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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mentoring in the Downturn

One of the most important issues for anyone at times like this, is to have someone to talk to, in a confidential environment, someone who is a good listener and who isn't judgemental.

Difficult to find? It certainly is! Talking to friends usually means having to listen yourself to their problems and generally the family members aren't the best listeners. Friends and family are too close to you to be able to be dispassionate about you and your issues and usually are quick to dive in and solve all your problems at one go, even if they get that far.

Mentoring is a highly specialised practice these days and I believe offers a real solution to the isolation problem which many of us experience. Because we have gone through a long period of economic prosperity many of us have never experienced the sinking feelings that a recession can bring, those feelings of being out of control of one's destiny and feeling that the future is both unpredictable and, worse, threatening.

A good mentor will listen, will discuss with the individual what their options are, work with them to decide what is the best option for them and then help them to take any necessary action.

Experience is everything in mentoring. Having spent the past 16 years or so working with a vast number of business executives covering more than 3,000 sessions, I know the value of the practice.

Don't feel isolated - find a mentor!

Check out our website at www.maa-uk.co.uk
or give me call at ivan@maa-uk.co.uk

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Downturn Scenario

Even if the dread R word is still technically in the future, nevertheless we need to be looking at every possible approach which will help us through the downturn.

So - ask youself a few questions such as:

What did you experience in the last downturn in your business? What was going on in the economy? How did it affect you? How did you handle it? In hindsight, what would you have done differently? My advice in a time of economic downturn is …”If your sales drop dramatically … up to 50% … you will need to focus on saving the company.”

What will you do if you start experiencing margin squeeze, as your long term customers begin looking for a lower price?

Project your revenues out 6 months. What do you see?

Cash (the MOST important factor bar none!) – how much will it take to get through a prolonged downturn of 18-36 months? What are your cash reserves now?

Consider your debt load and reduce it if at all possible. What will you do if interest rates double? What will you do if your bank calls in loans or is unwilling to loan more money? What needs to change in your banking relationship(s)?

What opportunities will be available in your industry as weaker players are eliminated? What niche services or products can you begin to develop now? How might you take advantage of the economic downturn:

1. As things go bad, can I increase market share, if so how?
2. What products or services can I acquire, expand or enhance that will improve margin?
3. Can acquisitions be made during a downturn at less than market value?
4. A downturn usually means more people are available, how can I improve my talent pool during this time?

For further information take a look at http://www.maa-uk.co.uk/
Email: ivan@maa-uk.co.uk

Monday, 3 November 2008

It's the KISS Principle of Business Management

In my life as a Chairman of Vistage International groups, I have the advantage of hearing wonderful speakers from all over the world, and from talking on a one-to-one basis with a number of Chief Executives of a very wide range of businesses covering manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing and services. It has become apparent to me that far too much time is devoted to trivia, irrelevancies and inconsequentialities. On the other hand, far too little time is spent in assessing the real priorities in the business and devoting time and effort to them.

Too much time is spent on the urgent rather than the important. If major effort is put into solely that which is urgent, then the consequences are, almost inevitably, fire fighting. A side issue is that emphasis on the urgent invariably begets upwards delegation. In other words, no decisions are taken at any level other than the top.

It seems to me that managers of businesses need to take time out to decide on what is truly important and then to ensure that all other matters are delegated. However, if that freedom is to be given to managers then the quid pro quo is that they become accountable for their performance. Top management can then assess performance and work out ways in which it can be improved, perhaps incrementally, and how they (top management) can assist.

All of this takes a great leap of faith but the results can be startling. The basis is that of simplicity, elimination of complexity and emphasis on the important.
Use the KISS Principle - Keep It Short and Simple!