Category Archives: blog inspiration

10 ways to start 2016 on a positive note

Business-Quotes

The recent Forbes report certainly shows that the bubble hasn’t popped yet.

That’s the easy conclusion of Forbes’ latest Hottest Start-ups list, which ranks Silicon Valley’s most successful companies in 2015 by one simple metric: the fastest growing valuations over time between funding rounds. That means their list captures the most in-demand start-ups, the ones for which investors had the highest hopes–and wrote the biggest checks.

Combined, the top 50 hottest start-ups raised over $7 billion this year and have a total valuation close to $120 billion.

Interestingly enough, Forbes took an end-of-year look at companies leading the way as valuations get extra frothy, ranking the Hottest Start-ups of 2014 by fastest growing valuation over time between funding rounds. These aren’t necessarily the most successful (or most hyped) start-ups — but they are the ones that investors are betting the biggest bucks on for the future.

The list is headlined by a who’s who of unicorns grabbing huge sums of cash. Ride-hailing juggernaut Uber (#16) is raising $2.1 billion to add to the $1 billion it raised in July. Workplace communication tool Slack (#2) raised $160 million, shared workplace landlord WeWork (#31) raised $433 million, and cyber-security start-up Tanium (#21) raised $120 million.

However, many start-ups at the top of the list are slightly off the beaten track. Secretive Uptake Technologies ranks first over all, coming out of nowhere to raise $45 million at a valuation of $1.1 billion. Uptake, run by former Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell, promises to provide the data analytics back end for the Internet of things revolution coming to major traditional industries like construction and aviation.

It is a fact that no business is guaranteed to succeed. But with the right level of energy, passion, determination to a belief in yourself and your product/service you can progress independently with your dream idea and business.

The beginning of the year has arrived and while it’s important to take some time to assess the positives and negatives of 2015, it is also worthwhile ensuring everything is ready for the year ahead so that 2016 does not start with unnecessary stress.

Many entrepreneurs are passionate about their chosen trade but aren’t always strong when it comes to the financial side of business.

It is the little things that people often forget about. Simple things, like cash flow and budget that can make all the difference.

The following 10 tips would make sure business owners cover all their bases and have a successful 2016.

1)      Budget for the year ahead

2)      Understand your business and its customers

3)      Analyse your monthly management accounts

4)      Keep your accounts and taxes up to date

5)      Secure your IP/IPR

6)      Know your limitations

7)      Invest in good legal and accountancy experts

8)      Build revenue streams with trusted relationships – no matter how small

9)      Invest in cash recovery experts

10)   Take a holiday and exercise every now and then

If you follow the tips you will see the benefits returned ten-fold.

A Christmas and New Year Message

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2016 and show to the world you power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2016 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2016.

Should there be more female gender directors on company boards?

women BoD 3Most people agree that there are not enough women in corporate boardrooms, but there is little consensus on the best way to increase numbers and improve director diversity. Some countries use voluntary targets, while others employ tougher (often controversial) legislative measures such as binding quotas to tackle the problem.

The final report from Lord Mervyn Davies, who has championed gender equality in the boardroom, will show that FTSE 100 companies have met the target of having 25% women on their boards – double the number in 2011 when the target was set. Then, just 135 of 1,076 (12.5%) FTSE 100 directorships were held by women.

Davies, a former trade minister and chairman of Standard Chartered bank, will set a new target of 33% female board members by 2020 and widen the scope to all FTSE 350 firms. But he says the introduction of legally enforced quotas is unwarranted as the progress so far proves that the voluntary approach is working.

In Europe, binding gender quotas are increasingly prevalent. In March 2015, Germany became the latest European country to make quotas mandatory. Starting in 2016, major German companies will need to fill 30 percent of non-executive board seats with women. Germany follows in the footsteps of other European countries such as Norway, Italy, France, and Spain in instituting such a policy.

As corporate governance rises up the agenda, gender inequality in global boardrooms and a lack of diversity in senior decision-making is getting more scrutiny from the public and stakeholders.

Facts show that the glittering prizes are falling to women. General Motors, IBM, PepsiCo, Lockheed Martin and DuPont are among a couple of dozen giant American companies with female bosses. Oxford University is about to follow the footsteps of Harvard and appoint its first female leader; and next year the United States may elect its first woman president. Women still have an enormous way to go: the New York Times points out that more big American firms are run by men called John than by women. But the trend is clear: women now make up more than 50% of university graduates and of new hires by big employers.

women BoD 4Will this growing cadre of female bosses manage any differently from men? Forty years ago feminists would have found the very question demeaning. Pioneers such as Margaret Thatcher argued that women could and would do the same job as men, if given a chance. But today some management scholars argue that women excel in the leadership qualities most valued in modern firms.

McKinsey produced a 2007 and 2008 study, the consulting firm found that five “leadership behaviours” are seen in women more frequently than in men: people-development; setting expectations and rewards; providing role models; giving inspiration; and participative decision-making. It argued that such behaviours are particularly valuable in today’s less-hierarchical companies. By contrast, the two that men were found to adopt more often than women sound rather old-fashioned: control and corrective action; and individualistic decision-making.

Those who say women are better suited to taking charge of today’s companies also lean on two other arguments. The first is that women are better at “androgynous” management—that is, combining supposedly “male” and “female” characteristics into a powerful mixture.

This is particularly valuable in businesses undergoing great upheaval, which need a combination of command-and-control and caring-and-sharing. The second is that women differ from men not so much in their leadership styles as in the values that they bring to the job. They are much more influenced by compassion and fairness than men.

Campaigners are quick to point out that only 8pc of FTSE 100 directors are women. This statistic is the crux of their argument for quotas to lift the number of female board members. But their campaign misses a particularly pertinent point: 92pc of directors are men. In 2015, despite all the lobbying and proposed quotas, it is men rather than women who will decide the future of equality in the boardroom.

So, if men still have the balance of power, why will women win the argument?

Future leaders will realise that a perfect process doesn’t guarantee success. The best companies employ the best people, then give them the freedom to follow their initiative. Once it becomes clear that the only way to create a great company is to employ great people, the smart top men will realise that lots of “the best men for the job” are women.

The idea of hiring only the very best (people who rate nine or 10 out of 10) doesn’t just apply to the boardroom – having great people throughout the organisation, from shop floor to the top tier is a magic formula for success. Putting high-achieving women into the heart of middle management is much more powerful than board quotas. Promoting proven talent will ensure that women occupy more places round their board table.

Another big factor is flexible working. Within the next century I am sure we will be bemused by the concept of a five-day week. With broadband, email, Skype, tablets and another half-century of technological change, most office workers will seldom need to go near the office. They will be able to do their job where, how and whenever they want. A world full of flexible workers will be a big boost for women who want to fit work around their family. After a time, men will also see how they can fit work into their life instead of having to fit their life around work.

The prospect of a flexible working world makes it so much easier to employ the best people and, as a consequence, the best people will realise that work-life balance isn’t just management speak, it can become a reality.

So what is the answer, should we have a more balanced male/female gender board? Will it make any difference whether the board is balanced? Can a mixed board be the driver of better performance and a higher return to shareholders? I feel candidature should be measured on the best person with the credentials and qualifications for the role.

Why it pays to think before you share!

think before you share 1There have been many conversations recently on when is the right time to share a post and what are the consequences of posting an inappropriate post. Earlier in the year I posted a blog with wine and app messaging – do we find the truth.

Every so often we get to party and we end up having a couple more drinks than we planned. As adults, we get to the point where we know how to drink responsibly, but like they say, “I didn’t go looking for trouble, trouble found me.” When that trouble is in the form of an adult beverage, it can quickly lead to embarrassing moments. Whether it’s your office party, birthday, or you just got a little too far ahead of yourself before dinner, it happens. Of course, you know what happens next… you take out your phone and get to texting and posting pictures.

These day’s social media is one of the most popular forms of communication in the 21st century, with over 1.6 billion monthly users. Anyone can connect with anyone else, or find out information about them that may not otherwise be available.

In the wake of employers going so far as to ask prospective employees to hand over their Facebook passwords, a practice that has been heavily frowned upon by Facebook itself, social media ‘screening’ continues to be a common practice amongst human resource professionals.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, as many as 37% of employers are checking out prospective employees on social media before they make a final decision.

