SME’s

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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A Paradox - WCP 2014

The Business Planning Paradox 

Some years ago I sat on the Australian board of a major US consumer goods company when the news came through that our regional boss in the US had retired and was been replaced by a newly retired US Army General with no business experience – imagine our misgivings!

Our new boss, let’s call him “Bud” arrived in Australia three weeks later to sit in on the presentation of our revised and much changed 5 Year Strategic Plan. He sat patiently through two days of presentations, projections, detail and the final summary asking pertinent questions and seemingly agreeing with our logic and direction.

On the third day, in our windowless board room, he kicked off the questioning by asking me “Son, how much faith do you personally have in this plan, would you bet your career on it?” I was confident in our team’s research, logic and the plan presented so I answered in the affirmative with: I am confident Bud and yes I would bet my career!

“Son I am saddened because you must be a lot dumber than I was thinking” was Bud’s response!

This was a bit of a downer to say the least. Bud continued:-

“Son I served in supply in Vietnam can you imagine starting your day at 5.00am not knowing where your troops were going that day, or how many would be alive or wounded that night, but knowing that wherever they were they needed mess tents and hot food, field hospitals, beds, fuel, ammunition, and vehicles to replace the damaged ones and if I let them down I let America down”

“Now Son my enemy was a lot harder to handle than your “competitors” so how helpful would a 5 day plan never mind 5 years have been to me?”

I assumed this was a rhetorical question and asked Bud just how he did plan his supply chain – I was incidentally impressed by the complexity of his logistics.

Bud’s response was to answer “Son I’m asking the questions today so let me ask you this; how far can you turn your head to each side?” around 90° each way, I answered, about 180° in total. “And how far can you lift and lower your head?” mmm, around 90° degrees each way “BULLSHIT!” he roared “you are very lucky if you can get a true 170° and let me tell you problems  will come at you from 360° and spherically so better be prepared!”

I may have made Bud sound like a difficult character, he wasn’t, he was different and we became friends and remained so for many years.

He had developed his famous 4 point plan to “Succeed in Everything” and here is the paradox: it was potentially an 8 Point plan! Let me explain:-

“The 4 point Plan to Succeed in everything”

RULE 1:

a)      Develop  a detailed written plan

b)      Don’t be too “stuck” to your plan

RULE 2:

a)      Calculate, Calibrate & Measure everything

b)      Don’t be bound by numbers, always look beyond

RULE 3:

a)      Constantly seek information, input and advice from others

b)      Follow your own heart & instincts

RULE: 4

a)      Delegate wherever possible

b)      Always retain control

Developing a detailed plan of where you want to be and how you plan to get there is to me absolutely essential to good management. Done well it involves bringing the whole team together to focus on the challenges and opportunities facing the organisation and the plans progressive development forces you and your team to think through each point, to question, determine and build a strong team vision.

 Don’t be too “sticky”! I like to think of a plan as a road map to guide us from point A to point Z, a very useful document without which many long journeys would fail. However if along the journey a bridge has collapsed or the mountain pass is blocked by a slide we have to put the map to one side and handle the blockage. So it is with business plans!

Calculating & Calibrating:  Peter Drucker said “What’s measured improves” and I am a huge Drucker fan. I am a bit of a numbers nut, I find spreadsheets akin to soothing pictures; when I sit down to review a business I enjoy dissecting the market, the innovation, the competition, the costs, expenses, cash flows and projections…….they can all be reduced to numbers and measured.

There is also a common corporate condition known as “Analysis Paralysis” this is the stage at which you can no longer see the wood for the trees. KPI’s are great but they can hide the bigger picture, so step back occasionally and look beyond the numbers – you may be surprised by what you see.

Seeking information, input and advice from others has long been a hallmark of good leadership and a strong indicator of an organisations culture and attitude. Until we strive fully understand every aspect of the market in which we operate, our relative position within it, our products relative positions within it, our financial position within it and the markets overall direction, wants and needs we are operating an incomplete structure, perhaps one lacking a vital component.

 A strong CEO or leader asks many questions in meetings or planning sessions but is careful in placing forward their views; they listen to, consider and weigh the advice, they read through the detail of market and financial analysis and then make an effective decision based upon their experience and their heart or gut instinct. This is what makes them leaders.

Delegation is another common denominator of strong leaders. Delegation not only provides leaders with more time to lead but it empowers subordinates whilst building their leadership and the organisations culture. It’s a wonderful, internal win-win!

A really good leader delegates on an 80/20 principle which I call “Loose, Tight, Management”. In effect 80% of decisions are safe, that is if the wrong decision is made it’s not life threatening to the Corporation but 20% of decisions are crucial and by keeping control over this 20% you always retain control of the whole.

