Leveraging small business in downturn

imageSmall business now has a sustainable edge and personal trust is a competitive advantage.

Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth.

Customers are now looking for people they can trust and for a CEO who picks up the phone when they ring.

Continue reading

Can I have more money?

If you have kids, you will understand the anxiety most parents get when the kids are constantly asking for money. And usually it is for all sorts of justifiable things that come up out of the blue. When the semester begins, when school excursions get scheduled,  for extra pocket money and so on it goes. Yet somehow you manage to get through it.

For companies, like kids, we run a budget.  But unlike kids, companies assign responsibility to managers to plan resources to deliver services demanded to meet the business plan. This money allocation process is called Budgeting and takes a serious amount of time in many organizations as they sort out the priorities.

image

Looking into how good ones do it, we find once business plans are  set , budgeting is about figuring out what resources you need meet it.

Continue reading

Is a CEO job to crank out widgets?

image With limited time available in the quest for productivity, we multi task. Or do we? If this is not true what is it that we do?

Multi-tasking I just learned it  is a myth. Something you do when you drive home and then wonder who drove.

This week I was challenged as I juggled my priorities and my personal life.  Having already reduced my to-do list to something sensible, it still looked foreboding.

To make it worse,  the unforeseen political agenda in Thailand where I have done business this month has thrown normality into chaos. Plus,  my daughter just announced she was arriving early to  visit me this week from her India trip, before we then head home to Australia together next week .

So it was time to step up my skill in multi tasking.  But before I did I decided to do some research on just what that was.

Continue reading

Clowns a plenty, but no tent.

imageBeing flexible to take advantage of opportunity is not one of the stronger attitudes of people. In the end we are creatures of habit which is what organizations rely on, to have us do our work.

But as the markets have been changing and work place thinking reassesses its investments, options for those willing to change are now considerable, especially for people with real skill now in demand.

As one of my colleagues said to me recently,  "Having a job  sure beats working." What he meant was,  those who avoid dole queues and the anxiety of the job search, are those who can adapt.

In organizations it is no different. Getting into different work may be as simple as using the skills we have another way. Using things like software as a service and cloud services for outsourcing to get results quickly are now reality. They are being used for such things as sales and supply chain management widely and now are starting to surface in previously hallowed areas like confidential business analytics. But even this is outside the square for so many people like Mr. Duck

 

But think about it.  Even the  outsource worker has  caught on to how to work on a remote VPN access; And is also doing well in this new world, as many companies still struggle with an out-dated mentality that will leave them behind, as others set up new tents .

Talented people and organization that are also smart  enough to see the opportunity are going there and winning.

 This reminds  me of the good old story of Mr.Duck . It goes something like this.

A duck walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer and a ham sandwich. "Hang on! imageyou’re a duck, and you can talk!" exclaims the barman.

The duck responds with an indignant, "Yes!", adding "Now if you don’t mind, can I please have my beer and my sandwich ?"

The barman, still quite stunned, calls through the order to the kitchen as he pulls the beer, saying, "We don’t get many ducks in here.  What are you doing round this way anyway?"

"I’m a plasterer." on the building site across the road," explains the duck"  to make the story short the duck becomes a regular. The  barman, over a  few weeks, learns the duck can read, sing and much more.

Then one day opportunity knocks when the the circus comes to town. The barman, Knew the building job was nearly completed which would mean no more work for the duck. He was vey keen to introduce him to the ringmaster who had put it about in the bar that he was looking for talent.

When the duck came  in for his usual pint and a sandwich he was greeted with , "Hey Mr. Duck, I can line you up with a top paying job."

"Where says the duck?" quite excited at the prospect of new work.
"At the circus," says the barman.
"The Circus?" say the duck quizzically,"You mean that place with the big tent, animals and performers who live in caravans?"
"Yes that’s the one,"said  the barman enthusiastically.""They are looking for talent like yours and they asked me to put you in touch "

"The duck shook his head in amazement sighing ..

