Posts Tagged ‘return on time invested’

We Have All The Time In The World

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

 

Louis Armstrong made a wonderful record and a great refrain, do you have “time enough for life to unfold?” All of us do in reality unless we are suffering a severe illness or injury, yet a great many smart people structure it disastrously or use it woefully. Just today, the Harvard-educated US hospitality executive, whose calendar works in 15 minute increments, lo and behold by 7:30am shows up 25 minutes late, full of apologies and we achieve close to zero. The European fintech entrepreneur, who insists on taking “urgent” calls when we meet, describes himself “crazy busy” and turns a focused 45 minute capital raising conversation into a rambling 90 minute dialogue of half finished ideas and no clear, next steps. Even my public-funded doctor’s surgery doesn’t schedule back-to-back appointments and the doctors have regularly scheduled times for returning calls. There is a reason why the “cares of the world are rarely behind us”, YOU and your lousy system!

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Obese Businesses In A Healthy World

Monday, March 21st, 2016

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If you hire a personal fitness trainer or financial adviser, you would reasonably expect that they visibly are the embodiment of the healthy lifestyle and prudent risk taking that they promote. If you hire a large consulting firm you would reasonably expect that they are the embodiment of  the reinvention and innovation they promote. Specifically,

  • How does our brand stand out in a crowded market when our buyers don’t see the differences?
  • How do we bridge the gap between our existing buyers’ perception about the quality of our work (high) and their propensity to recommend and refer us to new prospects (low)?
  • Which area of the market should we stake out and leverage digital technology to transform our clients’ future?

That thought crossed my mind at the recent launch event of Source Global Research’s UK and global consulting market findings. The hard evidence suggests that many of these large firms don’t have the answers in respect of their own market. Buyers report close to zero differentiation across their service offering and a low propensity to recommend or refer these firms. The consulting firms themselves are directing marketing resources to the entirety of the market without regard to their ideal buyers, largely reliant on foot soldiers knocking on client doors and service offerings driven by production capability rather than client need.

Indeed, I walked away thinking that many boutique and solo consulting firms including my own are actually way ahead of many large global consultants. Forced by necessity, small entrepreneurial firms have created strong and clear value propositions, identified and directed limited marketing resources to their ideal buyers not every buyer, prioritised building a strong marketing gravity to their brand and created a range of offerings at increasing price points that are tightly customised to their target client’s needs. For once, the grass is indeed greener on the small guy’s side of the fence.

This isn’t an isolated phenomena. Clients of large advisory firms in global equities and fixed income research, investment banking, re(insurance) broking, private equity, private banking and so forth are coming to a conclusion that the large firms and traditional value chain is not working for their benefit. While small firms are creating new value propositions, new ways to attract clients, new ways to integrate high tech into the client experience and so forth, the larger players are largely falling back on trying to sell more of the same in more ingenious manners (leverage) and defending their turf. The trouble is that they don’t have watertight doors. Technology is rapidly providing faster and more impressive ways to apply knowledge to capital and human resources. Size alone is not a guarantee of future survival.

Everyone talks about “disruption” today as if it demands a new or unique response before, during or after an event. I don’t look at it that way. I see it that many large and mid-sized advisory firms in different sectors have got away from the marketing focus, discipline and resolve to compete effectively. They have layered complexity (bureaucracy) over what started out as a simple business with a simple marketing structure and process. The world has and will always change (new regulation, new technology, new capital sources, new competition will arise).

If they prioritise, hire and develop the requisite marketing skills, have their people do the right things, hold them accountable and reward them appropriately, they will have control and relevance. If they sail away from that imperative, they will have increasing insecurity and fear, which ultimately will lead to increasing mergers or worse, extinction.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Inside The Executive Office: Compelling Stories

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

I have spoken to in excess of 750 customers of financial services, insurance and business services advisory and brokerage firms globally over the past 12 months. Hear are the 3 most important questions your clients want to know:

  • Your ability to fix a human problem
  • Your ability to satisfy a human need
  • Your ability to ignite the human spirit

5% of customers report firms providing “absolute clarity/absolute conviction” to all three questions, 55% report firms providing answers that are “opaque/self-doubt” and 40% of responses that are “totally unclear/disingenuous”. If you are an executive in the last two groups (the overwhelming majority), you have a lot of work to do, fast, to change your customer’s perception of your business, your people and the perceived value.

Look at your marketing collaterals, exhibits, media comments, speeches, client and prospect conversations and ask

  1. Internally and externally (clients, business partners, media partners), where can we improve in 1 week?
  2. What needs to change first? (priorities, quick wins)
  3. How will we know we are successful? (what ideally do you want to see, hear and feel)
  4. How can we sustain that level of improvement? (better accountability, enhanced performance, changes to feedback and rewards system)

© 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

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.