Clients and Consultants: Venus and Mars?

Who knew? The key tasks or touch points that clients think are important for their advisers to do and what advisers think make their clients happy are very, very different. Worlds apart, in fact.
I was surprised by the results of the survey done by Jenny Sutton and The RFP Company. Jenny wrote a terrific book called "Extract Value from Your Consultants" - which sounds like a bad trip to the dentist, but if you are an adviser, this is the one book for your summer vacation - it has been a must-read in my office. Here's Jenny:
Earlier this year we conducted two surveys on the drivers of satisfaction when it comes to using consultants. One collected information from the users of consulting services, and the other from consultants themselves.
We were surprised at the massive difference between average client satisfaction and satisfaction as it is perceived by consultants. In addition, consultants and clients seem to have very different ideas about what the important factors are in creating a satisfactory outcome.
You can download a full copy of the report here.


Economist Article
In a recent article on the state of the consulting industry, The Economist  contacted Jenny for her thoughts!
“But increasingly, says Jenny Sutton of the Hong Kong-based RFP Company, clients are refusing to pay for junior staff’s on-the-job training. Instead, they are asking for fewer and better consultants and setting them to work alongside their own staff.”

How to build a business team for private equity - add an older woman

Start ups are like an intense marriage and choosing a woman 50+ to be a founding member, particularly if you are all males under 30, could be a savvy choice. “Get over the stereotype of mum with the cookie tray nagging about a messy room. At age 53, Arianna Huffington did a start up bloggers’ forum website called The Huffington Post which went on to get sold 6 years later to AOL for US$315 million.”
 “On BNN, The Pitch, we had a team of impressive young men, MBAs, pitching their online furniture business. I turned them down as the passion for profit was apparent, but for furniture, not so much. I had spent the weekend with a woman 50+ who had decorated her home using Kijiji. Now, if she had been part of the team with her online knowledge of competitors and experience shopping online, they would have got the thumbs up. She would have supplied that Tony Hsieh passion – the fellow who founded Zappos, the online shoe website. Investors bang their heads on the table saying repeatedly that the reason they invest is the founding team. If person fills a set of core skills, choosing an older woman would bring a slew of additional soft factors to comfort investors and get them to write a check. ”
If you are in your fourth or fifth decade (or even just thinking ahead), and still planning to make your millions, we have some inspiration for you. These fearless, foxy and over-40 women used their wisdom and savoir-faire to carve out their own places in the world — and were handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
1) Ursula Burns (Born 1958)
Early life: Joined Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern. She took time off to pursue her Master's Degree, but continued to work at Xerox's corporate office in various roles throughout her 20s.
The turning point: In 1990, a male senior executive at Xerox offered her a job as his executive assistant. No doubt, anyone might have thought of this as a dead end for career aspirations. However, Ursula took the job and then went on to climb the ladder of executive assistant-dom, working for the Chairman and CEO within a year. Finally, at the age of 41, she was appointed vice-president and then senior vice-president.
The breakthrough: Ursula worked closely with Xerox's first female CEO, Anne Mulcahy, and went on to succeed her as CEO in 2009. Ursula was 50 years old at the time.
Why we love her: The first woman to succeed another woman as CEO of a Fortune 500 company and become the first female African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Mostly, though, we admire Ursula's confidence in taking a job she probably felt was beneath her, while recognizing that she would use the opportunity to her great advantage.
2) Arianna Huffington (born 1950) 
