Are we serious about being LinkedIn?

I am mindful that my frustration levels have increased recently.

The reasons for this are varied, however the predominant reason revolves around how businesses today make it so difficult to introduce new business ideas and potential revenue to them; more specifically to engage with them.

In a world where ways of communicating are now many and varied; indeed almost instantaneous the portals to the world and directly to each other have increased. In a way we are all transparent and have ‘shop windows’ to an audience we could never have imagined years ago.

Are companies now getting too many enquiries? Can they handle them? Do they care?

In a world with rapidly expanding business demands I understand how busy people are. With more limited budgets surely the needs of a business today are that it has to be more reliable, rapid and responsive? Why then are so many NOT? Why don’t they look at themselves from the outside in?

Why do companies make it so difficult to find and then contact relevant people within the organisation? From personal experience; I have recently been trying to find the most appropriate person with specific responsibilities for a particular area within a number of organisations. I am trying to introduce an interesting proposition that could add significant value to their business. I simply needed to talk to the most relevant person within the business. Well, an audience with the pope would have been easier to secure. Do these people really feel their own importance is so great?

The first problem is actually getting to talk to a person and not a screen or robot voice. Then, finding the relevant person, getting a name is Nye on impossible! Do these people know what they are doing? Out of 15 enquiries made by me over half were passed on to anonymous colleagues without the courtesy of a contact name. Must be some sort of internal lets ‘protect each other’s info’ pact or missive. Talk about passed from pillar to post. You might imagine that this would be easy with LinkedIn, Google searches, company websites, our team, contact us etc. but it’s not, it’s just a joke.

Now I am willing to accept there could be many reasons for this; confusing job titles; overzealous and poorly informed gatekeepers; confusing and poorly throughout websites or even inefficient monitoring of websites; people hiding behind multiple choice keyboard selection options; that don’t work but no one has the balls to say so and we keep being subjected to referrals to India. info@ web response mechanisms, many don’t work or are hosted by people who don’t know the business or who is who! I could go on but you get the gist. We can’t seem to or don’t want face to face meeting anymore, we all want to do it via the interface of a screen…it is all very impersonal, smoke and mirrors. I bet if you are reading this you don’t think it’s your business, but it is, try being your customer for a day. Wake up.

Therefore why are we on LinkedIn? Why does it exist? Is it to massage our ego, look how many degrees I got from where? Perhaps I will get a better a job offer or do you really want to link in to business real people and business opportunities?? If you don’t, then don’t link in.

Contact Conduit Partners on 01235 831777 or email info@conduitpartners.co.uk

What happened to the BIG society?

The Government need new initiatives by way of putting extra funding into creating jobs and stimulating growth, specifically aimed at helping people into work; not compounding the issue by offering loans to businesses that are already struggling, this will just compound issues, potentially delay the inevitable and increase overall debt levels in the UK.

We should be working to resolve these issues.  City and County Councils should be working with local businesses particularly Start-Up’s and SME’s (a sector that needs stimulation) to provide information on people and the skills available, please don’t tell me the job centres do this well, frankly; they don’t.

The delays, uncertainty and lack of initiatives from Central Government is nothing short of astounding therefore we need to drive this forward ourselves.  We should all be finding routes of working collaboratively; specifically, targeted at those unemployed and businesses wanting to grow in the SME sector.  Individuals could be offered work for a period of 12 months, individuals wanting to work and create the chance of a job should get extra subsidies from the Government as an incentive to enter this type of internship programme.

This approach will give people that are seeking employment opportunity to keep their skills, contacts and experience current until they find paid employment.

Like-minded groups of experienced business people should be lobbying Government (LEP’s?) now proposing initiatives to help stimulate this sector.  Finding a job is crucial for families today.  In fact, work can be transformative.  However, many people now are often feel that the situation is hopeless and don’t know where to start.  Motivation can be an issue, even though they agree that getting into employment is their best way forward many people are resigned to government support and feel alienated.  Clearly, it would be better for all concerned if Government money was better and more effectively targeted.

