Monday, 1 September 2014

Sir David Brailsford, British cycling's strategist and lessons for business

Sir David Brailsford was the mastermind of the incredible recent success of British cycling -  resulting in 2012 Olympic domination and Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France two years in succession.

Reading and listening to him is fascinating and full of lessons for business.

Take strategy and planning for starters. In my mind every business should have a strategy. Too many businesses don't have a strategy. That means the business plan if they have one is half cocked. And that means their budget (the numbers) is meaningless in terms of measuring success.

Sir David says "Strategy for us, is analysing the demands of the event. Truly taking the time to really figure out what it will take to win. Then it's relatively simple to work back from that."

"A lot of people think strategy is a bit of a plan. People think about the goal: we want to win the Tour de France... Really it's not about the end point."

"It's actually.."What does it take...the demands of what it takes to win...then you can develop a really good strategy"

So think about what it actually takes for your business to be what you want it to be and focus on what that means.

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up.

John's website is:

His credentials:

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Make more profits through improved utilisation

Marketing agencies and professional services firms can always improve their profits.

Staff costs in these businesses are usually the biggest line item in the profit & loss account. Whilst you can see what is being spent, it can be difficult to know how much of it is being wasted.

Here are three black holes:
  • Staff not understanding how much of their time you expect them to be spending on client billable work.
  • Administrative time spent by billable staff (especially the most senior) that could be handled by non-billable staff.
  • Unfocussed business development time. 
By addressing these 3 areas you will generate billable capacity without having to add to headcount, improve motivation and improve the direction of the business.
As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up. 

John's website is:

His credentials:

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

What everyone ought to know about Key Performance Indicators

Everyone seems to want KPIs for their business.As a specialist financial advisor to marketing agencies and professional firms I have come across the most useful and some rather unusual KPIs.

Here are some common errors:

1.Too many KPIs - e.g. more than say 5.

2. KPIs that are not easy to measure accurately - e.g sales figures that include foreign exchange movements.

3.KPIs that you can't entirely influence e.g. see 2 above, you can't (usually) influence forex movements.

4. Selective KPIs - e.g. dropping KPIs that present bad news...doh!

5. KPIs that take ages to calculate - e.g. that you can't derive from your standard management accounts.

Finally, a story I heard to illustrate the above (and I don't know whether it is true or not):

When British Airways really was a great airline and Lord King was chairman he had ONE KPI and it was "The incidence of late take-offs". Apparently, so the story goes, he wanted to be told about every late take off when it happened and wanted an explanation.

Think about the simple beauty of this KPI. To take off on time, the engineering had to be right, the crewing, the refuelling, the baggage loading, the check in spot on etc etc...

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up.

John's website is: 
 His credentials:

Friday, 15 November 2013

Green shoots of recovery and the three Cs of success for your business

If you have not started thinking properly about the implications of the green shoots of recovery for your business yet, then you had better get on with it because your competitors will be.

Here is a framework to build into your thinking and business planning.

1. Clients and your business culture 
  • What does your ideal client look like? 
  • Which clients are your most valuable? 
  • What do your clients really need and what do they value? 
  • Is your proposition right, does it match what your ideal clients want and need? 
  • Is your delivery quality up to highest standards? 
  • Do your people provide a consistent level of service to clients? 
2. Confidence 
  • Are you and your client facing staff confident in themselves and in what the company does? 
  • Are you always able to justify the true value you add to your clients' businesses?
3. Clarity
  • Do all of your staff know what makes an ideal client and conversely what would make a nightmare client?
  • Do your staff understand where your business makes the greatest difference to its clients? 
James L. Heskett, Professor at Harvard University has found strong links between companies where employees get where your  business stands on these issues and the levels of efficiency and profitability generated.

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up. 

John's website is:

His credentials:

Friday, 20 September 2013

In five, what does a good business plan look like?

 A good business plan drives the business towards its specified goals by addressing activities, accountabilities, resources and timescales – within a framework of explicit assumptions. 
1. Focus

The business plan should focus on how the company will maintain and improve the existing business as well as any new initiatives.

More detail does not equate to better budgeting accuracy and the same applies to the business plan. Passing the sense check and covering key elements is more important.

2. Strategies and objectives

The best business plans set key short and long term objectives and outline strategies for accomplishing these.

Some hints: 

  • Business plans should link activities and actions to the strategies so that you are able to measure the actions and the results of those actions. 
  • Actions usually involve resource and cost so this will help you to ensure that the budget reflects the plans.
  • Answer questions such as where do we want the business to go, how will we get there and what is the fall back plan if things don’t work out as expected?
  • Use a SWOT analysis to identify the key activities that the plan needs to address.
3. Measurement

The activities and actions included in business plans should be mensurable so that you can monitor the level of success in achieving them.
  • Measurements do not need to be financial only. For example a goal could be improved sales via the activity of investing in customer care and customer feedback can be the measure for customer care. 
  • Time line the activities and actions so that you can budget them by month.
4. Responsibilities

Assign responsibilities and accountabilities to the planned actions so that you can empower people, measure performance and can reward them for success.

Ensure that all staff allocated with responsibilities in the business plan are involved at some level in producing the business plan.

5. Risks and assumptions

Good business plans address risks, including the risk that the underlying assumptions become invalid. 
  • As well as identifying risks plan for activities and responsibilities for mitigating those risks. 
  • Check that the business plan is affordable.
  • Run scenarios so that if results fall below set criteria the business is able to respond. For example, if sales fall below £Y in region A the alternative plan is to consolidate that geography with region B.

What is stopping you?

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up.

John's website is:

His credentials:

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Growing your bank balance

It is budget day the day before spring starts. Winter continues for some businesses - one in 8 are facing another year of tight cash. 

Brighter news is that over half of SME's are expecting to grow this year.

Whichever camp you are in it pays to produce regular cash flow forecasts.


  • A cash flow projection is generally divided into periods of weeks (done weekly for 12 weeks in advance) or months (for the next half or whole year).
  • You need to forecast realistically so that you can see any issues which are likely to arise early.
  • Make sure you make regular cash flow projections so you can make any financial arrangements for known expenses before you need the money.

What to include?

  • Opening and closing bank balances
  • Payments - you should be able to plan these very accurately
  • Receipts- always look at these prudently.
As a specialist financial advisor to marketing agencies and professional firms, I know that firms that forecast cash are always able to find the money they need and those who don't always seem to struggle.

Find out more:

Always have plenty of cash

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A New Year's resolution for your business?

According to Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, most of us will make a New Year's Resolution - maybe to lose weight or quit smoking - but only one in ten will succeed.If you have made a New Year's resolution for yourself or your business, how can you increase your chances of success?

Professor Wiseman maintains that that deciding to revisit a past resolution is likely to set you up for frustration and disappointment. Instead he says, choosing something new or approaching an old problem in a new way works better. Think through exactly what you will do, where you are going to do it and at what time.

For example, instead of promising yourself to go running twice a week, plan to go running at specific times every week.

As a specialist financial advisor to marketing agencies and professional firms I see that businesses often set new goals or seek to change something for the New Year and with next week marking the return to work a resolution might be on your mind right now.So, if you resolve to spend more time on sales, or strategy, or generating profit or cash, be realistic and specific. Resolution: why, who, what, when and where.

As a first step, why not pick the phone up and call John or email him and arrange to meet up.

More on planning:

His credentials: