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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Website Update

If you care to hop across to the website you’ll find that we’ve updated it to more accurately reflect the type of work we’re involved with; it’s still work in progress with the more recent case studies to be uploaded and some final proofing to done.

Your comments, positive or negative are welcome.

Thank You.

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A Suprise and Delight

My colleague’s face was priceless to see whilst they were unwrapping their new iPhone.

The packaging was crisp, the box almost hermetically sealed, whilst the phone inside was an engineering triumph of functionality that was lovingly caressed.

I often refer to the touch points of a company being those points where your Customer or Client comes into contact with you; where your brand values transcend the marketing prose into real tangible references, whether they be visual, aural or kinesthetic.

Motor manufacturers are well versed in this skill, as indeed are many manufacturers of domestic products. Have you ever sat in a Jaguar and watched the way the sunglasses holder gently opens with a well dampened mechanism or the soft blue hue of the dashboard, lights displays at night or perhaps the way the headlamps stay on for a few moments after you’ve locked the car, allowing you to see your way into the house?

In marketing parlance this is the surprise and delight. It holds equally valid if you’re in the service industry where even the tactility of your business card can trigger a perceived value.

Consider for a moment – how many touch points do your Customers have when they interact with you and how many of them are “Surprise and Delights” ?

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Good News Today

By way of levity to the doom and gloom mongers that seem to pervade our news broadcasts I thought I’d share a collection of good news that I have read this week from some of your colleagues.

Glasgow packaging firm Macfarlane has achieved an increase in profits in the face of the rising cost of raw materials. The company made profits last year of £3.9m with turnover up 7% to £144m

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) arm saw sales rise 37%, helped by selling 32,000 of its new Range Rover Evoque. The quarter saw China overtake the UK as JLR’s biggest market. China now accounts for 17.2% of total sales compared with 16.5% for the UK.

Much of America’s bus industry is now owned by two Scottish companies.

Stagecoach owns intercity, local, commuter, city sightseeing, tourist and yellow school buses through its Coach USA subsidiary

FirstGroup took over US firm Laidlaw in 2007 for $2.8bn (£1.78bn), giving it control of the 92-year-old Greyhound bus line.It launched BoltBus in 2008, initially going head-to-head with Megabus on the key New York to Washington route

Carmaker Nissan is to build a new model at its Sunderland factory, with investment of £125m, which it says will create 2,000 jobs.

Tesco has pledged to create 20,000 permanent jobs in the UK over the next two years.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said it is a massive confidence boost for the UK economy.

The announcement comes as the British Chambers of Commerce predicts that the UK will avoid a double-dip recession

Derbyshire County Council are  creating 700 apprenticeships over the next four years in one of the biggest ever recruitment drives of young people.

The above successes have been achieved through a carefully thought out strategy of product mix, service development and an organisation structure that is fit for purpose.

I’m particularly interested in MacFarlane’s performance; I’ll report back if I can find out more, in the meantime, enjoy your day.



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Sage Software Survey

Business organisations are emerging from the recession with business processes and work flow cycles that are hindering their ability to make the most of the tentative economic recovery” so says a computing survey of over 150 IT decision makers in a report sponsored by Sage Software

Over 62% of respondents cited communication issues between sales and finance departments and a further 61%of interviewees said that inaccurate forecasting information led to difficulties in long-term business decisions.

A similar report by Exact Synergy Software found that a lack of transparency of business processes is making it difficult for UK finance and management professionals to identify their most profitable business areas. Despite this hampering current performance, firms remain confident that they will see growth in the region of 5-10 per cent over the coming 12 months.

Are these findings a reflection of businesses, protecting themselves in tighter times by retaining their cash and accepting those inefficiencies as a trade-off against risk? Or is it that the Management Team are actually unaware of these issues?

Someone within these organisations is flagging it as an issue and yet it’s not being translated into action; why is that?

I raise the question because I believe that IT and MIS strategy is something that is understood and actively managed by both the smaller business and the much larger organisation where IT and MIS are actually represented in the Board Room. The gap is in the middle ground, the medium-sized business where ownership and domain expertise are absent from the organisation structure and that vacuum is filled with either an “IT person” or an IT support Contract.

