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The life of the Sturgeon

Published on April 26, 2017

I’m a great fan of Wikipedia and have made my suggested donation for a few years now. You can find out pretty much anything and it has disambiguation pages too, so that you can distinguish between say the sturgeon fish and the Sturgeon politician. For instance did you know that the sturgeon is a late maturing fish that has evolved little over the 245 million years since it first appeared? And Nicola Sturgeon is a politician who has evolved little over the 372 months that she has been a member of the SNP. She is still completely committed to Scottish Nationalism and its ultimate manifestation – independence – which she has now put back on the agenda.

You could ask me why she should change her stance since her aim hasn’t been achieved and it’s what her party stands for. That’s true but it ignores recent history which can be summarised thus:

  1. September 2014 – Scotland votes to stay in the Union with England;
  2. June 2016 – The Union votes to leave the EU.

I realise that I’ve omitted what some may see as key facts such as that:

  • In February 2017 England trounced Scotland at Twickenham (IT’S A GAME Nicola, not Bannockburn); and
  • The next day Nicola Sturgeon announces she will request another referendum; an
  • The Brexit vote will change things for the Scots.

But, and here’s the thing that the 8,174,000 (source Wikipedia) Londoners find particularly galling coming from the 5,295,000 (yup, same source) residents of Scotland, it will change things against the wishes of all 48% of the inhabitants of the four countries that voted.

We’ve worked in nearly 1,000 organisations since FD Solutions was founded (286 years after the Act of Union) and have seen successes and partial successes (I’m pleased to report that the number of outright failures is roughly equivalent to Ms Sturgeon’s attempts at election to Westminster). Apart from useful financial information, I think that the key element in achieving success is good governance. This means listening to cogent arguments, debating their merits then coming to a decision and carrying it through. At Gordon Durham & Co, my family’s building business, we had many setbacks when Government policy changed and funds weren’t forthcoming to our clients. But we stuck to our strategy and eventually reaped the rewards. Contrast this to a company planning a new Scottish distillery which blamed the customers when its white spirits failed to penetrate the market, and didn’t learn from its mistakes in marketing and production.

Running away when circumstances change is not the sign of a good leader and the flaws in her argument are about as numerous as Scotland’s defence at Twickenham. Are you actually going to be independent even though you simultaneously want to depend on the EU? What debt levels will you assume? How will you make up for the £1,000 per head additional Government expenditure the country currently receives (Radio 4 for that one)?

If she was at a board meeting with this level of detail she would be laughed out of the room. Mind you so would David Cameron, who was once described as hubristic (that would be my blog last July), along with Tony Blair who has also admitted to complicity in Brexit. At least they seem to have learned from their mistakes and acquired some wisdom. The Sturgeon on the other hand is slow to mature.

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Financial (dis-)services – a licence to print money?

Published on April 6, 2017

I was delighted when a marketing expert said that although lots of companies call themselves “..solutions” without living up to the title, FD Solutions were entitled to do so because we are FDs who solve the cashflow issues of businesses and charities.

Over the years I’ve kept a lookout for other business solutions to see if they do what they say on the tin. There’s FD Solutions Ltd. It provides print and laminating solutions and I’ve never known why it’s called FD Solutions. I used to know Integrated Printing Solutions which sold printers. But to me an integrated printing solution would allow me to turn on my laptop, introduce it to a printer and ask the laptop to send information to the printer which would then print it out. But, as you may have noticed, the process is not as straightforward as it could be. In my experience it involves searching for printers, which are rarely found, and downloading drivers that are even more elusive.

Nor, it seems, is the process of sending funds from A to B as straightforward as I assumed. I thought that we finance people were a bit more together than those IT bods with their protocols and drivers, and transferring unit trusts in specie (which means in kind, not as cash) from listed institution A to worldwide institution B would be as easy as writing out a cheque, since this is essentially what it is. Those of you who have studied finance law may recall the adage that a cheque can be written on the side of a cow, since it’s not the form of the message that matters just its clarity. My means of communication was rather more prosaic, a letter which I sent and emailed on January 19th.