A strong leader never criticises a poor decision or a failure arising out of delegation, these are valuable lessons for subordinates and each lesson well-handled builds the person and enhances the corporate culture.

The lesson I took from Bud was that there are few if any absolutes in an ever changing world and that the key to good planning is to understand exactly where you want to be whilst retaining the flexibility and the ability to change to adapt to changed needs and conditions.

The lesson was well taught and conveyed and as a consequence planning improved, I improved and the corporation improved and that is what “A Plan to Succeed in Everything” should deliver.

By, Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-gz

 www.wardourcapital.com

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Creating an Entrepreneur - WCP 2013

Creating an Entrepreneur!

Is it possible….YES it is!

 

Entrepreneurs can be seen as the rocket fuel of new ideas, they create new businesses and form new industries and in common with such dangerous fuels entrepreneurs can occasionally end with an explosion, yet despite the occasional explosion we have to accept that entrepreneurs have driven commerce and commercial ideas forward for millennia.

Why are entrepreneurs and sound corporate management generally seen as oxymoronic? A commonly held corporate view is that entrepreneurs are too highly individual, unpredictable, difficult personalities and when it comes to team work and the subtleties of the office culture…..well perhaps it’s best not to go there!

Is this a fair view in today’s market or a historical carry over? Well perhaps it is time to re-assess, as entrepreneurs are changing and today’s business schools and universities are turning out business and law graduates with specific qualifications in entrepreneurship.

Having a brilliant, yet well rounded entrepreneur within a company could provide a much needed boost for most organisations. Imagine; a manager who embraces autonomy, who can not only see the problems but looks beyond to the solutions and the potential opportunities which can flow from the solutions.

A new generation of innovative and creative executives who can transform  ideas into profitable ventures. They strike the perfect balance – they look, act and think like entrepreneurs, but they work for the corporation. As any manager knows, such entrepreneurial team members are a rarity; however, this need not be the case.

Why not change your management culture to enable your future leaders to become more creative and entrepreneurial by developing a focused culture where innovation and creative thinking is encouraged, supported and of course rewarded.

One of the main problems facing many organisations is that they have lost sight of the importance of fostering creative thinking and innovation. They have become afraid of change and in doing so they are placing their business at risk and allowing their competition a valuable advantage.

Innovation should be seen as your ultimate corporate advantage and innovation springs from the minds of motivated and engaged employees, yes your entrepreneurs!

In the sixth century Sun Zu said “you may survive though defence but you can only win by attacking” and more recently Peter Drucker said “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” Of course the most efficient and lasting method of attacking your competition is through marketing and innovation.

So what can your business do to be more competitive, to as Sun Zu recommends, “go on the attack?”

A decision to attack can filter down from the board through the CEO or an entrepreneurial culture within the organisation of creative thinking and visionary innovation can develop the strategy and sell it up the ladder.

Either route is possible but the latter will always deliver a better result.

A successful organisations culture inevitably stems from good leadership. This doesn’t mean that the board or the CEO have great ideas, they may have, but more importantly they create the environment in which managers are given the freedom and confidence to experiment and innovate. A management team encouraged to think and innovate will be motivated and will form a strong and positive corporate culture.

So how can we turn this into reality and create an entrepreneurial environment in your organisation? Here are my 7 steps to creating an entrepreneur:

  1. Create the environment. Ensure that management feel free and secure in scoping new ideas, in testing the established methods, in questioning and innovating at all levels and across all ideas. Allow for failures, if one out of ten ideas succeeds that’s probably a good trend line, eventually one of these ideas will boom!

  2. Thoroughly research and understand your customer and market needs and how well those needs are being met, look at how your organisation and products are perceived and then turn the table and examine your competitors. Equalling the value of competitive offerings is not going to “cut the mustard” if you want to win you must always ensure that you are leading the field in Marketing and Innovation and following through on customer service. Encourage your team to be bold, be different and be the best.

  3. Assume responsibility for your organisations cultural change and encourage and empower people to bring forward and implement their ideas and innovations.

  4. Support, learn from and work through the failures. If you get two or three successful new ideas and one absolute winner out of every ten pursued you are ahead of the trend line.

  5. Constantly strive to improve, to innovate and to lead, implement a strategy of marginal gains (The Power of Marginal Gains http://wp.me/p401Wv-di ) you will be surprised by the strength of results.

  6. Never underestimate your competitors, look at today’s automotive brands compared with those of 30 years ago. The industry initially laughed at Japan’s underpowered, small cars with floral carpets and upholstery but few would laugh today. Again Marketing & Innovation win!

  7. Your staff are outstandingly flexible and reliable assets to be deployed in the building of your business. Never see them as a cost, create an atmosphere of respect, treat employees as the rare and valuable resource they are and you will both reap the rewards of an exciting and vibrant corporate culture.

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 always look to reinvent the wheel, occasionally take the world’s best wheel and simply improve it. Sometimes copying is the best route forward, look at how the Japanese destroyed the UK motorcycle industry in the 1960’s and 70’s, they initially copied the UK machines and then introduced innovative and more advanced products.

 In the end, innovation is an state of mind. Train your key people to think and see differently, to 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 recent 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 has been said so many times but the answer is to constantly look beyond the horizon and use 360 degree vision and thinking.

 

By, Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-gv

 www.wardourcapital.com

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3 Short Steps to Success 

3 Short Steps to Success - WCP 2014

Some years ago, a small number of our organisations global executives, myself included,  met in Buenos Aires to engage in an intimate three day intensive workshop with a “management guru” who was at that time considered to be one of the world’s greatest “thinkers”.

This was my second session with this guy in 18 months and I knew he would drive us hard and along unconventional routes. On the second day and without warning he asked “Neil take a pad and paper into the interview room and over the next 30 minutes prepare in as few words as you can, a presentation on  – what you need to be a success – you have to be fully prepared to discuss and defend your theory on your return”……WOW!

Shaken and nervous I found myself 45 minutes later presenting for the first time my “3 Short Steps to Success”.

I hear you ask: “Can it really be so easy as to define a path to Success in 3 Short Steps?”

Yes. I believe it can. I believe I later used this 3 Short Steps to Success method to achieve my first real “non-corporate business success” and I believe you can use it too. The lesson I was taught in Buenos Aires is that often the simple path is best.

Note I used the word believe three times in the previous sentence. It’s not bad writing or bad editing its positive discrimination, more on belief later.

There are three core common factors in achieving anything of significance be it in sporting, academic, professional or business arenas.

THE VISION:

“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. –Gloria Steinem”

If you know what you want to achieve, if you can close your eyes and envisage it, taste it, feel it then you are already well along the first step to success. You don’t have to know the detail but you need to understand on a subconscious level where you are going.

I am sure Ray Kroc didn’t wake up one morning and say “hey I am going to build the world’s largest burger chain today”. But I am sure that as an American of Czech origin he knew he wanted his part of the American dream and that dream was something, a vision or dream, he carried with him every moment of every day.

The Success Vision you develop is about your destination rather than the journey. To a large extent your destination will determine the journey.

The first important step is to envisage that destination because if you don’t know where you are going you will probably never arrive!

THE BELIEF:

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there. –Theodore Roosevelt” 

Once you have developed the vision you have to develop the belief in your ability to complete the journey, to follow that vision through to journeys end.

Part of building belief is to break the journey down in your mind into manageable chunks, to start to fill out your vision, understand it and believe in it implicitly.

Essentially you have determined where you are going and you have to train yourself, body, mind and soul to reach that end point.

We each train our bodies and minds in different ways. In this example we are reinforcing our belief in a vision of our making. Quite a task but by imagining scenarios, dreaming, thinking through our vision that vision starts to become reality and when that happens you develop a belief in your vision and your vision starts to become reality.

THE PERISCOPE:

“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart. – Ancient Indian Proverb”

Once you have locked in Vision and Belief the journey begins and the specifics of how success is going to be achieved come into play.

When I first started speaking on the 3 Steps to Success I used the phrase “Keeping  Your Periscope Up”  to describe a subconscious search that would be constantly scanning the horizon to  highlight the occasional “blips” of potential opportunity.

Imagine as you go about your day to day business carrying your vision and belief whilst the “Periscope” of your mind is scanning the horizon and filtering the signals to uncover opportunity.  Over a number of years this “Periscope & Filter” approach has thrown up for me many more quality opportunities than I have found or devised brainstorming in the office or any other method.

Let’s return to Ray Kroc once again. Do you think when in 1954 as a kitchen equipment salesman he wandered into the MacDonald brothers store in San Bernardino, California thinking of buying it? No. But he had his Vision and he had self-belief and his periscope radar “pinged” loudly..

His had been a long, tough, journey, he was 52 years old and yet his periscope was up and operating. The fact that this small burger store was so popular as to need 8 new “multi-mixers” started him thinking, the fact that the store was so efficient fed that thought process and his Vision saw a chain of burger outlets.