And what the hell would they want with a plasterer?!"

Bailout: This is just how it is?

image

GM CEO Fritz Henderson is quoted as saying "bankruptcy is probable but not preferred; experts say it won’t be smooth or fast."

That is the news just in about this Giant USA Automaker struggling for its very survival.

But what is the cause of all this and how do people feel about the bailout?

To get some insights into it that question,  here is a response to a recent General Motors North America President Troy Clarke plea to GM employees and suppliers  "to call legislators and ask for a bailout for U.S. automakers"

The response letter, widely circulated in mid-December 2008, was attributed to Gregory Knox, president of Knox Machinery of Franklin, Ohio. After I got this in my email I verified the authenticity with Snopes. According to Snopes.com Mr. Knox (or, at least, someone responding from his e-mail address) said"

“I’m real….. I came into my office 2 weeks ago and the first email I opened was a pathetic plea from Detroit…and my fingers just started flying across the keyboard..

The letter was a "spleen vent" which just quickly flowed out of me, and when I was finished I copied my mom and hit the send button…and she asked me if she could share it with her friends…and the rest is history"

As my colleague said too "it is worth reading". I will add no further comment and just let it it speak for itself.

Ralph Eastman

Continue reading

Transform Budgets to be Investments

If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business. This B.C. Forbes quotation got me thinking..

imageThe relevance of this in Corporate Finance is that they are responsible for investing money in their business to  make money.

CFOs these days have to decide how to allocate money to different  business units.

In Bangkok where I live and work,  I’m a fan of the popular Thai-language discussion forum Pantip.com, Among the variety of discussions I am a contributing member in the Sinthorn Forum.

The trend there I notice now, is many are now asking where to invest. Thailand, like everywhere, has interest rates as low as 0.5% (Source: BOT), likewise of UK and US banks. In sympathy with the general global downturn, the Thai stock market Index also dived from 800+ to 400+ points through last year, so investors there are on the run.

image

Some Key steps in allocation in resources budgets are:

  1. Removing underperformance units: In this step, Corporate Finance provides a high-level guidance to Business Unit (BU) requesting a list of X% of their lease-performing activities/plan for review. BU have to decide which metrics to use (KPI, strategic alignment, costs) to determine their “bottom X%” investment
  2. Finding better options: BU selects projects that they would like to receive funding based on ROI submissions  to CFOs for approval.

The steps seem easy, but of course we need to remember all of this has to be stored and kept in an auditable and accountable way. CFOs also would want to track  things like comparisons between BU, which BU performs comparisons with last year’s performance, comparisons between original and revised budget for each BU. This sort of information was what many of our investor discussion groups were asking too, so it seems the process is not dissimilar

Thus, the infrastructure of Performance Management of your organization should allow you to muddle through transformation of budgets effectively. It should be able to show you where the sweet spots are, and of course the hot spots and where your investment is not performing. It should also be accountable and auditable that you can track and analyze your investment based on different metrics, yet being enough transparency to stake holders involved.

Finding where to invest, say 50K USD, is easy as bottom line is return on investment. We now have SAA Consensus and brokers for advice. Finding where you should invest in the company is more challenging. Or is it the same?

Educating an Expediential Planet?

The rate of change is so incredible; it is hard to believe that China is becoming the world’s number one English speaking country. Mind blowing is the fact that for technical students starting a four year degree, half of what they lean will be out of date before their third year of study is completed. What about jobs? Did you know that the top 10 jobs in demand now did not exist in 2004?

I was prompted to search out this information and the video below after getting some feedback about Ralph Eastman’s question “Is reading replacing TV as a pastime” as he eluded to increasing internet readerships trends. I also noted a comment from subscribers. My research of course is so easy now isn’t it, with the internet which is now my constant tool of trade? And here are some of the facts I found in my digging. There are also some interesting tit bits to ponder.

Continue reading