Are these findings true within your organisation? Drop me a line if you’d like a full copy of the reports or discuss any of the issues raised.

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Business Model Generation

I have often written about how the world is slowly being turned on its head and how Directors need to think long and hard about how robust their own organisations value proposition is within the market place.

Last week Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection; what was the staggering sequence events that such a once proud and innovative company could now crumble and with whom does the blame lie?

Nokia report a 31% decline in sales with fourth quarter performance slumping from an €884m profit in 2010 to a loss of €954m in the same period of 2011. I’m sticking with these guys’s they’ve seen the problem, accepted they need to rethink and ditch their prowess and very firmly grasped the nettle by jumping into bed with Microsoft. The fundamentals of what they offer – quality, reliability, tactility and functionality remain valid for me; it’s only in the latter, that perhaps, they now lag.

I have a mantra that I am oft quoted upon “So what happens on Monday morning at ten o’ clock?” and what I mean is – forget the fancy notions, the clever junk bonds, the offset of toxic debt and any other financial shenanigans – what is my business doing today, this morning and how am I adding value to my Customers so that Monday morning next week- I’ll still be here!”; the market is moving very fast.

I’ve just finished reading an excellent book that should firmly stand beside Michael Porter, Tom Peters and Kotler entitled “Business Model Generation” written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.

Below is an outline video, I hope you grasp hold of its concepts and enjoy its provocation; I look forward to discussing it further with you.

Wishing you a good week.


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Costa Concordia Disaster Recovery

You’re just finishing off your evening meal, swirling the remains of wine in your glass and reflecting on today.

“It was a good meeting, we got a lot done; this will be a good year” and then the phone rings…

I don’t know if that’s exactly how it happened to Micky Arison, Chairman and Chief Executive of Carnival, but I’m sure the news was greeted with the same feeling in his stomach that we all would have felt.

Heaven forbid anything so disastrous should happen to your business, but what if?

What would your first actions be?

We talk about strategy, financial management and the nuances of the sales and marketing plan but have we covered off disaster or mitigation thereof?

It doesn’t have to be of the magnitude of the Costa Concordia, perhaps a trade debtor gone into receivership. Last year Focus DIY’s demise caused some huge financial losses across the transport sector not to mention actual product suppliers; how many businesses can withstand those losses?

An employee injuring himself at work could potentially expose the Directors to a jail sentence due to an overlooked health and safety issue that was dormant for years; the list of threats goes on.

I’m not a harbinger of doom and my heart and prayers goes out to those whose lives were lost but we must take heed and learn. We as Directors have a duty of care not just to our employees but also our shareholders (read balance sheet)

Our businesses may have become more sophisticated, technology dependent but our plans don’t have to be. In 1957 Jaguar Cars Ltd suffered a huge fire at their Brown Lanes factory, a fortnight later and the first Jaguar Mk1 rolled back off the production line – not a computer backup in sight, nor even thought about.

I repeat the question – what would your first actions be and where is your disaster plan?

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Pause For Thought

This Blog is written with a clear intent in mind. It is written to cajole, nudge, prompt and make you, the Director and Senior Manager, stop and think about what is happening within your organisation.

If you survived last year you did well or perhaps as a colleague described it you were “a zombie company” existing to get from one day to the next without challenging the status quo and doing credit to the many skills and experience that got you to where you are today.

I don’t want to patronise, but last year, I saw time and time, again figures and information being presented that oscillated between doom and gloom and high aspiration, each trying to make sense of the dynamics of the economic position and I wonder did you question and give thought to the next three years and if so where did those thoughts feature in your business plan?

I also wrote last year that the business models that we have grown with are being firmly overturned and that if you don’t stop and at least consider the fundamental added value drivers of your business then change will be forced upon you, perhaps for the worse.

By way of levity I’m giving you this excellent video from a software house called Kimble. There are some very good, thought-provoking statements being made.

I hope you enjoy and as ever, if you’d like to discuss any of the topics raised then please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone.

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Wishing You A Prosperous & Happy 2012

“Once more onto the breach dear friends”

Wishing you a peaceful, prosperous and happy new year.


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