In the first four weeks leading up to the first deadline, precisely nothing happened. Maybe they were looking for the cow. On enquiry (from me, no-one else thought to check progress), I was told that it had got lost. That was because I had used the wrong address apparently (although I checked it and even I can copy and paste). Miraculously, when a senior executive got involved, this epistle, which had gone to the wrong address remember, was discovered.

Problem over? Well no because the transferor needed the transferee to agree to accept “U2 super clean funds”. This is not Bono’s latest anti-corruption initiative but it foxed even the CEO of an investment manager. I wonder if that was its aim?

There followed assurances that my people are talking to their people and, (would you believe it?), awaiting a response from their people? Finally, someone, I don’t know who, made a decision to implement my instructions and hopefully, one day, I will get my wishes fulfilled. Processes may have been followed, and differences between A’s processes and B’s processes have finally been bridged. But the financial services industry looks no more slick and smooth than my printing environment, and not only because its software is as unfit for purpose as Windows. It’s fooling itself if it thinks it’s a lean world class one that deserves special treatment when negotiating Brexit. It’s becoming bloated charging fees irrespective of performance and failing to invest so as to provide an acceptable level of service which is lacking for the worst reason of all – most of the competitors are just as bad.

Maybe only good FDs can actually provide solutions to the problem of unwieldy financial processes? We’ve got a few of them here but please note that even though our FD Solutions are not Ltd., we don’t do printers.

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B-Jams

Published on March 24, 2017

My acronym doesn’t refer to Bejam, the frozen food retailer that was taken over by Iceland in 1989, which, if I know my readership well, was audited by some of you. It’s my attempt to bring to Mrs May’s attention those Businesses that are “Just About Managing”.

I understand that rateable values need to be adjusted every five years as populations move and values go up and down. But business models change in that time too and these new values seem to take no account of the effect on revenues of such fundamental changes as on-line retailers. It’s not that councils are unable to innovate: in Monmouth they have recently levied an additional charge on cafes which have seats on the pavement. So Costa can provide seating but Coffee #1 needs money for a new coffee machine and has taken its chairs in (and probably written off their capital value: another cost).

Growth is not solely achieved by SMEs – Metro Bank, a FTSE 250 company, has created hundreds of jobs; and Kraft’s focus in its bid for Unilever was reducing the cost of its investment in the future. But that reinforces my point – larger businesses can choose how far and how fast to grow. Larger organisations with the breadth of their activities, lower cost ratios and accumulated reserves have greater choice over their future than SMEs. They can take short term cost increases, defer expansion plans and watch the share price recover as they do so. Small businesses generally need to innovate and grow and adding costs that seem excessive compared to some of the new competitors in retail/distribution hinders this.

By and large business does better with the minimum of interference from Whitehall and County Hall. But I think that a Government as smart as this one could better walk its talk and properly debate how it can create the right environment for growth, especially in retail which is such a large part of our economy, and particularly for B-Jams. Two measures occur to me:

  1. We need to rebalance rateable values between so called retail and so called distribution. The transitional relief doesn’t do that, as Tim Wetherspoon pointed out; and
  2. We should extend the small business rates relief beyond the small to the B-Jams. This would help to level the playing field for SMEs that are growing but don’t yet have the economies of scale of their large competitors but who can extend choice and value for consumers.

Growing SMEs are essential to maintain a thriving economy that can withstand competitive pressures at home and from overseas. If we don’t look to how we can “make Jam tomorrow” we may yet face high streets that look like a frozen northern wasteland and think that it’s not just Mum who should move to Iceland.

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Conor O’Trump

Published on March 10, 2017

Regular readers of this blog – bloggees? – may have been awaiting my comments on the oval ball game. Rest assured I have not missed a minute of the 6 Nations (nor many of the games shown on winter’s afternoons) and my enjoyment has been greater at the discovery of the Egg Chasers podcast. But I hadn’t seen anything suitable for my blog until Sunday’s offering from the forward thinking team leading Italian rugby, headed by Conor O’Shea. Their willingness to turn rugby upside down so as to give their inexperienced team a chance of overturning the status quo is reminiscent of Trump’s assault on the Establishment in general and his current target, the media, in particular.

The Azzurri didn’t claim that this was the most watched match ever but they did claim that the offside line, that imaginary yet real line which determines who is acting legally and who isn’t, was no more. By re-visiting the tackle law, and avoiding following up after a tackle had been made they suspended this line so beloved of sports people so that its very existence was questioned by their opponents. Looked at from on high, pundits and spectators saw the confusion that was wreaked among the English players and wondered how such a state could come to pass. Was it possible that the old established England team couldn’t use their skills, which were superior in most respects to their opponents? They were so bewildered that Italy converted a rebound off the posts into a try and led 10-5 at half-time.

Whether the team resolved it or looked to their media savvy leader, the answer was clear- keep the ball alive. Forwards passed as soon as they were tackled, rather than lying on the ground waiting for support and ten minutes into the second half England were looking to be in control. Italy were forced to ruck when England caught them, and didn’t fully master the new modus operandi – getting penalised for charging down, which you can’t do in a non-offside position .

The laws of rugby can be confusing and those who “play media” to the same level that professionals play international rugby can confuse just as much, for a while. The claim of Trump’s media people – that media organisations have agendas – is true, or perhaps I should say not wrong. We all do and we align ourselves with those that are similar. I subscribe to those with values such as “Impartial, free and fair” which are held by the BBC, as John Sopel reminded The Donald.

And in that spirit of impartiality it would be wrong to dismiss new views, even of the media. But new can often simply mean different to what just happened. If you look further back you may find that these things had been tried, and failed. Italy’s defence discovered that there are good things about the old ways – in defending behind the tackler you’re not so easily breached. Rugby has evolved for decades and the media for centuries. Every rugby player needs an offside line that he can defend. And every President needs a line that won’t be crossed. But the line of post-truth agendas that he is trying to create is as illusory as the offside line. Maybe that’s why he’s so keen on his wall. It’s just that that’s been tried before too. On one occasion I recall that Joshua’s cacophony brought it tumbling down.

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A safe bet

Published on February 24, 2017

So ASLEF’s members have rejected the proposal agreed by their representatives and the prospect of peace on Southern Railway has receded beyond the end of Brighton Pier once again. The result is that a significant slice of our economy is beset with uncertainty. And the struggle not only to make ends meet but simply to meet endures for hundreds of thousands.

I wonder if it’s right for such damage to be caused by so few over so little? When the bankers created significant mayhem in order to preserve so much for an enchanted few, the concept of moral hazard was brought forth – those that did wrong should take responsibility and face the consequences. Striking is, prima facie, a wrong, a breach of contract. It is a specific law which exempts Trades Unions from the effects of a strike and I wonder if it, as well as the transport that some of them operate, is due for an overhaul?

The essence of Trades Unions is to protect workers, to ensure that they are not exploited and, in that mission, they have done a good job. When it comes to protecting jobs and raising wages then their success is dependent on their ability to cause disruption which is only possible in industries where there are very few suppliers. Nowadays the only areas this happens are Government services (NHS, emergency services) and transport. In this situation it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t strike. You forego a day’s pay and get an increase in either pay or conditions, or both. Train drivers are not on the breadline and if you know that an extra day’s holiday produces a permanent increase in your income you are highly likely to do that. Even if every day off requires a 0.5% rise to be recovered in one year (of say 200 working days), if your remaining working life is say 20 years you can take 20 days off and be no worse off with such a rise. So long as you have a legitimate trade dispute the only issue is how long you can survive without income. I’m not saying that the right to strike, which has been recognised as a fundamental human right, should be removed. I am suggesting that it should be used when there is evidence of exploitation.

In less monopolistic sectors there is some evidence: some employers who hold the whip hand have maximised their power with zero hours’ contracts. Isn’t this the area that Trades Unions should be focussing on? Simply banning these contracts isn’t that straightforward because it would affect freelancers, and others who choose to work flexibly (including FDs!). But denying unemployment benefit to someone who has left a zero hours contract is just the sort of exploitation that could be stopped, perhaps by showing that earnings from the contract have been less than, say, £1,000 in the last month (as can now instantly be verified from the HMRC on-line PAYE system?).

I’ve held back from writing this blog because the criticism that as an employer “I would say that wouldn’t I” is inescapable. But it doesn’t render what I’ve said untrue. If there are good reasons to continue with the current universal immunity from the consequences of asking for more and more (under the highly specious pretence that it’s about safety when the doctrine of vicarious liability means that it is always the employer not the employee that is liable for someone who fails to mind the doors) then please let me know.

Every job faces change, and sometimes redundancy, as a result of technology. Even accountants, chartered, certified and turf have been affected. It’s why we, collectively, are materially better off. Are safety and technology legitimate grounds for withholding labour or is this too much of a safe bet?

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Feeling objective – the true leadership test

Published on February 9, 2017

I guess now is as good a time as any to admit to a teenage crush on Harriet Walter. In the ‘70s, as Harriet Vane, the collaborator and then wife of amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, her diligence and care in their common cause of justice only enhanced the appeal of her cut glass accent and come hither eyes. But her role as the new Mother Superior in Nonatus House, the HQ of Call the Midwife, ended my unrequited yearnings. The perspicacity and collaborative spirit of Miss Vane have been superseded by cold ruthless efficiency in the name of the Order.

I’m not privy to the editorial meetings of Call the Midwife, but it occurred to me that the choice of storyline might be an attempt by the BBC to capture that part of the zeitgeist that is the crisis in the NHS (2016/17 vintage) – the need to be efficient and compliant while also being caring. This isn’t easy as was illustrated by the ensuing storylines such as Nurse Gilbert haring off to her next appointment without checking for carbon monoxide poisoning because she had to fit in more appointments.

Productivity, maximising outputs relative to inputs, can keep costs down but is not, never was nor ever shall be, heart-warming, inspirational or morale boosting. Nor is it the case that consideration – showing care, going the extra mile, getting round the rules to reach the obvious conclusion – will ever boost productivity. But it does win hearts. True leadership, in my opinion, manages to balance these two aspects – one of the heart, the other of the mind. This feat of mental gymnastics can be achieved by anyone in any situation where one can replace “because” with “despite”.

In ‘storyland’ Harriet saw the error of her ways and passed the baton back to her caring predecessor. Nurse Gilbert could spend a bit of extra time checking that everything was fine, despite the pressure of extra appointments. In the real world true leadership is much harder, as we see in Theresa May’s position with regard to the USA in general and Donald Trump in particular. Even though many of his orders bear signs of not being considerate – feeding the anger of those feeling dispossessed – the position of a true leader, in my opinion, is to work with him despite them, not to reject the USA, through rejection of its leader, because of them. We live in his world if we respond in kind.

It’s hard to stay kind when being challenged; it’s hard to improve productivity when the role is to care. What our Prime Minister seems to me to be doing is modelling the best type of leadership – objective empathy. Good businesses are increasingly being led in this way, where the boss appreciates that things are rarely black and white, that everyone has a point of view. The crux is to be able to hold different views and move the organisation forward. If it looks like views in your organisation are too far apart to achieve this then maybe it’s time to call your own type of midwife – non-execs, mentors and consultants – who should possess the leadership skills that guide people to reconcile their views rather than see them crushed. Because the alternative would be spiteful.

