Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Dragons Den and The Camwells 360 Degree Business Review

Many years ago, in industry and then as Financial Management Consultant at one of the Big 4's consultancies, I was heavily involved in Business Planning and forecasting.  But Financial System projects became my forte. It was only when I got involved with a young and ambitious hi-tech company that Business Planning again dominated my work. Raising significant sums of money to build a large international business.

Business Planning and Financial Systems have now come together, with a lot of recent work on Financial Forecasting systems.  This has been for Collaborative Planning, where 3 or more people get involved in forecasting, from small SMEs to FTSE250.

It was watching BBC's Dragons Den series that I realised the questions the Dragons were asking were exactly the same as I would be asking myself. But the questions weren't getting captured in any methodical way.

I also wanted to take advantage of Mind Mapping software that would allow the questions and the assessment to be presented in a colourful graphical way.  The Camwells 360 Degree Business Review was born!

Suitable for assessibng 5 situations:
  1. A start-up business idea
  2. A young business where it is not clear how or if to progress
  3. Any business, any size that is trying to grow
  4. Any business that is under new competitive pressure
  5. Any business that is trying to avoid being closed down
The initial review is free of charge, so we can get to know each other. You would be making no commitment to go any further.

Further details here

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Business Implications of the new Narrative Reporting

The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills is planning to change what they call “Narrative Reporting” for accounting periods starting on or after 1 October 2012. This is the Directors’ Report and other narrative typically placed at the front of annual published accounts.

A consultation took place in late 2011, which closed in November. The final proposals are awaited. But given the short timescales, it’s worth looking at what was put out for consultation..

Although the new disclosure requirements are aimed mainly at larger companies and groups, the business management principles are relevant to all businesses. The topics are therefore of relevance to all directors.


The proposal is to consider companies in three groups:

  1. “Small” companies, presumably those that are exempt from audit
  2. “Quoted” companies, such as on the main London stock exchange
  3. Other larger companies, both private and presumably including AIM and PLUS-SX

Subsidiaries in groups appear to be considered in the same way as independents.

For small companies, it will simply be a matter of changing the title of the Directors’ “Annual Directors’ Statement”.

For all larger companies there will be two reports:
  1. “Strategic Report”, replacing the Business Review and similar
  2. “Annual Directors’ Statement”, replacing the Directors’ Report


For all companies the “Strategic Report” will need to contain information on :
  • Company performance
  • Principal risks and uncertainties
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), as in KRMs (Key Results Measures)
  • Key financial information (similar to that currently required for the Summary Financial Statements

For quoted companies (but presumably not those on AIM and PLUS-SX unless they wish to) there should also be information on:
  • Business strategy
  • Business model (or presumably models)
  • Environmental and social information
  • Key information on executive remuneration and its link to performance
It is also proposed that all directors sign off the Strategic Report and possibly the Directors’ Statement.

Further details on the BIS website


Quoted or not, it is a timely reminder that all businesses should be clear about:
  1. The business strategy
  2. The fundamental business model(s): What are the profit sensitivities? What are the cash flow implications of growth or contraction?
  3. Principal risks and uncertainties
  4. Key Performance Indicators
 Key Performance Indicators are of two types:
  • Key Performance Drivers (KPDs) - what is actually driving your business?
  • Key Results Measures (KRMs) - how well are you doing?

What do you need to address for your business?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Will Your Business Fly?

Business performance management usually refers to managing the performance of an existing business. But the first step with a new business is to assess whether it will fly!

Further down the track, market changes may mean performance has dropped and action needs to be taken. How should it continue? Or there’s the opportunity to start a new business. Again will it fly?

Many new businesses quickly come to grief, or fall well short of expectations. Usually this is because [ more...]

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Strategic Business Planning - Turning Ideas into Reality

So you’ve come up with an idea for a business, within a corporate or independently. This may be into an established market, you may be planning to be disruptive by doing things differently in some way, or you want to market some new technology into a totally new market.

Commercialising technology is always interesting, whether it is what you are selling or what you are using to approach a market differently.

You’ve researched [ more...]

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Business Models - Pain or Urge?

No matter how good the business plan there needs to be demand for what you sell or plan to sell. This is the "Why Buy?" aspect of our business assessment methodology, summarised in the diagram to the left.

Marketeers talk about “Needs” and “Wants”. But for someone to reach into their pockets, as a consumer or in business, there must be something more than that.

In my experience the “need” has to be stronger – it has to be a real “pain” that the person cannot fix for themselves.