Conversely, I read and hear that there are companies that find it difficult to attract people to do the more basic jobs.  People with qualifications want work starting above the basic level, with expected prospects for advancement. Work internships could be for any time period but with a minimum of 12 weeks. Under the scheme the intern would be paid out of pocket expenses and a gratuity or incentive.

To Summarise:

  1. We should be targeting people who want to work at the SME sector to stimulate both employment and drive sector growth.
  2. Businesses sign up thus providing an opportunity for unemployed people, possibly lacking in qualifications, to gain work experience
  3. Opportunity to receive a reference for future employment.
  4. LEP’s in conjunction with Job centres potentially provide the essential link, assessments and support for  people seeking work, and for businesses willing to
  5. Provide placements through internships.  By match-making the right people to the right companies.
  6. Through this central management of the placements it would help to mitigate the risk and cost to the companies offering work placements

The advantages:

  • The unemployed person gets an opportunity to gain some work experience, a possible job or at least reference for further employment.
  • The participating SME companies gain by having access, at low cost, to independently screened, supported and monitored trainees, who may become employees, but without any long term obligation for 12 weeks.
  • The local Council benefits by having a public/private collaboration and dedicated service effectively ‘match-making’ the unemployed to appropriate potential long term employment opportunities.
  • The Local Authority and society benefits as there should be a reduction in crime rates and a greater likelihood that they will enter full time employment.
  • The service provides the government with a low cost solution to the cycle of despair, crime, joblessness and homelessness that can result from unemployment
  • The Start-Up and SME sector is stimulated, can become more competitive with the overall benefit of not loading the cost base prior to landing associated revenues.

To discuss this topic further or for further information on how Conduit Partners can help your business call us on 01235 831777 or email info@conduitpartners.co.uk

 

 

Is this the tip of the Iceberg?

What is going on?  Is it just me or are we ignoring the inadequacy of those running our money and this country simply because it’s becoming a boring story.  I have never known anything like it; it seems we just reel from crisis to crisis, particularly the banks.

We used to be able say that our money was as ‘Good as in the Bank’ problem is, what are the alternatives…(I was going to put a question mark here but thought better of it).  Apparently the Bank of England is expected to give the economy a £50bn boost amid growing fears the UK remains mired in recession.  This £50bn will be for loans, in many cases this will delay the inevitable; all it will do is build up the overall debt of the country.  What we need is to get the economy turning and frankly we won’t get that going with the huge cuts to the public sector.  The knocks on affects are simply staggering; and I don’t think we have felt the half of it yet.  This is the tip of the Iceberg.  So loans, shall we all join hands and try to imagine where that going to go; indeed what genius will (probably as I write) be deciding how this might in fact ‘BOOST’ our economy and indeed where best to place it.  What hoops will we have to jump through?  What red taped handcuffs will we be bound by?  I am simply wriggling in my seat with anticipation!

Also I read that England’s “mittelstand” is held back by skills shortages.  England’s SME businesses, the equivalent of Germany’s so called “mittelstand,” are being held back by severe skills shortages, which is endangering the UK recovery, a major report warns this week.  Well, there is a recession on, people are out of work, and they are not getting paid!  It is mainly because anyone with any skills (and sense) are deserting these shores for jobs abroad simply to earn some money, all heading East I should think…

In addition, ominous data is expected to compound the Bank of England’s decision to pump in a further £50 billion of quantitative easing; the prediction is that this will go ahead.  This is mainly driven by the bleak news from the services sector after the sector slumps to its lowest level since last year.  It seems like the double-dip is here for a while.

I find it amazing therefore, that given the Bank of England’s money printing has been blamed for the pensions “meltdown” as annuity pay-outs dive 27% in four years, we keep on compounding the problem.  Personally, on a large scale, I believe the pension crisis over the next ten years will dwarf the banking crisis by a considerable margin.  Like I said, what’s going on?

Despite of, and not as a result of, these negative trends we at Conduit have decided to go M.A.D.  We are currently devising innovative ways to help businesses retain staff, improve wellbeing, generate cash and realisations for all of our customers. We are Making A Difference (M.A.D).

We believe that the current economic climate and change presents exciting opportunities to think outside of the box.   Rather than the gloom and doom, we are prepared to be agile, fleet of foot and swift of thought. There is no box!

To learn more contact Conduit Partners on 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

Painkiller for your headache anyone?

OK so we know UK start-up businesses have a very high failure rate; as many as one in three fail within the first three years.  That then leaves two that don’t!   Two out of three survive often going on to grow to successful outcomes.  With over 500 early stage business interactions under our belt the main reasons for business failure are usually around several common themes.  Failure to understand the market, to be able to know where the company sits in the value chain is the most common.  Also a poorly articulated value proposition to the wrong target market is a common mistake early stage businesses make. I do however believe that we could do a lot more to prevent the ones that fail, I believe with professional commercial support earlier on in their journey we might just be able to give them a better chance of success; we might not be able to save all of them but we could just save one or two more.

Successful businesses are ones that understand the market needs and know when the potential customer is in pain, they effectively provide a pain killer.

Detailed market research, intelligence gathering and insight is an essential component for new businesses, to understand key details, the potential size of the addressable market, the extent of competition as well as consumer needs and issues is vital.  Time after time we see businesses who believe they know this, however under scrutiny, usually in our one day assessment review workshops; we see vital flaws in this area.  Conduit however don’t just shine a light on this area, we proactively work with management teams and stakeholders to understand what needs to be done to unlock potential.

Cash flow is king!  Early stage businesses struggle with poor cash flow management.  It is all very well having a good product but it is essential that short term cash flows are monitored and managed.  Many start-ups for example try to grow too quickly, to take on the world or even several vertical markets at once with a handful of staff.  Whilst this ambition and enthusiasm is to be admired it is such a waste of valuable energy and lacks focus.

Business planning should cover all aspects of the business, plan the work and work the plan. Insufficient finance often means that businesses are unable to take opportunities that are available to them, or have to compromise.  Going for high cost solutions to problems, rather than lower cost well thought out strategies that can yield greater competitive advantage is another common error.

Failure to embrace new technologies and new developments is critical to the economy, particularly now as the global economy is so easily accessible to so many.  The world is changing rapidly to survive and indeed thrive.  Leading businesses are ones that make best use of what is available to them and the channels in particular; it’s just harder to go it alone.

Advanced modern technologies used in an appropriate way can enable companies to build product awareness and revenue in days and weeks rather than months and years. Companies that operate without embracing new media technologies and methods will find themselves at a cost disadvantage over their more dynamic rivals.

It is tough right now, maybe as tough as I have ever seen it but business is still there.  Breakthroughs can be made.

Conduit’s approach to driving revenue through sales is a rapid, intensive look at the business marketing and sales process that has yielded time after time.  If you are fed up with the status quo and want to make a breakthrough, if you believe you have a painkiller for someone’s head ache the please contact us to learn more about how we can assist.

Contact Conduit Partners on 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

A Potentially Risky Business…

Again in one of my many London cab journeys I found myself engaged with the driver who told me that the jubilee weekend had been a huge disappointment for him business wise.  Having worked all weekend he found he was only 10% up in his usual earnings despite the huge crowds.  “ What people don’t realise is that most Londoners have a taxi mentality, they are familiar with using them all the time; most Londoners leave London when big events are on and the crowds who come to these events are people who are not Londoners and they don’t have a taxi mentality. It’s the same with all big events, the royal wedding was the same, in fact I was actually down on my regular earnings that time”.  He went on to tell me that he was leaving for the Philippines the week before the Olympics start.  He was going for four weeks in order to get married.  He felt the city would be full of visitors without a taxi mentality and he would put in many hours for little return so what was the point? Get married instead.

