SME’s

All posts tagged SME’s

Who is.....WCP 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can we fix this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Steggall

Barking Mad with Neil Steggall

http://wp.me/p401Wv-hE

Business Advice with Bite

 

www.wardourcapital.com

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Persistence Pays Off - wcp 2014

Remember, Persistence Pays Off.

Stay Motivated With These 7 Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets consider how persistence and motivation changed history……

 The Little Spider That Changed History……..

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Steggall

 

Barking Mad with Neil Steggall

 

http://wp.me/s401Wv-532

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with bite!

www.wardourcapital.com

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New Ideas - wcp 2014

Leader or Manager? – Vive la Différence!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By, Neil Steggall

 

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-gZ

 www.wardourcapital.com

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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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Leadership Attitude WCP 2014

“The Essence of Leadership”

 

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

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

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

  1. Competence: your ability to do the job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sip on this essence and think about leadership!

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SMS Advice with Bite

http://wp.me/p401Wv-dE

www.wardourcapital.com

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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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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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SME's Going Under WCP2014

HELP! – I am out of cash & going down!

At which stage do you accept that without a cash injection your business is probably doomed? Looking at the ABS statistics they show that in any three year period around 42% of registered SME’s fail. So the answer is that we should look for and accept cash and or help a lot sooner!

It is very hard when investing the enormous time, energy and focus needed to start and build an SME, to then find the time (and to provide the mental distance needed), to properly analyse and re-assess your management and direction. Being naturally entrepreneurial, SME owners have a tendency to fight on, often to a very bitter end.

When I left the corporate world to start my first SME I got to the end of year one and realised I was emotionally drained, failing and down to my last eight weeks or so of cash. Everything I had was on the line and I had no answers.

Recognising that I was no longer thinking straight I bundled my worried wife and two noisy young children into the car and we headed off for a long (and very cheap) weekend by the beach. It was mid-winter and raining; you can imagine my despair.

Late in the afternoon of our second day I took a long walk along the beach, in the rain and asked myself three questions:-

  1. Is the business concept viable

  2. If its viable have you managed it well

  3. If you had sufficient resources available what would you do differently

My answers were 1) yes 2) fair 3) build a team to leverage revenues.

I returned to the shack motivated and excited for the first time in weeks and when back at work I went about raising the cash and partners needed. It was surprisingly easy and within a year we had a happy and booming business.

Lucky bastard! I hear you whisper. Not really. In a now long career in and around SME’s I have realised a few truths about human nature:-

  1. By and large people want to help you

  2. There are more investors looking to invest than there are good ideas

  3. If your business is a good idea and you are honest, fair and hardworking you will find funding

  4. Investors are usually older, experienced, have suffered and recovered from failure – they understand your position

  5. By understanding your position and taking positive action you earn respect from your stakeholders.

So when do you put up the red flag and shout for help?

Assuming your business concept is viable and you are offering a product or service your customers want then consider the following danger signs:-

  1. Your business is growing, you are profitable and yet you are always short of cash. This happens in growing companies as to service higher sales you need more stock, labour, materials etc and your debtors ledger expands as sales grow. This all eats cash.

  2. You have more potential customers than you can handle and you are falling behind on paperwork and starting to knock back new business. At this stage you need to employ and or outsource more resources but how do you do this when cash is so tight?

  3. You know you could win larger more lucrative contracts and strengthen your business if you had more people, plant and equipment.

  4. Your debtors are slow payers and it is impacting on your ability to meet your payments as and when they fall due.

  5. The bank offers you an overdraft but only if you provide the family home as security.

If you are experiencing any one of the above your business is at risk, if you are experiencing any two you are in trouble and should seek help quickly.

In our company we see so many businesses fail which are fundamentally sound and indeed held so much growth potential.

When we analyse them we invariable find a point beyond which they had insufficient cash to maintain the business. Corners start getting cut, staff numbers are reduced, marketing budgets cut, bills go unpaid, staff morale falls, the staff start leaving and eventually an administrator or other court appointed official is installed

Possibly as many as 90% of the failed businesses (assuming no underlying fraud etc.) we look at could have been saved had appropriate action been taken early enough.

So what should you do if you are at risk?

First of all have an open and frank discussion with your advisors including your accountant and lawyer. Walk them through your business plan and figures and explain your concerns and the amount of investment you think you need to achieve a turnaround. Not only will they offer advice but they may well know of potential investors.

Look on line for SME Turnaround Specialists – a good specialist company should have all of the in-house skills you need and access to numerous investors. You may be able to negotiate an hourly rate or a fee based upon their success or a combination of both. A preparedness to complete some or all of the work on a success fee tells you a lot about their level of confidence!

What will I have to give away to attract an investor? Less than you think. A savvy investor will want to see you remain motivated and happy so as to help build a return on investment. If you are both fair, reasonable and above all offer each other respect you should enjoy a profitable relationship which sees the business turnaround.

Once you have an investor on board start to build a team of business mentors. Many SME’s have an advisory board of a couple of specialists who meet as a regular board would and help you analyse and guide the business forward.

Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

Article Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p401Wv-cb

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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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

 

images[3] (2)

 Communication Drives SUCCESS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•8% is based on the words they say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  How long is it going to take?

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

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

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

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

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

How to successfully conduct a conversation in business:

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

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

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

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

By; Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-ag

www.wardourcapital.com

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Education

6 Key Causes of Procrastination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at the common causes:

Perfectionism

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

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

Fear of Failure

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

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

Being Overwhelmed

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

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

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

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

Prioritisation

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

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

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

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

Lying to Cover

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

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

Lack of Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

SME Advice with Bite!

http://wp.me/p401Wv-a8

www.wardourcapital.com

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Winning

How to make a Winning pitch for your Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Neil Steggall

The Barking Mad Blog

Business Advice with Bite!

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

www.wardourcapital.com

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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

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!

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

October 2013

Neil Steggall

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The Barking Mad Blog

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