good times, is really the gold standard.
  3. More than 80% of the class are positive about tech investment in the next 12 months and don’t believe we are in a tech bubble.
  4. Students often ask tougher questions of themselves than serial entrepreneurs. “How do I give myself the best shot at being a successful entrepreneur?” Perhaps it is the desire not to repeat others mistakes or the willingness to readily invest in improving their own skills, behavioural traits and expertise. Too often the mindset flips for the entrepreneur in the real world, “let’s save every cent”, when investing in their own personal needs (mentor, coach, advisor) is critical to their success.
  5. More than 60% are intrigued by corporate venture capital but certainly not beholden to its’ charms. Great question, “Why are corporate businesses suddenly experts in startup investing?” Many believe that CVCs remain highly susceptible to short-term changes in executive decision-making.
  6. Entrepreneurs learn best when they are willing to be vulnerable. In our case, to jump into the role play seat with little preparation and test their abilities to direct the conversation with an investor towards their desired goal.
  7. Understanding the distinctions between public and private investors such as a traditional VC Fund, a Family Office and a Corporate Venture Capital fund requires thinking about the future, not just the present or the past. What are their highest potential future needs? How are you uniquely qualified to address those needs?
  8. We over estimate geographical differences. A multi-lingual global audience of 75 entrepreneurs drawn from 5 continents, brought together by a singular objective, to learn the shortest quickest route to their desired objectives.
  9. Technology won’t replace “in the classroom” learning but tools such as Zoom, enable an increasingly intimate learning experience that certainly narrows the gap, at a a fraction of the cost for the host, guest lecturer and students.
  10. There is something special about Stanford – its’ global brand power. The ability to charge a premium price for global learning, to attract globally re-known lecturers and a culturally diverse group of students. I learn more than the students at these events and I can highly recommend it to others.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

A Fool’s Wisdom

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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In this Trumpian era where people are encouraged to say anything however crass or non-sensical to get noticed on social media platforms, I see so called business advisers increasingly adopting the tactic.

Today on Hotels the global hotel industry’s foremost media blog, a guest contributor and acclaimed expert, writes a two part post suggesting the industry is retarded if it doesn’t adopt a nickel and dimeing strategy! His point is that hotels need to follow car rental and airlines in better educating their customers about the hidden value they are providing, the best way to accomplish that is to charge them for every extra. I read the posts twice to check it wasn’t April 1.

What the writer fails to consider is how much more customers would pay if the product was better. It is this type of poverty mentality that kills growth businesses.

Don’t be drawn into a fool’s wisdom just because it is seemingly coming from a highly credible source. Ridiculous advice really says more about the source’s credibility than the advice itself.

© 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.

 

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.

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.

Global Gaming and Lotteries To Twist

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Here is a few reflections from the largest global casino, lottery, mobile and social gaming event, ICE Totally Gaming 2015, held in London this week:

  • With regulation on a par to the nuclear and energy sectors, can investors really be sure that the valuations for most gaming businesses today have adequately priced changes in regulatory risk?
  • Industry faces unparalleled level of intrusion. In the next 5 years a prominent gaming or lottery business will be a target of cyber terrorism from those whose values conflict with gaming and lottery operators.
  • When the overt marketing message is pushing girls in skimpy outfits with bad fake tans rather like a tired 197os porn film, does it really create a seductive rapport to your brand and its’ products and services or signal that your business has runs out of new ideas and excitement?
  • The sector doesn’t lack for people with abundant enthusiasm but it does lack abundant leadership prowess. Crossing that divide arguably biggest challenge.
  • When the immersive mobile and social gaming experience is so life-like why get on a plane or train to travel to Las Vegas or a London casino with the added cost of rooms, food and beverage and transport?
  • The future of gaming and lotteries is either (1)  a fully immersive gaming offering or (2) fully immersive gamification
  • Expect a significant rise in strategic collaboration, particularly additional services added to the lottery’s offerings
  • “Live” gaming experiences (casinos, sports betting, and so on) will close in even bigger numbers this year, when the consumer can find more excitement and value at home or in other pursuits.
  • The failure of major casino, sports betting and lottery operators to embrace innovation within their business will preface exponential growth in reactive/defensive investment in early-stage growth business this year.
  • Technology vendors in the sector face an increasing gulf between the “have’s” (knowledge, capital and scale) and the “have nots” predicating increased merger and acquisition activity in 2015. (IGT-GTech, Amaya and Scientific Games just the start).
  • Government agencies that are tethered to outdated legislation (Canada, US, Europe) are accelerating the irrelevance of regulated gaming and lottery products as the market diverges with changing customer preferences, demographics and so on. Expect greater friction and legal disputes in the next 12 months.
  • With few barriers to entry, the sector doesn’t lack for entrepreneurs wanting to create and build businesses but how many really “cash out” with a meaningful cheque? Expert a rise in incubators, accelerators and corporate venturing in the next 12-24 months.
  • While ICE like G2E has positioned itself as a “go to” trade show event, the learning opportunities (seminars and conferences) and the value derived from them are still no greater than 4/10. Organisers, sponsors and participants have a lot of work to do to attract a more impressive crowd. Expect the smarter exhibitors to fill this thought leadership “gap” in the next 12-24 months.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking No.1

