Posts Tagged ‘partnerships’

Empty Partnership Offers

Thursday, June 1st, 2017


“I am flattered that you would consider partnering with us, here is how it might work…”


I have sat with six experienced private investors and bankers talking to entrepreneurs and executives with impressive mid-market and small businesses in the past month. Universally, their entire approach bar one notable exception, is driven by a poverty mindset and fear. “How can we minimise our risk, our upfront investment, our commitment (time, cash, resources and so forth)  and get the other partner to show us their true worth while exerting maximum control?” It is not what you say or the other partner hears that matters, it is how you act.  If you really are a prudent risk taker, act like a peer and let go of the fear. Otherwise stop wasting everyone’s valuable time.

© James Berkeley 2017.

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



Illusionary Growth Plans

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I remember a middle ranking executive of a US$3 billion US multinational approaching me for help in articulating his growth plans for the Latin America region. “You consultants are experts at wow presentations. I need to impress my boss”. After a little bit of further digging he wanted me to take his strands of thought, apply some magic and craft them into a meaningful growth strategy presentation with his name on it. In so doing create an illusion that he was the master of his own destiny.

There is a point at which consultants hide their ego and help clients. When they do, I believe ethically it needs to be with appropriate attribution. “Oh no, he’ll see it is not my ideas!”

I find with many executives they want the glory without the risk.

They fear being exposed sometimes rightly, as an imposter.

They fear that visibly paying for help will be seen in the organisation as a sign of weakness rather than strength. As if it is right to use scare resources to hire a consultant but not admit they helped.

They fear that presenting ideas that are not their own will diminish their own credibility amongst their peers.

They fear themselves. They don’t trust their own judgement when they look in the mirror.

When you walk into a meeting dangling your ego and constantly seek validation from others, this is what happens.

When your mindset is that there are others smarter than me. I would be wise to seek their input. I am confident defending the reasons for hiring them. The shared wisdom when applied to key organisational issues will help all of us dramatically accelerate the speed and probability of meeting or exceeding our goals, it is easy to move forward.

There is enough set backs in profitably growing a business to humble all of us but if we don’t take stock of our own mindset and self-talk, we are deluding ourselves that we will be successful.

Decision Maker or Decision Taker

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

I talked yesterday to an investment manager in a highly acquisitive business at the behest of a client I represent, who thought their firm would have a high level of interest buying them. They had known each other as family friends and my client was certain his friend was the “decision-maker”. The manager’s opening line when asked about their interest was, “Are they desperate to sell the business or just figuring out a fit?” When I asked why he posed the question, he responded, “We are on a buying spree, I am just working out how fast they want to move and how much skin I would need to invest in the game (encouraging his superiors to commit)?” The last comment immediately set the alarm bells wringing. Despite my client’s assurances, his friend is a “decision taker”, not a “decision maker”, at least one, who can sign off on the deal without others approval.

I observe that 70% of the time my clients and prospects conversations with potential prospects, clients and partners ends in failure because they enter the conversation at the wrong level (not seen as a credible peer by the “decision-maker”) or worse talk to and invest time in people, who cannot say “yes” without others’ approval (“decision takers”).

Whether it is selling a business, selling a new product or service or exploring a strategic partnership, here is how to swiftly avoid spending oodles of time talking to “decision takers” and ruthlessly get in front of “decision-makers”:

  1. Be clear exactly what you want to talk about and how the “decision maker” is demonstrably better off from buying, using or hiring your expertise.
  2. Visualise exactly who the “decision maker” (by name or title in that organisation) is, who you must build a trusting relationship with and mutually-explore where you might be of help to each other. If you need others (non-decision makers) help identifying the appropriate individual, use language to position it in away that is beneficial for them (“I know you work with XXX, I thought he would be appreciative of hearing about how my firm could help transform your firm’s future and in so doing he would be appreciative you of you introducing us”).
  3. Work out the shortest, quickest route to that individual (referrals, networking, speaking etc). In larger firms there might very well be multiple “decision-makers” who you need to map out.
  4. How do you create the warmest welcome (identify shared interests, experiences, short-term needs, immediate value) to open the conversation with.
  5. What is the right mindset you need to have entering the room (“We are two peers irrespective of our past or accomplishments having a one-to-one dialogue without fear or guilt to help transform our respective futures.”)
  6. What is the best environment and time to meet the “decision-maker”? (when and where are you going to have an uninterrupted conversation, where will you both feel comfortable and rapidly progress the conversation)
  7. What ideally do you want to accomplish in that meeting and how can use the time most effectively to move towards your goals? In other words, how do you know if it has been a success and what are the signs (decision maker’s responses) that you have maximised your own time usage and the dialogue is moving in your desired direction.

