Army Veteran’s Discipline cuts Used-Car Recon Time in Half

It’s the start of a new year, I hope you’ve had a great break and are coming back refreshed with new ideas to drive your business forward.

Just come across this interesting article in Automotive News; thought you’d like.

The bottom line is that, an ex- Marine, trained in Workflow/Lean Process Management, has significantly reduced turnaround times for used car preparation in a car dealership.

The results are -quicker to forecourt = quicker to sales = quicker cash turn = greater margin.

This story demonstrates that you don’t have to re-invent your business to stay competitive, just focus on the basics and do it well.

Could you apply this technique in your business?

Used Vehicle Prep

Enjoy the read:

Article link –



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Morality and Margin Management

At the weekend I was shopping at a well known high street supermarket when my eye was caught by an end gondola display of Men’s Body wash with a Special Offer price of 95p. 

“A good buy” I thought to myself and went to buy half a dozen, until I noticed in that the size was 185ml not the usual 200ml; I then noticed the small print next to the label, indicating the price per 100ml.

My inquisitiveness aroused, I soon found the same product, not on offer; in the normal pack size with the price per 100ml some 16p less than the “Special Offer” – a difference of some 37%.

A quick survey of other products ranging from tea, coffee, fresh chicken, soap powder and chocolate all elicited the same range of disparages in the Special Offers; to say that I was horrified was an understatement.

I have always advised my Clients to manage their margins to one percentage points, indeed in some cases 0.5%, after all these represent huge numbers on a multi million pound business unit.

My question is – “At what point does commercial management over step the mark to become a flagrant dupe and therein theft from the Consumer?”

I was aghast at what I perceived to be the immorality of this trade practice – or is it just me?

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AIDA – An Ariel Atom In Oxford Street London





The classic sales cycle approach that we all know and brilliantly and ably demonstrated this afternoon by the motor sport crew of a firm called Ariel.

Are you thinking this inventively about your sales AIDA?

Enjoy for the sheer ballsy approach!



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Procrastination and The Cartesian Questions

Yesterday I was following up the progress of a project with a Client. The project has been initiated by them some eight months ago but as of yesterday it still hadn’t got off the starting blocks.

The initial flurry of activity, the project scope, the thought processes, the resource allocation and presentations, we’d done them all, but the Directors had the project on hold- sound familiar?

There are of course a multitude of reasons as to why a project is put on hold and when in doubt…don’t do it! so I don’t have any really issue with the Directors decision but on my drive back last night it did set me thinking.

If you have a problem facing you, what would it be like if it was solved or on the way to being solved? What would that be like for you?

It brought me to the Cartesian Questions formulated by the French Philosopher René Descartes; I apologise in advance if you’ve heard them before.

Here are the four questions.

Take your time to really consider all of your answers before moving on to the next question.

Ask them in the order presented and after asking each one, ask “and what else?” You need to drill down to get to the underlying belief and reasoning.

  • What will happen if you do ‘X’
  • What won’t happen if you do ‘X’
  • What will happen if you don’t do ‘X’
  • What won’t happen if you don’t do ‘X’

This isn’t an ephemeral diversion into 16th Century philosophy but a very real question for today.

What is stopping you making that change and if you did change, as I asked earlier, what would that be like for you?


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It’s Not An Elephant In The Room It’s A Blinking Big Tiger!

In the classic 1969 film, The Italian Job, the character Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, went to collect his Aston Martin where it had been in storage following his enforced visit as a guest of Her Majesty’s Prison.

A paraphrase of the conversation between the garage attendant and Croker went along the lines of –

“I believe you’ve been in India for two years shooting elephants?” To which the response came “yes I have, but it was Tigers actually”

Looking at the bundle of cash being offered the attendant replied – you must have shot an awful lot of Tigers” to which Croker replies – “Yes I used a machine gun” …priceless.

So why regale that story, aside from the fact that I’m fond of it? Well fictitious though the storyline was, there is a fantastic analogy to be drawn from Charlie Croker’s alleged approach and that as to, what we need to be doing in our own businesses today.

Recent headlines have been filled with HMV appointing the Receivers just days after Jessop’s also filed. The high street woes are well documented. A quick scan of final Qtr YR12 results from other retailers tells of a mixed set of achievement.

Ignoring the issues of consumer spend and the basics, such as suitability of product range, one of the major threats and consequential results has been the fundamental change in business models- specifically in how the consumer wants to purchase.

Philip Clarke,Tesco CEO, reported this month that over 50% of their customers were using price comparison before they shopped.

In retail, the champions of the last Quarter were those who had firmly grasped the nettle, built initiatives and gained market momentum, moving to multi channel sales methods, some time ago.

So what will this year bring? Well I heard an expression that I rather like- “you have the pen in your hand it’s up to you how you write the next chapter”

There’s a lot to consider for this year if you haven’t already got your strategy and Operating Plan updated. Every UK data monitor is saying that inflation will remain at 1-2%, with the corresponding interest rates, global competition abounds and fiscal policy errs on prudence. This is the market as it’s going to be- this is the New World; if it’s going to be a Tiger economy will you be part of it?

I often comment on the business model you’re adopting – it is so critical to give this thought; a well thought out strategy coupled with speed and flight of foot are the antecedents to the change.
Barclays Bank have just announced that they are to switch many of their IT development platforms to open source, saving millions in development and licence costs – if they are doing something like that what fundamental could you be examining to exploit an opportunity in your market?

You might think shooting elephants with a rifle is a good business –but is it good enough to survive? This Tiger will firmly bite your backside if you haven’t thought through the strategic options facing you.

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Lewis Hamilton Tweets – A Board Meeting Topic?

For those that missed it, this weekend racing driver Lewis Hamilton “Tweeted” his race car telemetry performance, detailing ride height, camber setting etc. Fascinating info indeed if you’re a fan, gold dust if you’re a competitor. I was incredulous that a central member of the team could divulge such sensitive information and along with that my mind turned back to you.

In an effort to devolve decision-making and enable those decisions to be better informed we have opened our data banks, aided by the advances of modern technology.

As I have often said, this site is to cajole you, prompt your thoughts and add value to your working day, the question which I pose today is where on your Board Agenda does the issue of “Circle of Trust” sit and how is it managed? Rather humorously this very question was posed by Robert De Nero in the comedy film “Meet the F…amily(!)”

It would be easy to dismiss my point by bouncing responsibility across to the HR and ICT Departments however it’s my belief that the question could run deeper than just data transfer and competitor positioning. If knowledge is power and knowledge is debased, what does that do to your authority in the long-term?

I think it’s worthy of discussion at the Board; I’d be even more interested in the outcomes.

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Trello Desktop Organiser

If your desk resembles a bridal pathway of yellow Post-it Notes then this could be the answer you’re looking for.

Simple, effective and very versatile I think you’ll like it!

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Lola Sports Cars in Administration- A Directors Perspective.

As a motor sport fan, I was saddened to see the announcement this week that Lola Cars were to be placed into administration.

For those of you who are unaware of whom Lola are, they are a specialist sport car racing firm based in Huntingdon. Cambs.

Founded in 1958 by Eric Broadley MBE Lola Cars celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008  It has an illustrious history, designing cars that competed in Formula One, the Indy 500 and Le Mans.

Having built more customer racing cars than any other constructor in the history of motorsport, Lola now also services the aerospace, marine, automotive, defence and communications industries with a complete design and build capability in advanced carbon composites.

Employing a highly skilled engineering and design workforce of some 175 staff; this is exactly the type of company that we need in Great Britain, so what went wrong?

The issued statement is that HMRC failed to pay R&D credits and along with an economic backdrop of uncertainty this led to cashflow problems.

Somewhat harsh perhaps but I think that this is a smokescreen and in due course it would not surprise me if Lola Mk2 emerged (or rather Mk3 as they have previously been placed in administration in1997) with familiar faces in place.