Early life: Born in Greece and educated in England, Arianna wrote several books, magazine articles and was often a commentator on news talk shows. For many years however, her biggest claim to fame was as "wife-of" politician Michael Huffington, whom she divorced in 1997 at the age of 47.
The turning point: In 2003, she ran for the office of governor of California and lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger (insert your own joke here!). She needed a new focus and realized the future was the internet, so the 53-year-old launched Arianna On Line and became a pioneer among female internet bloggers. At the time, most internet bloggers were introverted males, but this did not deter her vision.
The breakthrough: In 2005, Arianna re-launched her site to become The Huffington Post. Known as HuffPost among its fans, the site rapidly became a forum for discussion on current events as well as a gathering place for bloggers. It grew to become one of the biggest media brands on the Internet. In February 2011, AOL acquired the site for US$315 million.
Why we love her: Arianna never shies away from an opinion or a debate and she encourages the same in others. At a TED Talk, Arianna gave her top advice for women who want to succeed - get more sleep!
3) Carolina Herrera (born 1939)
Early life: She grew up in Colombia, in a privileged family where she was not expected to work, and was married off at the age of 18. Though she had two daughters, the marriage did not last. She was the first person in her family to divorce and humbly moved back in with her parents. She married again, to the love of her life, a few years later and had another two daughters.
The turning point: While she had always loved fashion, Carolina had only worked briefly in the industry as a publicist for Emilio Pucci in the mid-1960s. At the age of 40, she decided to get serious about her passion. She thought about designing a line of fabrics, but was encouraged by a good friend to think bigger.
The breakthrough: Despite her family's skepticism, Carolina sketched 20 gowns and had a dressmaker in Caracas sew them. She carted them to New York and started showing them around. She was shocked when the orders started flying in. Unfortunately, she only had the samples and no plan for production. She returned to Caracas, found an investor and then in 1981 set up an atelier and showroom in New York under the brand Carolina Herrera Ltd.  She was 42 years old.
Why we love her: Carolina came from a traditional world where it was not looked upon favourably for a woman to have a job. She defied traditions and believed in herself, despite the shaking heads around her, and become an international success. Yet she retains her poise, grace and values. She never works late or on weekends and does not expect her staff to either. She says, "If it can't be done between 9 and 5, something is wrong."
4) Liz Claiborne (1929 - 2007)
Early life: On a family trip to New York City in 1951, Liz declared she was staying. The Belgian-born 21-year-old got out of the car and, with $50 from her father, went to stay with her grandmother. She found work with a clothing designer and for the next 20 years apprenticed with the New York fashion scene's finest.
The turning point: When her son reached the age of 18, Liz felt that if anything happened to her, he was now of an age where he could support himself. She decided the time was right to take a risk. She gathered up $50,000 of her own savings, plus $200,000 invested by friends, family and business associates.
The breakthrough: Liz launched her eponymous fashion line at the age of 47.  In the first year, she experienced sales of $2 million. Within two years, her profits were $23 million and she went public in 1981, making the Fortune 500 in 1986. Not only was this sweet recognition for the company's 10th anniversary, it was the first time that a company founded by a woman made the Fortune 500 list.
Why we love her: As a working mother, Liz was dialed in to the growing number of women in the workforce who needed practical yet stylish corporate clothes. She trusted her instincts and bided her time. Her rule of thumb was that she would never price her items higher than what she would be willing to pay and was known to pose as a sales clerk in order to get objective opinions from the women buying (or not buying!) her clothes.