Never lose sight of the fact that success is many things to many people. A good friend of mine was an acclaimed AFL player for a major team yet he never played in a Grand Final. I asked one day how he felt about that and he said “every time I walked onto the ground and heard our supporters roar, I couldn’t believe I was so lucky or so proud. Win lose or draw I was doing what I had dreamt of”.

This is success. My friend later enjoyed a successful off field business career and now he throws his still considerable energy into chairing a not for profit organisation. A successful life lived well.

Two favourite quotes of mine which have relevance here are:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity”. –Amelia Earhart

Limitations live only in our minds.  But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” –Jamie Paolinetti

 

By, Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-fZ

www.wardourcapital.com

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Business Writing - WCP 2014

The Essence of Business Writing

“The Essence of Business Writing” is number two in a series of ten “Essence of Management Articles”

You may have rattled off brilliant essays throughout school or university; however, business writing is tough. It’s full of subtleties and more dangerous than a minefield. It is a make or break it skill which everyone in business really needs to be on top of.

If you cannot clearly and simply convey your ideas into business writing for others to follow; or write a concise, accurate and compelling business plan  you are going to struggle to communicate with and develop the teams and structures you need to succeed in business.

Even in today’s seemingly casual environment business writing skills are vital. A well written email will deliver you a far better result than a weak one and a well written business plan, loan application or equity document can make your future just as surely as the reverse is true.

As a new graduate I was allocated to the office of the Finance Director a man of terrifying intellect and a reputation for the fiercest temper on earth. I recall in my early days that sitting in his large and plush office, which was always filled with clouds of cigarette smoke, scared me to the point that my mouth was too dry to use for speech and my bladder always appeared to be filled to maximum discomfort.

After a few weeks I was called into his office and he handed me a large clamp file of photocopied ledgers, notes, calculations, drawings and photographs and said “Can you turn this into a report on the cost savings to be made at the Victorian pipe plant? Nothing too detailed, say about ten pages; need it for next week’s board meeting” I nodded speechless and backed out of his office.

I froze, at last I understood “analysis paralysis”, I spent the rest of that day shuffling the papers and a large part of the next day doing the same. I could see and understand the data but I had no idea as to how I could even start to translate the complex data into a concise, meaningful and interesting report.

This was a test and I knew the cost of failure.

After hours of terrifying inactivity I thought back to my school days and how I used to piece together essays and I came up with the following written list of questions to myself.

  1. What is the purpose of the document

  2. What am I trying to say

  3. Who am I saying it to

  4. How do I present the information

  5. Have I quantified/qualified  my facts

  6. What is my conclusion

  7. Does it make sense

  8. Have I proof read it

My eight point format worked, the report was well received and importantly I still use this list today!

I think on that day I reached “The Essence of Business Writing” and it lives on. Let’s see how the 8 point essence can help you.

  • What is the purpose of the document: If you cannot answer this question clearly in three lines don’t write it because no one needs to hear it.

  • What am I trying to say: I literally write or type this question and its answer at the top of my first draft page of any complex document as I start to write.  I limit both question and answer to four lines each and if I have difficulty with space I rethink the documents whole premise. This question and answer should be at the core of every single communication even a simple email – though I usually allow a mental Q&A for emails.

  • Who am I saying it to:  Each audience has differing needs and expectations. Think this through; ask what will make a difference to your target audience. You are best to use a “different voice” depending on your intended audience. Therefore your writing style, words and authority should change accordingly. The facts are the facts but the audience changes.

  • How do I present the information: Remember when you start to write your report you know the subject backwards. Your reader is in your hands, take then on a sensible, fact backed and sequential journey finishing with a tight summary and sensible conclusion.

  • Have I quantified/qualified my facts: Your discovery that blue widgets outsell red widgets 10 to 1 is astonishing but when supported by respected research your discovery is in lights and your career is taking off. It’s all about cred! Yes research credibility brings respect.

  • What is my conclusion: In a well-researched, balanced and carefully thought through piece of business writing the conclusions will slowly emerge. Sometimes not the ones you or your audience wanted. Facts are facts and conclusions are drawn from those facts. Always call it as it is, don’t dress it up, a “bad” answer is much better than the wrong answer.

  • Does it make sense: In today’s world email a draft to a friend or mentor, their subject knowledge will usually be less than yours so see if it makes sense to them. Listen to input, take it on board but ultimately it’s your report and your decision.

  • Have I proof read it: The more important the document the more important the proof read and I don’t mean a computerised spell checker. Don’t tell anyone but I still have issues here. I check, I double check, my dog checks and yet every time I press “Publish” half a dozen errors flash in front of my eyes!

By, Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-eH

 

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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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

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

Logo Small wcp 2014

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

 

www.wardourcapital.com

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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

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!