To my mind it is the Directors who are at fault, any strategic decision, ultimately rests with them and if that decision takes the organisation down a blind alley with no protection from the aforesaid decision then the consequences roll.

A balance between risk and opportunity is the road we tread daily but this is a salutary reminder that the firm belongs to the shareholders, no doubt if your appetite for risk, if you’re reading this as a Finance Director, will be substantially less than that of your co-Director in sales; I do think it’s a point worth reflecting on –where do you stand and is risk adequately balanced within your board?

A few weeks ago a Client asked me to examine the books of a leather goods manufacturer that had gone into receivership, with a view to valuing and offering a price to purchase.

The company was small but I placed a valuation of some £30k. I was subsequently staggered to hear that a valuation of £90k had been muted. When I questioned the basis for that figure, the nominee said because of the opportunity that it represented. Not so in my books, it’s about managing the downside to the risk if it doesn’t work out. Our offer didn’t proceed based upon other findings nor did the £90k get bid and the assets and books were subsequently sold for £25k.

Another point that I raise, is the age of a business a good indicator of its likelihood of survival?  Is not the longevity of the board members in that role, of greater merit?

I think of the headline stories in the Sunday Times Business section el al, of the latest career hopping Chief Exec to some of our household names and I am left with the feeling that an indigenous industry expert would bring far greater shareholder value.

Lola Cars and Lola Composites are part of a larger group, there is more to this than meets the eye but I would be disappointed if the Administration was just a Creditors sidestep; HMRC included. I would like to think that that Lola board are of greater stature than that. A statement is due on the 21st of this month it will be interesting to hear the administrators findings and I wonder where in the commentary we will find the words strategy and risk?

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Market Research Data

Whilst researching market data for a Client, I headed to one of my favourite portals namely the corporate banks.

There is a wealth of information and market data available, predominantly compiled as a necessity to manage their risk but of course the glaring obvious is that whilst providing an informed basis for their assessment for our own borrowing,  the data can also highlight opportunity.

I have presented four examples for you below which I trust you find of value, if you’d like more drop me a line.





I do warn you they can be heavy reading if statistical analysis is not your bag but without wanting to be patronising, do take the time to grasp the fundamentals; there is a lot of valuable information to be gleaned that can aid you in your planning and future funding requirements.

Naturally our thanks go to the authors, Barclays Corporate.

Hope it’s going well.


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Lean Systems Thinking

In the manufacturing world lean systems thinking has abounded for many a year and yet still there are many companies who have failed to adopt this philosophy.

For those not familiar with this term it refers to the mindset that by scrutinising the individual processes that collectively make the business function one can increase productivity and decrease cost by eliminating unnecessary time and material inputs.

Consider this- picture the robotic arm of a welder that whirls and performs acrobatics, it is actually losing production time for the duration that the arm is in the air performing the acrobatic. I know that we can say that it is re-aligning itself but if the quickest point is from A-B then why not re-design the materials or process accordingly? The acrobatic is effectively a solution to a problem; one needs to focus on the problem.

Does this philosophy have a place within our service sector organisations? – Very firmly so. Last month I commented how a packaging company in Glasgow had significantly increased its trading profits in a highly competitive market – how? – Exactly by adopting this philosophy in its supply chain.

Look at this example of a Credit Control Procedure – does it mirror yours?


As you sit at your desk today and I am talking about you, not your staff, ask yourself which activity contributes and which erodes value to your business? Two examples my money would be on would be e-mail and the second, the genuine, time focussed, business development activities representing a very low value. There are a multitude of others, jot a few down as you go through your day.

This is the arena that I work within, starting with Strategy, Organisation fit and ultimately looking at the supporting IT infrastructure. There is a lot of hidden cost and significant operational efficiencies to be gained by looking further into lean systems –reach for your calculator – “How much is 0.5% points on your gross margin worth? And the same again in overhead?”

Woe-betide you if you cannot answer that question.

Call if you’d like to discuss this further or browse through our website- as always, very happy to help.

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