Management

Blogs and articles about general management pracitice

Added Value

Do you know the true value of your customers?

 

Customer numbers, revenues and retentions are in many ways the rocket fuels of business success. Certainly if you wish to impress bankers, investors and the market in general with corporate growth under your leadership and management you had better understand and pay homage to this important trilogy.

Do you know the true value of your customers?

What is the key metric you use to measure and drive your business?

When asking this question I find that most answer with “EBIT”, “margins”, “revenues”, ROI or some other fairly common KPI, however, I believe “Customer Lifetime Value” (LTCV) is perhaps the most significant measure to indicate the general health, sustainability and true value of a business. It is one of the most overlooked and least understood KPI’s or metrics in business, and yet it is one of the easiest to quantify.

Why is this particular metric so important? Because truly understanding it will deliver rewards, it will give you an accurate indication of how much repeat business you can expect from a particular customer, which in turn enables you to accurately forecast, cost and develop your business.

The value of LTCV in determining marketing spend and direction is immeasurable as it will not only help you to decide how much you can afford to spend to “buy” each new customer for your business, it will also motivate you to grow your business by showing you when and when to spend.

Once you understand how frequently a customer buys, how much they spend and for how long you retain them you will better understand how to allocate your resources to optimize customer growth and retention programs.

An easy calculation to estimate CLTV is to insert actual or estimated (if you’re in the planning stages or just starting out) numbers into the following equation:

(Average Value of a Sale) X (Number of Repeat Transactions) X (Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a Typical Customer)

A simple example would be the calculation of a service subscriber who spends $20 every month on a 3 year average retention. The CLTV would be:

$20 X 12 months X 3 years = $720 LTCV

We can see from this hypothetical example why so many successful businesses offer a free or discounted service to attract new customers and grow their business. Savvy entrepreneurs know that as long as they spend less than (say) one year’s revenue of $240 to acquire a new customer, the customer will quickly prove profitable and add a further CLTV to the business.

Further refinements can be made by calculating the margin value of each customer and the cost/benefit of a stronger customer service and or retention program.

Once you can demonstrate the multiples of CLTV you place your business in a very strong position should you later require additional funds for expansion from banks and financiers or equity from investors

Growing your CLTV

Once you have some idea of the lifetime value of your customer, you have two Targeted Marketing options in deciding how much to spend to acquiring each new customer:

  1. Allowable acquisition cost: This is the maximum amount you’re willing to spend per customer per Targeted Marketing campaign – In this instance ensure the cost expended is less than the profit made on the first sale. This is an excellent short-term strategy for an emerging business or one in which cash flow is a concern.

  2. Calculated Investment acquisition cost: This is the calculated cost you expend per customer in Targeted Marketing where you know that you will take a loss on initial and occasionally subsequent sales as you have pre-determined that you have the available cash resources to fund your marketing investment. This is a longer-term strategy ideal for mid-life to mature businesses looking to consolidate growth patterns and market share.

Marketing: Expense or Investment?

This is an interesting question which all entrepreneurs should resolve very early in their careers. In my assessment marketing must always be an investment with a measurable ROI. Understanding the LTCV of your customers provides you with such an ROI, a metric easy to establish and measure.

You will struggle to develop an optimal marketing budget unless you know what the return on your investment needs to be. This knowledge is essential as it will lead you to make sound marketing decisions based on the reality of sound and supported metrics rather than the ethereal promises of a new media promotion or program.

Understanding your LTCV’s provides you with specific knowledge as to how, or if, you can discount or offer incentives to attract new business. It will help you avoid the potentially disastrous effects of discounting when your business needs cash flow to survive. In addition, you will find innovative ways to build value upfront and create offers that drive enough volume to support and eventually increase your overall LTCV.

Think this through and take some time to calculate the LTCV equation as it applies to your business no matter if you are established, growing or just starting out. This is the metric for everyone.

In summary, the LTCV will determine the planning and frequency of your marketing spend, the ultimate success and thus the ultimate value of your business.

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By, Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://www.neilsteggall.org/?p=1216

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Win-Win WCP 2014

 

How To Become A Great Negotiator

Most of our successful leaders and entrepreneurs are great negotiators. The skill of negotiation is recognised as one of the important ingredients of success and yet so few of us truly understand what it is that makes a great negotiator.

It is often said that children are great negotiators; they are persistent and return to their objective time and time again, attempting differing angles to win their parents around. From here it often goes wrong as well-meaning parents impose rules and suggest that this constant negotiation is both bad manners and plain naughty!

Recovering from childhood scaring we recognise that negotiations are a fact of life, we are constantly negotiating in both our personal and professional lives.

Those that are not strong negotiators tend to fall into one of two camps: the first dislike or avoid negotiating and this can lead to problems in resolving issues or progressing their careers, the second see the first rule of negotiating as the need to “win”.

Both attitudes are problematic the first is both self-defeating and confusing to others and the second is always going to leave behind a bruised “loser” – neither is a good outcome.

There are THREE key steps essential to becoming a great negotiator:

Applying these three negotiation processes will significantly increase the impact and success of your future negotiations.

1.0 NEGOTIATING ATTITUDE

What you bring to the table in terms of your attitude and approach will have a significant bearing on the outcome, you should always:

Show Respect & Trust

See the other team or person as an equal and treat them with the courtesy and respect you would expect, it’s surprising how this opens real discussion.

Listen to what isn’t said

Look carefully at what the other side is really saying, this will tell you what they really want.

Remain Flexible

Successful negotiators view each key point from multiple perspectives; they are flexible in which points to concede to achieve the end game. Be prepared and willing to change.

Target Continuity

Always view the other team as a valuable, respected and long term contact. Armed with this attitude you will never be tempted to “rip off” the other team.

Win-Win Outcomes

This is the ultimate outcome in any negotiation; it will leave all parties satisfied and lead to productive, successful long term relationships. Sound groundwork, an open mind and a fair approach will find more win-wins than you would at first imagine.

2.0 THE NEGOTIATION

A successful negotiation is usually based upon 3 distinct stages: Preparation, Negotiation and Documentation. Each stage is of equal importance; a great negotiator knows this and allows for it when planning.

Preparation

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin).

The key to preparation is to place yourself mentally into the other party’s position. Assess where they are at within the negotiation, what they want, what they need and what they can live with. Understand their motivation, perspective and opinions on the topic. What are the minimum conditions they can accept and at what point are they likely “to walk away”.

Define your own goals and objectives, analyse what you must have, what you can concede and where your fall-back position is. Develop several potential options; identify your best possible outcome and your least attractive “fall back” position.

Search for “win-win” solutions

Negotiating

Be relaxed, respectful and most importantly be prepared to really hear what is being said and retain an open mind.

Listen rather than speak, silence is your friend. Search for common points of agreement rather than the differences; agree these early to develop trust and comfort.

After the initial discussion take the initiative and start the actual negotiation by tabling your offer. This initial offer forms a subconscious reference point, a middle ground if you like. If you are buying start low and if you are selling start high.

An excellent tactic is to make multiple offers each with different terms and conditions this demonstrates your flexibility whilst the other party’s response to the choices tells you much about what they really want or need.

Always show “Samurai Sympathy”; that is do not box the other party into a corner from which they cannot escape without a loss of face.

Once you have established the other parties bona fides and you are satisfied they want to reach a genuine solution don’t be afraid to be the first to concede points but do so in a “give and take” scenario. Know what you want to take. Focus on the end point rather than the current position. Being pro-active will build trust and goodwill.

Showing respect for the other party does not mean that you cannot show strength or participate in the theatre of negotiating. If unreasonable demands or proposals are put forward demonstrate your dissatisfaction, show your surprise and your disappointment strongly but do not allow any genuine anger or frustration to develop, remain calm and remain in control.

Don’t be in a hurry, abide by your timetable (especially when buying), confrontations will occur, board approval may need to be sought, lawyers consulted all of which are normal. A great negotiator allows for this, allows time for parties to cool off when discussion becomes overheated. If tension builds, ask if you and your team can have 10 minutes alone to discuss the situation, be pro-active, remain flexible and remember your objective.

In the closing stages of a negotiation the great negotiator seeks a creative solution, they look beyond the box, they expand the available options rather than fight the detail and they stand firm to their position. This is the time to bring everything you have learnt into play in the best win-win solution you can offer.

3.0 DOCUMENTATION

I have seen people leave a negotiation “pumped-up” by the result and ready to party only to find out a day or two later that the other party has had a “change of mind” and called the deal off.

After reaching agreement around the table it is best to re-iterate the key points of the agreement, hand write them have two copies made and each party sign them off. This isn’t a binding agreement but it is a moral statement.

Confirm the agreement in a written Heads of Agreement and get this document signed within 24 hours of the meeting. The HOA should cover any conditions precedent and a timeline to contracts.

Call the other party as soon as appropriate after the meeting to thank them for their time and professionalism, work with them and strengthen the bonds for the future.

Finally food for thought…………….

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate”

Unknown Quote        

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By, Neil Steggall

 The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-jd

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Crash - WCP 2014

 “How important is profit?” this question in one form or another is one of the most common questions we receive from start-up owners or potential start-ups and surprisingly it’s not a simple answer.

Some time ago I sat down for a chat with a highly intelligent friend who had recently joined the board of a mid-sized family company. “I just don’t get it” she said “everyone tells me the business is booming, sales are up, profits are up yet from what I read the company is broke”.

My friend had sat down with the half year results and looked at the first two quarters performance against budget. Revenues were up by around 35%, Gross Margin was tracking, as a percentage, around 5% better than budget and operating expenses were around 11% lower than budget leaving a very healthy EBIT compared to budget and management applauding themselves all round.

Where is the problem? I hear you ask.

Cash or rather the lack of it was the problem. As revenues and revenue projections grew the funds allocated to the raw materials and finished goods needed to service such growth had increased exponentially as had the debtor’s ledger.

Yes the business was producing more at lower cost and selling every item produced at a profit but amongst the excitement no one had calculated the impact on future cash flows.

If you achieve an EBIT of 20% (which is on the generous side) it means you have to outlay costs, in advance, of at least $0.80c in every dollar of anticipated revenue. You may offset this to some extent by negotiating an extension to trading terms with your creditors but that is a very slippery slope and best avoided.

If you sell your product to a major retail chain, they will look to pay you in 60 days from the end of the month in which you invoice them. So you could easily wait 60 to 90 days for payment. For every $10 of widgets you sell them each month your cost is $8 and if you carry that and the subsequent monthly sales until you are paid, you are out of pocket by $24 before you receive a cent. On top of which you have had to lift your finished goods to 60 days stock to meet varying demand and raw materials by 45 days so you are roughly $50 out of pocket as you wait for the $10 to be paid of which you retain $2 profit or EBIT.

Yes you are still profitable but your short term cash burn is exceeding income and without a rethink your fast growing, profitable enterprise is going to crash.

“A profitable business without a cash flow is dead in all but name!”

My friend could see where the company was heading whilst the sales manager was elated by high revenues, the production manager proud of the COGS and the operations manager satisfied by the low level of OPEX. In all businesses good cash flow management and budgeting is essential.

There were several funding options available to secure this company’s future once the threat was identified. But within 60 days the company may have been in turmoil and no funder wants to lend into a panic.

So in answer to the question; profit is very important but it is just one of what I call “The Four Pillars of Business”: Revenue, Cost, Profit and Cash; and always remember that whilst the first three are very important CASH IS ALWAYS KING.

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By, Neil Steggall

 The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-iL

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Passion

 

We are often told that great leadership and success flows from the passionate vision held by the entrepreneur or CEO and how they followed their dream fuelling their passions as the company prospered.

I may be a sceptic but this raises two questions in my mind, firstly what is it about “grey widgets” that fuelled such passion and secondly is the passion story really true or a heroic post script?

Passion (let’s set aside the boy meets girl and….) is a much confused state, for instance is it about the activity or the outcome? Let me give you a couple of examples:-

  • As a teenager I really enjoyed dismantling and reassembling cars and motor cycles. Learning all I could about the intricate detail of what enabled these machines to function was a wonder to me. Wow a natural engineer claimed my parents!

  • As a mature adult I turned to cooking in my spare time, restaurant quality food perfectly plated. Wow, open a restaurant my friends cried!

Let me be clear I not passionate about engineering or restaurants but I am passionate about taking a complex problem and delivering solutions. I am not rewarded by the repair or the cooking but by the solution, one could say I am indifferent to the action but passionate about the outcome.

Today I watched a Barista making my regular coffee, her face a study in concentration yet as she placed the coffee on the table in from of me her face was a picture of happy satisfaction. Whether she realises it or not her passion is in pleasing people.

Back to our successful entrepreneurs and CEO’s; are they really passionate about the production of “grey widgets” or are they in fact passionate about a task well done? I think it is generally the latter!

Perhaps we should look at what turns us on rather than our passions – a new take on the Chicken & Egg?

Neil Steggall

Barking Mad with Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-hZ

Business Advice with Bite

www.wardourcapital.com

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Who is.....WCP 2014

Don’t F*** With Your Business. Plan For Success.

I apologise for the title, but I see so many smart people with so many great ideas fail to make the grade and do you know why? They simply fail to develop and implement an effective business plan.

In my experience in leading dozens of business planning workshops across the world, I’d say only around 10% to 15% of the small to mid-cap teams I’ve encountered have an effective business planning process.

Why is this? Why do so many business owners fail to understand that good planning equals good management and that in turn, builds a great business? Am I missing something here? Can it truly be such a hard concept to sell, so hard for a burgeoning entrepreneur to grasp that a sound business plan could secure their future?

So back to the title……simply put it reflects my sense of frustration!

It’s not hard; business planning is about managing resources and priorities in an organized way. It is a function of leadership, and good leadership and management is directly related to productivity.

How can we fix this?

Well here are three very easy steps to help get you planning and, in turn, improve your management, productivity and performance.

1. Write a plan. Many business plans are written to look good and impress investors, banks and other external parties. What we are looking at here is a simple document designed purely to help you as the business owner manage better. Start simply and just jot down the essential points of your business as bullet points, tables, and short explanations. The strategy element of planning is to focus  on  where you want to be, what you’re good at, what matters to you, which people are most important to you and what you can do for them. It’s about positioning, determining your target market and product focus.

It’s important to write these details down in order to commit to your vision and to communicate your vision to close stakeholders such as employees. If you don’t have a team, there’s value in being able to refer back to your original thoughts and ideas for your business and to compare them to your actual results.

2. Set Milestones. In order to check your progress, define and then include your long-term goals. Think in general terms about how you see your business developing over the next three years.

From there, get specific. You’ll want to establish milestones for when you want to accomplish certain goals, and know who you will want to carry them out. Go beyond sales, costs and expenses, and look at what really drives your business. It might be conversions, page views, clicks, meals, trips, presentations, seminars and other engagements.

Then, establish a review schedule — when you and your team review changed assumptions, track results and make changes as necessary.

3. Implement Your Plan. Involve your team and encourage ownership of ideas. Tracking and analysing numbers can help you manage the work behind the numbers. You’ll be in a better place to recognize and highlight what’s working and what isn’t working for your business and your team.

Suppose enquiry is up, but conversions are down or revenues are up but margins down. You collect your data, review it with your team and develop a plan to make changes toward reaching your goals. That’s management.

Managing your business successfully requires more than just praise and pats on the back. Sometimes it means focusing attention on problems, helping people solve them if possible, discussing and embracing mistakes, and, in the worst case, weeding out people who don’t care about bad results. This can all be accomplished more efficiently when you have a plan in place.

Related article: – The Power of Marginal Gains |  http://wp.me/p401Wv-di 

Either way, whether results are better than expected or worse, the planning and tracking makes your follow up easier. The process itself adds commitment and peer pressure to the team. Highlighting good performance is easier when there are agreed-on numbers to define it. And, probably most important, dealing with poor performance is always hard, but not quite as hard when you can focus on the specific numbers instead of personalities or office politics.