Do you think innovation can be increased?

Revealed in Connected is that our social networks drive and shape our lives. You are impacted daily by the people around you.
Nick Christakis writes about how much money you make and even if you vote is all determined by your social network.
We are like flocks of birds or schools of fish making subtle changes from those around us. Unconsciously, we are led by those around us which is why you do want to join that expensive business club, or get the best university degree and go to the alumni events as much as possible or set up a meeting with someone who is far ahead of you.
I wrote in my book, The Power of Strategy, that if you hang around with the same golf buddies only, that you will not move beyond them. This book is a good read that confirmed to me the power of business clubs, university alumni events and conferences. Pick your networks and those with whom you share social networks. Make sure at least 20% of those people scare the heck out of you. Do one monthly event where you are uncomfortable. Change up your social group to get different life results.
Thank you to Rick Belcastro of EFG Canada. Rick is a wealth management specialist and is one of those people who knows how to network and socialize very well.

Top 5 annoying jargon for Private Equity

When reading a business plan, I concede that jargon words are used to simplify complex businesses. "Platform" or "solution" or  "best of breed" are common, but there are so many I hear on a daily basis that make me cringe - at the end of the day, we are all in this together. Let’s collectively pull on the rope, see if we can stretch the envelope, reach a higher plain, chase our dreams, grasp the nettle and take a bird’s eye view of our collective responsibilities. Let’s reach for the stars and remember there are no problems there are only opportunities, another day another opportunity. If we outsource and offshore nothing is beyond our grasp, pick the low hanging fruit, seize the moment and if you have to ask where we are going you aren't there yet - we definitely need a road map.
Here, we list the 5 words and phrases these executives would outlaw:
1. Reaching out
– Michael De Pencier, managing director, Investico
2. Downsizing
– John Loewen, private equity financier, Loewen and Partners
3. Underlying
– Martin McCourt, chief executive, Dyson
4. "Run this up the flagpole and see who salutes."
– Cathy Turner, group HR director, BMO
5. "Soft skills."
– Sandra Porter, HR director, Starbucks

A professional writer has a few words of his own that he sees as lazy. Maybe, this non-business writer can even give you a fresh perspective on your Twitter writing:

Words are the lifeblood of your writing. They’re what you use to build credibility or diminish it. Words matter. They’re what make your arguments more compelling, your prose stronger, and your craft more captivating. Untrained writers can be careless with their words. It takes discipline to use these tools well.
“Stuff” Stuff is a lazy word. Only use it sparingly when you’re intentionally trying to be informal. Instead, use a more descriptive noun.
“Things” Things is another lazy word. People often overuse it. While not always inappropriate, it also should be used on rare occasions.
Things is nondescript and can often be replaced with much better nouns, such as “reasons” or “elements” or “issues” and so on…
 
“Got” Got is a terrible verb. It mean obtaining something or as a helping verb like have. More often than not, got can usually go away.
Instead of saying “I got up”, say “I woke up.”
Instead of saying, “I got a baseball”, say, “I have a baseball”.

3 Reasons for business owners to listen to Rick Nathan

Recently, on BNN The Pitch, Andrew Bell asked a very good question about what private equity judges to be their most important reason to do a deal. Rick Nathan answered. Now Rick runs Kensington, one of Canada's best funds, and he built the CVCA, so we are talking about a deep experience of great partnerships with business owners. Anyone watching the show, deep down in their bones, would also have known the answer.
Quite simply, it is the people.
Early stage owners nod their heads - I'm a good guy, my golf buddies like a beer with me after a game.
Well, that was not Rick means. He judges their business readiness. Rick tends to focus his questions on The Pitch around these three points:

  1. What have they accomplished in the past? 
  2. What networks do they operate within - is there a top level adviser involved? 
  3. How much business acumen is in their team and are they to really grow their business? Have they really analysed their competition and how they can build a niche market and expand from there.

To give Rick's focus on the people a bit of meaning, let me run through a personal example that happened to me after The Pitch went on air. I got a call from an entrepreneur who had a product and wanted help. As I gently probed, he revealed that he had not even drafted one page of information about his concept, did not have any social media accounts where we could connect, was still using hotmail for his email and did not even have a professional signature line in his email where you have a phone number and your name in full.
Why bother phoning then? Why not just chat to your golf buddy? How am I going to take a few minutes to help someone not in my client segment? I enjoy helping but if there is nothing for me to email to someone else, then there is not a starting point.
I also asked if he would go on The Pitch to just even discuss his business idea, but that was a damp squid too.
To all those entrepreneurs, to get Rick Nathan to help you, have a full business plan, a full PowerPoint deck. At least read one book on how to attract money. An easy book that is popular with the BDC and the VCs, a go-to-guide as you develop a business, is Money Magnet. Otherwise, browse the Internet.
At least set up a Twitter account.

Jacoline Loewen is an expert in private equity and you can see her on BNN The Pitch

More companies come off the stock exchanges - thank goodness


Reading about the 2008 crash is interesting as all the signs were visible. There were certainly steps that could have been taken before 2008. 
Getting the financial analysts off the backs of the corporations, for example. 
It was almost as if companies were being managed from the offices of such people, who insisted on major changes with barely any knowledge of what really went on in these massive enterprises, let alone caring about their long-term future. More companies could have come off the stock exchanges, or never have gone on to them in the first place. There were other, more patient and sensible ways to finance enterprises.
Private equity, for example.
The game changer is private equity. My favourite money people act as a mini bank but who deal with flesh and blood people. This private equity actually looks for company owners who treat their customers as worthwhile serving repeatedly for many, many years. The best private equity are owners themselves and tend to take a non control position and let the owners get on with serving their clients.