I suggested that this might be a risky strategy and asked how long he had known his fiancée… “Two years, I have been out (to the Philippines) twice to be with her and we feel it is right for us, I’m just working on her visa and paperwork and then I’m off”.  I suggested that this was a brave move, one that involved a huge decision and a lot of change.   “You know what guvnor, I have been hacking this cab for twenty years, day in, day out, same old thing and nothing changes, I realised it wouldn’t either unless I did something about it”.  I said I admired his courage to which he replied “You know what, it’s about trust; change is about trusting in yourself and what you believe in and that’s what I’m doing.  I have to change to improve my position; What do you do?” he asked.  I told him.  He felt that it was great getting new businesses to market and said the only issue was that unless they were in a place like he was, going nowhere, they would not come to our company.

We all think we know best, until it is nearly too late. We all fear change; none of us can predict the future unless we create it for ourselves. I was impressed by the cabbies commitment to his cause; his life was going nowhere so he decided to change it. He had taken the steps to minimise his risk and had chosen a partner that would help him on the next stage of his journey.

Going into new countries as a business, without firstly really looking into the right kind of partner who knows the ropes is also a potentially risky business.

Conduit Partners have helped numerous business leaders and investors review their position in business, some of it has been in persuading them that change is needed, some already knew. Most has been in validating that it’s time to change and working with them through times of change particularly when entering new markets and territories in assisting to mitigate risk and optimise return on the investment.

To learn more about our approach to validating markets and go to market planning approaches that mitigate risk please go call 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

US Companies Looking To Europe

Conduit Partners was formed in early 2002 to support the launch of UK new businesses, products & services.  Our strategy was based on our success of previously building a spin-out from Oxford University and seeing the need in the provision of experienced business skills.

Over the last 10 years we have worked with over 500 companies and projects.  We have delivered an 11X return to clients by way of revenue and investment via our experienced team of entrepreneurs, business people & successful fundraisers.  We have built our team and client base through empathy, networking and proactively seeking new challenges and horizons, this in turn has led us to developing a proven track record and an un-rivalled client base mainly in the UK. We work collaboratively and not in isolation, we become part of the team and want success for every client we work with.

In line with our heritage and ethos we are now looking to expand overseas into the USA.  We are looking for investors and funds with investments in businesses that have global potential, ones that are actively seeking international growth.  Ideally they will be well funded with revenue, domestic products being used in the English language but with the potential to scale.  The company would be well supported technically; they will have little or no knowledge or UK presence but be based on solid technology which would be protected in UK & Europe.  Appropriate accreditations required for market entry should be in place or planned and they should be able to display positive market trends and clear identified needs in Europe.

The Conduit offering to them is based on the following proven services to these organisations:

  • Test and validate the company’s products & services in the UK & European Market
  • Develop the market entry strategy
  • Identify and engage with key partners & customers
  • Align with European growth capital
  • Develop and implement a PR and marketing strategy to gain early market traction
  • Generate qualified pipeline of opportunity and sales from early business development
  • Recruit the on-going (client) commercial team (in conjunction with client)
  • Provide on-going telesales and telemarketing to support the commercial team

We are proactively seeking USA based organisations that recognise the value in a commercial partner with a proven and successful track record of commercialising technology internationally, quickly, efficiently with great return on Investment unprecedented in today’s climate.

To learn more about the services Conduit can offer your business call 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk.

 

Creating Tangible Value

Whilst travelling on one of my many taxi journeys early one morning last week I came across the archetypal London cabbie.  While news of the Greek and Euro crisis resounded from the radio, a credit card machine; now featuring in many taxis caught my eye.  On enquiring if it worked (most don’t) we entered an inevitable discussion on cash.

In the end we concluded that as money is not tangible today and cash is not as obvious as it used to be years ago when ‘Cash was King’.  We don’t see cash as cash these days, mainly because we don’t trade in it as much, plastic is fantastic.  We don’t handle large amounts of physical money/cash.  It’s all monopoly or casino money; ‘buy your chips here’ buy now pay later’.  Therefore have we lost any real understanding of value?  Not only in cash but as a result have our values slipped generally?

We don’t ‘touch’ large amounts of money these days; we don’t really ‘touch’ our friends anymore, sometimes preferring instead to build our relationship through Facebook.  Our (it became our view) argument was that no one knows the true value of money as it is never physically seen.