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

From time to time, I get requests to share my expertise with members of my professional communities. I am delighted to respond briefly and encourage you to email me requests to james@elliceconsulting.com

Q: I would like your perspective, it is no longer good enough to be an order-taker or a passive account manager in market-leading businesses. In today’s economy, companies with high growth opportunities need to recruit people who can close business and fast. Robert McGarvey, Chicago

A: Robert, outstanding account managers and their brands have learned to adjust their approaches, behaviour and attitude in the following three ways:

1. Account managers do not wait for the right time, they make now the right time. That means identifying or creating a client need, which the client is willing to write a check for now, not in six months time.

2. Account managers adopt a process of constant reinvention and communication with their best clients. Their mindset is that the world never stands still and neither does the competition. Their weekly routine would consist at a minimum, most if not all of the following:

  • Rapid completion of existing client assignments
  • Progressing the discussion with prospects towards clients
  • Contacting past clients, seen or spoken to them and presented 1 new, relevant product, service or relationship offering
  • Creating 1 new alternative way for their target buyers to utilise and purchase their products, services or relationships (for example, a workshop, a video, live-streaming meetings, a tool or template, a breakfast seminar and so on)
  • Eliciting three referrals per week from their highest potential clients and positioning the introduction to each referral candidate
  • Investigating and formulating a plan to attend 1 networking event
  • Contacting and proposing a speaking opportunity to a meeting host or sponsor
  • Identifying and developing a relationship with an internal or external alliance partner
  • Routine calls outside of current assignment to target buyers without a particular agenda
  • Sending targeted mailing or newsletter with relevant information to a target group of buyers or prospects
  • Identifying opportunities for an article in media regularly read by their target buyers
  • Disseminating ideas and gaining internal support (financial and non-financial) amongst peers and subordinates for additional client development activities

You would be right to say that requires a lot of focus and discipline but that is precisely the pace that the very best people in your sector are running at. They have learned to adapt their behaviour, skills, experience and resources to get to this level. They have become much more time concious (meetings attended, time usage in meetings, travel to/from meetings, email management, other technology disruption and so on) Why can’t you?

3. Education is the “currency” of outstanding Account Managers. Repeat business success and an abundance of referrals creating an overflowing pipeline of new opportunities is largely about people with the skills and volition to educate their customers. That presumes that they have built first, a peer-level trusting relationship with the buyer. My observation in professional services, re(insurance) brokerage, private banking, financial services and so forth is that selling in a conventional sense is fading fast. The remnants lie in the commodity ends of those businesses but even there technology is acting as a dis-intermediating force for change (price comparison sites, business to consumer capabilities and so on). The future for traditional transactional sales is weak. Who wants to be sold to? Corporate buyers want to be better educated, make more informed decisions and enjoy a collaborative relationship with experts that creates impressive results. That means harnessing data and technology, transforming it into information, knowledge and ultimately, wisdom consistent with the buyer’s goals.

