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Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 is Almost Over! What is in Store for 2016?

It is convention at this time of the year to look back at the highlights and lowlights of the year almost gone and to look forward to the forthcoming year, so here goes.


I am not one for looking backwards other than to search the mental database for a piece of relevant information.  However it is good to reflect on what has been successful and to see if we can replicate or better, exceed them.

As for my business year it has been more than satisfactory with my Vistage groups both for CEOs and key executive growing and happily without either losing a member during the tear.

I feel very privileged to be working with wonderful dedicated, determined and compassionate people who have become, if I may say so, not only business contacts but good friends.

The whole concept of the peer group is exemplified by the burgeoning growth of both Vistage Worldwide now in 18 countries and with 20,000 members and particularly Vistage here in the UK where have broken through the 1,000 member mark.

There are three areas I have looked at during 2015.  Politically we had the General Election which, despite the forecasts of the pollsters, brought back majority rather than coalition government and that will have a significant impact through to 2020.

World wide there is the appalling situation in the Middle East with more than 1 million migrants enduring dreadful conditions to try to get to Europe and a better, safer life.

Extremism has also been rampant and it is difficult for us in the West both to understand both its raisin d'etre and what can be done about it.  There is a total clash of cultures that the extremists are exploiting to their advantage.

The astounding growth in technology has been extraordinary during 2015.  Apart from tunes and tweaks on our smart phones and tablets there have been some astonishing advances during the year.

For example the development of reverse-osmosis for water desalination, now up and running in Israel, could eliminate the water shortage and make the desert bloom, in more ways than one.

A new method of growing human brain cells could eliminate dementia and even mental illness in the future and it us now possible to identify DNA in blood test almost instantaneously rather than taking weeks.

I love sport even if advancing age and arthritis makes participation a touch problematical. We have gloried in three wonderful events this year in rugby, cricket and tennis.

Apart from England's rapid demise there was some great rugby; who can forget that game early on when Japan walloped the mighty Springboks.

Tennis being normally an individual sport is always compelling for the gladiatorial aspects but the Davies Cup is another matter altogether. Led by coach Leon Smith and the "incomparable" Andy Murray, Great Britain won for the first time in 79 years

The very best of the year for me however was the way that the England cricket team confounded all the gloom mangers and whacked the mighty Australians to win the Ashes in some extraordinary matches.
Dismissing the Aussies for 60 at Trend Bridge with Stuart Broad taking 8-15?  Absolutely glorious!


What then the coming year?

More extremism, more migrants and more uncertainty throughout the world seems inevitable. Whatever our leaders decide, rightly or wrongly, may or may not be effective so it behoves us to be sensible and vigilant at all times.

In business there will be a continuation of the revolution in retailing with faster even one hour delivery services being offered online. The majors will have great difficulty in moving quickly enough to combat or equal that sort of offer and one or more may well disappear during the year.

The remarkable drop in oil prices as well as most commodities will also have a dramatic effect on industry sometimes for good and sometimes not so good.

The onwards and upwards growth in technology will simply continue. I would see that there will be a breakthrough in battery technology that will mean far more efficient electric vehicles will be developed and the autonomous vehicle is very close to commercial reality.

In business I know that the wonderful members of my Vistage groups will continue to prosper and deservedly so. Remember the sport comments above?  It is because they bring dedication, hard work and a bloody-minded determination to succeed.

Above all and apart from having a happy, prosperous, peaceful and healthy year, I wish everyone a great year of continuous learning. There is so much to discover out there and we need to learn something new from a new source every day.

The Greek philosopher Socrates said"

"The one true wisdom is to know that you know nothing".

Happy New Year!

You can download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon
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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Shortage of Good Candidates? What About Promoting Some Women Instead!

There was a notable piece in the news a couple of week ago that seems to pass by without much comment but which I think is very significant.

The US military have abolished all considerations of gender in all phases of their operations so that women will now be able to play a full role in all aspects of the military including that macho alpha male enclave, the United States Marine Corps.

It is a move that has been coming for some time but it is dramatic nevertheless.  It seems to me that if the US military is prepared to make this decision, the question to ask is why do so few businesses remove the glass ceiling and promote more women into senior positions?

That is a generalisation and in fact the situation has improved vastly in just a few years.  There is some interesting research that has been carried out by the FTSE that shows this improvement.

For example in 2001 Lord Davies produced a review that set a target by 2015 whereby there would be 25% of board representation by women on FTSE company boards.

In fact the target has been almost achieved and all-male boards of FTSE companies no longer exist and that is a great success.  With the current level at 23.5% Cranfield University expects the target to be achieved during the year and that means only another 17 women to be appointed to FTSE boards.

The FTSE 250 companies have made even more progress with women’s representation more than doubling from under 8% in 2011 to over 18% at the latest count.  Moreover the number of all-male boards has reduced from 151 to 23 today, still far too high but trending downwards.

