Cash and Funding; the oil in your growth engine

5/27/2016 posted in Business, Leading, Not Managing, Life At The Top, Strategy

Whatever your business, whether it’s commercial or a charity or not-for-profit, if you grow significantly there will be major implications on how you fund the growth and manage the cash.

VIstage Speaker, Jo Haigh, puts it like this: “You can trade profitably for ages, but you can only ever run out of cash once.”

James Nicholson-Smith, Director, FD Centre also warns: “Unless you’re really determined you need the funding and have a really good reason for it, this whole funding bit can be a massive distraction to the business. Go into it with your eyes wide open, knowing that it’s going to take a big, big chunk of your time.”

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How to Overcome the 5 Key Challenges of Scaling Your Business

5/21/2016 posted in Business, Leading, Not Managing, Life At The Top, Strategy

The Scale-Up Institute figures quoted in a recent Vistage whitepaper report show that fewer than 4% of all UK start-ups have 10 or more employees 10 years into their lives, this demonstrates that the majority of start-ups fail to scale - Why is this?

Guy Rigby of Vistage partner Smith & Williamson sees lots of businesses that start with a visionary flourish, only to stall after failing to add more customers because they haven’t innovated or got their marketing right. They lose their way, unable to see how to get to the next stage and become one of the ‘living dead’. These businesses are going nowhere, having lost their vision and reason for existing.

Scale-up is an entirely different business environment, it’s more than just entering an accelerated growth phase. The difference with scale-ups is that the game changes so fast and often simultaneously in all these areas, when growth accelerates. And as we have seen, the price of failure is larger in a scale-up.

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Finding Your Purpose

5/13/2016 posted in Business, Leading, Not Managing, Work/Life Balance Issues, Life At The Top, Strategy

As a business professor, students often ask me where they should take their careers in order to have the most impact. They are expecting a straightforward answer: that they should work in finance in a large resource-extraction company, say, or in the advocacy department of a multinational non-profit organization. Instead, I am quick to tell them, “Wrong question: try again.” The key question is one that only they can answer for themselves: “What were you meant to do with your life?”

This deeper exploration leads to the pursuit of a calling or a vocation, which is nothing more or less than your purpose in the world. We all have a goal or purpose to what we do. Where do you devote your energy? How much time do you spend with your family, or in the woods, or pursuing wealth?

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Customers – Can They Have It All?

5/6/2016 posted in Business, Marketing, Strategy

I really like podcasts and one of my favourites is BBC Radio 4’s The Bottom Line. I was recently listening to one of the episodes on customer service, Evan Davis was talking to some European heavy hitters about what customer service meant in their businesses.  It’s hard for small and mid-tier businesses to compare themselves to the likes of Ryan Air, Dixons Carphone and Scottish Power. However, the three panellists gave some interesting insights as to how their organisations had succeeded and, more importantly, failed with their customer service strategies.

The three businesses had very different definitions of customer service; they talked about how technology played a part in the engagement with their customer and the role their staff members played.

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There Should Be No Such Thing As 'Word Of Mouth' For CEOs

4/8/2016 posted in Business, Speakers, Marketing, Strategy

I recently saw an article by Fiona Smith on '6 ways to boost your word-of-mouth'. The title in itself grabbed me – why? Because when we ask business leaders the key question ‘How do your customers find you?’ and they don’t know the answer, they always say ‘word-of-mouth’.

I know they are trying to dodge the question, or if they are not dodging the question they typically don’t have the data to back up the answers to the next two questions:
• Who are your best referrers?
• How much business did they introduce to you last year?

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12 Creative Insights From Pixar Every CEO Needs to Know

3/25/2016 posted in Business, Speakers, Marketing, Strategy

Pixar is an amazing business. Built on imagination and creativity, it harnesses the potential of digital technologies to create the most engaging characters and films.

In 1979 Star Wars creator George Lucas and computer scientist Ed Catmull established the foundations of what was initially a digitally-enabled special effects business. Seven years later Steve Jobs acquired the studio, renamed it Pixar, and gave birth to some of the most successful animated films - like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Today it is the creative heartbeat of the Disney empire, and one of the world’s most innovative businesses.

Pixar is a digital content business, and in many ways that’s what brands are today. Beyond the products and services which they support, brands are about ideas, stories, relationships and communities, and the capturing and sharing of them increasingly digitally, virtual experiences which become reality.

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When Was The Last Time You Really Spoke To Your Stakeholders?

3/18/2016 posted in Business, Speakers, Marketing, Strategy

Sometimes when you think you are in a conversation with your clients, you really aren’t. We often ask our clients, “When did you last speak to your clients or key stakeholders outside of any project engagement or sales conversations – you know, just general business-as-usual conversations?” The answer is it rarely happens.

Every business needs a mechanism to speak to their key stakeholders on a regular basis. They also need to provide a channel where their clients can be brutally honest. There are times when no one likes to be on the receiving end of complete honesty; however, such frankness is where the opportunity sits for your business to improve.

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Help Your Employees Behave Like Owners and Generate Bottom Line Impact in 90 Days

3/11/2016 posted in Business, Speakers, Leading, Not Managing, Life At The Top, HR, Strategy

People are the only asset that walk out the door every night and consciously decide whether to return or not the next day. They decide each day whether to return in body only, or whether to show up fully engaged and productive. Scary stuff, considering how much you’ve invested in them! Lack of engagement is an increasingly epidemic challenge for business leaders at all levels, and the cost of an employee who’s simply going through the motions is one of the biggest hidden drains on profitability.

If you’ve been looking for strategies to create an engaged workforce beyond the usual teamwork, motivation, and perks/rewards approaches, you’re in the right place.

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3 Metrics to Prove Why You Should Market MORE to Existing Customers

3/4/2016 posted in Business, Sales, Marketing, Strategy

Getting a new customer might feel more glamorous than retaining one, but your chance of making a new sale with an existing customer is 60-70%. That same statistic for a new prospect is just 5-20%. And yet, the never-ceasing search for the secret that will see your marketing connect to an ever increasing group of new customers is the ultimate goal for some.

What is the right way to prioritise?

Your existing customers have already bought into you to some degree, marketing to them is not only more likely to succeed, but you’re also increasing buy-in and trust: building fans. Too often, companies either assume that the new business marketing is enough for existing customers or just ignore them completely.

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What Really Makes an Inspiring Business Purpose?

2/26/2016 posted in Business, Speakers, Strategy

Successful businesses have a higher purpose, one that stretches and guides them through changing times; one that aligns and galvinises their culture, and keeps them striving for better.

Economist Milton Friedman famously said that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”. Of course, value creation is an excellent measure of business effectiveness, although the moment of truth comes in how that value is shared between stakeholders. Does it all line the pockets of shareholders, or is it more evenly distributed between everyone inside and out, both financially and in terms of future investments?

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