Which brings me back to where I began: Planning is management. Without planning, your management is at a real disadvantage.

Neil Steggall

Barking Mad with Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-hE

Business Advice with Bite

 

www.wardourcapital.com

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Persistence Pays Off - wcp 2014

Remember, Persistence Pays Off.

Stay Motivated With These 7 Tips

Persistence and motivation are in many ways the rocket fuels of success. Certainly if you wish to impress colleagues with your leadership and management you had better hone both of these skills. 

Immediately after waking each day I have started posting a motivational quote to test its effect on me and my friends. A positive start to the day is essential, so often the quote is leadership or persistence based and quite old fashioned by today’s standards.

The leaders quoted include amongst many: Franklin D Roosevelt, Dale Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Napoleon and an old favourite of mine Zig Ziglar.  These men suffered many setbacks in both life and career and yet through sheer guts, determination and persistence they moved forward and succeeded.

The dictionary defines persistence as, “Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”  In other words, don’t expect it to be easy and understand that most will tell you that you are wrong in your chosen pursuit. Until you are successful; at which stage they always knew you were a genius.

For entrepreneurs or management starting life’s climb, an MBA, technical competence, talent, intelligence, and leadership ability – are assumed traits.  However, the key characteristic that is missing for sustained achievement is persistence.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”  – President Calvin Coolidge

In order to achieve complicated or difficult goals, persistence is the most significant factor.  There are lessons to be learnt from the successful, persistent leaders in all walks of life who have overcome enormous obstacles.

  1. Hold Firm to your vision: Even when others tell you it’s foolish or unachievable.

  2. Train Your Mind to focus on your vision: This doesn’t mean be blind to issues but don’t allow the problems distract you from the objective.

  3. Grow Stronger: Constantly improve your skills and knowledge, constantly question and analyse especially after failure

  4. Change: Be prepared to change 180 degrees if you are wrong, accept your failures

  5. Be Reliable: Be there, be seen trying, be consistent, and demonstrate that even small steps are still results delivered and failures lessons learnt on the journey..

  6. Complete the Task:  Finishing the job requires the courage to hold your vision, an ability to think through and overcome obstacles and to persist when others would walk

  7. Never Ever, Ever, Give Up: Keep at it despite the obstacles, despite negative comment, despite the odds

In principle these points are so easy to state and yet it takes enormous reserves of mental strength, courage and character to swim against the tide and achieve great things.  

Lets consider how persistence and motivation changed history……

 The Little Spider That Changed History……..

“A Spider that changed history?” I hear you ask; well as a small child I heard a great story demonstrating the value of persistence involving The Scottish King Robert the Bruce and a humble but determined Spider.

Robert the Bruce was defending his country from invasion by the English and their armies. Battle after battle he had fought with England. Six times Robert the Bruce had led his men into battle. Six times his men were beaten, and finally driven into flight. The army of Scotland was entirely scattered, and the King was forced to hide in a cave.

As he lay recovering, he noticed a spider over his head, getting ready to weave its web. He watched as it worked slowly and with great care. Six times it tried to throw its thread from one edge of the cave wall to another. Six times its thread fell short.

The spider persisted and on its seventh attempt was successful. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce gathered his remaining troops and told the story of the spider’s persistence. Using this story he reinvigorated and motivated his bedraggled army  into one last battle and one in which they won such a famous victory.

This childhood legend has had a very significant impact on my life during times of difficulty and failure.

Neil Steggall

 

Barking Mad with Neil Steggall

 

http://wp.me/s401Wv-532

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with bite!

www.wardourcapital.com

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New Ideas - wcp 2014

Leader or Manager? – Vive la Différence!

The terms leadership and management are often used to describe the same person or even used as though the words are interchangeable. They are not. The differences between leadership and management are vast and varied and placing the wrong person in the wrong position could have dire consequences for your business.

Leaders are rarely great managers and vice versa. Both are much needed and both have very different skill sets needed to build and sustain a successful modern business.

In his book: Management, the Individual and Society, Peter Drucker stated that “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Whilst the phrasing of this is a little “clunky” I have thought about the quote over many years and I cannot really improve upon it.

There is no hierarchy between the two but it is important to recognise which is which as early as possible both to ensure each individual receives the best training and support and to plan where in your organisational structure these Leaders and Managers are going to fit. Understanding who your leaders and managers are will assist in strengthening your organisation and its corporate culture and morale.

Good leaders have a unique ability to rally team members around a vision. Their belief in the vision is so strong, and they are so passionate about achieving it that team members will naturally want to follow them. Leaders also tend to be willing to take risks in pursuit of the vision.

Managers, however, are far more adept at executing the vision in a very precise and systematic way, taking responsibility for the infrastructure and detail of the vision and working with the team to see the job done. Managers are usually very risk-adverse.

It is the combination of these two skill sets working in harmony which often differentiates two seemingly similar organisations.

I have often likened leaders & managers to composers and conductors. The composer creates the dream or vision and the conductor delivers it.

By, Neil Steggall

 

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-gZ

 www.wardourcapital.com

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William Shakespeare WCP 2013

Much Ado About Nothing – When Doing Nothing Lifts Productivity.

In literary circles debate continues as to just what Shakespeare’s words relate to and that’s been going on for 400 years so let’s not expect too much management progress during the course of this article, however, its never too late to change and productivity improvements rapidly build the bottom line!

 “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”

Peter F. Drucker

Now be honest….is this happening in your work place? Many managers and business owners still confuse activity with action. If phones are ringing keyboards clicking and people are rushing then we have action and action generates profit….right? WRONG!

Activity is all of the above but action is doing that what is needed, when it is needed and for the common good. Not all of us are as good at action as we might like to be.

There are days when it would be best if we just stayed away from work because on those days we are simply put – counter productive!

Five CPF’s (Counter Productive Factors) stand out in my mind and I have seen havoc wreaked by each and every one of them.

Let’s have a look at the 5 Key CPF’s:

The Hero Syndrome: This is the CPF which most trips my switches, the Corporate Hero who works all night drafting a document or arrives on a flight from Timbuktu at 6.00am and comes straight into the office. Unwashed, crumpled and lacking sleep do they really imagine they are going to be productive let alone make good decisions? Get home and go to sleep you naughty children!

The HUNGRY Warrior:  This manager is simply too important to take time to eat. As they have told everyone they arrived at work at dawn carrying a mega Starbucks (a bucket of luke warm, sweet liquid, usually brown) which has nourished them through to 2.00pm. Why they wonder are they throwing note pads, pencils, shouting and blinking back tears as their staff look on in joy? Its because your brain as ceased to function due to a lack of essential food. Go home eat and then stand in a corner until bed time!!

The Martyr: Don’t worry it’s only a sniffle, yes I am sweating, I ran for the lift, no my temperature has been steady at 40° all night and I should know as I didn’t sleep a wink! Ahhchoo!! Now how and why can this person possibly believe they can a) avoid infecting the innocent and b) make any contribution to the management of the organisation? Does this person think on a good day or can we excuse today’s silly performance on the basis of ill health. Go home immediately and wear a hair shirt for 24 hours!!

The Beast: It’s a long story which started late yesterday when driving home. Some absolute moron driving a “domestic car” would not let the beast into the traffic. Worse was to come. Finally home the beast’s life partner just didn’t care, the gin was Tanqueray and not BBR No3 as ordered and to cap it all the tuna was overcooked! Obviously sex was off the menu and our beast was again insulted in the morning traffic finally arriving 15 minutes late for the finance committee. The coffee was cold; the report still printing and the CFO was a moron. Now our beasty can actually be quite pleasant but too much work and not enough play has done its dirty deed. So Beasty go home, relax, and stay there until you can genuinely acknowledge that drivers of “domestic” cars have some rights and that your long suffering partner had done a great job over dinner and gin’s (authors note) –although BBR No3 is exquisite and really should have been available!

The Wolf: I am going to stretch your new age cred here and suggest that in my observation a section of our population is affected by Luna movements. Yes the full moon weirdos! I won’t blind you with science here but I knew someone who became so irrational with each full moon, his eyes became red rimmed and he was for a couple of days quite, quite mad! There have been others, far too many to mention who become just a little odd every 28 days or so. In fact my own family believe it best not to ask me for money or criticise any aspect of my being for this short period each month. Download a Lunar diary and monitor your colleagues, generally they can function but eccentrically so. Treat these sufferers kindly but discretely hide the knives.

“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

Peter F. Drucker

 

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-fk

www.wardourcapital.com

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Leadership Attitude WCP 2014

“The Essence of Leadership”

 

I recently completed a series of short presentations on the 10 key aspects of SME Management. They are deliberately short, condensed and to the point, so much so that I have used an expression from the kitchen and called the series the “Essence of Management”

Those of you who know me or are regular readers of my articles you know my reputation as an unmitigated waffler so reducing complex points to an essence whilst retaining both relevance and interest was quite a challenge!

To be a good leader you need to grasp, understand and build on “The 3 C’s of Leadership”

  1. Competence: your ability to do the job

  2. Credibility: ensuring others believe you can do the job

  3. Confidence: knowing you can do the job and that others believe in you. You have a sense of purpose.

So there you have it!!….Leadership Essence.

Now to provide a little polish before you pin on the Gold Leadership Star.

  • It’s okay to show humility. When you make a mistake admit it, own it and own the solution. Don’t wallow in a bath of negativity, just fix your mistake and move forward.

  • Accept that we all lack some awareness of our own strengths and weaknesses. This acceptance allows people to see and know a little about who and what you are as a leader.

  • Set time some each week to reflect on your leadership. Respect this time as you would an important meeting and be there.

  • Praise and thank your team. Let them feel the win! Take your pride in theirs. Your win in their win.

  • Lead. Show a sense of purpose. Where are you leading? Why are you leading? Why is it important to the organisation?  Communicate these points clearly and frequently lead your team through them.

 “Leadership Presence” . . . is the way you connect with people. Look and act the part.

Leadership is about the people you serve, but it’s also about you. As the leader it is your responsibility to create the conditions and supply the tools for your team to succeed. If you lead well the team will follow, there is a quotient of reciprocity, your team will realise this, it’s called respect.

As the leader you have an advantage; use it for the good of your team. Humility is a sign of strength of character, a sign of self-awareness, and also, it’s a sense of humanity.

Sip on this essence and think about leadership!

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-dE

www.wardourcapital.com

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Positive Pricing WCP 2014

The Power of Positive Pricing!

And how to use positive pricing to double your profits $$$

 

When discussing management theory some subjects are greeted with much more enthusiasm than others and recently I addressed a group of SME owners on “Improving Profits” a subject dear to all and a topic pretty well guaranteed to ensure rapt audience attention irrespective of the speakers skill.

Yes profit was in everyone’s mind and the subject was greeted with enthusiasm, yet as I probed, few participants really understood what profit is, how it is calculated and what profit really means.

After some general discussion I threw open three questions:-

  1. Do you know what your profit was last year?

  2. Do you know how to define or calculate your profit?

  3. Do you want to double your profit next year?

Let’s leave question 3 aside for now as I reckon you can guess the answer. Disappointingly however, few participants could provide a clear and accurate answer to questions 1 & 2, so we spent some time discussing the calculation and meaning of Gross Profit, Operating Profit, EBIT and finally Net Profit.

We covered off a little basic accounting and financial theory before agreeing that for everyday use EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) was perhaps the most relevant and practical “measure of profit” and that most companies operate within a rough ratio of EBIT of to revenue of between 5% and 20%. SME’s tend to perform a little better (in my experience) at between 10% and 20% and so we chose 15% as our optimum target.

Obviously question 3 brought about an enthusiastic if predictable response…….everyone wanted to double their profit! The reasons for wanting to increase profit were many and varied spanning those who were currently unprofitable and struggling to those who saw profit as the ultimate measure of success – more on that later!

So given the enthusiasm for the subject the doubling of profit was discussed as a group and the group ideas noted. Those ideas or suggestions for improving profits emerged in roughly the following order of importance:-

a)      Reduce costs

b)      Lift sales

c)       Spend more on marketing

d)      Use social media to drive sales

e)      Improve/increase product range/service

f)       Buy better/lower costs (stock, raw materials, etc)

g)      Improve efficiencies/productivity

h)      Expand/take on more staff

We work-shopped these 8 ideas until we collectively agreed that lifting profits this way wasn’t as easy as it looked and so I asked a very simple question.

“What would happen if you increased your selling prices by 15%”?

The consensus was nothing much. It may lose some customers but by focusing on service standards and a strong customer contact and communication program customer loss could be minimised if not overcome altogether.

Let’s return to our earlier accounting theory and take the example of an SME with revenues (sales) of $500,000 pa.

After wages, costs and overheads, that hypothetical business will generate an EBIT, as discussed, of approximately 15% of revenues –so let’s say $75,000 per annum.

If we applied an across the board price increase of 15% the hypothetical business would generate additional revenues of $75,000 which if costs are stable (as they should be) w ould flow directly to EBIT thus doubling your profit.

If your selling price was lifted by only 5% then your revenues would be $525,000 and EBIT $100,000 giving you an increased profit of 33.33% and so on.

Surveys demonstrate three consistent failings in SME profits:_

         i.            A reluctance to charge what the job or service is really worth – remember your EBIT or PROFIT is only 15% of revenues the rest goes to cover wages and costs

       ii.            A willingness to discount by 10% or 15% when asked. This “wipes out” your profit – why give it?

      iii.            A failure to pass on cost increases as they occur. This means your profit is slowly eroding by at least CPI and possibly more.

The money you retain or take out of your business each week to feed your family and pay the household bills with isn’t profit. That is your wage.

Given the risk, stress, long hours and commitment you dedicate to building your SME you need to see a profit over and above your wages!

Your profit can be fine-tuned by attending to some of the points raised in a) to h) above but addressing your price points will give you the fastest and most efficient profit improvement.

Earlier I mentioned that some SME owners see profit as the ultimate measure of success. Profit is perhaps better seen as the fuel that can be used to build your business through:-

  • Improved conditions and training for employees

  • Providing the highest possible and most up to date services to your customers.

  • Allowing access to quality advisor’s and advice

  • Employing and retaining the best people

These four points will lead to the achievement of sustainable profits and when you come to sell your business sustainable profits are very valuable indeed!

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-dA

www.wardourcapital.com

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Winning WCP 2013

The Power of Marginal Gains

I first heard of the power of marginal gains as a student. Back then “the power” of ideas such as marginal gains, marginal pricing,  marginal costing, marginal probability and compound interest were all being used in business studies to show how something didn’t have to be “wiz, bang, new, fast and you beaut” to make a difference. It was power man!

Compounding interest has continued to fascinate me and occasionally I while away the odd hour on Excel running compounding options. Truly fascinating…..really! The largest deal I ever closed was when as a young executive I convinced the board of a major American company to supply us on the basis of marginal costing.

Recently on a quiet Saturday (I know it’s sad) I googled “The Power of Marginal Gains” expecting to find a plethora of MBA theses on the subject but instead I found page after page of British cycling triumphs and a guy called Dave Brailsford – Now Sir Dave all thanks to his marginal gains!

British Cycling…….Why?

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years’ time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.

In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.

And now for the important question: what can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.

Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.

And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.

So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, travelling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.

Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially over time.

And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse (in other words an aggregation of marginal losses) a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take fries with that”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over a period.

The Bottom Line

Success is a few simple disciplines, practised every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.

There is enormous power in small steady wins. This is why the tortoise usually beats the rabbit, the system is greater than the goal.

Where are the 1 percent improvements in your life?

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-di

www.wardourcapital.com

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A woman Knows - WCP 2014

What Do Women Know About Business……?

Quite a lot actually!

My offensively sexist headline was used as a “hook” to encourage you to think about gender equality in business.

Gender Equality WCP 2014

In my years in business very little management discussion has focused on the simple fact that our population is more or less and equal split between males and females. When gender is discussed it is usually in terms of targeting a product at either men or women – as an example I am told that in my son’s local supermarket in up-state New York they now sell pink rifles for the “girls”!

Where is he going with this? I hear you ask; well stay with me.

Each week I set aside two days, usually Tuesday and Thursday to meet with clients, prospective clients and the affiliate businesses we maintain relationships with. This week was different.

All but one of my meetings was with a female CEO or Manager; it wasn’t planned it just happened that way.

Interestingly SME’s lead the way in gender balance as over 32% of SME CEO’s are female compared to only 8% in the corporate world.

Now back to my week. It turned out to be both challenging and exciting as I quickly recognised that the “pattern” of the meetings was subtly different, the questions put to me were far more direct and probing and some of the feedback regarding our corporate direction and product offerings was more frank than usual. This was consistent across my two days of meetings and the only difference was the gender mix of the meetings.

I didn’t initially think anything of the changed “pattern” I merely enjoyed the buzz and excitement that flows from strong and intelligent discussion and was pleased with progress made. Towards the end of my string of meetings I realised this “pattern” had to be more that a coincidental meeting of minds with a series of very challenging intellects.

These very smart CEO’s were different. They were WOMEN!

Research from Dr Patrice Zsabo of The University of Manchester published in 2012 states that males and females do think and act differently in both social and professional settings.

The research suggested females demonstrated higher levels of both Social IQ and social empathy than men, they are conciliators by nature, good team members and more detailed, honest and open in their discussion with colleagues.

I recognised that I was benefiting from the subtly different ideas and views which flowed back and forth during the discussions with these very smart, savvy and professional women and I believe they felt the same. I quickly realised that collectively we were stronger, a more complete team.

 I didn’t agree with all that was put forward but I had cause to stop, think and question my positions and ideas and that very questioning provided me with a wider understanding of the issues.

Logically if 50 percent of the population is female and 50 percent male I am at a loss to understand why current management doesn’t reflect this.

Why as managers do we not venture out to seek the views of the opposite sex? Surely for optimum balance and a better understanding both sexes should be involved in discussing and determining the corporate direction.

I just don’t buy the “if we are professionals our sex doesn’t matter” It does. Management should reflect the society we live in, the clients and customers we do business with indeed it should reflect humanity.

It’s up to us male and female to make this happen and it’s easier as an SME to lead the change than it is for a corporation.

So let’s make a difference and take the SME balance to 50/50 we are already closer than our corporate counterparts.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-cM

www.wardourcapital.com

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Great-Teams - Win - WCP 1014

Great Teams Win!

And Keep on Winning

We Aussies know all about teams.

We have the AFL the NRL, the Premier League, not to mention cricket, hockey, swimming, tennis, netball, bowls and of course the local drinking team.

Every one of us passionately follows a team or two so of course we know all about team work…..don’t we?

In management speak we come across the words team, teamwork, team building, team targets every day without giving a very much thought as to what a team really is and how it functions.

The most simplistic and common dictionary definition of a team is: “to come together to achieve a common goal”. Essentially the objective of teamwork is to achieve more than the sum total of the individual people involved.

Pretty simple hey? And yet recently I came across two comments which demonstrated to me that not everyone finds the team concept so simple.

The first comment was in the form of a question to a SME advice column in a major daily newspaper – “I recently started a small business with a partner and he doesn’t work as hard as me. How can I get him to lift his input?”

The second was a question asked during a seminar “As a team leader I find it very difficult getting everyone in a team to contribute equally; what do you recommend?”

In both instances my thought was that these guys just don’t understand team work!

Let’s return to the definition and to that “common goal”. The first thing a good team leader does is to define the “common goal” the individual tasks out and best match the team members to the task. A simple team check list can help such as:-

  • Very clearly and simply define the Common Goal

  • Determine the best strategies to achieve the Common Goal

  • Identify the individual tasks to achieve the Common Goal

  • Clearly communicate  the Common Goal and the individual tasks to the team

  • Discuss the strategies and tasks with the team and allow for questions and input

  • Analyse the individual team members, their skills and their responses to the Common Goal

  • Allocate the individual tasks to team members. Ensure each member understand what the whole team is doing

  • Lead but allow autonomy within tasks

  • Remember you may be the leader but your objective is for THE TEAM to be successful

  • Build RESPECT & TRUST with each member for the different skills and contributions they bring to the team

Sporting teams are very good examples of team work; as the batsmen toil in the sun chalking up a hundred runs do they resent the rest of the team sitting back in the pavilion? In a soccer game the goal keeper spends most of his time standing around whereas the forwards are running several kilometres, constantly tackling opposing players to gain control of the ball.

These sporting teams understand the essence of team work; it takes different members with different skills to tackle different tasks at differing times to deliver the very best result.

In my experience the more diverse the skills and personalities the more effective the team, be it a corporate management team, taskforce or board. I once served on a board with a co member of ferocious intellect, at times he and I arm-wrestled over finances and governance for an hour or so before reaching agreement. This was frustrating but never personal because the board had that magic ingredient RESPECT.

Without respect no team will function and without leadership no team will build and retain respect.

In summary there are as many differing “types of teams” as there are differing individuals and in theory no one type is better than another. The difference is in the quality of leadership, the clear communication of The Common Goal and the individual tasks task and most importantly the RESPECT & TRUST of the team members.

If you have respect and trust then yes   you are part of a team. If its lacking you are a part of a group of people……..quite a different beast!

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

Article shortlink:    http://wp.me/p401Wv-cI       

www.wardourcapital.com

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Casual Business Meeting

Meetings – Less pose, more work!

A good friend of mine is a leading global advisor to life insurance companies, he travels extensively and consults at board level. Recently I asked where his London office is now situated, “any Starbucks” was his answer. “Why have an office?” was his question, “the people I meet are too busy to travel and yet they appreciate 30 minutes relaxing over a coffee”.

For more formal presentations and planning sessions he uses his clients facilities, very occasionally he rents serviced office facilities by the hour.

“Put simply” he said “I have a simple rule; does this cost money or make money?” and in 2014 expensive offices certainly dont make money.

Likewise does dress at work really matter? If staff are clean and appropriately covered all that remains is motivation and productivity.

Today’s workplace freedoms would have been unimaginable 30 years ago and yet look at what we have gained by adopting the important factors of respect and comfort and letting the formal pose and its associated ego/status go.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-cr

www.wardourcapital.com

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Entrepreneurs

The Naked Entrepreneur!

“to thine own self be true……………”

Respect and Trust are both vitally important qualities which we look for in an entrepreneur, and I fear both are currently being discarded in the rush for blatant self promotion.

Do you remember when the UK’s Jamie Oliver first burst onto our TV screens as “The Naked Chef”? He was fully clothed but he had stripped away the unnecessary bullsh*t and mystery surrounding cooking. The world fell in love with Jamie a self-confessed dyslexic, a school drop-out from Essex – he was simply and wonderfully himself!

As I read on-line profiles I feel emasculated by the fact that every second person is now “an expert on….”; “an author of” or at the very least an “international public speaker”. Some of these are well known and how lucky we are to have such easy access to the skills and knowledge which they have gained over long and successful careers. Many others and dare I say the majority, are if not bogus, then plain humbug!

Strong words and yet transparency and authenticity are more than just corporate “buzz words” they are amongst the real attributes that B2B’s and consumers now expect from the companies and people they do business with.

People want honesty in business and expect SME’s and corporations to provide real transparency and authenticity. They also want to know and understand the real people behind the profiles, websites, logos, social media and print.

Be open when describing yourself or your business. If your business is in its first year and you are struggling to make ends meet say so! Potential customers will often give a new business “a go”. How often have you said “hey let’s try that new pizza place”? Don’t invent a “construct” designed to make you look older, bigger, better, busier.

Be yourself! Just started – Johns Plumbing, I want to help! It’s a compelling message.

Today “Corporate Image” is less about status, qualifications, large offices and expensive stationary and much more about the real people, real skills and real results. Over the past week I had three meetings in coffee shops with clients, each of which is highly successful and controls a multinational business. Only one of them has a permanent office, shared with his accountant. Today working from home with a telephone answered or a query dealt with by a virtual assistant can be sufficient. 

Most businesses and consumers today don’t want to hear how clever you are or how important you are or how impressive your office is; they want to know if you can do the job and deliver the result at a price they are prepared to pay.

So rather than building an impossibly impressive on-line profile, simply state the facts; you are warm, human, competent, trustworthy and able to deliver results! It’s about engaging, sharing your passions, and talking about your product or service as it relates to other people and situations.

Here are some ways to show your inner Naked Entrepreneur:

  • Be Genuine: Be you, yourself, the real you and be proud to show it. Strip away the unnecessary bullsh*t and mystery!

  • Share your passions: Show what, how and why you are excited, if you have a dream share it.

  • Share your corporate culture: It says a great deal about who you are and the values you and your team share.

  • Admit your imperfections & failures: We have all at some stage failed, stretched the truth, let people down or just plain stuffed up – I have done all and more. It’s human. How you recover, learn and move forward is the real factor by which you are judged.

  • Show your expertise: Include your skills, knowledge and if wanted, qualifications on your profiles but do so to inform not to impress.

  • Be subtle: Yes you are brilliant, yes your brand is huge and of course your staff and customers adore you but do you need to tell us quite so loudly or so frequently.

  • Understand Yourself: Know your strengths, weaknesses and your limitations. For example I am a dreadful waffler and not the world’s best operational manager but when sat down free of distractions I am a fair theorist, thinker and strategist!

A reputation for being “a good person, hard working and determined to deliver” is probably close to perfection and almost naked!

Do you ever wonder why those global gurus who travel the world to sell their message of how to grow rich and famous in 30 days don’t have to stay home and manage their investment portfolios which must by now be huge? I have always wondered.

I guess they care about us so much they are prepared to travel 48 weeks a year just to help.

By Neil Steggall

Failed Wastrel

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-cm

www.wardourcapital.com

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Presenting WCP 2014 Stick Drawing

Speak Clearly and Communicate

How well do you convey your messages? Is it a question you examine or do you concentrate on the content of your speech?

We spend plenty of time thinking about what we say in business, but not necessarily how we say it.

When it comes to professional settings the way we speak including tone, pitch, and volume is every bit as important as content and dramatically affects how our message is received and how people perceive us.

It’s hard to recognize our own verbal errors so if regular presentations and occasional public speaking are starting to occur in your career it could be worth practicing speech in front of a specialist or a mentor to ensure you are hitting the right notes.

Pitching your voice and presentation at the right level is quite easy and becomes natural with experience and as you become less nervous. The important word here is NATURAL. The natural vocal sound is pleasing to hear, easy to follow and quietly authoritative.

Most of us can become good and interesting speakers with just a little skill and practice. Here are a few pointers on how to improve your presentations.

Speaking too quickly

Understandably when you are new to public speaking you are going to be nervous and rapid speech is a very common effect of nerves. Rapid speech not only makes the speaker hard to follow, it distracts the listener and undermines the strength and authority of your message.

Susan Finch, a New York based voice and speech coach who works with business professionals, says hasty speakers often end up “mumbling, rushing, and swallowing” their words. To address this, she instructs clients to take a breath before they begin speaking and again before each major point. That simple action creates a natural break in speech and helps the person to slow down.

Being Australian; or “up talk”

Australians are known for “lifting” the final vowels of a sentence, the best way of understanding this is to watch British comedy and see how they poke fun at us. This issue in speech is known as up talk; ending a statement on an upward pitch so that it sounds like a question even when it’s not.

According to Sydney speech coach Sandra Harris, this issue is more common in women. Speakers struggling with up talk should record themselves and then make an effort to keep their pitch from rising at the end of a sentence.

The Monotone

Nothing turns an audience off like a dull and boring presenter and the worst speaking mistake is to use a dull, monotone voice. We want to hear in the voice a relaxed enthusiasm and a pleasant assertiveness, keep your audience interested by projecting your excitement and passion for your subject.

That doesn’t mean going over the top with high and low pitches, but rather allowing for some degree of variation in the tone and colour of your phrasing. And the easiest way to achieve that effect is to breathe and relax, try to place a smile into your voice.

Duh, um, fillers

These, um, filler words are ubiquitous in everyday speech. “Like,” “um,” “er” and others are used routinely in casual conversations and often go unnoticed. But they really stand out when used in professional settings.

John West, head of the speech division at New York Speech Coaching, refers to words like these as “vocalized pauses.” People typically toss these sounds into speech because they fear that allowing for a pause will lose their listeners. On the contrary, West says it’s the speakers who use excessive “ums” and “uhs” that tend to lose their audience the fastest, and that a well-placed pause can pique listeners’ attention.

Whispering quietly

Speaking at the correct volume and with strong voice projection is important. Sandra Kazan, a New York based vocal coach, says the ability to project depends on each individuals voice. For example, high-pitched voices naturally project better and further than lower pitched ones.

“A nasal voice will carry, will probably not have very much problem projecting, but it is a very annoying voice to listen to for any amount of time,” she explains. As with pace, experts say the best fix for volume is to breathe well. Projection problems tend to occur when people tighten up, constricting their vocal chords and preventing a smooth flow of air.

Trailing off

In general speech we have a tendency to get quieter at the end of a sentence, to “trail off”. A commonly recognised speech pattern is to trail off toward the end of phrases, clauses, and sentences. This means important words can easily get lost or messages can appear incomplete. You need to keep your voice supported, level and your message carrying all the way to the end of the point you are making.

At the end of the day be it in a meeting or a conference people want to hear your comments, words, ideas and knowledge. Give just that, hone your presentation but most importantly be you. Breathe deeply and regularly, pace yourself and impart your message. You will not only become an interesting speaker but you will enjoy the process.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-bH

www.wardourcapital.com

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True Success - WCP 2014

SUCCESS!!! Can everyone succeed?

Have you ever gone along to one of those meetings where only as you arrive do you realise the objective is to recruit you into Multi-Level Marketing? ……I have.

At first analysis the system is fool proof. Follow the program, build your team, sell some product and you are going to be rich and successful!

It demonstrates the simplicity of applied logic and the leveraging of numbers; and yet…….less than 1 in 1,000 recruits are successful.

Basically the MLM system fails to deliver because it is a numbers game dependent upon you being the possessor of a hide thicker than an elephants. It requires exacting teamwork from a large number of disparate people each with a differing view of “their” business and differing needs and wants.

The logic fails the humanity test.

Click on any social media site or online magazine today and you are overwhelmed by articles and ads offering SUCCESS in 1,2,3 or 5 simple steps. Do these programs work?

I may well lose friends and totally fail to influence people here but I think most of this is poppycock and hype. Sheer unadulterated psychobabble perpetrated by the need to fill space and the never ending need of people to hear their own voice or see their name in print. And yes don’t rush off to check…..I have in the past written the 5 Key Steps to…..etc. I am now maturing!

All right…..send your email now signed “Disgruntled and Disgusted” of ……..(enter suburb).

Let’s step back a little and consider the early management advice of one of my key influencers and a true management guru, Peter Drucker. He really thought deeply about business and business success. One can gauge the very depth of his thinking by his brevity of words and his no nonsense common sense, I offer a few simple Drucker quotes below:-

  1. “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

  2.  “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.”

  3. “What’s measured improves”

  4. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

  5. “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”

  6.  “Success comes to those who know themselves – their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.”

It was hard to choose these six almost primitively simple Drucker quotes as they were chosen from around 300 Drucker quotes collected on my computer. Each quote deserves contemplation and through contemplation will provide an essential element of management.

Each quote hints at and leads the mind to see the larger plan behind and excitingly that unfolding image will be as powerful, as functional and yet different to each one of us.

In my mind his thinking reduces management to its core componentry, there are no new Emperors Clothes on promise here.

So what is SUCCESS? Let’s look first at what it is not. It is not big cars, big spending, private jets, corporate jaunts and attractive sexy partners; they are life style choices.

SUCCESS is achieving your own goals or your own objectives. If you set out to complete task (a) today, when finished you have succeeded. In Drucker’s mind the 6 quotes above would when understood and implemented represent 6 huge successes which, as a whole would represent a far greater, lasting, collective success.

SUCCESS is not the destination it is the culmination of the hundreds, possibly thousands of small successes you achieve along the journey. As with any great structure designed and built intelligently and with care the end result is always stronger and more resilient than its constituent parts. This is SUCCESS.

Can everyone succeed? No. Business requires certain personality traits and a good deal of skill, vision, courage, determination, stress and complexity. This is more than some people want or can handle.

Certainly through start up almost every business is a very hot kitchen to be in! To not have the desire or the personality to run a business is not a failure it is a simple fact.

Where does this leave us? In my opinion with four critical attributes (yes I know!) you can probably succeed in business:-

  • A sound product or service

  • Confidence in yourself and your vision

  • A written business plan including objectives, marketing and basic financials which you measure the business against

  • Absolute guts, determination and a preparedness for hard work

Perhaps business success really comes down to that final dot point!

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-bC

www.wardourcapital.com

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Integrity 2 WCP

Leading with Integrity

Leadership goes hand in hand with the power team of Trust and Respect. To build a reputation for Trust and Respect you need to demonstrate a high level of Integrity and unfortunately integrity can be a contradiction in today’s workplace.

Some years ago I had to dismiss a team member who was great at his job and he and his wife had become good family friends. The reason was simple; he had made a fatal error of judgement and in doing so had, to the wider team, lost his integrity.

The label of integrity is hard to earn and yet it can be lost in a single action. I am not even sure it is something we consciously look for in someone but we notice when it is missing.

It is only after we have considered our own actions, evaluating how they align with our personal values, intentions, and deeds, that we are most likely to make a contribution of integrity to the world.

We are each responsible for our own integrity and the best leaders create cultures that nourish the integrity of others.

At its root of the word integrity we find; to “integer” and “integrate”, it speaks of unity and wholeness. We still think of the word in this original sense when we talk about “structural integrity,” the quality that enables a building to stand and that, when lost, lets a building collapse under its own weight.

As US Rabbi Jonathon Omer-Man said, “Integrity is the ability to listen to the place inside oneself that doesn’t change, even though the life that carries it may change.”

Most of us evolve and develop throughout our journey as leaders. Our character and our integrity are remembered long after the glitter of the deals has faded.

Having integrity leads to the building of trust as we practice honest conversations with others. Integrity is a positive deposit in the bank of our connections.

Trust is an inherent part of integrity. People need to trust that leadership is serving everyone’s best interest and leadership needs to trust that team members are fulfilling their own responsibilities.

HOW DO WE IMPROVE LEADERSHIP INTEGRITY?

This possibly varies person to person but the following points, in my opinion, cover integrity within leadership.

  • Respect – practice integrity with others by treating them with respect — even when they do not live up to your personal expectations of them. Recognise that your own standards can be subject to question. We get and give the best of each other in a culture that supports respect.

  • Reliability – This is a more functional definition of integrity and a basic practise of a natural leader. It includes showing a little humility, keeping promises, meeting important deadlines and being there when people need you.

  • Sharing – It’s important for leaders to clearly articulate their values and expectation of integrity. Share these values as a culture-building objective as to how we collectively define integrity.

  • Responsibility – We need to acknowledge our responsibility for every one of our actions. It demonstrates that we are not using other people or external events as the cause of our problems. Wherever possible blame no one, accept the behaviour of others and the circumstances of an action as a given, and move forward.

  • Considered Actions – This is the leader’s obligation to take the right action. It means embodying our integral principles and accepting the consequences for our actions.

  • Thinking 360° – Think of the whole not just this one problem or decision, integrity can be viewed as a culture of wholeness, of being able to support all of the components for the long term good of all.

I have to admit that I have on numerous occasions made decisions or taken a course of action that would not withstand scrutiny of the points above. This is where self-awareness comes in and that question; “What is the correct course?” and remember life is a journey, good and bad……we can only do our best as we see it at the time!

Corporate responsibility and integrity make strange if not incompatible bed fellows and over the years have formed much discussion over the dinner table. In this article I am really only trying to examine questions of integrity in leadership.

Examining integrity at an intellectual level seems to raise more questions than answers. Mistakes will always made and occasionally poor judgement will be shown. Importantly we are now aware of some of the questions and it’s what we learn and how we adapt to our mistakes that we should now contemplate.

Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-bj

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

www.wardourcapital.com

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e Business WCP 2014

HELP!! – SME’s: need “e-business!”

To be “in the right place at the right time” is always seen as paramount to winning the lottery. Unfortunately most of us only realise later that we had been in the place and time doing nothing in particular.

Training and assisting SME’s in understanding the wide range of computing, internet and social media options now open to them is huge. It’s a huge opportunity because a real yet solvable problem exists today and the statistics suggest those SME’s who don’t acquire and use the skills will not be around in 5 years.

In 1995 when the first Sensis e-Business Report was published 91 per cent of SME’s surveyed had heard of the internet, but few were connected or had any intention of connecting, with two-thirds of those not intending to connect saying that they could not see a business benefit for it!

Only five per cent were connected and just over a quarter of those surveyed did not have a computer. In fact the biggest technological talking point at the time was the fax machine.

The 2013 Sensis e-business report showed the enormity of the change in internet use. Not surprisingly, 98 per cent of SMEs now have a computer, with a fast-rising 69 per cent (up 10 per cent since 2012) having a notebook computer and 41 per cent owning tablets. Internet connectivity increased over the previous 12 months from 92 per cent to 96 per cent, and 26 per cent of those with a connection intending to get a faster connection within the next year.

Sensis also found that 68 per cent of small business owners have smartphones and, on average, they spend $6,200 annually on technology hardware and $4400 on software.

That’s some change in just less than two decades. However, the first thing SMEs need to realise is that while technology is enabling the change, it is actually the customers who are driving it.

While Sensis have been researching SMEs’ adoption and attitudes towards technology since 1995, they extended the research to include the general population in 2005.

The 2013 Sensis e-Business report showed that 91 per cent of Australians have a computer and 96 percent use the internet. And, when asked about their usage of the internet, the most popular activity was ‘looked for information on products and services’ (87 per cent of all Australians), followed by ‘looked for suppliers of products and services’ (82 per cent), with ‘paying for purchases or bills’ (78 per cent) and ‘ordering goods/services’ (74 per cent) also being prominent.

So the stats are telling us that people are using the internet to search for and purchase products. So if SMEs want to connect with potential customers they need to be easily found in the places people are looking.

Consequently, a digital presence will become essential for all successful SMEs. At present, 66 per cent of SMEs have a website and 72 per cent of those reported increased business effectiveness through the platform. We predict the number of SMEs with websites to increase as a result.

As with websites, it is inevitable that the use of social media will increase rapidly as SMEs better understand the benefits and imperatives of close customer interaction. The social media revolution makes the possibility of customer engagement almost an expectation: people increasingly want to comment on their experience – either through praise or pillory – and if the business does not have a social media outlet for that interaction then the customer may find another outlet where the business does not have the opportunity to directly engage.

Mobility is another reality that SMEs are slowly coming to terms with. With mobility, businesses are less connected to the physical location so business becomes an activity, rather than an address. SME’s are slow to adapt to technologies which could save or earn them more money.

As an example, in the days before Christmas we changed the flyscreens in our house. The contractor had been out some weeks earlier to take measurements and the price was agreed. After fitting the screens the contractor said that will be $x thank you, it was the agreed price and I reached for my debit card to pay. “Oh I only take cash” was his comment. It’s a long time since I carried that much cash and I realised that we have no cheque books at home.

I had assumed the contractor would have a mobile merchant terminal and that by the following day at the latest he would have my cash in his bank, all accounting completed except for the monthly bank reconciliation etc. Nah they cost too much he told me; oblivious to the savings and efficiency they offer.

Sensis 2013 research of SMEs found that the percentage taking orders online rose five percent to 56 per cent, and of those taking orders 59 per cent reported that they mainly sold to customers in the same city or town.

SME’s may now have the equipment and they have demonstrated that they will spend on technology, though few are yet fully mobile, they do not have the knowledge or skills to bring the “whole” together, to integrate and utilize the digital opportunities to build profits and cut costs.

Late in 2013 a client was looking to raise equity to take his “eConsultancy” national we looked at the model which was excellent, looked at the market and then discussed the equity needed with clients. Investors are usually Savvy and the equity was raised on day one which has to tell you something!

Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-bd

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

www.wardourcapital.com

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A Great Mind Map - WCP 2014

 

Mind Mapping: let it work for you.

MIND MAPPING

Some of us think better in pictures etc. Before thinking through a big idea, I usually visualise it as a diagram. I have always “solved problems” graphically. Sometimes entirely within my mind and then A1 sheets of paper, followed by whiteboards, and eventually computers. Now I use a combination of all three. I called it mind mapping long before the phrase became popular – it just seemed to fit..

Basically mind mapping is the task of transferring thought and ideas, group or individual into a written form. I find brainstorming sessions are so much more powerful if there is a mind mapper in the group and especially so if that person is good with pen, paper or the whiteboard.

Are you a mind mapper? Are you able to get those amazing business ideas you toy with when driving or in bed down onto paper? It’s a skill but not a hard one to acquire, it can be fun and importantly the results can really change your business.

WHAT IS MIND MAPPING?

A mind map is a powerful way to generate and visualise new ideas, analyse problems, brainstorm, plan, show or research, complex ideas. Isn’t this just good old fashioned “brainstorming” under a new name? I hear you ask. No, mind mapping is a more structured approach to analysing and solving problems.

We now operate in a world where graphic representations are used more frequently and our brains are responding well to graphic analysis. Here are a few handy tools you can use to incorporate mind mapping into your business process.

WHITEBOARDS

The most basic tool you can use for mind mapping is a whiteboard. If you have a whiteboard you can start mind mapping individually or as a team to solve problems or to formulate new ideas. Today life is so easy, when you have the whiteboard full of ideas, take a picture of the whiteboard with your phone and upload it to your computer and share it with the team. Sometimes I get the original whiteboard data on the 60 inch screen in the meeting room so the whole team can see it and we start again on the whiteboard testing out our earlier ideas. This is a great way to mind map as a team.

THE BIGGERPLATE MIND MAP

If you want to up the ante and introduce a little more structure and sophistication into your sessions there are now several free or inexpensive mind mapping programs available.

Biggerplate’s mind map should meet most of your needs. In this extensive mind map collection, you’ll find templates for almost every task and challenge, including business mind maps, training mind maps, and general mind maps which you can use in your everyday life. The Biggerplate templates include everything you need from SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), time management matrix, project management, task management and even tracking objectives.

If you and your team are struggling to get the mind mapping started, the Biggerplate templates can lead you into and through the process. I enjoy looking through Biggerplate’s top 10 mind maps just to see which templates other professionals are finding useful.

MINDJET

Very easy to use and inexpensive to buy Mindjet is an easy to use program designed for a variety of tasks, including mind mapping and brainstorming, Mindjet has flexible features which can be used in a variety of tasks including mind mapping, strategy development, marketing, sales and information technology.

MAPS FOR THAT!

The title just about says it all. Maps for That is great if you’re looking to share the mind maps you have just created or if you want to browse mind maps submitted by other teams or team members. It comes with amazing features and includes user-submitted mind maps in a variety of categories; including business, analysis, management, education, entertainment, events, and productivity, just to name a few.

If you’ve created a mind map you think others may find useful, upload it to the Maps For That site so that other users of the service can share. Initially just sign up for a free account, you can download and upload mind maps, comment on other users’ mind maps, and rate the mind maps you find the most useful.

MOBILE APPS

If your business uses smartphones or tablets as a way to communicate or work on projects, check out the mobile apps available from Mindjet. These apps allow you to create, edit, and view mind maps while you’re on the go or away from your computer. Available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, these mobile apps can be downloaded free of charge directly to your smartphone or tablet.

If you haven’t started using mind mapping in your business, you may be missing out. Mind mapping can be used to create new business ideas, solve complex problems, and brainstorm with other team members — whether you’re in the office or on the go.

As I said at the start we all think and work differently, I enjoy mind mapping, let me know what you think.

Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-b8

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite!

www.wardourcapital.com

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Communication 2

The Power of Great Communication

And……..How-to-become-a-great-communicator.

Often after first drafting a speech or an article I look through and ask myself the question “what would my wife cut out of this?” Invariably its 60% or so of what I have written. My wife, I should add, is a successful author, journalist and historian and she can paint amazing mind images with such economy of words.

What I realise is that with discipline I can and do communicate well but I am not a natural. As I commence a story around the family dinner table the “children”, largely grown and successful now, groan and shout “make it quick or we are leaving” or “oh not that one again.”

Whilst not comparing myself (lol) with great communicators such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Paul Keating I do occasionally wonder how Sunday lunch went down at their house.

Peggy Noonan was presidential speechwriter for most of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and she explains why Reagan’s presidency had such an impact on the world stage.

“He was often moving, but he was moving not because of the way he said things, he was moving because of what he said. He didn’t say things in a big way; he said big things … Writers, reporters and historians were in a quandary in the Reagan years. ‘The People,’ as they put it, were obviously impressed by much of what Reagan said; this could not be completely dismissed.”

Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator”, yet it’s a nickname he didn’taltogether agree with.  In his farewell address to the nation and to the world, in his own humble way, he redirected the praise by saying:

“In all of that time I won a nickname, ‘The Great Communicator.’ But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

My take on this is that it doesn’t matter whether you are a president or a manager – your success will depend heavily on your communication skill.

What are the key actions of great communicators?

Engagement

Communication is just that, it’s a two way flow of information. Great communicators know how to give and take and understand its importance. They not only initiate conversation, they steer the direction of and encourage others to join in the conversation.

Connection

Great communicators know that people won’t listen unless they connect both intellectually and emotionally. Know your audience and start by conveying emotional stories that connect to their heart. It’s all about the quality of the relationships the leader has with the people they communicate with.

I know several tough and very senior Australian business leaders who have met Bill Clinton on separate occasions both in Australia and in the US, each was impressed. In my post meeting discussions with them each said that when Bill Clinton talks with you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world. Wow. Show your listeners your empathy let them feel it and know you value their importance.

Humour

Great communicators are skilled in relaxing those with whom they communicate. An audience is often suspicious or defensive from over-communication and perhaps afraid of being “sold something”.  Great communicators show genuine interest in the other person and use humour and authenticity to come across as understandable and authentic..

Clarification

If you overwhelm your listeners, you will lose them, they will tune you out from boredom or confusion. Reagan was best known for being simple and clear. Never assume just because you understand what you’re saying that your audience does as well. Great communicators find ways to simplify though issues without being condescending.

Reinforcement

Great communicators know that an audience will retain only ten percent of what they hear, and therefore they are skilled at subtly reinforcing key ideas. They re-run their message throughout their presentations, speeches and writings. It is all about context and repetition.

Well I reckon that given the chance “my editor” would have pulled 15% of this and yet I think we are communicating OK!

Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-b0

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

www.wardourcapital.com

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Shhhhhhh!

4 Words to Avoid 

 

I have never really believed in New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps because as a child I constantly resolved to behave better the next year only to be involved in further mischief the first day school resumed.

 Move forward many years and I find myself contemplating change and wondering how I can improve myself in 2014.