5 Questions you need to answer if you go on BNN "The Pitch"

This Wednesday, I am on BNN, The Pitch with realSociable and BuyandBrag.
Many entrepreneurs ask me about going on the show and I would encourage it strongly. Think of it as marketing and what an audience to reach for free.
THE PITCH – SHOW DETAILS
BNN asks each potential entrepreneur to create a well-organized, one or two-page handout that includes your business name, your name, position, contact info, summary of your business plan and a brief bio.
We also ask that you answer the following questions:
  1. The ask - how much $ do you need and what will it be used for?
  2. Who are your competitors and why are you going to be a market leader?
  3. What is the overall market potential for your business/product?
  4. What is your bench strength (i.e. mgmt)?
  5. What is your cost structure / technology advantage?

The 3 Planes of Managing

Basically, managing is about influencing action. 
Managing is about helping organizations and units to get things done, which means action. Sometimes managers manage actions directly. They fight fires. They manage projects. They negotiate contracts. 
One step removed, they manage people. Managers deal with people who take the action, so they motivate them and they build teams and they enhance the culture and train them and do things to get people to take more effective actions.
And two steps removed from that, managers manage information to drive people to take
action—through budgets and objectives and delegating tasks and designing organization
structure and all those sorts of things.
Today I think we have much too much managing through information. Henry Mintzberg calls this "deeming." In other words, people sit in their offices and think they're very clever because they deem that you will increase sales by 10%, or out the door you go. Mintzberg says:
Well, I can do that. My granddaughter could do that; she's four. It doesn't take genius to say: Increase sales or out you go. That's the worst of managing through information.

Why Canadian family owned businesses should check out Private Equity - Monica Gutschi, Dow Jones Newswires

Bringing in a private-equity partner can be an excellent exit strategy for a small-business owner, but it does hold risks.
   "You want to make sure that you're going in with the right private-equity fund," says Jacoline Loewen of corporate finance firm Loewen & Partners. A air-tight contract drawn up by a top-notch lawyer is also key.
   The ability to access private equity is relatively new for Canadian entrepreneurs. A decade ago, private equity wouldn't have looked at a company with less than C$100 million in annual revenue, Loewen said.
   Now, however, the huge flows of money that have gone into private equity are looking for a home, and companies with  C$20 million in yearly revenue can attract a private-equity partner, she says. The benefits can be substantial, especially for business owners who are planning to sell or pass on their businesses in about five years.
   Most private-equity investments in such small and mid-sized businesses are for a five-year term and give the investor a 30% stake, Loewen says. The principals behind private-equity funds are usually entrepreneurs themselves, who have walked the same road as the business owners, she says. They can take that experience to cut costs, implement a benchmarking strategy, and set a timetable for milestones.
   That can greatly boost the value of the business, putting the owner in a much better position when he or she decides to move on.
     Take the example of Hamilton, Ont.-based Bermingham Foundation Solutions, a family business run by the founder's grandson. Loewen matched Bermingham with a private-equity investor that put C$14 million into the company, money the owner then took to build out his international capabilities. The deal also included a cash payout, which was invested in a retirement fund for the owner's spouse. A few years later, Loewen says, Bermingham's enterprise value has grown fivefold, the owner has an established export business, and he has bought out his private-equity partners.
   "It's still a family business," Loewen says, but it is worth substantially more, and the owner continues to have options for his eventual exit: pass the business on to his children, place the business in a trust, sell the business but retain some shares as a portfolio investment.
   The appeal of private equity appears to be growing. A recent survey into Canadian family-owned businesses by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that fewer than half the owners plan to pass the business on to the next generation, a drop from 70% in 2007. Meanwhile, of those who do anticipate a change of ownership, 33% plan to sell to a private-equity investor, up from 14% in 2007. By comparison, 22% plan to sell to a management team, PwC found.
   There are risks in joining up with private equity. The process can be rather frightening for the owners, Loewen acknowledges. That's what makes it important to choose the right partner. "Once they get in they may do the things you don't want them to do," Loewen says. Indeed, she notes, a recent study by global consulting firm McKinsey showsthat business owners' fears about a deal going wrong is well-founded, as only 20% of private-equity funds are actually posting gains. But with a well-written contract that provides the most flexibility to the business owner, if a deal goes sour, "you get a divorce," she says.
    But in a well-structured deal such as the Bermingham case, the influx of funds and corporate expertise marks a turning point for the business.
   Most Canadian family-owned businesses "could do with more measurement," Loewen notes. Once the new investors "know the drivers that make company grow, these tiny little levers turn the ship."
   With private-equity investments, the business owners continue to run the business but obtain the professional advice of an independent board of directors. As well, she says, many owners of family businesses know a great deal about their products, but perhaps not so much about the financial and operating aspects of the business.
   -By Monica Gutschi, Dow Jones Newswires; 416-306-2017; monica.gutschi@dowjones.com
    TALK BACK: We invite readers to send us comments on this or other financial news topics. Please email us at TalkbackAmericas@dowjones.com. Readers should include their full names, work or home addresses and telephone numbers for verification purposes. We reserve the right to edit and publish your comments along with your name; we reserve the right not to publish reader comments.
 Dow Jones Newswires