In the very male atmosphere of the construction industry there has been a patchy response.  The larger companies have taken the matter seriously and there are more women taking active roles in the industry.

Smaller companies have yet to take up the challenge though and are missing out on some great opportunities as a consequence.  It is interesting to note that at the last count 72% of students passing out as quantity surveyors in Universities were women but taking a look round the QS appointments in smaller companies, it is possible to ask where are they?

Some of the professions have been very successful notably the law and medicine where women now comprise the majority of student at the Universities.

Anyone who suggests that all of this is feminism is missing the point and missing a trick as well.  What is essential for the future of UK businesses is gender blindness, so that anyone can and should be able to rise through a company irrespective of gender.

Frankly we shouldn’t need legislation to take the sensible view that there is a vast reservoir of untapped talent that could change the face of many businesses.  Most CEOs complain of the shortage of good candidates for across the board but do they really consider the appointment of women in the same way as men?

This is not intended to be patronising; in fact it is anything but.  A target of 25% for FTSE board representation is frankly miserly and it would be far better to accept that the genders are roughly 50/50 so why isn’t a target of 50% realistic?

I would really welcome more women in my Vistage groups but for some reason it has proved difficult to find suitable candidates. The reasons may be simply that there are fewer female CEOs anyway but I also think that some women might feel daunted at the thought of mixing with a group of male CEOs; unnecessary in fact as most groups would welcome it.

Women bring a different dimension and dynamic to a peer group and that is to be desired.

What is also needed is an even-handed approach to reward so that the remuneration is a reflection of ability and not of gender.

It will be interesting to see what changes can be achieved in the next ten years.  Let us hope that industry and commerce come to their corporate senses and employ and promote more women.  Anything else would be a travesty of good sense.

You can download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon
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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Complacent, Too Big to Fail? Don’t Ever Kid Yourself!

Yet another little news piece popped out of the digital ether last week and it seemed to me that it was a real game changer.

Briefly it announced that the Bank of England had granted a licence to another online bank, Tandem, following the licence granted to Durham based Altom in June this year.

These are not just online banks but are designed to operate purely as mobile banks using an app on a smartphone or tablet.

They will offer all the usual retail banking services such as current account, payments in and out, statements, savings and loans and should start operations in 2016.

Tandem claim that their offering will save clients a "substantial amount of money" due to their high level of efficiency. Indeed it has been suggested that because of the software Tandem will have only 140 staff for which conventional banks would need 10,000.

More than fifty mobile banks are said to have applied for licences.

In a recent interview Anthony Jenkins lately CEO of Barclay's and previously head of the retail division suggested that if these new mobile banking services take off then conventional retail banks would be decimated. He predicted that bank employment could fall by anything from 30% to 50%.

If these new mobile banks are successful and current predictions are for 5 million customers within five years they will revolutionise retail banking and some would say not before time.

Look a few only years back and reflect on how the web has been the platform for remarkable changes in the way that we buy things.

Typically Amazon has revolutionised retailing of books and now of just about everything else.  Uber is the largest taxi company in the world without owning a single taxi.

It has been said that the world's largest bookseller Barnes and Noble should have started online sales of books but from the outset Amazon was viewed as an upstart competitor who knew nothing about selling books.

Barnes and Noble were by no means alone.  Many high street stores looked on the web based companies as cheapskate competition and only now are beginning to realise that this is the way that consumers like to shop.

Maybe the high street will become display areas in the future so that consumers can see the goods and then buy them online. It (the high street) is not exactly healthy in its present state.

The overall fact is that some other industry or commercial sector is currently being eyed by some clever software designers to set up another Uber style operation.

Check out a Hong Kong based company called LaLaMove, a van delivery company in Uber style throughout SE Asia.  Medicine?  Take a look at www.pushdoctor.co.uk to see how you can have a face-to-face consultation with an NHS GP from your smartphone or tablet.

What if Amazon who are currently building a massive new facility at Manchester Airport likely to employ 1,500 staff, decide to start selling food on same day delivery? How would the supermarkets react to that?

Business leaders have always acknowledged that there is and will always be competition. Historically it has been easily identified and performance monitored.

The problem now is that competition is coming from sources that are completely anonymous and that have no reputation in the specific industry. They are coming, as it were, from left field and the attack will be completely unexpected.

For the consumer it is very exciting but for long established businesses it will be traumatic in the extreme.

No businesses and especially the banks have a divine right to exist even if some of them think they have. We can forget the "too big to fail" cry that went up at the start of the recent credit crunch.

Complacency is death to businesses and these left field competitors will be licking their digital lips at the prospect.

You can download my book "Leading to Success" from Amazon
Visit the Vistage UK website
Follow me on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook