Tag Archives: business strategies

10 ways to start 2016 on a positive note


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.

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

Why strategy vs. the P&L is important

investor-readinessStrategic planning is critical to business success, it is not just about the revenue model and P&L.

Different from classic business planning, the strategic variety involves vision, mission and outside-of-the-box thinking. Strategic planning describes where you want your company to go, not necessarily how you are going to get there. However, like all other “travel plans,” without knowing where you want to go, creating details on how to arrive are meaningless. Strategic planning defines the “where” that your company is heading.

Delivering a strategic plan is one of the most important things any organisation, regardless of size can undertake.  A well-formulated and executed strategy establishes the foundations against which the organisation can create, monitor and measure their success. And yet many people find strategy and its purpose difficult to articulate.

swot-analysis (1)Why is strategy important?

Strategy is fundamental to the success and sustainability of any organisation for the following reasons:

  1. Understanding your company and industry

Strategy allows organisations to develop a clearer understanding of their own organisation and what is required for them to succeed. It helps organisations understand their core capabilities, identify and address weaknesses and mitigate risks. It can help organisations better design themselves so that they are focusing on the right things that are the most likely to deliver the best performance, productivity and profit both now and in the future.

  1. Growing in a changing world

Understanding what is taking place within the external environment is important to preparing a strategy that will ensure long-term profit and growth. Understanding changes that are taking place in your industry, or with your market place is important.

Because if you don’t adapt you die. Even successful businesses need to realize that what made them successful today is not what will make them successful tomorrow. With the rate of change becoming faster every year, it’s increasingly important that we understand what trends are going to impact on our business and our industry, and how we’re going to respond to them.

Whether political, social or technological, we need to what changes are going to affect our businesses. And we need to know how our organisation can respond to them. It enables us to find opportunities for growth and sustained profitability and it can help us identify and respond to changes that could make us extinct.

It is important that you understand what can affect you and your business both short term and long term.

  1. Creating a vision and direction for the whole organisation

All organisations and their staff need to understand their purpose, their destination and the course they are taking to get there. A company without a strategy is akin to sending your staff into the desert and leaving them to follow mirages in search of water. Without a destination and focus in mind your staff will wander aimlessly from one activity to the other never knowing what to focus on or how to prioritise.

Providing an organisation with a common purpose, goals and a set of actions to reach the goal ensures that everyone is working for the same outcome (your organisations success) and that time and resources are being allocated to the same goals and objectives. Simply it streamlines your business and ensures every pound and minute you spend on the business is in the direction of your sustained success.

While strategy is can be difficult for many organisations to commence, its benefits are far-reaching and many. From creating new business opportunities, to streamlining the operations and engaging staff, a well-formulated strategy will enable increased growth, productivity and profit both now and into the future

Why the P&L is important?

For a long time, the answer has been “more.” Ever since Frederick W. Taylor did time studies of steelworkers with a stopwatch in 1900, the measurement of business activity – called “Greater Taylorism” by Walter Keichel in his business history “The Lords of Strategy” – has grown ever more central to management. One result of this drive to quantify and analyse has been that senior executives often create numerous profit centers, or isolated groupings of both revenues and expenses nested within large businesses.

The two benefits are obvious. First, profit centers allow these executives to make better decisions. In organisations whose various revenue and cost accounts are not linked, poor economic performance can be hidden by positive results elsewhere, and decision-making is clouded. Second, profit centers help make accountability clear. By giving managers direct profit and loss responsibility, companies can incentivise activity that measurably contributes to the bottom line.

Finally, for a coherent strategy to work, then, the organisation executing it must be measured as a whole, rather than as parts. In other words, if a company is to have a single strategy, it must be driven by a single P&L.

The balance of IQ vs EQ, is it necessary?

iq+eq=successI was recently in attendance at a Non-Executive Directors panel and evening, discussing the big debate over IQ vs. EQ, whilst I enjoyed hearing the collaborative panel, I really enjoyed the final summary around the facts from a Chief Business Analyst at a ranked Business School, the facts are and without a showdown of a doubt business has lacked in leadership, the statistics speak for themselves, but why?

I completed a TV interview a few years ago where I spoke on The Emotional Wake of Transformation. People in leadership love the title but can they really deliver the skills? If this is the case, what is the cost to the business without the right leadership?

Einstein, Plato, and Da Vinci are some notable personalities known to have an IQ of over 160. Evidently, they are truly geniuses in their respective fields. But does having a high IQ guarantee a one-way journey to success?


Intelligence quotient (IQ) is an evaluation of a person’s technical intelligence and logical reasoning. If you take an IQ test, you will be presented with questions to assess the following competence:

  • spatial ability, a person’s capacity to visualise space and shapes
  • mathematical ability, how a person uses logic in solving problems
  • language ability, the recognition of meaning from incomplete sentences and jumbled letters
  • memory ability, how a person recalls information


Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the measure of a person’s capacity to be aware of his own feelings and the feelings of others. Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence (2005), indicated the different facets of emotional intelligence. It revolves among the following:

  • self-awareness, the ability to understand one’s emotions
  • self-management, the ability to have control over emotions
  • social-awareness, how a person develops relationships
  • relationship management, how a person treats others with compassion

EQ IQTake an example  a company middle manager with a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ). As such, he is more than capable to recognise his emotions and those of others around him; his communication style is intuitive, motivational, and engaging; and he naturally uses empathy, as well as creative and emotive language – such as “I feel” and “I wish” – in his emails and office pep talks to make a connection with his staff.

His company director,  meanwhile, employs a direct, no-frills communication method. She requires “only the facts” and thrives on logic, and her preferred head-over-heart method of communication is sparse and to the point. Hers is a high IQ (intelligence quotient) functioning approach, which tends toward the cognitive, intellectual, analytical, and rational.

Two different people, two varying communications, contrasting styles. And this is where a difficulty can arise in business because while both are shooting at the same goal, they might as well be playing for different teams. As a result, the directors can suffer an awkward breakdown in communications, simply because they are not operating on each other’s wavelengths. Worse, their clash of cultures could have an impact on their working relationship.

Of course, a controversial IQ/EQ friction is not simply restricted to the office because it can also be an issue in the wider business world, for example when an EQ-driven director meets  IQ-driven customers, prospective clients, or peers and fails to make a connection with them. It may even be a contributing factor in his company not winning a lucrative contract. Either way, be it an internal or external IQ/EQ conflict, it has the potential to hamper good business, or turn good business bad.

Demonstrating the right balance is fundamental for the success of a business, that means putting the right processes into place that accelerate a balance of IQ and EQ, the future of every business is dependent upon it!

The below list is different for every individual candidate, but these tips are a good place to start:

  1. Seek opportunities to demonstrate that you can add value within the business by getting actively involved in a diverse range of projects. It’s important to be able to show your achievements beyond delivering accurate and timely work.
  2. Get as much practice as you can attending meetings or contributing to team initiatives. Many directors/ professionals see themselves as introverts and don’t want to ‘put themselves out there.’ In reality introverts are often excellent communicators because they are good listeners – the most important attribute for empathising well with others.
  3. Bolster the skills that are holding you back. Instead of adding another technical degree or certification to your resume, think about developing the soft skills that will boost your EQ.
  4. Go beyond the numbers to think about the impact your work has on different aspects of the business and the people who do those jobs. What insights can you give the sales team to help them sell more or make more profitable sales? If you think and communicate from a broader commercial perspective, you’ll soon get the attention of management.