Beyond that, some critics say it’s unfair for companies to use social media as a factor in screening potential hires. It could lead to discrimination, they say, and it may screen out otherwise strong candidates who have done some things the company doesn’t like but aren’t related to work.

think before you share 2They aren’t just snooping around for, say, embarrassing photos that offend HR’s sensibilities. To suggest that HR professionals monitor social media to root out private activity that they personally disapprove of is to make light of real dangers and potentially costly and protracted legal and regulatory risks

But there are implications that could as an employee offer the employer opportunities for suspension, for example; you are not actually responsible for a particular post, you decide to take a day out at the rugby and inform your employer that you have a stomach illness, your employer has is linked to your Twitter and Facebook account and there is a picture of you taking a selfie in the rugby stand cheering on your team, which is viewed by your peers, colleagues and HR.

This is where social media can lead to disciplinary action, social media effects our business and personal lives, another recent blog that I wrote discussed the fact whether in business you can separate your business and personal life online, the facts are this is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to effect this properly, your business life is your personal life online and your personal life is observed by your business life. In some situations you are hired by an employer because of your personal characteristics and high level of emotional intelligence with others.

One of the key problems with posts and in sharing is that because we live in a fast technological world not everyone reads all content or reviews images before liking them, sharing them and promoting them online, this time is usual spent on the train, in the tube or in between advertisements in front of the TV, posting information without a proper review and too quickly without thinking of the implications in the public domain.

All information once sent is recorded, the delete button has very little effect once you press the send button, so what is the answer?

Social media is viewed differently from employer to employer, not all employers have a social media policy, if you company has a social media policy, you should read the chapter and verse and pay careful attention to the guidelines and forbid yourself compulsion to post images and information that could damage your reputation and career.

Finally, It is simply too easy to turn social-media searches into fishing expeditions. Employers are human and cannot avoid being offended by employees’ private behaviour that goes against their values. Experience shows that employers fire employees for reasons having nothing to do with work. People have lost jobs because of their political opinions and religious beliefs. A photo in a bikini has cost many women their job. One man was fired because his employer didn’t like his short stories (too much sex and violence).

A wise man’s quote, “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”― Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

What is an Entrepreneur?

jumping entreperneurI have many discussions with my business partner in the US over entrepreneurs and cross border challenges, the entrepreneur and his/ her role to the business community and have seen lots of definitions for what makes an entrepreneur over the years but I read an article recently that is quite compelling over exactly what is an entrepreneur. It comes from Chris Oakley OBE, chairman of web design company Chapter Eight. He is also a former journalist who in 1991 led what was then the world’s largest media management buy-out, the £120m acquisition of regional newspapers based in and around Birmingham and Coventry.

So what is an entrepreneur?

“An entrepreneur sees an opportunity which others do not fully recognise, to meet an unsatisfied demand or to radically improve the performance of an existing business. They have unquenchable self-belief that this opportunity can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way.”

“They are not diverted or discouraged by scepticism from ‘experts’ or from those from whom they seek backing and support, but willing to weigh all advice and select that which will be helpful. They are prepared not just to work seriously hard but to back their judgment with personal investment at a level which will cause problems if they are wrong about the opportunity. They understand that achievements are the result of team work and knows how to choose the necessary blend of talents and inspire them with their vision.”

Interesting enough a study from The Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology compared the health of a “nationally representative sample of employees and entrepreneurs” and examined a wide range of health factors for both groups. This included the rates of physical disease and mental illness, blood pressure, the number of sick days taken, the number of visits to the physician, and overall well–being and life satisfaction.

After the numbers were crunched, entrepreneurs were the clear winner in essentially every category. It was discovered that entrepreneurs showed significantly lower incidence of physical and mental illnesses, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension, made fewer visits to the hospital, and enjoyed higher overall well–being and life satisfaction.

What I believe makes most entrepreneurs healthy is not the fact that they run a business, but that they approach life in a particular way. In other words, it’s their healthy mind-set that often leads to a healthy life. For example…

  • Entrepreneurs give themselves permission to change the world and to pursue their dreams.
  • Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and in the control they have over their own lives.
  • Entrepreneurs trust that, even when things are uncertain, they’ll figure it out.
  • Entrepreneurs wake up with a purpose that drives them. They have a vision of what they are working towards that pulls them out of bed each day.

