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Seven steps to getting rich  

Nest of Riches - WCP 2014

The accumulation of wealth is easier than most realise. Once your antenna is raised to embrace wealth potential and you commence the journey riches will follow. In recent times wealth and its creation have been seen as less than desirable perhaps even a little dirty, not quite the done thing.

I find this attitude strange as throughout nature creatures nest and those capable of building a better nest live longer, breed more successfully and generally enhance their bloodlines and community. Surely that’s a good outcome for all?

Wealth and its creation should not be considered ‘dirty words’, but remember the discrete and careful enjoyment of its benefits are attributes to be admired. True wealth is a state of mind and an ongoing way of living which embraces so much more than your bank balance.

As with so much in life a steady, incremental plan, will deliver a surer chance of success in the creation of wealth. Yes it is slower than “doing the great deal” but it is also more certain in outcome and you will have more chance of holding onto and enjoying the wealth you create.

It doesn’t matter how much you earn, whether you are a Gen Y first time investor or a seasoned baby boomer with multiple assets, there are seven key strategic behaviours that set apart the wealthy from the rest of us.

  1. Spend less than you earn – this sounds obvious but many of us live from pay cheque to pay cheque, which indicates it’s a lesson that is quickly forgotten. Save and invest because the law of compound interest will help ensure your nest egg grows quickly. Start as soon as possible because time is your best friend.

  2. Invest as much as you can in assets whose underlying capital value will grow – remembering income is usually taxed at a higher rate than capital growth.

  3. Reinvest any capital growth – as this adds to the amazing power of compound growth.

  4. Do not be afraid of debt – leverage accelerates your net worth but keep a suitable buffer for the unexpected.

  5. Invest in yourself – it pays to broaden your fundamental investment knowledge.

  6. Have a mentor – a coach will help drive you and keep you focused on your long-term goals.

  7. Have a team of experts – remember you don’t have to be the smartest person in your team.

Above all, generating wealth is about having a purpose and focused determination. We are all living longer and will need more wealth to look after ourselves when we are older. State pensions are no longer the safety net they once were and advances in medical research keep us healthier for longer, but at a cost.

Start today by determining how much wealth you want to hold and by which dates. Write a game plan detailing how you are going to achieve wealth, refer to it daily and update it regularly as change occurs. The sooner you start the easier it is!

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By, Neil Steggall

 The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-j2

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Why is my business stalling?

Business Stalls - WCP 2014

If you were to receive a substantial capital investment into your business would you engage outside expertise to help further develop and improve your business? There are few business leaders I know who would seriously answer no to this question, which if you really think it through is very odd.

Why is it odd? Because if you need help after receiving a substantial capital investment you needed it even more before that receipt!

The conundrum is the reluctance of small to mid-cap businesses to spend money on the sound professional advice which they need. Within larger organisations external advice is sourced as a matter of course; marketing, strategic, structural, legal and accounting advice is outsourced on a regular basis.

A recent Forbes article stated:-

  1. 98% of Small-Caps or Start-Ups seeking equity investment fail to attract it

  2. Over 95% of Small-Caps or Start-Ups fail to proffer a business or investment plan suitable to allow a measured investment decision or to attract funding.

These statistics hurt because for a relatively small investment these businesses could have been funded.

As an example at WCP we are frequently sent IM’s or funding requests from entrepreneurs seeking to fund growth or a start-up and after reading  through pages of technical and product detail we seriously have to ask: “what exactly does your business do and how are revenues generated?”

The idea may be sound but the presentation is poor. I and many others like me simply do not have the time to invest in learning what potential might lay behind a poor document. As a consequence I miss out on making good investments and the entrepreneur misses out on a capital raising.

A very high percentage, 90%+ of new client enquiries we receive at WCP are from businesses which have generally:-

  1. Left their approach to us too late

  2. Lack a sufficient skill base or framework to meet their business goals

  3. Run perilously short of working capital

  4. Failed to develop a professional support structure

Most of these businesses are sound, most of the entrepreneurs are intelligent, most can be helped but why did they not seek professional external advice from day one?

After asking the question many times over the past 25 years there are two main answers given:

  1. There are so many shonky “consultants” we were sceptical

  2. We did not think we could carry the expenditure

Both easily addressed! Take the last question first; you simply cannot afford to build your business in the dark, budget for professional assistance and let that assistance enhance your revenues. As to the first question do your research, how long has the consultancy been in business, will it provide testimonials, what are its core competencies, which team member will handle your business and how good a fit is that person?

Good professional advice should be a self-funding proposition. Seeking advice and engaging a consultant is not an admission of failure it is the corporate equivalent of using your doctor, dentist, tailor or hairdresser – you use them to stay on top!