For example::
  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Blocked drains
  • Have to submit a tax return by a deadline
  • Sales running behind target
“Pain” can also be in the form of an “urge”, not just a “want”:
  • Show off a new car
  • Buy those new shoes
  • Attend that show
  • Win a league table
  • Or why do so many celebrities and politicians get caught with their trousers down?

Business to Consumer (B2C)

You’ve only to walk down a high street and see what’s on offer. Is each shop to solve pain or satisfy an urge?. Starting at the west end of our high street we have a job agency, a housing agency, replacement windows and then a whole host of shops from mother and baby, to opticians, chemists, clothes and food.  Most of these are to deal with a pain of some kind. The proliferation of mobile phone shops caters for our urge to communicate, to look good with the right new model, and now satisfy the urge to be entertained. Even Anne Summers tried to get a look in.

Boots the Chemists of course fixes pain, and also offers more for urges. Hence placing pain killers at the back, and the more exciting products near the door. You have to walk past these twice.

The successful on-line businesses always offer something that solves a pain or urge, that people will bother to look for.

Business to Business (B2B)

In B2B, there's a whole army of suppliers of products and services, beyond what a business needs to buy in to sell. Is the stationery cupboard empty? Or is the pain that no-one has the time or inclination to keep it stocked? There's many types of professional services, all catering principally for a pain - the need for tax advice, legal advice and insurance cover, for example. But I have to wonder whether it is the urge for status that means the big firms get business when there are many smaller firms offering quality and much better value. There's room for both.

The danger for a business is their customer or client will try to do it for themselves. Of course this can be a very expensive strategy for them, as it is likely that something important is overlooked, or the wrong corner cut through inexperience.

The Extra Dimension

It’s interesting to spot a shop that seemingly serves neither pain nor urge. That must be the gift shop then. Now there’s a pain solved. Especially on Christmas Eve!

Indeed there’s also another dimension. For time management, the two key aspects are importance and urgency. But urgency tends to triumph over the merely important. If something is important but isn’t urgent it likely won’t get to the top of someone’s to-do list, be they in business or as a consumer. If it's not urgent, the sales cycles and costs will be excessive. This means less profit, and having to wait longer for it.

Those businesses that fix an urgent pain or satisfy an urgent urge (!) will more easily thrive, even in tough times. Yes there will still be marketing to do when there are other offerings in a highly competitive market, and there’s pricing to get right. But at least people will buy, and they’ll do so quickly.

How to Assess a Business?

One simple test is whether you can imagine people urgently typing something into Google to find you – what’s called a “search term”. Something like “optician” or “blocked drain”. You can then use Google Adwords or similar, and benefit from search engine optimisation. But if you can’t think of a search term, or you don’t think it will be used urgently, that isn’t necessarily the end of the world . However it will certainly make sales and marketing generally harder. 

“Word of mouth” is an important source of business. But someone telling someone else about your business is only ever a bonus. More likely is someone will have an urgent problem and ask a friend for a recommendation. So the other simple test is do you see people asking for help with what you offer? And will the person answering think of you, either because of fantastic service they’ve experienced, or otherwise a good profile?

Even if these events are unlikely, then all’s not necessarily lost. Yesterday I was at Brands Hatch, where there happened to be a truckers convention. By 8pm all but one of the funfair sideshows had closed down. The one still open had a scalextric-style model racing circuit. Being on the roadway between the lorry park and the bar, each group of truckers didn’t stand a chance walking past when asked if they wanted to race each other. What red-bloodied male in a group would say no? So something like position, and the cheek of the stall holder, can get quick business.

So In Conclusion

The point is there has to be something that will provide the impetus for a customer or client to make a purchase of what you are offering. Limited time offers can help, but what is the inherent driver?

So pain or urge? Either. And urgency helps!


Thursday, 30 September 2010

Using Technology for Profit at RecycleBank

We've just received a blue recycling bin. Nothing much remarkable about that. But behind the bin is a company and a business model which displays a clever combination of technology and creative thinking. Such combinations can transform a sector for the benefit of customers, partners and of course the business itself. WIN-WIN for everyone involved, in this case planet earth included.

RecycleBank (RB) is a "cleantech" business from the USA that is entering the UK market with [ more...]

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Business Models - How could you emulate Poundland?

So the story goes, a man bought 10 pairs of reading glasses from Poundland for £1 each. That's £10 he reckoned it cost him to save his marriage. He was going to put a pair in each room so he stopped bellowing to his wife to help him find his one existing pair.What a good idea!

In Poundland every item is [ more...]