Along with many others I need to be more positive, to look at the stars again and see just how brimming with opportunity life is and yet without realising it we have a tendency to introduce negatives into our thoughts and everyday conversations and getting rid of some of these negatives is my resolution for 2014.

So what am I proposing?

Really big resolutions always fall by the wayside so let’s consider something smaller; eliminating the use of just four simple, yet negative words, from our everyday vocabulary. Hate, Cannot, Never and Impossible.

These words are rarely used in context, rarely make sense and rarely if ever contribute to anything positive.

Let’s look at the words individually and see what we think:

HATE: “A transitive verb; to dislike somebody or something intensely, often in a way that evokes feelings of anger, hostility, or animosity”

Now this is a very strong, negative and unpleasant word and one I would like to see disappear from use. If you are like me you probably don’t actually hate anything and yet this word creeps insidiously into conversation…”oh I hate the idea”…..”oh I hate Social Media”, “I hate this project”.  Do you really?

Interestingly when reading or listening to stories of Holocaust or Kokoda Trail survivors they had most often realised that to survive and move on with life it was important not to hate their captors.

Most great achievements in history have followed periods of struggle and complexity and I am sure that at times Pythagoras was frustrated by his formulae but did he hate them?

Let’s change our thinking to “not sure I am in love with the idea but let’s think it through” or “I just don’t get Social Media!!”

We have still let our feelings show through but in a positive way.

CANNOT: “a model verb used to indicate that it is impossible for something to be done or made use of in a particular way

In our everyday lives is there really anything that we cannot do? Accepting that we must abide by society’s rules, we are then able to do pretty much anything we put our minds to.

When you are next tempted to say “I cannot get this report finished in time” or “I cannot get to the gym today”, think of the Para-Olympics and the CAN-DO attitude in use and on display each and every day to do what many would say “Cannot” be done.

So often cannot is used where “don’t want to” or “it will be hard” should be used.

Let’s become a can do person. Let’s consider the task and look at the different ways it can be approached and remember. You CAN do it, you WILL do it and soon you HAVE done it!!

NEVER: “an adverb indicating that something will not happen at any time, or that somebody will definitely not do something.”

Never is not so aggressively negative and yet in real terms what does it mean? I always see never as never really arriving and therefore non-existent, but it slides quietly, and negatively into our conversations….”that will never work”….”we never do it that way”…….”she will never work out/fit in etc”.

What does this mean?

Just by saying never we are limiting our possibilities. We may for whatever reason not be able to do something this minute or this day but who knows what tomorrow or next week will bring.

Perhaps we should be thinking “how is that going to work?”……”can we do this another way”…..”how can we help her fit in”

Interestingly never can be turned around…..”I will never rest until I achieve this” but that’s a different story!

IMPOSSIBLE: “not able to exist or be done”

We never know what is “possible” until we really try. Quite often we achieve the “impossible” just because we didn’t know it was “impossible”…..yes think on that!

Imagine waking up from an accident to hear the surgeon say you will never walk again or never talk again. This is a situation faced by accident and stroke victims around the world and yet against all medical evidence people move forward and do the “impossible” they walk again, they talk again!

Let’s think of these people and take our lead from them, yes the task is tough, we don’t know how but we do know we can do it!

Every day in large and small ways someone, somewhere does “the impossible” and that is one of the enduring features of being human and being successful.

So you know what I am up to in 2014

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-aO

 

Wardour Capital Meeting #2  2014

10 Tips to Organize a Successful Business Meet

What do you do to ensure that the business meet you organized doesn’t fizzle out?

As a top entrepreneur in the lead, you must take the initiative to arrange business meets to connect with others. But that isn’t all; you need to create an event that people enjoy. Not something they dread!

If you create a platform where entrepreneurs share their thoughts, views, opinions and crises. It helps you earn the trust and respect of your fellow entrepreneurs. And it boosts that collegiate  feeling. You just need to make it a success. But it is easier said than done.

Let’s take a look at 10 simple but effective things that can help you achieve your goal.

Take Your Time to Plan Every Detail

You cannot wait until the last minute to send out the invites and think everyone will turn up. Decide the time and date, select the venue and inform the business meet group members about it in advance. They have to fit it into their busy schedules too.

Check Every Important Aspect In Advance

How will you feel if the audio doesn’t work when someone’s making a presentation? Reach the venue and double check every detail. Make sure the space is adequate for all and the audio-visual equipment works.

Make It An Exclusive Event

Identify the niche you are in and create a group with a strong focus on the core concept. When you make it an invite-only event, you generate interest about it among the entrepreneurs in the niche to participate. This also encourages the aspirants to be part of the community.

Make Introductions Easy With Name Tags

It isn’t easy to remember the names of hundreds of entrepreneurs at an event. Create name tags. It will make introductions a breeze! You can also add their business name and relevant details to it.

Adhere To Your Goals to Meet Expectations

As an organizer, you need to have a clear idea about what the meet is all about. Make sure this is in keeping with the image of your business. For example, if you are into apps development for educational institutes, educational meets are more suited. Plan the meet according to the purpose.

Organize Topics to Keep Everyone Engaged

What do you want people to talk about? Decide the things you want to interest people in at the meet. Use the topics to initiate conversations. You can also throw in some challenges to keep things in motion.

Offer Exposure for Start-ups

You may also incorporate talks, events, quizzes and such other elements into the business meet. But when you let a start-up offer a demo at the meet, you add to its interest. It supplies food for thought for the entrepreneurs present and gives them an excellent topic of discussion.

Give Conversations a Direction

Don’t let the conversation die down. Place your contacts at opportune points to keep it going. With this simple tactic, you will create an environment where people learn new things without a hitch.

Foster Relationships

A business meet is all about the relations entrepreneurs create. And the community they build. It is possible to boost entrepreneurial efforts when people have the support of their peers. Don’t just keep it professional. Let entrepreneurs connect with each other on a personal level. Social hangouts can help you with this.

Keep It Confidential

No entrepreneur will open up unless they are sure that their secret’s safe with the attendees. This is possible only when you assure that it remains within the group. Open and frank discussions will be possible only if you do this.

It isn’t difficult if you are aware of how to keep things in motion at the meet.

With a little planning and effort, it is possible to organize a business meet where the group members can share their stories, offer others positive challenges, help others get back on track and create a strong community.

 And what do you get out of it? Well, you become the proud organizer of a business meet that isn’t another monotonous hour of long conversations between people who don’t even connect with each other. But something that gives everyone their fair share of exposure in the community and ample food for thought.

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-az

Startups Wardour

5 Tips for a SUCCESSFUL Start-up

Starting a new business is an exciting and challenging task, one in which success brings a variety of rewards and yet failure can be a painful and damaging experience. Despite this there are 2.0 million SME’s in Australia and new start-ups opening every day.

This is the entrepreneurial drive at work, the human need to try new things and to stretch and grow. The SME is the economic life force and breeding ground of business. Of the many small start-ups some will go on to become multinational corporations, this isn’t everyone’s choice, or objective and statistically most start-ups will fail within the first three years of operation

Understandably starting a new business is full of challenges and I am often asked how I went about starting my first business and what tips I can offer. Starting a business for most entrepreneurs means a huge amount of sacrifice, hard work, risk and belief in your concept.

My first business came about via a combination of accident, hope and “nearness” to opportunity but if I was to start again I would take these points into consideration:-

1.       Think carefully about the business you choose:

Last week at a conference I was asked the question “what business would you choose if you were starting again?” A very good question and yet one I felt confident in answering. I would choose:-

  1. A high volume established industry with proven customer demand
  2. An industry with a relatively low cost of entry
  3. A location very close to an established business in the same industry
  4. I would price my product at the market price or slightly higher
  5. And this is the WINNER I would out-service and outperform the competition in terms of customer satisfaction.

2.       Market your business well – Marketing is your cash engine

If you have taken my advice and set up your business virtually next door to an existing similar business you already have potential customers passing your door so how do you convert them. You need a plan of attack:-

I.             Check out your competition and look at weak points in their product offering, customer service, display, staff training, customer handling etc. Then do the reverse and observe their strengths.

II.            Build your strategy around out servicing your competition; choose customer service and customer satisfaction as your point of difference. A company we have worked with “Chilligin” is a successful on-line and pop-up retailer of fashion accessories, scarves, handbags etc. Chilligin’s founder and director Nikki Gilhome decided from day one to offer Chilligin customers great products, at affordable prices and to package every item whether ordered on line or in store beautifully. “I wanted the customer to have a lovely surprise when they open their home delivery, or for in store customers something to look forward to when they return home” says Nikki. Small details such as carefully designing wrapping paper, stickers and ribbons, tags etc turn the ordinary into an occasion.  Effectively the customer gets a double hit of pleasure first the purchase decision and later a beautiful package to unwrap.

III.           Train your sales staff to meet and greet customers with genuine warmth, use quiet times to rehearse the perfect approach.

IV.          Wherever possible over deliver on customer expectations, the more a customer enjoys doing business with you the more they will return

3.       Employ the best staff: 

When starting a business we need to be careful of costs but a really good staff member is a key asset and a valuable part of your strategy. Don’t cut costs here.

Chose staff who share your vision, who want to grow, who will absorb your training and guidance. Respect and reward them. Encouragement and respect are amazing rewards, how do your competitors reward staff? There are many ways to reward beyond the pure financial and most people I know would rather work for a little less in a great environment than for more in an uncomfortable environment.

4.       Review Progress and Question – Can we do better?

If your business strategy is to outperform your competition by offering better service and customer satisfaction you must work hard at it to keep at the top of your game. Constantly check your competition, both locally and via the internet, overseas. Read everything you can find for new ideas, engage with your customers, listen and learn. Constantly review every single aspect of your business questioning how you can improve the customer proposal, to satisfy and engage more closely.

Your stock and services must always be current and adjusted as closely as possible to your customer needs. Use stock analysis tools so that you know which items are moving and which are slow. Respond very quickly to avoid wastage, move quickly to special out and move any slow stock. Slow stock is dead money and loosing you sales. Buy more of the fast moving items and consider expanding that part of your range with more options.

Change your web presence or store displays daily to build and maintain customer interest. Collect email addresses via direct questions as you input receipt data, small competitions, draws etc. Communicate directly with your customers, be innovative, informative and “the place to go”.

5.       Think carefully about finance & assistance:

Most businesses will involve you assuming responsibility for some level of debt, make sure you understand the obligations here and your responsibilities. Debt isn’t just a loan, it includes your supplier credit, your rental or lease obligations etc.

It’s important to know which type of financing is right for your business and always try to hold three to six months cash in reserve. Are you willing to give away equity in exchange for cash? Are you looking just for an investor or also for a mentor? Is your business plan solid enough to secure a bank loan?

All important questions to consider and remember with an investor you often gain an experienced mentor as well. If I was starting out again today I would look for an experienced investor who could guide and mentor me over any other form of external funding.

 

 

We are fortunate to live in an age when so much information, knowledge and experience is available for those who want to search for it. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said: “There’s a new way to do marketing, and it’s to do it with numbers. People do marketing to bring in revenue, to have an impact, and with these new systems you can measure this. The technology the internet brings means you should be able to measure almost everything.”

If you are thinking of a start-up read and absorb, plan and then follow through and your chances of success are high.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-au

 

Business-development

5 Tips for Business SUCCESS!

 

1.       Business Development Is Not Increasing Sales

Managing the development of your business has a lot in common with conducting an orchestra. It’s a case of encouraging and leading the various differing components of your business forward, in harmony, to the same point at the same time to produce an extraordinary effect. You need to develop your unique product or service to meet the highest level of customer expectations and you must do so at a price representing fair value and at a cost which generates a fair profit.

2.       Understanding profit does not equal cash

Profitable businesses fail every day. Many small business owners chase growth and revenues forgetting the basic facts of cash management. Profit equals Revenue – Costs but until you have received payment you are in a cash negative position. Ideally you would ensure that you have sufficient cash reserves to meet three to six months of costs. In the early days of a business keep fixed expenses as low as possible, use a virtual office and work from home if possible, keep full time staff to a minimum, pay cash or do without non-essential plant and equipment. This helps if you have a quiet month or even two.

3.       Intuition Versus Fact

Don’t build a business around a product or service you like or you would buy. Undertake sound quantitative research to determine what your prospective customers want and buy then see if you can develop an even better product or service at a price they are prepared to pay. Don’t be tempted to compete on price alone. If company A has been making its product for many years and you realise you could source and sell that product at a good profit for less that’s a good value proposition to you not your customer. The market is less willing to change supply on price alone but if you can offer a better value/service proposition where they get a better product and improved customer service you will have a much greater chance of success.

4.       Business & Financial Planning

There is an old saying “if you don’t know what you want you will probably never get it” and that’s certainly the case in business. A well thought through and documented business plan outlining your core objectives, market analysis, product development, marketing strategies and detailed financial budgets is essential. This is an area where you should consider the use of a mentor or an external consultant to help you get it right. Your financial plan should include linked budgets for P&L, Cash Flow and Balance Sheets. A beautifully bound business plan kept on a shelf is a waste of space it has to be a living breathing document understood and read regularly, reported against monthly and the strategies varied as needed to meet your actual versus budgeted position.

5.       Respect all Stakeholders

 A successful entrepreneur understands that the stakeholders in a business are not just the shareholders. The stakeholders include employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders and advisors and they are vital to the success of failure of your business. Spend time with each stakeholder, respect them, listen to their ideas, take their ideas, discuss your plans and your position with them. Take them on your journey as partners. Keep them honestly and openly informed and they will join your team and give you their full support. Again many businesses fail because they don’t earn the respect and support of their stakeholders. Building a successful company is hardit requires a lot of commitment and courage as well as a little luck and of course having a great product and team. Watching your idea become a product and a product generate revenue that becomes a successful company makes it all worthwhile. Working with your stakeholders and mentors, following and constantly updating your plans and finances will go a long way to ensuring success.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-ao

images[3] (2)

 Communication Drives SUCCESS!

Communication is the #1 single skill needed at every level of business from a one man SME to multi-national corporations. To gain the most out of our lives we need great communication skills and yet I find a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes good communication.

I have written in the past about the importance of SMILES; perhaps the earliest and most basic form of human communication. Communication can be simple good manners. On a recent weekend enjoying the spring sun over an outdoor breakfast my wife and I smiled and nodded at the couple on an adjacent table to us. A simple communication opener which was just as simply reciprocated. The real communication occurred later when my wife asked questions of our new table neighbours …”and what do you do?”

Suddenly not only did their fascinating lives come alive but so did an exciting potential joint project between them and my wife.

Now remember we were just relaxing, careful not to intrude, enjoying Sunday breakfast but we understand communication is human and we are open to communicating. People sense this.

Communication is not what we say; it is who we are and what we do, that creates the impression, or as was said in the Australian movie, The Castle…..”It’s the Vibe”.

A US expert and communication authority Dr John Lund uses an interesting quote; “Don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” What a great way to put things in perspective regarding our efforts on how to improve our communication.

Dr Lund has explored the way in which we interpret communication from others.  He also reveals some very interesting statistics on communication.

When someone is speaking with us, we interpret their message based predominantly on the following three factors:

•55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.

•37% is based on the tone of their voice.

•8% is based on the words they say.

Dr Lund states that his findings are the average taken across both males and females collectively, but that if you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expression and body language and even less on the words.

This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use.

Read my article on smiles! That smile comes through in your tone of voice over the phone. It works wonders on how well you come off on a phone call, trust me!

Smile: Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p401Wv-4x

Early in my career I worked for a hugely intelligent man who used to very gently ask me questions after a meeting. He would listen patiently to my answers and say “Neil listen to what they mean and what they need, not what they say”. At first this confounded me until I slowly realised that it may on occasion be difficult, embarrassing or even offending to state what you mean or need.

Once I learned to look beneath the surface, communication and business became easier, more productive and far more enjoyable.

The next major change in my thinking was when I realised that 10 different people see the same thing in 10 slightly different ways. And importantly women see things as differently again from a man which is why mixed sex teams work so well in obtaining balance.

To get your thinking moving look at the graphic below and tell me how many squares you can see?

af07704a-5559-11e3-ba35-12313b0d285f-large[1]

I will leave the answer for the end of the article but in warning I will let you know that in a recent study 96% of Telstra management got this wrong!

Getting back on theme, in the study men occasionally and women mostly want to know three things before they are willing to enter into a business conversation with you:

1.  Is what you want to talk about going to be painful?

2.  How long is it going to take?

3.  When you are done talking, what do you want from me?

If they don’t know these three things up front, they will make excuses to avoid your call or to avoid talking to you on the phone.  The same applies if you come into contact with them in person.

It’s fair to assume that your manager or client in a work setting will always want to know those three things in advance of agreeing to a conversation as well.

It comes down to an ingrained human need to want a strategic exit from difficulty.

These are acquired skills which roll easily off the tongue of experience; however this terrified me early in my career. If in doubt as to what to say or do remember that a show of genuine respect will always help in establishing a rapport, if you are terrified say so, the person you are communicating with will respond positively.

How to successfully conduct a conversation in business:

Success in business is greatly impacted for better or worse by the way in which we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also greatly dependent on this very same skill. If you don’t believe me just look at any married couple and work it out!  Becoming a good communicator takes practice and consistent attention and effort on our part, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.

Remember “don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” And always, always allow room for respect.

Now as to the “squares” there are 9 individual small squares; 5 2×2 squares; 1 4×4 square and one 3×3 square. A total of 16.

I hope you worked it out. Whatever your answer think on what it means about how we see and communicate ideas.

By; Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-ag

www.wardourcapital.com

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Education

6 Key Causes of Procrastination.

Procrastinate, Procrastinate, Procrastinate! Spoken aloud and with the correct intonation this little mantra sounds remarkably similar to the Daleks famous Exterminate, Exterminate and believe me Procrastination can lead to SME Extermination!

Procrastination is a problem for the sufferer, it’s a problem for the SME and it’s a deal breaker for cohesive team work and yet it is a common problem in businesses of all sizes.

Some weeks ago I was surprised when reading an article in Psychology Today, to find it claimed that around 20 percent of people chronically avoid putting their heads down and getting on with the job. In fact they actively look for distractions!

That seemed a little excessive until I looked at my own behaviour and that of our team. I realised that we all occasionally put off certain actions despite our valuing efficiency, team work and “multitasking” as much as we do.  The big question is, why?

We all procrastinate from time to time. Sometimes it’s those mundane things – like reconfiguring our computer files, reconciling bank accounts, or fixing up a dated web site. But often we procrastinate on bigger things that require more time, more commitment, and put us at more risk of failing, looking foolish or feeling emotionally bruised.  Things like updating our business plan, confronting a complex new task that threatens us, or not pursuing a long held ambition.

It appears procrastinators are not born as procrastinators; rather we are trained to some extent from birth.  That’s the general consensus of psychological research into the art of procrastinating.  One increasingly popular theory is that procrastination has its roots in childhood, where it functioned as a means of early of rebellion against authority figures or as apathy in the presence of a strong parental pressure to perform.

Doctor Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, suggests that there are three types of procrastinators in the world:

  1. The arousal types, who get a thrill from rushing through projects at the last minute, whether they come out on top or not.

  2. The avoiders, who don’t want to get to the end of any given project because the fear of change keeps them paralysed.

  3. The decisional procrastinators, who simply cannot make any decisive choices because they can’t bear the results of their actions.

I found it interesting that these three types of procrastinators apparently use multiple “tools” to help them procrastinate whilst still appearing to function.  Understanding which type of procrastinator an employee is and recognizing which of the following methods they use to procrastinate will help you to work with them and hopefully overcome the problem.

As with most management issues, understanding the cause is 90% of the solution and there is much we can do to help the procrastinator overcome their problem.

Let’s look at the common causes:

Perfectionism

We don’t always have to do things exceptionally well, often “good enough” is quite enough.  The ingrained desire to get everything 100% correct every time can lead to a paralysing fear of failure and multiple revisions that just waste time. A phrase which springs to mind is “analysis paralysis”.

As John Henry Newman, Anglican Deacon and author, once said, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is a major factor for some.  Failure can be seen as having far-reaching implications. For some it’s how they perceive themselves and how they think they are perceived by others.

On the other hand, if this same person breaks all records, they fear all future projects will be held to a much higher standard.  Some people are willing to do anything, including nothing, in order to avoid being taken out of their comfort zone.

Being Overwhelmed

If a project is complex, the individual steps may seem endless!  Instead of seeing individual steps and taking them, the procrastinator thinks they can see all the steps that lead to completion but has no idea which one to take.

If someone is overwhelmed by targets (either the ones they’ve set for themself or the ones they’ve been given by others), they may find themself feeling unable to disassemble tasks into constituent components.  As a result they simply don’t know where to start.

This feeling of helplessness usually feeds upon itself until it eats away at their resolve, making workplace distractions a welcome escape.  This leads to a loss of focus and thus motivation.

 One method of overcoming this form of procrastination is to create an action list that’s prioritised and reduces a complex project into smaller, more achievable steps.

Prioritisation

What do you if someone simply can’t prioritise?  Chances are they will spend hours working on non-essential tasks and fooling themselves into thinking that everything is okay.

Unlike those who get overwhelmed, those who can’t prioritise correctly don’t see anything wrong.  These are the people that spend an hour deciding which font to use on the quarterly report but don’t leave time to get the actual writing done.

One symptom of this type of procrastination is filling hours with “activity” rather than “action”. Often the excuse of being “flat out” is used, when really, this is just another form of procrastination.

As with the overwhelmed procrastinator the method of overcoming this form of procrastination is to create an action list that’s prioritised and reduces a complex project into smaller, more achievable steps.

Lying to Cover

Procrastinators are constantly lying to themselves.  They lie to justify their failures (“Oh the System was down”).  They lie to justify their successes (“Oh Fred did most of the work”).  They lie to justify their justifications (“I’m sorry about the inventory debacle; it’s the warehouse, they screwed up again”).

Some procrastinators just don’t know how to not lie.  Learning responsibility is the key to beating back the lies and overcoming procrastination.  Help them take ownership and live up to their actions.

Lack of Motivation

Goals have to be worthwhile and achievable or managers and staff are probably going to give up on them.  If the task isn’t interesting enough, intellectually satisfying enough or it’s simply dull, a procrastinator’s passion for the task is going to evaporate and they’ll find themselves looking for ways to occupy their minds.  Suddenly the sun pouring in through the window becomes an irresistible magnet and they find themselves offering to head out and buy coffees for the team.

If you find this happening a lot, restructure the tasks so that they excite or add a personal reward to the end of every project.  For example show real appreciation and praise if you get the monthly finance report on your desk by mid-day.

In a properly functioning and caring work environment management and or team members would ideally recognise the indications of procrastination and work together to break the cycle.

If as suggested procrastination is learned, then with help it can be unlearned.  By looking out for and identifying procrastination as it’s happening, you can discreetly help by restructuring work habits, adding motivation and removing distractions.

I am convinced that a simple solution lies in planning and time management. Personally I always work from a rolling weekly task list and each day I write down the 3 things that I absolutely must do that day. This keeps me on the straight and narrow when my mind starts to wander.

Procrastination costs SME’s a good deal in lost productivity and we should work to fix it but don’t expect overnight success.  Lifelong habits are difficult to overcome and take time but the first step is always a hard yet positive move.

As Dr Ferrari says in his book “Still Procrastinating:  The No Regrets Guide to Getting Things Done”, “Eliminating procrastination from our lives is like trying to stop a moving train; it’s not easy.”

Now avoid moving trains and….do it quickly, don’t procrastinate!

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-a8

www.wardourcapital.com

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Winning

How to make a Winning pitch for your Business

We are often asked to assist our SME clients in preparing a “pitch” for major new business or for a new equity investment and it’s an area where our approach surprises the client as we strongly believe that the key to a winning pitch is “less is more” but the content and presentation must be perfect!

If you’re pitching your SME, whether for major new clients or investment, it’s crucial to present in the best possible way.

If you are regular followers of our SME articles you know that we liken the SME operator or CEO to the conductor of an orchestra as he brings his team together at the exact moment to create great harmony and success.

Open with impact – a pitch is like a performance and first impressions are crucial.

Pitching to major potential clients or investors is critical to any growing SME. Yet it is a changing environment the more sophisticated buyer or investor is returning to the time tested value of looking at and listening to the individual and placing less emphasis on or even discounting lengthy PowerPoint presentations and the use of props.

Respect your potential buyer or investor and show that respect from within. If you believe in your pitch and truly respect the potential buyer or investor it will shine through. Smile and be human small points matter.

The Objective: Without a pre developed written objective you won’t know your true criteria for success, so don’t pitch without one. Try and establish before the pitch exactly what the client really wants both in terms of specification and service and as importantly what the client needs. This may be different to what they want. If pitching for investment always use a third party to identify the investor’s guidelines and “hot spots” before you meet. Finally include in your written objective exactly what you want to achieve in the meeting, ask yourself would I buy this? Ask your mentors what they think, rehearse your pitch, the first time you do it you may feel embarrassed but it pays off so stick with it.

Your team: Take the team that is most appropriate. The CEO doesn’t have to be involved, though they can confer valuable status if you’re pitching to a larger organisation. But do make sure your team includes the person who will be doing the work if you win the bid. If pitching for investment have the SME’s “engine drivers” present, investors are usually going to back the people ahead of the figures. Allow time for each team member to shine. An investor will look closely at your team dynamics and how well you relate. That said don’t take a football team if you are pitching to an individual.

Their team: It’s reasonable to ask who is on the panel and evaluating the bids, though you probably won’t be told. If you do find out, do your research and match your team by having people who complement their skills. If their finance director will be present, make sure your team includes someone who can answer financial questions. If the investor brings along his lawyer or accountant be aware they will ask questions if only to justify their fee, so be prepared.

First impressions:  Be yourself and relax, this is your pitch and you are proud of it. Allow five minutes of small talk – it’s all part of getting to know one another. Then open with impact. Really plan and rehearse this opening.  A presentation is like a performance, so be sure to entertain as you inform. Be anything but boring. Do something at the front end that gets everyone’s attention.

If you’re pitching a game-changer for your SME, say so; or find a great quote or an arresting image. If pitching for investment it’s probably because you have already invested every cent you can. Say so, demonstrate your passion and commitment, tell the investor why you are going to make this business work. Again seek out a winning quote or image to imprint in their mind. Mentally invite and bring them on board as stakeholders from that very first meeting, show you like them.

There’s a lot you can do beyond PowerPoint, samples brochures etc – but if you must use them, use just one word on each slide. Hand out the presentation at the end, or everyone will just leaf through it and jump directly to the price. If pitching for investment show only headline figures and be prepared to leave the detailed figures with the investor at the conclusion of the meeting. Don’t just leave printed figures leave a USB with the work sheets open so that an investor can “work” the figures, show trust.

Finally don’t ask the investor to sign a CA, if a regular investor they probably see several opportunities a week, if they wanted to replicate your business they would already be out building it. By definition they are not interested in running a business any more – their USP is now their capital.

Observe: Have an ‘observer’ on your team who watches and notes how people respond and takes detailed notes. If meeting an investor at night say up front “I know you must be tired we will only take 30 minutes of your time”. Let the investor relax.

The Q&A: When do you take questions? Do you let people interrupt as you go or ask evaluators to hold questions till the end? Allowing interruptions can completely hijack a presentation. I like to ask that they save the questions, as they may well be addressed during the presentation. But if it’s really burning, deal with it quickly and don’t get side-tracked.

How did we do? You don’t want to walk out without feedback on how you’ve done. So ask: “Has this addressed your needs? Did we drop any clangers? Is there any further information you need?” If the feedback is that you didn’t answer something sufficiently, you can always follow up with supplementary information.

The goodbye: The most revealing moment of all. When all the formalities are done and the performance is over – that’s often the most telling moment. You’re walking out to the lift, shoulders are relaxed, guards are down, and you’ll get nuggets of feedback via body language, a smile, a comment such as “‘you did really well” (a big thumbs up) or “you might want to go back and sharpen your pencil” (lower your price).

Listen and observe that chemistry. At that moment, you will know whether or not you’re in with a chance.

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-9Y

www.wardourcapital.com

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Marketing Redefined WCP 2013

Marketing Redefined

Think, Change, Grow, Prosper!

 

In the dark distant past when coffee came without froth and computers were kept in sealed rooms and operated by bespectacled men (sorry ladies its true) in white coats, I spent a few years climbing the corporate ladder which included a stop off in the Marketing Department of a major multi-national.

We saw marketing in aggressively military terms of war, battles, and campaigns, all fine-tuned through tactics, strategy and whiskey.

Statistics and information was gathered from the market and analysed, products were designed, costed, tested, refined, manufactured, advertised and sold, hopefully, at a profit.

Much thought and combative discussion was applied at each stage, key objectives were established, strategic marketing plans, short term tactics, placement attacks and budgets were drawn up and approved before being committed to endless reams of paper. Weekly meetings were held to gauge progress and we wrote up even more notes in pencil before dictating them to our “girl”, sorry PA, to be typed up.

Much time and efficiency was lost in the process and very few really great ideas came out of it.

When I attend marketing meetings today the mood is less combative and the whiskey has unfortunately disappeared  yet I fear just as much time and efficiency is being lost in the discussion of SEO’s, word place rankings, the placement of hash tags and how well the product will look on mobile devices. I leave the room bored and just a little concerned that no one is actually marketing the product.

Perhaps it’s time to redefine MARKETING.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”

– David Packard, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard

When you own the show you can make such bold statements! However, if we ask any ten business leaders today to define marketing we will probably get ten different answers. Marketing its function and its purpose appear to have entered a management grey zone.

I was fortunate some years ago to meet the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, on a number of occasions and his view was: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So, what is marketing and are we moving closer to a definition? The Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said, harking back to warfare, “Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.” The man should know. He wrote the seminal book on high-tech marketing.

Interestingly Davidow didn’t learn marketing at university as he studied electrical engineering. Steve Jobs, another brilliant marketer, dropped out of school. These guys and others like them demonstrate that great marketing skills can be developed.

So how do great marketers learn about marketing? I am convinced that great marketing skills are best learnt on the job. Doing the hard yards.

SME’s and Startup companies are great places to learn and develop marketing skills because they’re all about developing innovative products and getting customer traction – and not much else. Further they’re always strapped for cash and needing people to wear multiple hats.

Interestingly as an engineer by training I also learnt marketing on the job.

Its been a long and complex journey but here are THE SIX KEY LESSONS  I learnt along the way:

Marketing is Hard.

It has been said that “Marketing is like sex: Everyone thinks they’re good at it”. Well I’m not getting into that one but on observation there are more posers in marketing than most other fields, probably because the demand is so strong and the supply of real talent is so weak, and it’s easy to fake. When discussing a Telco acquisition with an American banker some years ago he started to tell me how the marketing model needed to change. When challenged he answered “Bankers like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do.” He said, this is because “we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas …” It’s worrying but it’s out there, be warned.

Understand People.

It’s about determining what customers want, often before they know it themselves – look at Sushi-Sushi and how they got everyone eating raw fish. If you’ve got a knack for that sort of thing, trust it. Be your own focus group of one. And while it’s tempting to think of markets as amorphous virtual entities, remember that, even in the B2B world, every product is purchased by a human being in the real world.

Marketers don’t reinvent the wheel.

