Copy Published 2 April 2012
Business Planning Back on the Boyle.
Bad news all around? Check.
Spending hours continuously cost cutting? Check.
Suppliers cutting credit terms? Check.
Customers lagging in payments? Check.
Unemployment and redundancies looming? Don’t want to answer but, check.
Tired of the pundits’ preaching about the slide from recession to deep recession? Oh yeah, check.
Business off the boil? Check.
Perhaps you need five minutes? Check.
Perhaps you need to revisit the Susan Boyle factor…
For any SME directors/managers/owners or even advisors that have never taken five to watch Susan Boyle’s Glasgow audition for Britain’s Got Talent, now may be a good time. Why? Well, for one, BGT is back on our TV screens and it may be a change to get culturally literate, and two, Miss Boyle has racked up over 88 million views (36 million views, 2009) on YouTube, over 150 million online views in general, was once the most, or second most searched Google term, and was the general watch word for the Hollywood A-listers and US business elite. For an unemployed 47 year old from Blackwood seeking work, these were once facts that would make Rodger Moore raise his eyebrow.
Watch again closely (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OcQ9A-5noM&feature=related), and you may notice certain rules which are worth applying to your own business. For example, in terms of the overall structure, notice that the most viewed YouTube clip contains the following facets:
- Susan gives a succinct introduction (the executive summary). A classic elevator pitch forms an executive summary to highlight her plan and sells her idea in 15 seconds or less.
- Ant and Dec tease out a further summary (the company overview). Susan now moves to a factual description of herself, her history, her applicable skills and her single aim.
- Susan goes before the judges (the management summary). A recapitulation now fleshes out Susan’s background, experiences, accomplishments and her inspiration.
- Susan sings (products / services or both). Susan simply demonstrates her signing talent and stands out from the competitors.
- The judges’ feedback (market analysis). Third party opinion and possible constructive criticism opens out Susan’s realistic and typical market landscape, size and expected growth.
- The judges vote (strategy and implementation). Thoughts of milestones and how to progress with the core plan now come to the fore.
Add to the above the seventh ingredient of a financial plan and you will then have a classic outline for a business plan or downturn re-evaluation strategy to help steer through the current troubled waters.
Brand Boyle has suffered some goodwill decay over the last two years but is still going strong. Long may Saturday night TV remain big business.
Copy published Monday 26 March
It is a conundrum why owners of private companies limited by shares are content to rely on Government ready-made articles of association to regulate the management and processes of their business affairs, especially when they have liberty to order matters for themselves. Think about it, would the Government’s statutory default position (Table A or Model Articles) not contain a Government bias one way or another?
Many private limited companies are purchased from an agent or over the Internet for cost saving reasons. Fair enough. Yet it may be that no advice has since been sought as to the suitability of the company’s constitutional documents.
For those that did seek professional advice, the advice may now have to be changed. Many private limited companies are set up so that the owners and the management are one in the same. The director/s hold (own) all the issued shares in the company and the driver of incorporation may have been for beneficial limited liability, succession or tax planning reasons. The owners and managers of those small businesses may consider it irrelevant or unnecessary to regulate the internal workings of the company, but single director/shareholder companies are advised to consider this issue with a long term view.
Differing agendas may not be immediately present when there is only one director in a company or when a plurality ofdirectors also makes up the shareholders. Yet following a typical business cycle those businesses may have to scale up, and in doing so need an enlarged management team. Equally, a fledgling business may require investment or to source finance that may have to be secured or incentivized by way of issuing equity (shares). In these cases, and many more, the issue of regulation of business affairs will be acute.
The way to privately agree how a company should be managed and what form of procedure that management should follow is through a shareholders agreement. A shareholders agreement is a private contract between the owners of the business and the business itself. A shareholders agreement can be prepared by your corporate lawyer. The Company joins as a party to the contract to ensure the directors comply with the demands of the shareholders (to whom they are ultimately responsible for their stewardship of the business). Shareholders agreements provide a clear way to mitigate serious business risk and are an example of good governance and discharge of statutory responsibilities.
Discrepancies over expenditure, voting and dividends; ignorance of rights, obligations and liabilities; confidentiality; the power struggle over control and the ability to maximise share value are just some areas which could be regulated by the owners by using a shareholders agreement. Many of these issues have no Government default position and such uncertainty should be clear. For thosethat are provided for in the Government’s default documents, it is still advisable that these are approved on your agreed terms, not standard terms.
Copy published Monday 6 February 2012
Five forces are bearing on the legal market
Many sectors are waiting for a return to the heady heights of the naughties. The legal sector is not one. Five forces are bearing on the legal market ensuring the future holds something distinct from the past. This may be the very key for other sectors to pick up business, from lawyers!
Regent legislation is opening up the legal market for the first time. The deregulation of current business structures, permitted altered business structures and emerging alternative business structures means competition may not only come from cross-sector and/or cross-border enterprises but digitally cross-commerce. Correct marketing has never been so vital.
The volume of lawyers is on the up and outpacing the market. This factor is perhaps aggravated by the recent contraction of the economy and the loss of major sources of legal work. But dilution has brought in diversity and there is great opportunity to locate and secure top talent that align with specific business plan goals. Recruitment has never been so precise.
The internet is now in its mid-twenties, a responsible adult without governing oversight. The irreversible development and national competitiveness of IT infrastructure, increased data speed, availability of creative tools and mobile distribution has increased the affordable possibilities for all sizes of firms. IT, telecoms and the cloud are hot topics in achieving those goals.
Increased competition, increased practitioners, increased technology and internal capital pressures. Niche legal innovations are imperative to capture market share and profitability through better margins for volume business and emerging legal areas. Revisiting business plans and managing accounting is considered essential.
Technology is facilitating the emergence of true client centricity. In a digital world a customer can control which lawyer undertakes their work and dictate the terms on which they will do business. Such democratization will pressure legal firms to focus on specialist accreditations, standards compliance, investors in people, awards, training, corporate social experience, and education – a trueboom for such service providers.
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