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By, Neil Steggall

 The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-iV

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Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Wardour Capital:

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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!

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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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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

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Christmas…a drink anyone?

Christmas is a time that asks deep moral questions of us all. Questions like: can I skip Christmas this year? And what is the nog in “egg nog”?

But if you’re like me, there is one Christmas Query that supersedes all others. To wit: Am I an alcoholic? As an investor in the wine industry both here and in Europe my immediate answer is no, I should be drinking more.

It’s certainly a very tricky question to avoid, as you slalom from one Xmas binge to another office knees-up, via that festive seafood buffet party with your old wine buddies. And normally my answer to this seasonal puzzler is:- Yes, of course I am a bloody alcoholic, have you tried that new Tim Adams shiraz?

Because it’s true. I drink a bottle of red a day – or more. This means I am probably going to die at 38; which is quite concerning, as I am already …….hmm a little bit (blush from lies, fingers crossed) older than this.

However, in this season of all seasons, I have good news for me. I’ve been reading a book called Daily Rituals, which describes the work regimes (and drink and drug regimes) of some of the most accomplished people in history. And it turns out half of them are – or were – total soaks. And when they weren’t downwind of a gallon of Macallan by elevenses they were doped, kinky, or mad, as well.

Here’s an aperitif. For W H Auden, the famed English poet, the day started with a dose of Benzedrine; that is to say: speed. He then fuelled himself to work with coffee and cigarettes, before starting on the martinis at 6, following on with litres of vino, then popping a Seconal (a downer) at about 11, so he could sleep. Fitfully.

The painter Francis Bacon would have laughed at Auden’s puritan sobriety. He commenced work at the crack of dawn (and he worked hard) but by 11am he was ready to “socialise”. First a friend came over to splice a bottle of wine. Then he repaired to a Soho restaurant for a long boozy lunch, drank through the afternoon, before dining out, going to a nightclub, necking some more wine, moving onto spirits, then visiting a casino, then having another liquor-fuelled meal at a bistro, then popping some sleepers to help him snore away the grog.

It is reliably estimated Francis Bacon drank six bottles of wine a day. He also died at the age of 83, and created some of the most wonderful and valuable paintings in history.

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Merry Christmas

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Oh yes, darling too true, a huge deal, she paid $20m....blah, blah burp!

Oh yes, darling too true, a huge deal, she paid $20m….blah, blah burp!

10 Conversations

Best Avoided at Work.

 

Earlier this year a university student I know, took on a job as a waiter in a hot inner suburban restaurant and bar and made a common mistake. Quite a sweet and innocent mistake really. The team would often finish late and enjoy a bottle of wine (or two) together, perhaps head out for a burger or a movie and soon she saw them as friends not colleagues and then the trouble started.

It’s a learning experience but there are things we share with friends and family but should never raise or discuss at work. Sharing the ‘wrong’ things with co-workers can quickly spin out and leave us exposed, vulnerable or ostracised. Certainly some fun and banter with colleagues is great, probably necessary but you need to know where to draw the line.

The problem is that a couple of post work drinks can quickly lead to unintended loose lips and anything you tell colleagues will spread faster than news of a secret sex tape showing Prince Harry in bed with Joan Rivers. Remember everyone loves to gossip. What’s more, most people continue to talk and whinge about colleagues when that colleague is absent – it’s human nature.

 The 10 Topics best avoided is a tough one to narrow down but let’s give it a go:

  1. Your Politics – Don’t say: Why would anyone in their right mind vote for David Cameron or Tony Abbott? Not to mention Clive Palmer. Just don’t do it. Politics can divide people and open up a massive can of worms.

  2. Your Salary or Financial Position – Avoid all talk about money at work, be it details about your salary or how much your house or flat cost, your car or computer. Talking about money can quickly generate negative feelings such as jealousy, resentment and gossip.

  3. Financial Involvement – Never a lender or a borrower be: it will surely end badly.

  4. Intimate Details – Keep your private life private don’t discuss fights and tensions at home and never talk about your love or sex life – no matter how awesome or awful your sex life is don’t ever share the detail at work.

  5. Drugs & Alcohol – even if you are nursing the hangover from hell or want to share the excesses of your super party weekend, don’t do it at work. It will always look unprofessional. And as for talking about other drugs – don’t even think about it!

  6. Medical Details – We all enjoy talking about our illnesses and ailments. The more sickeningly appalling the better the story – we think! Even though other peoples medical details can be interesting definitely draw the line at discussing even your cold let alone fungal toe nails or your haemorrhoids. Work is not the place to share these fascinating stories.