The great myth is the manager as orchestra conductor.

Peter Drucker said the manager is both composer and conductor. It's very grand and
glorious, but Henry Mintzberg thinks it's a myth. It's this idea of standing on a pedestal and you wave your baton and accounting comes in, and you wave it somewhere else and marketing chimes in with accounting, and they all sound very glorious. But management is more like orchestra conducting during rehearsals, when everything is going wrong. Mintzberg researched the manager in his latest book and says:
Then there are all these lists of the qualities of the effective manager. So I said, well, for the sake of a better world, here's a comprehensive list of the qualities of an effective manager, combined from all the lists—and there are 50 or so items on it! Put kryptonite on the list, and even Superman wouldn't succeed as a manager.
So I talk about what I call "the inevitably flawed manager." We're all flawed, but basically, effective managers are people whose flaws are not fatal under the circumstances. 
Maybe the best managers are simply ordinary, healthy people who aren't too screwed up.

Doesn't anybody deserve a government that works?

What if TV political pundits decided to be positive rather than their favourite way - mocking and mean. Oprah took a different path to her talk show competitors who were going for the mean and nasty shows. Before you roll your eyes over Oprah, she a is a billionaire. Taking the positive path to push better management has always been Henry Mintzberg's strength. Here he gives his take on the nasty attitude to government in the US. I did not know the military leadership story. See what you think - here's Henry:
"Doesn't anybody deserve a government that works?" Lou Dobbs asked this over and over again in an advertisement on CNN. The answer is yes, Mr. Dobbs, for anybody who respects government and is not so quick to put it down. We get the government we deserve. 
If we vote for empty promises, we should expect empty actions. If we vote out of anger, we will find ourselves with angry politicians who are mean. If we expect little from government, in the belief that it is rotten, then they should not be surprised to get rotten government that does little. And vice versa.
Americans don't much believe in government. Many think it incapable of doing most everything. (Ronald Reagan, as U.S. President, claimed that "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are 'Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help!'" He, of course, was there to help.) As a consequence, many capable people hesitate to work for government, while some who do function under a cloud of inadequacy. Hence there is a lot of inept government in America, which of course only makes people even more suspicious of government. If ever there was a self-fulfilling prophecy, this is it. And that, of course, plays into the hands of corporate executives and others that don't want to be bothered by government.
I was at a dinner party in Virginia recently, where people were railing against government. I got nowhere trying to make the case that they need government, let alone better government, so I asked: "How about the military? Do you respect that?" Sure, came the reply. "But is that not government?" ("here to help," I might have added) Hm... they never thought about that. In the great condemnation of American government, the military is somehow exempt. It is perceived as highly competent; in fact, it is revered by many Americans. Two of the most vociferous people at that party were retired from the military, which means that their salaries before and their pensions since have come straight from the government -- from the taxpayers. Surprise! 
Now if so much in American government is so bad, then the public service has to be marginalized: its top ranks, several layers into each department, have to be reserved for political appointees, ostensibly to keep those civil servants in their place. For example, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was headed in the George W. Bush administration by a good Republican who had previously been supervising the judges of horse shows. He presided over the debacle in New Orleans. (Contrast this with the recent effort in Chile to save those miners: it was orchestrated by government.) Bush's Secretary of the Army was a businessman who announced on arrival that he was going to bring in "sound business practice." He came from Enron.
In the military, however, political appointments are taboo. The generals -- one, two, three, and four stars -- are not removed en mass every time there's a new government. But why not? Shouldn't they too be replaced by people who ran horse shows and failing companies?
"We can't do that," came the reply at the party. After all, the military is so important, the experience of the generals so critical. Unlike education? Health care? Emergency relief?
In Canada, we believe in government. As soon as a serious problem arises, most of us expect the government to deal with it. One consequence of this is that we too get the government we deserve, at least at the civil service level: competent. Not faultless, but is business faultless? Over the years, I have been struck time and again by how thoughtful, concerned, and capable are so many of the senior civil servants I have met in Ottawa.
We barely have political appointments in Canada. The "deputy ministers," who report directly to the ministers and advise them as well as run the departments, are usually career civil servants, or else people appointed for their competencies, not their connections. And so too are the people who report to them.