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Brexit: the emotional dimension

Published on January 27, 2017

It’s been 7 months after the vote for Brexit and it looks like we have a plan, set out in Theresa May’s speech last week which will be backed up by a White Paper. Like business plans, the 12 points are legally sound and encapsulate what their creator, the Government, wants.But like many such documents it hasn’t taken full account of the other parties and their reactions, which will be driven by emotion as much as by law and economics.

The most important party in the negotiations is the EU and its member states. While they will acknowledge the economic benefits of maintaining a reasonably open trading relationship they are also rather traumatised (as are many Brits). Their emotional reaction has all the characteristics of a divorcee. The UK, as they see it, is having a mid-life crisis. It hasn’t had an affair but it feels restless and wants to leave. The marriage isn’t what it was 43 years ago when it started: that was just a big flat share. Then everyone grew up and UK thought “when am I going to be able to get out and see the world?”. Europe doesn’t know what it’s done wrong. UK was consulted on everything and when it really didn’t want to get involved it was allowed to opt out. It feels that it bent over backwards and now it’s feeling pretty hurt. Saying that we don’t want to take things that aren’t ours, or cause any trouble, just doesn’t really cut it with the abandoned party and so all our reasonableness isn’t going to cut much ice, at least not for a while. Maybe when there’s more agitation for withdrawal, especially if Marine Le Pen gets in, then we’ll be seen as Ms Reasonable. But for now we’re going to have to sit calmly and wait for the emotional storm to blow over.

Then there are constituents in the UK. Car manufacturers say that they can’t plan long term and the City is quick to point out the costs – we’re already hearing of banks moving staff out of the City. This is designed to frighten the Government into making promises for special treatment. The best response here is not to succumb, to keep analysing the situation and ensure that there are alternatives even if they involve costs or lost tax revenue in the short term but a better result in the long term. There is no mass departure in the offing because London has a huge centre of gravity which is stronger than any one organisation and even a whole sub-sector. A few thousand job transfers will improve the net immigration figures and reduce the dependence of the economy on financial services. Having organisations that are too big to fail means that the ruled hold more power than the rulers and that’s a tricky place to be because it can mean decisions are made to subsidise corporations with taxpayers’ money. That wasn’t popular in 2008 and it would be even less popular in 2018.

While Jim Collins advocates (in Good to Great) that great organisations don’t operate a blame culture, political systems still do. Success in the negotiations is far from guaranteed and if Mrs May is as capable as they say then she will have looked at the downside and considered how to apportion blame. Unlike her recent predecessors she won’t be able to blame the EU. If we have a complex treaty then that could be targeted, but it’s more natural to personalise the source of our grievances. It may be that old habits die hard and the French resume their historic role, or that a blogger combines that deep-rooted but vague enmity with some personalities. Maybe we will see the problems as having been created by the cavalier behaviour of the Three Brexiteers? How about Ian (Athos) Duncan-Smith – the aristocratic older one; Michael (Porthos) Gove – leaving the fray for the priesthood aka journalism; and Boris (Aramis) Johnson – the most worldly and vain of the three?

As they say, thoughts produce decisions but emotions produce actions. It won’t be until everyone’s emotions have been dealt with that Brexit will be concluded. And emotions are slower to change than policy makers and business planners would like. That’s why businesses take longer than planned to really grow, and why Brexit will still be around in the 2020s, just less painful/frightening/amusing than it is now.

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New year. Resolution

Published on January 12, 2017

As 2016, and the Christmas holiday that only featured three celebrities passing (Carrie Fisher Debbie Reynolds, George Michael), are finally over, the hope is that 2017 will be different. The public transport chaos and the ceaseless fretting over Brexit – whether it will be a Full English Brexit or a Continental one – indicate that not much has changed. Yet there remains a desire amongst the over-worked and underpaid (aka the population) to re-evaluate how we are organised.

It seems to me that underlying the current mood is a belief that returns on capital are unlimited and enjoyed by few, while returns on one’s labour are restricted by capacity and capability. This is accentuated by two factors:

  1. Our desire for safety (the second most fundamental need after food, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) allows capital holders to protect returns that are stated to be for the benefit of the customer;
  2. Studies have shown that we naturally put short–term gratification above a deferred version. This hinders our ability to reduce our disposable income and to invest so as to become more productive.

The safety argument is so strong it’s now being used by trade unions that have suddenly developed a desire to sacrifice days of pay to ensure that no-one is hurt during the dangerous process of stepping through a door onto a platform.

The trouble is that it reduces innovation, because anything new involves risk by virtue of the fact that it’s new and its effects are unknown. The Medical Health Regulation Agency now requires that any new formulation of a vaping product requires £150 for a new certificate. This reduces the number of new formulations available to the consumer despite the fact that the 4 basic ingredients are the same for each, it’s just the proportions that alter.

The reduction of risk also reduces returns. Banks prefer to provide mortgages to house owners than loans to housebuilders so that the supply of housing remains constricted, which preserves the value of the housing stock and so the recoverability of the mortgage. Worse, it keeps anyone in a pension scheme less well off than someone who manages their own wealth because pension schemes use the risk free rate of return when calculating a pension and currently quote a pension of £25,000 p.a. for a pension pot of £1million! Corporate capital demands, and gets, much higher returns and this dichotomy is one of the facets of the very different returns of capital and labour which, incidentally, is now newly auto-enrolled in a pension scheme.

If I’m right, then the solution to some of our problems is resolution:

  • Resolution to manage one’s own financial affairs so that returns on what you have are in line with capital’s returns. The Lifetime ISA is a welcome step in this direction (and in line with my suggestion at a Reform conference 4 years ago);
  • Resolution to accept some short-term pain for long term gain. Whether it is re-training or setting up a new business, or both, a short term loss is inevitable although Government schemes can, and occasionally do, provide incentives and a safety net.

Such resolution – to manage one’s finances and changes in one’s career/business – may not make 2017 happy but it would improve prospects for 2018. And it would be new.

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12 thoughts for Christmas

Published on December 15, 2016

While 2016 may have been a challenging year on the global front, our personal lives have not been much affected yet, it seems: full employment, rising/stable markets and the only unrest so far has been transport – hardly a change. But only a hermit could fail to take note of the marked change in the world order at the start of 2017 which could lead to some of the dramatic effects of which we’ve been warned.

We develop coping strategies to deal with threats and one of the most successful for me has been singing, with Some Voices, – “The closest thing to being a rock star”. Whatever my mood,its sound never fails to warm my heart and tingle my spine. And it is now a thriving community, like the best village where everyone is accepted, no-one is talked about negatively and whose harmony is the perfect metaphor for guiding a rapidly splintering world.

We successfully sang songs from Christmas movies this week and brought joy to another 2,000 friends and relatives. And last Sunday we sang carols in the Church where some of us rehearse, which prompted me to consider the 12 days of Christmas. I wondered why my true love sent such a copious variety of gifts and I came to the (less than obvious) conclusion that they are a metaphor for our times. Let me expand?

12 Drummers drumming: drumming means drumming, as we have now been told, several times. I wonder why we didn’t reach that conclusion ourselves and needed a new leader to clarify it?

11 Pipers piping: he who pays the piper calls the tune. As I pointed out recently, the political class is no longer chosen from a pool of experienced people with different views, that can be challenged, but FROM THOSE WHOSE VOICES ARE HEARD MOST CLEARLY. Shouting and media spend to amplify the message (even patently untrue ones), has won power. And now those with extreme views have worked out how to use social media to get their messsages out without challenge and at lower cost;

10 Lords a leaping: “only 10?” you might exclaim. It seems that anyone who has been to Downing St for coffee (I had water) is now a peer, and a valuable check on our constitution is losing credibility, at the hands of those who have already lost credibility;

9 ladies dancing: they’re allowed to, even on their own. And it’s not OK to grab parts of them just because they’re dancing; nor insist that they stay at home or cover themselves to avoid the appreciative gaze of others;

8 maids a milking: come 2019 Britain will be on her own, so we’d better make sure we know how to do things that others used to do, like milking;

7 swans a swimming: don’t be fooled (again) by these apparently gentle creatures which appear to make no effort, yet still reach their destination. Rather like Boris.

6 geese a laying: and creating little geese. As our little ones stare wide-eyed at the feast around them, spare a thought for their future in which they’ll still be paying for the mistakes of the last decade;

5 gold rings: the ultimate safe haven (except from an Italian referendum apparently), and now the ultimate two-way bet. You can be sure that even if we go to hell in a handcart the price of gold will keep going up, if only to re-furbish the recently nuked Trump Tower.

4 calling birds, who sing in harmony. Our finale was The Beatles’ All you need is love. There are 7.2bn people on the planet at the moment and it will be 9.6bn by 2050. If we don’t use the knowledge that we have gained (a.k.a. civilisation) to live with each other then at the very least we’ll be worse off spiritually, emotionally and materially.

3 French Hens: better enjoy them before they become unaffordable? Well that’s what some would have us think. But French growers need to sell their products too and they won’t take kindly to having their market reduced in order, apparently, to maintain free movement. It’s not very useful without a destination.

2 Turtle Doves, who live all over the world, migrating from one place to another, rather like people, only peacefully.

And a partridge in a pear tree, which I’ve never seen. And nor have I seen a protectionist, fascist inclined, post-truth democracy rear its ugly head, yet.

I’m not looking forward to 12 such gifts from my true love (I haven’t got the space). I thank her for her most precious gift – true love – which I enjoy 365 days a year, and hope that you are similarly endowed.

Happy Christmas.

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The rhythm of business

Published on December 1, 2016

rhythm

It’s been a year of upheavals: I’ve moved house twice this year and helped my aged aunt re-locate. So I count myself a bit of an expert in the removals business. I’m no stranger to hard work – I’ve watched it for hours – and observed that my concern that they wouldn’t finish in time, which built to its peak after about 40% of the time when there was no real sign of progress, coincided with an acceleration to a timely conclusion. Humping stuff keeps them fit. But, like Ed Balls, their movement is not what inspired me to think of the waltz when discerning their rhythm: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Or as Chris would describe it – Survey; Box; Load; Drive; Deliver.

Which got me to wondering what else falls to this rhythm? Here’s my list, so far:

  • Building work, where it takes ages for things to get off the drawing board and then everyone exclaims “look it’s already up”. It involves planning permission; finance; building (often from pre-fabricated parts); fitting out; and eventually the final account.
  • Selling, where the search can seem endless until a prospect crops up. The steps are – research the market; form relationships; identify the need; issue the proposal; sign the contract.
  • Business planning where understanding how the business really works is critical. So the steps are – analyse; model; write; recruit; finance.

If I’m right then there are a couple of useful things to take away:

  1. Don’t panic if after 40% of the time you seem to have not made much progress. But make sure that by 42% there are some signs.
  2. When things do seem to be happening don’t take your foot off the pedal and end up with nothing because the last piece didn’t get started in time. At FD Solutions we’re used to people saying that the proposal has been issued so the sale will happen very soon; and that the business plan is in place it just needs the finance. The trouble is that the commitment of others – a contract – takes longer than putting everything else in place. This is because, in my view, even when a person knows that rationally it’s right to buy the product or make the investment, their emotions haven’t caught up. It’s only when they feel emotionally committed that you can execute the plan properly because “thoughts produce decisions but emotions (“e-motions”) produce actions”.

So make sure that you factor this lag into your planning because otherwise you’re likely to run out of money. Which could mean that you’ll have to start the waltz again. Or worse, learn the cha cha.

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