  7. Religious & Ethnic views – You know the person…”I’m not racist but…” or have you heard the one about the Jew the Arab and the Irish Setter” Invariably one of your colleagues will have a Jewish mother who loves Irish setters and is married to an Arab. It’s the 21st century  look around and grow up.

  8.  Political Correctness – We may not agree with everyone’s agenda but as we develop our emotional intelligence we should start to respect and even think about and consider the views of others. Sure let rip around the dinner table at home or with close friends it’s called healthy discussion. At work it’s just rude.

  9. Social Media – Being as friendly and pleasant as possible with colleagues is great but connecting with all colleagues on Facebook is a step too far. For some just a tad creepy and invasive, when they go home they want to forget work. There is also the risk that one may become “over tired” on the way home and post your thoughts on your friends page before waking in the morning to OMG!

  10. A New Job – You might feel unhappy in your job and be actively looking for now position, but don’t tell anyone at work. It will very quickly come out and could leave you in a very difficult position.

I could keep going and give you the 101 topics to avoid. It’s a subjective area, you will agree with some and not others but its occasionally worth taking stock of who and what we are and how we act within our workplace.

An admission before closing the page………………..I think I may have broken every one of those rules but that’s life and learning isn’t it?

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

www.neilsteggall.org

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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

Power Press IronyOne for me and one for you.

Why do the Rich and Powerful think rules are for

someone else?

The airwaves and social media are throbbing with outrage about politicians claiming allowances for private trips and businesses using bribes to win valuable work.

This is the kind of behaviour that most people know they would never get away with – even if they wanted to.

What makes it worse, in the mind of the average person, is that the people being exposed are already so privileged and powerful. Tony Abbott can easily afford to fly to Wangaratta for the wedding of a colleague, why would he charge the taxpayer $1094.64 for the trip?

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter Fitzsimons made a good point over the weekend, when writing about Attorney-General George Brandis charging the taxpayers for the cost of a trip to a radio host’s wedding.

Brandis had justified his actions with the comment that, with the wedding guest list dominated by media people, most of the time was spent “talking about politics”.

Retorts Fitzsimons: “Exactly. And surely the guiding light on such matters is whether or not you’re talking policy, not merely politics. Politicians pay for the politics, and we pay for the policy development, would [that] seem to be fair?”

It is notable that the Labour opposition has not exactly been shouting from the rooftops about these “wedding cashers”, leading to the suspicion that this sort of practice has probably been commonplace in Canberra.

But all this is small change compared to the allegations that Leighton Holdings had paid multi-million dollar kickbacks to win work – and claims that the then CEO, Wal King, had approved it.

And then there are the ongoing investigations into the business activities of the former NSW Labour ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, as well as questions about why the new NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson, did not report the offer of a $3 million bribe by businessman Michael McGurk, who was murdered in 2009.

Of course, these are just the cases that are in the media today and many of them may not account to actual illegality or corruption – no such findings have been made in the travel claims allegations or against Leighton Holdings, Wal King or John Robertson.

But the frequency with which such allegations are made about our leaders makes you wonder about what goes on that we never find out about.

The big question is: why do they do it? What makes successful people more likely to bend, break and flout the rules? It is not like they don’t know what the rules are – they generally make them.

Hypocritical tendency

To investigate whether power corrupts, or if power merely attracts the corruptible, Joris Lammers at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, and Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, in Illinois devised an experiment that suggests that power promotes a hypocritical tendency to hold other people to a higher standard than oneself.

According to a report in The Economist: “These results, then, suggest that the powerful do indeed behave hypocritically, condemning the transgressions of others more than they condemn their own.

“But another everyday observation is that powerful people who have been caught out often show little sign of contrition. It is not just that they abuse the system; they also seem to feel entitled to abuse it.”

“People with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want. This sense of entitlement is crucial to understanding why people misbehave in high office.”

Another interesting finding from another study is that people tend to think that rule-breakers are powerful.

A study in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal says when people have power, they act the part.

“Powerful people smile less, interrupt others, and speak in a louder voice. When people do not respect the basic rules of social behaviour, they lead others to believe that they have power . . . ”

“Norm violators are perceived as having the capacity to act as they please”.

In this way, we law-abiding people play our part by unconsciously colluding with the rule-breakers, admiring them for their chutzpah and not taking them to task when we should.

If you have already read my previous rant on those wonderfully powerful people at the Reserve Bank of Australia and their minor and quite understandable transgressions I apologise but……………..

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with bite!

9 October 2013

http://wp.me/p401Wv-5k

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