To appreciate how Canadians feel about government, consider this. In 2004, CBC television (itself government owned, with a radio network that has to be one of the best in the world) held a contest to elect "the greatest Canadian". And the winner: Tommy Douglas. If you are an American who has never heard of Tommy Douglas, don't worry: he is hardly a household name in America. If CBS ran such a contest, with Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson the likely winner, believe me, we would know those names in Canada. We could have picked Wayne Gretsky or Pierre Elliott Trudeau -- you probably heard of them. But we picked Tommy Douglas. Who is he?
Tommy Douglas's highest post in life was the leadership of a marginal opposition party in the Canadian parliament, and before that, the premiership of the province of Saskatchewan (population at the time: less than a million). He was obviously chosen for another reason: Tommy Douglas was the father of Medicare, Canada's system of health care that covers all medical and hospital costs for every Canadian, with the money coming straight out of general taxation.
Douglas brought Medicare to Saskatchewan in 1961, against the fierce opposition of the American Medical Association, which saw it as a foothold for socialized health care in North America. And then in federal politics in 1966, he led his party to vote with the minority Liberal government to pass Medicare for the entire country.
When Americans debate changes in their system of health care, as they do regularly, the opponents point to Canadian Medicare as a disaster. So why do Canadians think so highly of Tommy Douglas? Because Canadian Medicare is not a disaster at all: health care in Canada costs much less than it does in the United States while its outcomes are consistently better. (The two countries had comparable costs before Medicare came to Canada.)
Of course, we never stop complaining about our health care services in Canada. But neither do people in every country I have ever visited. A few years ago, after listening to some Italians in this field go on and on about their health care, I asked "So how did Italy come out in the last WHO rankings?" Their reply: "Oh, second best in the world." Apparently second best is not good enough.
In fact, anything to do with health care is never good enough. At a party in Montreal, a young physician was going on and on about the dire state of health care in Quebec. Finally I interrupted her and asked: "You did your residency in the U.S. What about that?" She threw her hands in the air and blurted out: "Don't get me started on the American system!" Paraphrasing Churchill, I guess Canada has the worst health care system in North America -- except for all the alternatives.
There are, however, bright spots in American health care. One is the Veterans Administration. There you go again -- government. Michael Porter, Harvard Business School's strategy star, has co-authored a popular article and book about redefining health care in America. On government-controlled regulations, the book states that it is "never a real solution" (2006: 382); on the unsatisfactory performance of American health care over many years, it claims that "while this may be expected in a state-controlled sector, it is nearly unimaginable in a competitive market" (2004: 21). How about the opposite, Professor Porter -- a few facts? There was not a mention at this place in the book about the Veterans Administration (although a search in its index revealed three brief references to it elsewhere, two of them favorable, the third neutral).
Most Canadians revere Medicare as a pillar of the country's collective democracy, much as Americans revere business as a pillar of the country's individualistic democracy. But in a world that requires a decent if not dominant public sector, it is the Americans who get the government they deserve, not the one they need.
Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University