Life then, according to the cabbie is just a game, money being based on credit and our credit ratings i.e. borrowings.  It’s like monopoly money, or worse, simply numbers on a spreadsheet.  We simply do not save to buy things anymore.  If I could not afford to pay cash years ago I did not have it!  Simple really; is it any wonder then that we all have everything we need and loads of ‘stuff’ we don’t?  That we all have credit cards with high interest balances and interest only mortgages?  That we all have debt!?  That even countries are broke?  Is it any wonder that the value of money is intangible are other values becoming intangible too?

When we don’t see something it’s hard for it to become manifest and therefore I wonder if we truly value it as  much, if at all.  Do we have to wait for crisis to react?

I wonder if we really know the value of anything, with Facebook being valued in monopoly figures; how are we to put a real value on something.

I guess anything really is only as valuable as what someone is prepared to pay for it.  Justifying the value therefore becomes more important.  One of the key elements of the Conduit approach to business building is creating real tangible value.

To learn more about optimising value and understanding where the focus needs to be in business to realise value contact Conduit Partners on 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

21st Century thinking, there is no box!

In today’s increasingly difficult economy with uncertainty around political and currency futures, is it any wonder that depression is expected to impose the second biggest health burden globally by 2020?

I have always believed that in order to predict the future it is up to us to create the future we choose and how we want to be in our outlook.  By empowering ourselves and being proactive in our approach to our work life-balance it is really down to us to affect the life we want for ourselves and our environment.  In doing so, we have a better chance of happiness and fulfilment and in avoiding melancholy, frustration and ultimately depression.  In order to avoid these pitfalls we must each begin to think and act outside of the box.  We need to let go of personal insecurities and embrace different and new approaches of achieving our objectives.  We must begin to become mindful of our approaches and actions and indeed mindful of our very selves.  This is harder to do than to talk about, however it is possible.  It is in this way that we introduce a frank and straightforward approach to how we engage with our clients on all levels.  It is only by boldly embracing new and fulfilling mind-sets that we can avoid the ruts and traps of tradition and in potentially becoming a statistic.  It is the fear of change that holds back the change that we so desperately need today and to move forward and create the 21st century we want.

I am constantly amazed that organisations, as well as individuals, continue to do things the same way over and over again and expect different results.  More and more people have said to me recently how difficult and worrying doing business is becoming and how frustrated and unhappy they are beginning to feel.

At Conduit, when we engage with new clients they initially state that ‘we do that ourselves why would we need you? We have been doing it this way for years with reasonable results’.  The fact is they may well do some aspects of what we offer as a business; however they do not specialise the way we do.  They do not have over 12 years’ specific hands on experience of direct commercial engagement over periods of time that have been proven in unlocking value.  They often fail to appreciate that our services may seem familiar on the surface, however they are completely different, we use new and exciting approaches in engagement at all levels in building value.

The Conduit building blocks and our commercial approach is unique, effective and proven. We diagnose businesses that are failing to meet expectations and enhance further those that are demonstrating potential.  Our approach identifies patterns and we unbundle and free up business models that are stuck or failing.  We engage as if part of the management group and work with the team day to day.  We ensure that the focus and alignment of the business is optimised, and that all aspects of the resource are operating in unison to deliver to plan.  We test current beliefs and encourage opportunistic thinking.  We develop together believable and achievable objectives and goals.  Quite simply we enthuse potential.  We mentor the team to choose the future they desire, we then empower them to create it themselves.  We not only think and act outside of the box; we don’t believe there is one. 

For more information on Conduit’s proven approaches please call 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

Communication Breakdown?

We have found that communication in this age of instant communication remains poor.  Companies are often failing to communicate their vision effectively; frequently they then fall short in aligning the workforce behind a common well-articulated vision for the business.  Expectations are often blurred and unclear, or they have a low priority or indeed are ignored completely. This leads to them being open to misinterpretation. Taciturnity should be the scourge of today’s business as it gives birth to ambiguity, there should be no mistake about vision and mission in today’s business and no excuse for failing to have them crystal clear both internally and to the outside world.  Whilst we hear many bosses and business leaders requesting frankness from their staff and to ‘tell it like it is’, how many really mean this and would know how to manage it?  Leaders who invite confidence should be mindful never to violate that confidence.