The feelings of empowerment and self–confidence that come from entrepreneurship find their way into virtually every area of your life.

I do not think entrepreneurship is for everyone, but I also do not think it needs to be.

Being an entrepreneur requires much more than just big ideas. A true entrepreneur is a rare breed; it is someone who possesses a unique combination of traits, skills and characteristics that enable them to beat the odds and go after their dreams full throttle.

MindMap EntrepreneurWhat are those attributes? What does an entrepreneur need to succeed?

Goal-orientated

Entrepreneurs are all about setting goals and putting their all into achieving them; they are determined to make their business succeed and will remove any encumbrances that may stand in their way. They also tend to be strategic in their game plans and always have a clear idea in mind of exactly what they want to achieve and how they plan to achieve it.

Committed to their business

Entrepreneurs are not easily defeated; they view failure as an opportunity for future success, and if they do not succeed the first time, they will stay committed to their business and will continue to try and try again until it does succeed. A true entrepreneur doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Hands-on

Entrepreneurs are inherently proactive, and know that if something really needs to get done, they should do it themselves. They are certainly ‘doers’, not thinkers, and tend to have very exacting standards. They view their business as an extension of themselves and like to be integral in its day-to-day operations—even when they don’t have to be.

Thrive on uncertainty

Not only do they thrive on it—they also remain calm throughout it. Sometimes things go wrong in business, but when you’re at the helm of a company and making all the decisions, it’s essential to keep your cool in any given situation. True entrepreneurs know this and secretly flourish and grow in the wake of any challenges.

Continuously look for opportunities to improve

Entrepreneurs realize that every event or situation is a business opportunity, and they are constantly generating new and innovative ideas. They have the ability to look at everything around them and focus it toward their goals in an effort to improve their business.

Willing to take risks

A true entrepreneur does not ask questions about whether or not they will succeed—they truly believe they will. They exude this confidence in all aspects of life, and as a bi-product, they are never afraid to take risks due to their unbinding faith that ultimately they will triumph.

Willing to listen and learn

The most important part of learning is listening—and a good entrepreneur will do this in abundance.

Great people skills

Entrepreneurs have strong communication skills, and it is this strength that enables them to effectively sell their product or service to clients and customers. They’re also natural leaders with the ability to motivate, inspire and influence those around them.

Inherently creative

This is one trait that, due to their very nature, entrepreneurial business people have by the bucket load. They are able to not only come up with ingenious ideas, but also turn those ideas into profits.

Passionate and always full of positivity

Passion is perhaps the most important trait of the successful entrepreneur. They genuinely love their job and are willing to put in those extra hours to make their business grow; they get a genuine sense of pleasure from their work that goes way beyond just cash.

Very few people in my opinion are fortunate enough to be born with all of these characteristics, but the good news is that they can all be learned. You should read a copy of my book before you start, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’, despite a difficult family life and professional setbacks, I developed the determination, drive and skills to create a successful business and happy life. Freedom after the Sharks shows how, even in a declining economy, a business can survive and even succeed.

If you want to be an entrepreneur someday, here is an equation you should print out and attach to computer screen, smartphone, office wall:

Entrepreneur + Capital = Products + Customers = Business.

Evan Spiegel is the CEO of Snapchat. That is his job. It is a real company with a real product, real employees, and real investors. And I bet what he really identifies with is the cool ephemeral messaging app the company he co-founded came up with. Which is how they managed to attract hundreds of millions of extremely engaged users and raise more than half a billion dollars in venture funding.

John Mackey is co-CEO of Whole Foods. Healthy food has always been his passion but the way he built his company – to serve all its major stakeholders – is unique. He wrote a book about it called Conscious Capitalism. I seriously doubt if Mackey thinks of himself as a great entrepreneur but as the co-founder of a great company that showed the world a new and better way to do business.

The concluding statement I would like to leave you with is:  “employees are far removed from entrepreneurship in fact a paradigm shift away, most employees would never dream of taking a risk on their own abilities, a risk in their personal security or taking people on a journey that stretched far beyond their imagination, entrepreneurship is not for everyone but can be very rewarding for the few”. A quote from my book by Maya Angelou “ I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life”