Some people are great inventors. They come up with wild concepts that nobody’s ever thought of. But great marketers tend to be innovators who turn inventions into things people can use. Marketing thrives on reusing ideas in new ways. Most modern Japanese industry was based on this premise. Steve Jobs didn’t invent he moulded inventions into products people wanted to use.

Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department.

It really is! Marketing is the hub of the business wheel. It’s where product development, manufacturing, finance, communications, and sales all meet. Marketing’s stakeholders are every critical function in the company. Every member of the leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department. SME or Giant Corporation it’s all the same.

Marketing Really Counts.

Contrary to today’s popular feel-good wisdom, in business, winning is everything. Every transaction has one buyer and one seller. If you do it right, buyer and seller both win. All the other would-be sellers lose. The real world is brutally competitive. Be different to win.

Great Marketing Ideas are Rare.

By executing the right communication strategy, great marketers can create a groundswell of customer excitement and viral demand for a company or product that nobody’s ever heard of. And it can be done on a shoestring budget. Steve Jobs was a master at maintaining secrecy and controlling exactly how and when anybody learned anything about Apple’s products. MacDonald’s are turning bad press about fast food into selling points through its new menus and PR.

The truth is that great marketers are few and far between. Which begs the question, who exactly are you trusting the most important aspect of your business to? Something for you to think about as you take your SME global.

Finally my definition of marketing is to “take something useful and turn it into something desirable”

 Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://www.neilsteggall.org

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p401Wv-9O

 

imagesCAP6MTH4

High Profits & About to Crash?

A relevant question for SME Management.

“How important is profit?” this question in one form or another is one of the most common questions we receive from new SME owners or potential start-ups and surprisingly it’s not a simple one to answer.

Some time ago I sat down for a chat with a highly intelligent friend who had recently joined the board of a mid-sized family SME. “I just don’t get it” she said “everyone tells me the business is booming, sales are up, profits are up yet from what I read the company is broke”.

My friend had sat down with the half year results and looked at the first two quarters performance against budget. Revenues were up by around 35%, Gross Margin was tracking, as a percentage, around 5% better than budget and operating expenses were around 11% lower than budget leaving a very healthy EBIT compared to budget and management applauding themselves all round.

Where is the problem? I hear you ask.

Cash or rather the lack of it was the problem. As revenues and revenue projections grew the funds allocated to the raw materials and finished goods needed to service such growth had increased exponentially as had the debtor’s ledger.

Yes the SME was producing more at lower cost and selling every item produced at a profit but amongst the excitement no one had calculated the impact on future cash flows.

If you achieve an EBIT of 20% (which is on the generous side) it means you have to outlay costs, in advance, of at least $0.80c in every dollar of anticipated revenue. You may offset this to some extent by negotiating an extension to trading terms with your creditors but that is a very slippery slope and best avoided.

If you sell your product to a major retail chain, they will look to pay you in 60 days from the end of the month in which you invoice them. So you could easily wait 60 to 90 days for payment. For every $10 of widgets you sell them each month your cost is $8 and if you carry that and the subsequent monthly sales until you are paid, you are out of pocket by $24 before you receive a cent. On top of which you have had to lift your finished goods to 60 days stock to meet varying demand and raw materials by 45 days so you are roughly $50 out of pocket as you wait for the $10 to be paid of which you retain $2 profit or EBIT.

Yes you are still profitable but your short term cash burn is exceeding income and without a rethink your fast growing, profitable enterprise is going to crash.

My friend could see where the company was heading whilst the sales manager was elated by high revenues, the production manager proud of the COGS and the operations manager satisfied by the low level of OPEX.  In all business management not just SME’s good cash flow management and budgeting is essential.

There were several funding options available to secure this company’s future once the threat was identified. But within 60 days the company may have been in turmoil and no funder wants to lend into a panic.

So in answer to the question; profit is very important but it is just one of what I call “The Four Pillars of Business”: Revenue, Cost, Profit and Cash; and always remember that whilst the first three are very important CASH IS KING. 

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-9D

Banks

Are Banks Funding SME’s?

 

A good deal has been written recently regarding the attitude to SME lending by the major banks. On the one hand we have SME owners frustrated by their inability to attract bank funding and on the other we have the banks advertising and talking up their preparedness to fund SME’s.

Why do we have this disconnect of views?

It is clear that since late 2008 and the commencement of the GFC, banks have been more wary of lending. The financial crisis – caused largely by risky lending and banking mismanagement – combined with subsequent higher liquidity and capital requirements have made for a far more risk adverse approach.

However, banks are lending and they are increasingly keen to do so. They are lending less than they used to and looking for tighter security, but the idea that they won’t lend to anyone is simply not true, but you must submit a well-reasoned, structured, quality application.

This myth is not only hurting the banks, but it is hurting SME’s. A problem is that we hear so many negative stories of loan applications dragging out for weeks before amounting to nothing and of bank BDM’s being excited by your application only to have it knocked back by credit that many established businesses with sound bankable propositions are not even applying  for funding

Other SME’s will get a rejection from one bank and assume they fall into the ‘do not lend’ category, and give up – whereas in a more positive  climate, they might keep trying. This is slowing business growth and therefore the growth of Australia’s economy.

Why is everyone saying that ‘banks aren’t lending to SME’s’?

To answer the question we need to understand the lending process and rationale applied by the banks. Decisions are no longer made by your local manager who in days gone by would have known you, your business and the state of the local economy in which you operate. Lending decisions are now centralised and subject to stringent internal rules, guidelines and matrix ratings.

It is possible in this centralised and semi-automated system of credit approval to fail simple because you can’t “tick” a given box. So let’s look at some of the actions you can take to improve your chances of success:

Credit History:

In tough times banks require a near perfect credit history with no defaults, judgements or slow payments showing on your credit history. The reporting agencies make mistakes and many suppliers make mistakes so it pays to request a copy of your credit file from the main agencies such as Veda or Dunn & Bradstreet and check that it is accurate.

Recently our Credit Manager brought a large monthly trading account application to me for approval, the applicant trades nationally and is at the upper end of the SME definition. On the credit file were two very small sums of money showing as outstanding for over two years to a major utility company. Had I been a computer I would have rejected the application but as a reasoning person I could accept that such small sums were inconsequential against the annual revenues of the applicant. A quick conversation with the applicants CFO satisfied me and the application was approved.

For a relatively modest annual fee the reporting agencies will provide you with email notification of any changes to your credit file and provide a fully detailed up to file each year.

Portfolio Risk:

Most banks from time to time place a limit on the amount of funds they will advance into a certain business sector or avoid some sectors all together. In late 2010 we had a client with a strong business case and sound backing who wanted to acquire assets in the wine industry. At that time none of the major banks would lend to any “non existing” wine industry clients. Don’t be afraid to question the banks BDM as to their attitude to your sector and if the BDM doesn’t know ask them to find out.

Business Plans, Budgets & History:

Being able to table a well-constructed funding application supported by a current business plan, detailed budgets including P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow will help enormously and if you have maintained accurate records of plans and performance over the past three years even better.

The plans and records don’t just show how your business has performed and how it may perform in the future they speak volumes about you as a thinker and manager.

It’s relatively easy for you to know how you stand from a profit and cash position on a monthly basis and you may question the time and investment required in maintaining such detail but believe me it will pay you dividends time and again to do so.

Management Team:

Provide information about your management team. This will be a key consideration for any lender. You need to show you have a team that can develop the product, market and sell it, and just as importantly, manage the finances. If you have gaps in your team, try and fill them get one in place before you apply.

Interest Rate Cover & Security:

The banks will calculate how many times cover your current net profit will give to the total amount of interest payable and they will want that cover to be 2.5 – 3.5 times as a minimum. For additional security the banks will look at your stock and debtors and advance funds against that security, again they will be conservative and depending on the age and condition of stock may lend 60% of cost and up to 80% of debtors. The bank will also look to take a charge over the various assets of your business.

As a general policy you should, wherever possible, avoid giving personal guarantees or security over your family home and always seek professional advice before executing any loan documentation.

Amortisation & Exit:

An often over looked point which the banks will be very interested in is how quickly can you repay or amortise the loan and how you plan to do it.

The banks don’t want open ended facilities and they want to know you have more than one option to repay, irrespective of anecdotal reputation banks do not enjoy having to collect on defaults.

Hopefully you will be able to demonstrate an ability to amortise the loan over a reasonable period whilst still leaving sufficient cash flow to cover your interest ratios.

In summary the lending market is constantly changing and hard to keep up with. For this reason it’s often  worth engaging one of the companies that specialise in SMS funding as they will have strong relationships with a variety of lenders, understand each banks current requirements and how best to structure and present your application to provide the best prospect of success.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-9q

SME's Out of Cash - WCP 2013

SME’s: Starving for Cash

Just how much cash does a start-up need?

In my experience the simple answer is “a lot more than you think”. The lack of cash to fund SME growth is the single biggest cause of SME failures and yet it need not be so.

With a proper understanding of business dynamics and risk, cautious budgeting and the regular monitoring of your performance against your budgets you are already a long way along the path to securing your future.

So How Much Cash Does an SME Start-up Need?

THE FIRST STEP

Be totally honest with yourself when assessing your business plans, don’t plan on what you hope will happen, don’t even plan on what you think will happen. Plan on what you know you can achieve and then allow for the unexpected.

Over the span of a long career I would estimate that 80% of the start-up budgets I have seen, over estimate sales and cash flow, whilst under estimating costs and cash burn.

This will possibly frighten you but you should have sufficient cash on hand at the start of your business to cover at least six months of total costs and operating expenses and you should maintain this cover throughout the growth of your business.

If your business concept is realistic and your business plan and budgets well thought through you will almost certainly succeed but be very realistic when budgeting.

THE SECOND STEP

When writing your business plan and establishing budgets calculate the cash needed in year 1 to meet your three key areas of expense; Cost of Entry – or Capital Expenditure (CAPEX); – Cost of Goods Sold – (COGS) and finally Operating Expenses – (OPEX).

If after careful consideration and budgeting the sum is higher than you thought, see what if anything can be scaled back, without losing sight of your concept and what cash is really going to be needed to deliver the objectives.

Do not despair if the cash needed is more than you thought or indeed more than you have available. The cash needed is the cash needed so plan for it.

In respect of Revenues employ caution in the quantum of sales you project. A mistake here will cost you dearly and don’t expect your customers to pay you on time. Most “good” debtors pay in 30 days but it is usually 30 days from the end of the month in which you invoice and if they are savvy buyers they will order in the first week of the month thus getting almost 60 days to pay.

THE THIRD STEP

The business plan and budgets are written and after due and diligent consideration you feel you are short of cash “Stay Calm and Engage Stakeholders”.

The stakeholders in your business include you, your family, your investors, your staff, suppliers and customers.

If your business plan is sound and well-articulated and explained, each of these stakeholders will support you. Your family will probably support you best by understanding long hours worked and tiredness at home.

Your investor in making the decision to back you and your idea has the most to gain by supporting and helping you meet goals. The investor is probably experienced and can be a great mentor and sounding board for you so use the relationship and value it.

Your customers and suppliers both stand to gain through your business success so engage them, show them your plans and discuss the terms on which you need to trade. Treat them with respect and they will return the favour in heaps.

SUMMARY

We are yet to answer the big question: Just how much cash does a SME start-up need? It’s a bit like the question; how long is a piece of string and the answer is the same……it’s as long as it is, or it needs as much cash as it needs.

Don’t be worried by this, in almost 30 years of SME experience I have always had access to more investor cash than I have had to good ideas and people to back.

If you have confidence in yourself and your plan and need an investor, speak with local accountants, financial planners and lawyers, they will almost certainly know someone looking to invest funds in a sound idea.

Most importantly if you think you need $8.00 ask for $10.00 it’s much easier to return funds with a little interest than to ask for more. Again if you think your first years profit is going to be $10.00 write it up as $8.00 and come in ahead of budget. Everyone loves a winner and success spreads!

Follow these simple steps and you should be set for a successful future with loyal stakeholders willing to follow you into your next bigger venture.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-9k

 

 

The Three Profits of SME's WCP 2013

The Three Profits of SME’s

 

Most SME operators tend to think that good management, innovation, hard work and productivity will result in a profitable business, well they should but that’s not the whole story.

Not all profits are created equal and indeed some are much more valuable and more quickly and easily attained than others. Ah there must be a catch I hear you say; there is no catch but understanding the Three Profits of SME will make a significant difference to the way in which you view and manage your business.

The First Profit

The First Profit of SME is the easiest profit you will ever make and could account for a substantial amount of the total profit your business generates over its lifetime. The First Profit flows directly from your cost of entry.

Once you decide on starting or buying a business be it a hardware shop, bakery, call centre, IT service or a property development, do your research. Look around for a similar business in distress or even facing or in administration or receivership. There are many reasons businesses fail but most often its insufficient cash or poor management, if you are a good manager and you have cash get out there and buy well.

Most businesses fail within the first two to three years. I have bought near new businesses out of distress for less that 10% of the cost of establishing that business. Plant and equipment as new, some customers in place and ready to go. If you can run that business and cash flow it you make a 900% profit in your first 2 years because well run the business should be worth at least its true set up costs.

The Second Profit

This is the only profit some people think of; the operating profit that flows from good management, business planning, innovation, hard work, productivity and sales effort. The Second Profit most importantly sustains your cash flow, pays the bills, allows you to further develop the business and should leave you with a healthy profit after drawing your wages.

The real key to the just how large The Second Profit is relates to the lessons of the First and Third Profits. Put simply the keys to strong operating profits are how well you control the cost of the goods and services you offer and how well you price them.

Do the maths. You are much better off and your business is stronger selling a lower number of products or services at a higher margin than going for volume at a discount.

Look for ways to offer a significantly better service to your customers than your competitors are and lift your prices. Treat cost controls and buying as seriously as sales, manage your stocks to achieve maximum stock turn at minimum inventory. Establish and monitor your KPI’s. Motivate and reward your staff. Build a happy and united team.

The Third Profit

This Third Profit if planned carefully and executed well will bring you a profit as relatively easy and large as your First Profit. We are talking here of your exit strategy, the day you sell your business. Whilst this seems a long way off when you start your business you should be planning and working towards the exit every day.

The Third Profit will directly reflect the desirability of your business to a potential buyer. That buyer will need to be very comfortable with your business if you are looking for a premium priced exit.

From day one work to a detailed financial budget and business plan, report against it monthly; draw up detailed monthly accounts, (it’s so easy today), hold monthly board meetings with an agenda and minutes, even if the directors are you and your wife. File all tax returns and corporate documents on time and constantly update your corporate register. Imagine how comforting 3, 5 or 10 years of such well-maintained records are to a potential buyer.

Lock as many customers as you can onto long term supply or service contracts and do the same with your key suppliers. Look after, reward and motivate your staff so that your retention rate will be high. Another three prospective purchaser concerns answered.

Typically a purchaser will offer a multiple of earnings (EBIT) plus stock at valuation as a pricing mechanism. If the accounts, customers and staff look ad hoc the multiple offered is going to be between 1 and 2 times earnings and stock over one year old will be discounted to $0.10 in the $1.00 and over six months old $0.50 in the dollar.

With solid accounting, tax and corporate records, good budgeting, a regular stock turn, sound supplier and customer relationships, and loyal staff a potential purchaser is going to look much more favourably on your business and a multiple of 4 to 6 times EBIT plus SAV at full cost is a likely outcome.

Another strategy is to approach your major competitor; a consolidation of the two businesses could bring about significant efficiencies and cost benefits thereby lifting to value of your business to a multiple of 6 to 8 times EBIT.

I hope you take on board The Three Profits and prosper from them. Good Luck!

Neil Steggall.

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

1 November 2013

http://wp.me/p401Wv-8E

 

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Teamwork

A STRONG TEAM

IS

VITAL TO SUCCESS

Early in my career it was noted that “I didn’t suffer fools gladly”. At the time I took it as a compliment as I couldn’t understand why some of the people in the organisation just couldn’t grasp the problem, yet alone see the solution and fix it. Clearly they were fools!