My advice for outstanding account managers who want fresh and exciting challenges and the commensurate rewards:

  • What new, relevant value are you capable of bringing to clients now that you weren’t able to do 3 years ago? (the benchmark at a minimum should be an additional third of your capabilities. Anything less and you are plateauing, whether consciously or not)
  • What are you doing to re-invest in your educational competencies? (at a minimum each year, you are reading 5 new publications, you are listening to 5 new influential opinion-makers, and you are regularly taking advice from 5 new powerful voices, largely operating outside your industry sector)
  • What new skills and behaviours can you readily acquire and apply profitably in the short-term for your best clients? (at a minimum, each year you should be able to pint to 3 new skills or capabilities)
  • Can others readily see a strong “fit” between your skills and the opportunities in today’s markets? (at a minimum, quarterly you should be able to point to 3 occasions where buyers have remarked on your strong alignment with their needs)
  • Are you  emphasising those skills and results in your conversations, presentations and credibility statements regularly or sporadically with target buyers? (at a minimum, monthly you should be able to point to 5 different marketing activities where visibly buyers can see your new, relevant skills) If not, why not?

Success goes to those who are the fastest to adapt in today’s global economy.

Endless Capital Chasing Limited Opportunities

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

A phone call from a longstanding friend, who has recently returned from China to Dubai, full of great ideas to provide the mass affluent Gulf buyers with a digital portal to purchase  luxury retail goods at hugely discounted prices, reminded me that today’s challenge for most entrepreneurs is not access to capital rather it is access to great ideas. Travel, observation, ingenuity and self-confidence are the keys to profitable growth. Yet so often entrepreneurs and particularly corporate executives self-limit their own potential.

1. Short-sighted artificial travel bans are randomly applied to rescue management failure or excess (Barclays). Restricting travel, restricts learning opportunities, meeting new sources of innovation and creating new powerful relationships that will positively impact the firm’s productivity, image, growth and ultimately, profit.

2. We are so in love with our methodology and the beliefs that have defined our past, we fail to observe the changes that are affecting our futures (shifting demographics, technological advancement, wealth transfer, customer buying preference and so on). Failure to observe is largely a management failure in most organisations, to hold people to account firstly, for generating new ideas and secondly, applying that creativity (innovation) in the workplace.

3. We overly hold our brightest and best people to account for compliance with endless policies and procedures that stifle creativity, in the name of increased “security” (solvency etc) and minimising risk to the consumer (banks, financial services, insurance, farming etc.). Precisely at the point when technology is accelerating our lives and competition has never been more intense, demanding that we find  new ways to compete, new ways to attract new customers and new, relevant value for our best customers. Indeed many firms’ incentive compensation systems disproportionately reward those, who comply rather than those, who demonstrate high levels of ingenuity.

4. “Self-confidence” largely comes from acquiring the skills and behaviours needed to profitably grow a business. “Experience” is the culmination (the victories and defeats) of applying those skills and behaviours to particular growth initiatives. We don’t grow and become more experienced without trying and in many cases, failing, at first. Economies, governments, industry sectors and corporate organisations, who prioritise investment in and incentivise their people to acquire new skills and behaviours without a fear of failure are more often than not the ones today creating the most impressive growth opportunities (US, China, UK, Germany, pharma, healthcare, hospitality, technology and so forth). That isn’t so difficult to work out unless you choose to ignore the facts.

Most businesses with solid business goals can attract capital. What they lack are sufficient great ideas. When the top management of those firms shoot themselves in the foot, it is time for their Board and significant shareholders to speak up and hold them to account.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Powerful, Disruptive Equity Analysts

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

An op-ed piece in this morning’s New York Times, titled “Powerful, Disruptive Shareholders” written by Wall Street veterans

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/opinion/powerful-disruptive-shareholders.html?_r=0

Why do most earnings calls reveal so little about the management and so much about equity analysts’ fears? If the objective is a forward-looking collegial debate on value creation, then first those analysts should increase their own odds of identifying and welcoming high potential areas of debate with management. How many times do you see an equity analyst with the right language skills and self-esteem control the discussion with management (off target, verbose questions and fears about management’s response)? My guess is 1/20. Consequently the relationships are virtually never peer-level or built on trust and the results (the observations and hard evidence shared) is formulaic, minimal value and dull.

If Equity Analysts really want to excel they should check back here this Spring for a new upcoming podcast, “Changing Analysts Perspective.”

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.