The bane of every client facing person is time wasters. When you are your own worst enemy, it is time to adopt a new approach.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Partnership Perpetuation

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Partnerships in most professional services firms hinder not support perpetuation. Long the favoured organisational structure for establishing and building businesses, unless three key ingredients exist, the very survival of the firm is in danger:

1. Accountability for profitable growth and transition is clearly defined. Delegated individuals have the ability to make decisions and move with haste, when required.

2. The core values and operating beliefs are aligned with the firm’s strategy at all times. If the core value is “we put our clients interest first at all times”, and the operating belief of partners nearing retirement is “I will only support investments that minimise my personal risk”, you potentially have a misalignment with long-term investments (upgrading skills and technology) that enhance the client value proposition.

3. The focus is on success (perpetuation) not perfection (unequivocal partner support).

The hallmark of great partnerships is that succession planning is not accidental, it is planned and actively managed.

There is a fine line between triumph and disaster. Recent implosions of law firms Bingham McCutcheon and Davenport Lyons show how poorly managed perpetuation can result in a dramatic collapse. Time is rarely on a partnership’s side.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

An Interview With Me From Your Better Business

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Your Better Business, a UK business media publication interviewed James on the tangible and intangible benefits to Britain as host of the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games:

“Olympic Rewards Or Running Up A Debt”

Game, Set and Match: Powerful Communication Key To Profitable Growth

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

In tennis, serving first is  considered an advantage to apply your skill, power and judgement to outwit your opponent and win the set.  In business, communicating first with skill, power and judgement is often seen by some people as intrusive or uncomfortable and performed by a great many people poorly. Why is that so? They choose to serve softly (email reliance), apply poor judgement about the other party’s best interests (ignore or fail to find the other party’s priorities) or do their level best to opt out of serving first (lose valuable time waiting for the phone to ring) because there is an underlying fear or lack of skills that undermines their effectiveness? 

I find there are 4 common causes and effects:

  1. A fear of rejection. (reluctance to take prudent risks, an eternity to bounce back from defeats, takes defeat personally, counseling others to be careful)
  2. A fear of upsetting someone that might have bigger ramifications. (the perceived risks are overblown and the rewards are underplayed. There is little visible evidence to rationalise the perceived, actual and catastrophic risk of doing something.) On a small number of occasions this fear is legitimate and reasonable, the actual risk is potentially serious or catastrophic to the ongoing relationship.
  3. Poor “self-worth”. Highly intelligent, experienced managers and executives, whose success masquerades a lack of self-confidence in their own abilities, accomplishments and as a person of interest to others. (Neglect to pick up the phone, revert to email or LinkedIn messages that reveal little about their true feelings, the recipient senses a lack of confidence, email and other messages largely ignored)
  4. Weak language skills. They have a great concept, are in love with the methodology but are largely ineffective in accelerating the conversation to the conceptual agreement stage (promising conversations rarely turn into cash)

All of these behaviours can be dramatically improved. It requires client-facing people, who are cogniscant about their own behaviour, honest about their own performance and willing to take immediate action to achieve impressive personal improvement. It also requires, leaders who hold themselves and their subordinates accountable for those same qualities and constantly strive to create an environment in which open and honest communication is encouraged. It is ludicrous to assess sales and marketing people on the number of calls made or emails sent. The only metrics that matter are the results that arise from the communication and the number of times the right behaviour is displayed by the individual.

Aside from the bio mechanics and ball toss, tennis is largely a mental game. The same holds true in business. Why give away the advantage of communicating first, effectively and efficiently, unless of course you don’t believe in what you are saying or fear the consequences? You may not be Roger Federer or Serena Williams but there is no excuse for not giving it your absolute best shot.    


© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Market Entry and Alliances – Catalyst for Growth

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


Franchising partnerships in Kuwait, joint ventures in Spanish real estate, global hotel marketing consortia, law firm alliances in SE Asia and correspondent reinsurance broker relationships in Bermuda, market entry takes any number of forms. Irrespective of the methodology, there is a sequence of questions that James explains must be discussed openly and honestly to establish an effective alliance, which results in dramatic, not insipid growth.

The Keys to Rational Separation and Divorce in Local Partnerships

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Ellice-Consulting5-150Our relationships with local business partners are often symbiotic – as we evolve, so do they. In a great many durational or specific relationships, there is a point in each organisation’s growth where both parties are better off apart than remaining together. There are also instances where there is a “forced” separation or divorce (merger + acquisition, breach of contract etc.). James shares a small number of distinct approaches that every organisation operating in a growth market should embrace unreservedly.

The Keys to Dramatic Growth in Local Partnerships

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Ellice-Consulting5-150Rather like New Year resolutions, partnerships between international firms and local businesses rarely sustain profitable growth on their own. Drawing from the experiences of foreign investors and executives in Chicago, Zurich, Lagos, Dubai, Shanghai, Osaka, Jakarta, Salvador and Mexico City, amongst 90 “high growth” cities, James provides powerful techniques and a checklist that business executives should refer to each morning ahead of speaking to their local partners.