The first rule I learnt as a CEO was to communicate all expectations with unmistakable clarity; I was keen to ensure that each member of staff took responsibility and remained their own person, in accordance to their own true feelings and objectives. That said I never insisted on loyalty; that would be their personal choice.

Conduit Partners begin any business engagement with a bespoke workshop; in most of the company workshops we facilitate, we insist on all of the senior team being present for the day.  This offers a unique insight into the dynamic of the team, how they relate and interact with each other, the dialogue and vocabulary. We see where the silos are, the loners, the team players and of course the terrorists and saboteurs.

Only a team of strong and independent managers aligned behind a common vision with a true focus can enable a business to succeed.  Irrespective of who is at the helm, a well balanced team, with the appropriate skills and qualities, are essential in supporting an early stage business with ambitions for rapid growth and expansion.

In order to create the bonds of common purpose and enjoy the value of cultivating a trusted and valued team, reviews in communication and purpose should feature regularly and should not be underestimated.  Leadership requires choices, every day.  Many of these choices require value judgments; an effective leader communicates these in a way that inspires.

Conduit Partners workshops are designed to get to the heart of these issues, to evaluate where the communication is strong and where it is failing.  This in turn allows a company to focus on the areas that are productive and generate revenue, to become an effective communication stronghold.

For more information about how to improve the communication in businesses and to unlock the true potential please contact Conduit Partners Ltd on 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk

Can you think outside of the box?

There is so much conflict in the news at the moment that feeds and breeds fear, uncertainty and doubt.  We tend thrive as our best self in an atmosphere of buoyancy, familiarity, harmony and unity.  In this climate we tend to retreat to survive rather than looking out and seeing how we can embrace new approaches and ideas to counter the despondency.  I have always believed that in order to realise the future you want, one has to create it ourselves.  That means stepping out of personal comfort zones and traditional ways of doing things. Thinking differently and challenging convention, looking at other ways of doing things.

Back in 2000 I was being interviewed on the business news channel in Singapore that reached most of Asia.  I had just established a business there and set up a KK in Yokahama, Japan.  I was asked by the presenter of the show for my views on the recession at that time. I said that rather than fear it I welcomed it as an opportunity for new thinking, innovative products and entrepreneurs who were unafraid of pioneering new concepts and approaches.  The look of shock on her face was plain for all to see, she was almost speechless and said I doubt you will get many agreeing with you in that view.

I didn’t. However I did get some, individuals who could see that they had to explore and choose different ways of doing business.  Together we formed a bond of likeminded people who embraced and forged new ways of thinking and new approaches that would influence future products and the way the world shaped.  We rode out the recession, we attracted likeminded organisations who joined us and traded out of the gloom with new offers, approaches and products.

In this risk averse economy there are still opportunities, they don’t go away, they may be harder to find, more challenging to establish and even more arduous to develop.  However rigour defines quality, it seeks it out, prioritises it and with the appropriate interventions mitigates risk.  During the last few years we have introduced these principles of working in a very tough economy with outstanding results.  We are now seeking likeminded organisations and inviting them to take the first steps in forging new approaches that may well be unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first.  I was asked recently if the 11X return to the Carbon Trust’s investment in Conduit services was in real cash; it was, it was in investment and sales revenue generated.  Moreover it was not as a result of a big ‘one off’ deal that bumped the figure up. It was in fact across over 30 companies that we focussed on, believed in and worked with the management to gain insights and breakthroughs.

So, I would point to the words of one of the greatest innovators, the late and quite brilliant, Steve Jobs.  I hope his inspiration inspires you to think outside of the box.

 “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, and, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary”. 

For more information on Conduit’s services, that are designed to gain commercial breakthroughs contact us on 01235 831777 or email hollymunns@conduitpartners.co.uk