As I travelled around the organisation from city to city reviewing performance I was unbeknown to me leaving a trail of emotional disaster and disharmony. One day the CEO sat down in my office and declared that if he could lock me in that room, push problems under the door and wait for me to push the solutions back out some time later, we could change the world. Yes this was the pre computer age and I had to change.

Whilst I had grasped problem solving I had little idea of or interest in the team. I was just so absorbed with problems and their solutions.

I am now much better, though still not good, at team work but I have recognised that a good team is both high performing and exciting to work in. Results flow from great teams.

Cerebral loneliness is a very real problem, I need the companionship of strong thinkers to challenge and spark my own mind. Brilliant ideas are rarely born in isolation, and successful projects stem from a strong, collective team. Without the spark of companionable challenge I find I can become almost self-destructive in my thinking.

In other words, to do great work, you must surround yourself with great people.

It’s an interesting exercise to define what this means for the type of thinkers you want on your team. I find that my best work comes from interaction with people who think differently than I do – and differently from each other. A diversity of mental profiles yields the richest results. Here are six personality types I would have on my dream team.

1. The dreamer: This person never ceases imagining what’s not, what’s next and what’s possible. They think big and hopefully, stretching the bounds of what is considered achievable. They never stop asking, “what if?’ and supply your team with an electric and optimistic creative energy.

2. The debater: Debaters question your assumptions, call out your leap of faith logic and point out the flaws in the plan. They see problems long before others, and they keep everyone grounded and prepared. Their questioning nature forces you to strengthen the rigor of your arguments.

3. The disruptor: The disruptor challenges the status quo and breaks others out of their mental ruts and insular perspective by bringing fresh and far-ranging perspective. My favourite disruptors are intellectually curious, lateral thinkers who are first to spot latent competitors and untapped opportunities in the market.

4. The driver: Drivers are natural leaders, bringing a crusading, concentrated vision to all work and supplying forward momentum when everyone else is losing steam or motivation. They are positively relentless in pursuing an idea, galvanizing political support for it and keeping it on track. They can be fantastic advocates for the customer, and at times hard drivers keeping the team focused on the problem you’re here to solve.

5. The detailer: This type digs into every facet of a project. Detailers focus on practicalities and save everyone else from silly mistakes and fatal design flaws because they think through all the angles and implications. They identify what’s missing in even the best-laid plans and can diagnose the precise point when something could break or be improved.

6. The doer: The doer is the wonderfully resourceful team member who gets stuff done, no matter what. Doers roll up their sleeves and find the practical solutions to delivering products services and “what-nots” on time and on budget. They are great colleagues to those who devise the grand strategy because they get it delivered on time, all the time.

Do you recognise your team members here or see gaps in your own team? Do you think of attributes that I may have missed. Let me know or post your comments below.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-7N

www.wardourcapital.com

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October 22, 2013

entrepreneurs

Creating an Entrepreneur!

Is it possible….you better believe it!

 

Entrepreneurs are often the rocket fuel which drives new ideas, creates new businesses and indeed new industries. In common with such inflammable fuels entrepreneurs can often end with a bang but overall they have driven commerce and commercial ideas for millennia.

Most entrepreneurs tend to be highly individual, difficult and unpredictable and lacking in reputation when it comes to team work and the subtleties of the office culture. This is changing as most business schools and universities are turning out graduates with qualifications in entrepreneurship.

Having tame yet empowered entrepreneurs within a company is the dream for most business owners. These are employees who will undertake something new, without being asked to do so. They are innovative and creative – they are people who can transform an idea into a profitable venture for your business. They strike the perfect balance – act like entrepreneurs, but they work for you.

But as any business manager will know, such individual entrepreneurs are a rarity, however, this needn’t be the case. Every employee can become more creative and entrepreneurial if their company adopts a different approach to their development and cultivates a culture where innovation and creative thinking is encouraged and supported.

One of the main problems facing many Australian businesses is that they have lost sight of the importance of fostering creative thinking and innovation. In doing so, they are placing their business at risk and giving the competition a serious advantage.

We can’t lose sight of the fact that the economic crisis has turned many offices into high pressured working environments, where employee engagement and confidence has been eroded. In such businesses energy, creativity and innovative thinking has been lost.

However, what has also emerged is a (it’s not us) blame culture where business people are blaming their current poor business performance solely on the recession and external factors. But this is a bit like complaining that you are wet because it’s raining. How about wearing a raincoat? Businesses have a duty to prepare for the future upturn and ramp up their competitiveness.

The actual ‘raincoat’ for business is not to cut costs and act in defence; it is to build resources and attack. Sun Tzu in the sixth century said that you may survive though defence but you can only win by attacking. One of the oddest paradoxes of the business world is how many business owners never even see themselves in a competitive situation. Absurd! Competition in so many forms is ever present and can never be ignored.

So what can businesses do to be more competitive? It is in times of adversity that some of the greatest innovations have appeared and in today’s straightened times there is a healthy pressure to differentiate, become more competitive and establish more intrinsic value in the organisation. Does this come about by exhortations by the CEO or by establishing a culture of freedom to think and innovate? It may be the former but it must be the latter.

It is down to business managers and the HR department to establish a culture where intellectual power within the company is harnessed to the betterment of innovation and in so doing equals motivation, productivity and profits. An energised workforce is an effective and content one.

Most people in an organisation have enough insight of what is going on to be able to contribute to innovation. However, we are not talking just about suggestion boxes. I am referring to special projects and cross functional work groups to establish innovation in products, service and operations.

Managers need to make it clear that this is not a one off; to create sustained motivation, people must feel valued. Leadership has to be consistent and authentic in the way that it empowers teams to be create

Here are some ways of encouraging creativity and innovation:

Innovation       

1. Understand and know what the market wants, but know more about what your competitors are offering and how they behave.
Competitors of all kinds are the minimum benchmark for which to aim. Equalling the value of competitive offerings is rarely going to suffice – always ensure you are moving to stay ahead. Look at every weakness in competitor offerings and operations and use advanced brain storming tools such as ‘meta planning’ to develop and refine the winning concepts. To win you must find that point of difference and it’s usually a combination of ingredients which becomes – your winning recipe

2. Empower people to implement their innovations.

3. Make it clear that a business must always rethink, reposition, invest and develop its products and services.
NEVER stand still. Even those lucky enough to have patent or intellectual property protection must seek to acquire more advantages. If in any doubt about this then compare the car manufacturers on the road today with those of thirty years ago. GM laughed at the Japanese cars with their floral carpets and tiny engines. England was the undeniably solid centre of motorcycle production.

4. The customer is always a good start point for innovative thinking and should be a central focus for the whole business.
The customer and their relationship is central to business success. Do not rush to copy some competitors’ ways of caring for customers (e.g. automated telephone services!). Develop new ways to engage with customers in a way that customers want. They will repay you over and over. This is how Virgin took so much business away from the likes of Qantas

5. Treat internal employees as customers and friends.
The best innovation can come from co-operation between employees – this is an effective way of bringing out entrepreneurs. Identify and appoint innovation ‘champions’ around the business. These people will be the leaders on innovation development and manage the process. They must drive the culture.

6. Any function has scope for innovation – always.
HR, finance, customers service, manufacturing, legal, they all must innovate and an innovation culture that embraces all the functions will be a better joined up organisation.

7. Lead people to look externally for inspiration and don’t be afraid to steal other people’s ideas.
Some of the best ideas and simplest innovations are from businesses that already have had such a drive or survived times of stress. Don’t reinvent the wheel copy the world’s best practice then improve it.. Sometimes copying is the best route. However, copy it, and then improve it. Look at how the Japanese destroyed the UK motorcycle industry, they initially copied the UK and then made the products better.

8. Managers should promote external focus from all departments.
Many businesses suffer from internalism and parochialism. They stunt growth, innovation and sap energy. Assume that your business could be killed off by new entrants to the market or new innovations – people or technology based. Get people to think the un thinkable, develop thinking around scenarios that may seem unrealistic. In the 1960’s Black & Decker was the world’s largest and most trusted power tool maker. Which of the analysts and business commentators wrote or though in 2007 the major global banks would fail, that the system was unsupportable and a crash inevitable.

9. Lastly, companies must look forward, and by looking forward I mean 360 degree vision and a strategy to see through it. Most look back when setting budgets and design parameters.
Create a ‘can and will do’ rather than ‘can’t do’ culture. There are ‘no but’s’; only ‘yes and’

In the end, innovation is an state of mind. Train your key people to think and see differently, search every day for the new, the better, form, function, value and service. This is where Steve Jobs was masterful in transforming not only an industry which he had helped create but in transforming the culture of a major global enterprise.

The value of leadership and empowering your management is enormous and in truth no one has a choice in the matter. Everyone must adapt, change and innovate and we can all with training, help and enthusiasm become entrepreneurs.

Empowering employees to be innovative and creative, and encouraging a ‘can do’ attitude can reap rewards for everyone – whether monetary or reward based – and companies that do this are more likely to survive the recession.

A new show on the ABC called Redesign My Brain, hosted by Todd Samson, shows just how adaptable to new ideas, concepts and skills our brains are.

It’s been said so many times but the answer is to look out of the box or in more 21st century terms constantly look beyond the horizon and use 360 degree vision and thinking.

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

13 October 2003

http://wp.me/p401Wv-73

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The Perfect Storm

(A Modern Horror Story)

Because it Rains in Paradise

Why be so negative?……. well let’s use  Paradise as a metaphor.

Because It Rains in Paradise…….!!!!!! 

Come along take a short ride on this little thought wave, let’s see Paradise as a metaphor for a well-run business, a prosperous and growing concern and let’s see the rain as a metaphor for an approaching economic storm.

How well protected are we in terms of our ability to weather the storm? We have our business plans to hand but they make no mention of a storm. Have you been through a storm before? What changes? How do we survive? How bad will be storm be? Can we rebuild post storm?

So many questions and yet so far so few real life answers.

Breath deeply, let us relax together and read a little story……….

At times business can appear a lot like paradise, it’s a great place to be, and everyone wants to be there to enjoy life with you, to know you and to bask in your reflected success. You are the visionary, the hard working, creative, entrepreneurial brain who made this all possible, your adrenaline flows, your energy and ideas come together, your staff are happy, motivated and successful, they respect you, the cash flows in, you drive a nice car, dress well, you eat at the best restaurants, you fly at the front of the plane, you speak at conferences, and…….ahhhh you sit back, relax and you reflect on just how good your life is.

One day, a small cloud passes between you and the sun, sending a slight shiver through you, but it quickly passes. Utilizing your latest smart devices you send a few more ideas, instructions, queries, emails and more pictures of Paradise to your office, you check your bank balances, transfer a few funds here and there and it’s not yet lunch time.

The sun still shines but the palm leaves rustle again this time with an unsettling sound and in the distance the ocean appears darker, are those clouds, building in the far distance or a trick of light on the horizon?

Far, far away from Paradise and way over the horizon is The Land of Plunder (LOP). A terrible, bleak, dark miserable environment that draws the humanity, skill, resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit out of you like a black hole draws energy from its surrounding universe…..no profit, not even a scrap, ever escapes its clutches.

Populated almost entirely by wise and educated sages such as investment bankers, credit providers, speculators, derivative traders, stock brokers, securitization specialists, short sellers, long sellers, fund managers, promoters, actuaries, lenders, accountants, auditors, receivers, managers, liquidators, lawyers, barristers, regulators, and their shiny suited minions oh it’s a soulless place to exist yet alone to live.

The problem is that in the Land of Plunder no one actually makes, grows, manufactures, produces or sells anything. Nothing. Not a single thingamajig or even a widget. Not a single truly commercial activity in the whole land. Yet its population consumes the funds made in Paradise, it lives to play games with those funds converting them into concepts and instruments called spreads, market sectors, cash, gold, minerals, fuel, pork bellies, red bean futures, long and short positions, options, shares, derivatives, differentials, margins, rates of interest, rates of exchange, incremental ROI, leveraged positions, contingent assets and equally contingent liabilities. Perhaps the favourite game of all, played only by the most knowledgeable of sages, is the interpretation and discussion of meanings…..net, gross, before, after, on or off the balance sheet, earnings brought forward, deferred debt, provision for, contingent, or not and most importantly the holy grail itself………THE BONUS.

That night as you lay back in your king size bed, sipping a final glass of Comte de Taittinger, the wind rises and the palm leaves rustle, indeed as the tree trunks bend under the increasing force of the wind you get to thinking about The Land of Plunder. Who actually pays them and what for? What happens historically? Doesn’t the LOP like totally fuck up at least once every generation? And what happens when they do? Could it damage your business? What could you do to protect your business and the thousands like yours?

Another perfect day in Paradise dawns and already your CFO has confirmed that your cash registers are still singing caa-ching, your revenues are up, your staff are motivated, your customers are happy, your suppliers are on time and on budget and your R&D team is about to make yet another technological breakthrough and yet that lingering fear niggles away at you. How would I get by if the LOP was to get it all wrong?

Much of your new day is given over to this dreadful thought, and with the help of your laptop you reflect on history’s greatest LOP fuck ups. Dating from the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s disaster in the fourth century to those wicked Medici’s and their Pazzi Conspiracy and the subsequent Banking collapse of the fifteenth century, to the collapse of the Spanish economy in the mid sixteenth century….oh how could the wise sages have got the gold price so wrong? Of course no one within the LOP’s Dutch branch could have imagined that one day a Tulip Bulb would be worth less than its weight in gold but alas it came about. All of this further distresses you.

You of course realise that in the eighteenth century the sages came up with a brilliant plan, they sold the South Seas Company the exclusive rights to trade with and to import gold and other untold riches from South America. Sadly the sages didn’t actually clear this with the owners of South America, (Spain) or even mention it in the prospectus, small oversights they later realised and thus came about the South Sea Bubble. To date this is still history’s largest corporate collapse. Those damned Spaniards just didn’t play Cricket, did they, the sages were heard to mumble.

Racing forward, you find we have the sages of the LOP, engineering a convenient double act, in the Railroad and Silver collapse in nineteenth century America. Again the sages were ever so slightly wrong. More rail road carriages and rail roads were built than there were people and stock to travel on them. Some railroads went to towns and cities yet to be built. Proving that a double act was possible, the sages funded one or two, or was it ten or twenty, US silver mines to be opened on virtually the same day and surprise, surprise, the silver price fell through the floor. The US economy plunged into recession, jobs lost, families homeless, Railroad stocks crashed and companies failed but God Bless the sages……they still had their fees.

Still good hardworking entrepreneurs just like you were soon back at work in Paradise building their businesses, making and selling thingummy bits, widgets and the many whatnots needed by the people of Paradise. The sages were so impressed they decided to buy shares in these solid enterprises and trade them at a profit in LOP, whilst of course charging fees and profitably clipping tickets along the way.

Alas the shares were oversold and overpriced and in 1929 the entire global monetary system collapsed causing the worst depression, loss of jobs, homelessness, self-respect and starvation the world has ever known. In fairness some of the sages did feel quite bad about this and threw themselves out of their Towers of Babel to the pavement below. Though not many; and for the few that fell it was often as close to reality and real people as they ever came. One could go on and on mentioning the sages doing so well out of the provision of two glorious sessions of twentieth century global war debt, the Credit Squeeze of the early ’70s, the stock market collapse of 1987, the Banking Crisis of the early 1990’s and that monumental fuck up of 2008, but by now you really need a drink;

More importantly you need to recognise a the pattern, call in some real people and plan!

Please lets us know your thoughts, ideas and feedback. Contribute to this debate is both free and important to do so!

Post your thoughts below and………………….give some bark to your thinking!!!

October 2013

Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-aS

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!