Economic Insight for Informed Business Decisions

I’ve commented before on the availability of economic and industry data reports from the banks. If you haven’t already subscribed for these reports I do recommend them to you.

The reports are not just to aid you when you start thinking about refreshing your annual Operating Plan but also act as a radar, alerting you to events that perhaps you hadn’t thought about.

I’ve just signed up for a selection of reports that I think may be of value for my Clients, I’ll keep an eye on them for salient points.

Have a look, see what you think- as ever, happy to discuss them with you.

This link is for Lloyds Bank but of course other banks also provide them as well.



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“We’ve Just Engineered a Tool for Delivering Stem Cells, Mid Brain”

The statement above was quietly delivered by a Dr Stone, a Clinical Scientist at Addenbrookes Hospital Cambridge. at a presentation that I attended last night.

I sat amongst the audience and took in what he had just said; the capability to engineer such a tool, how and why it was to be used and the impact upon someone’s life I felt, was quite breath taking.

In our Corporate World we indulge ourselves in our power statements, the big car, the nice suits and of course the de-rigueur latest technology, because we’re really important aren’t we?

I felt that the statement last night firmly pulled and re-aligned, my carpet, underneath me.

Earlier in the year I had read a book by Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh entitled “Do No harm” and I had the same feeling of awe and it has left a vacuum in my thoughts – a vacuum because I’m tumbling with my thoughts as to where I could contribute, where I could leave a footprint? and I don’t say that from a centric or corporate social responsibility point of view either; it’s a grumbling I’ve had for a while.

If you want to know more about Addenbrookes Charitable Trust, take a moment to look at this web link, I’m sure you will find it as humbling as I did and perhaps in your busy day it might make you ponder as well.

Have a good and thoughtful day.

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The Bhagavad Gita

Searching for a book for my recent long haul trip, my wife rather appropriately, suggested The Bhagavad-Gita, a series of Hindu spiritual readings relating to life on earth.

There was one particular story that caught my eye, entitled – The Graduation Test.

The story relates to military training and how each student was tasked with firing a single arrow at the head of a wooden eagle placed on a nearby tree.

The question was asked of each student “Get ready, look at the eagle, and tell me what you are seeing.”

To which they replied “I see the sky, the clouds, the tree trunk, the branches, the leaves and the eagle sitting there”

One student answers “I only see the eagle and nothing else”

When he shot his arrow he landed true and successfully passed his test

The summation of the teaching is that whatever you are doing, put your whole mind on it; if you’re shooting, your mind should be only on the target, then you will never miss.

That’s what we do…… right?…

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Are Your Profits under Threat?

I note from this week’s Sunday papers that Ernest Young Accountants, reported that profit warnings were at their highest since the 2008 crisis.

The comment is made that “many UK companies still face sluggish, disrupted and competitive forces with Brexit adding further layers of challenge but also opportunity”

So what question is being posed? – Well in my language, I guess the question is “are you doing enough in your capacity as a Director or Senior Manager to address your future profits?”

In our day-to-day work we become absorbed in shifting metal, processing the order, chasing the cash, dealing with staff issues, but what are we doing strategically to position and react to the competitive environment; what initiatives are you driving, this year, to improve your performance?

I’ll leave you with that thought this morning; pick up the phone if you’d like to investigate further – without any pressure.


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CPD – Business Analyst Certification

Shifting boxes in the loft is great fun isn’t it? –banging your head on the beams and scratching with the loft insulation, but sometimes it is enjoyable as you unpack, long forgotten boxes, wondering why you put them there in the first place and then like an excited kid unwrap them like a kid at Xmas.

Ok maybe the last bit isn’t quite true but my surprises were equally felt – files of my old MBA notes from many a year ago. My fear was that my essays might be youthful and pretentious, t’was after all the era of shoulder pads and red braces, but no, I’m glad to say, I felt they read lucidly.

It was poignant finding them because I wanted to start an MSc in Engineering Mngt at my old University of Warwick and it jolted me as to the amount of commitment and time that it took.

A change of plan and a desire not to live in a hotel for five nights a week meant that the Msc has been put on hold but that still leaves a quandary as to what CPD I should undertake this year.

I went browsing and in line with pursuing my lean systems thinking, I have enrolled for my IIBA Exam

Initially flicking through the course work I thought to myself “oh I’d forgotten that – this will be easy………” but it’s funny how time creeps up on you and although I thought I already knew the subject matter, it is interesting to be disciplined again in approaching it – somewhat like having a Consultant question your strategy – right? 🙂

What have you got on the list for your CPD this year?

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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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