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Showing posts with label Recession. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recession. Show all posts

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

JK Rowling on the benefits of failure

Happy New Year to everyone.

Sorry for being a bad blogger! It's 11th January and I am just getting round to my first post of the year. Even then I'm still catching up so it is a short one just to show you a video I came across today. I certainly found it both entertaining and inspiring - some of you may have seen it before.

In the current economic climate, I am sure that many of us might feel that we are failing in some way. In this video of her Harvard Commencement address from 2008, Harry Potter author, JK Rowling talks about how important failure was to her success.

I hope you enjoy.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Credit Crunch solved!

Well maybe not, but I had to share this entertaining story that was forwarded to me on a round-robin email. Apologies if you have seen it:

"It's a slow day in a little South Devon town. The sun is beating down,and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.  
On this particular day a rich tourist from up north is driving through town. He stops at the motel and lays a £100 in cash on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
As soon as the man walks upstairs, the owner grabs the notes and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the £100 and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer takes the £100 and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmer's Co-op takes the £100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her "services" on credit.
She rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.
The hotel proprietor then places the £100 back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.
At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the £100, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything.
However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the British Government is conducting business today."

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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Giving thanks in a recession

It's Thanksgiving today for our friends across the Atlantic and this made me think how little we take the time to be thankful.

It's easy to lose perspective if business is difficult, you are not sure if your job is safe and maybe the added financial pressure of Christmas approaching is causing genuine stress and worry, but we all have things to be thankful for.

Whether it be good friends, family or even just the fact that we are not starving and we have a roof over our heads, many around the world could show us why we should be grateful.

I for one am truly grateful for my amazing wife and children.

What have you to be thankful for?

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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Warren Buffett and Rudyard Kipling

I was just reading Warren Buffett's best investments on the BBC web site, giving an insight into why he invested in some of his biggest successes.

A theme that seemed to come through from pretty much all of them, and particularly his latest headline grabber, Goldman Sachs, reminded me of a line from a poem I remember from when I was a child and which I now read to my son:

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...."

Read it through again, here. It could be written for dealing with a credit crunch!

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Where to go when the banks say ‘NO’

by Glen Feechan

Although there are signs that the banks are gradually starting to lend again, it is not at anything like the levels business has been used to. I am sure many of you will be very aware of the lack of finance available from the banks even with a profitable business. What these same banks have done to the economy might bring you down too and they can’t take the risk!

Against this backdrop, I thought it might be worth looking to see if we can come up with some ways of accessing funds between us, without the banks’ help.

I have suggested a few routes to look at below, but I am keen that anyone should add their own ideas to the comments on the blog post so that we can all use this as a resource.

One of the more obvious routes is financing fixed assets you already hold, for example the refinance of properties and/or equipment/vehicles. Although finance is still tighter in these areas than it was, you may well have better luck than approaching the banks.

Another option along the same lines is to fund your debtors through factoring or invoice discounting. Due to the current climate you may not be able to fund as high a percentage as previously but this could be a very useful option.

If you are based in the UK, at FC Procurement we work with good suppliers in both of these areas, if you wish to explore the options.

Equity funding may be an option for some, maybe through business angels for smaller companies. However although funds are likely to be available, investors are looking for bargains and know they can get them.

For smaller businesses, short term loans from friends and family may be an option but think carefully, as if things don’t work out as planned you may damage a lot more than your credit rating.

One of the more innovative ways of accessing funds we have come across has now been used by a number of our owner-managed (UK) clients. It is now possible, under certain circumstances, to access personal pension funds to invest in private companies. A number of clients have used this method to access money tied up in pension funds from previous employers or in personal pension plans to invest cash in their own business.

This essentially brings a new equity investor into the business, without having to find one, allowing the long-term growth of the business to accrue to the owner for his/her retirement. This route may not be for everyone and you will need to talk to an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) to discuss whether it is the right route for you. If you want to know more, we work closely with an IFA with experience in this field and can introduce you. Just drop me an email ( or call on 0845 6439693.

These are just a few ideas, but please add your own in the comments below. Together we can get through whatever is to come.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Budget Day in the UK

Alistair Darling issues his most important budget today.

I would love to think he addresses the anomaly of an acute housing shortage and decimated construction firms with no work.

The UK has had a massive drop off in demand for the purchase of houses due to the credit crunch in the mortgage market, but still has a massive demand for housing (unlike the US, which has an oversupply of housing).

Surely the answer is to pay the construction companies to build council houses/social housing!

Good luck Alistair - going to need it!

What does everyone else want to see in the budget?

Friday, 17 April 2009

Ashton Kutcher and my 10 year-old: Why we should worry!

Two events this morning got me thinking about the future and what it will look like:
  1. Ashton Kutcher reached 1 million followers on Twitter, ahead of CNN;
  2. My 10 year-old son showed me the website he's built this week on his school holidays.

For those of you who don't know about Twitter, take a look at my earlier blog post, Twitter – What’s all the fuss about?

If we dig a bit deeper, these two seemingly unrelated events pose a stark threat (or wake-up call, depending on how you look at it) to those of us of a certain age (I'm 38).

Firstly, Ashton Kutcher, an actor, has become the first Twitter account to reach 1 million followers. CNN's breaking news account was looking like it would be the first to reach the million, and Mr. Kutcher laid down a challenge, among other things offering to buy 10,000 malaria nets for Africa if he got there first. CNN responded encouraging its TV viewers to log on and follow them. Even bringing out the big guns such as Larry King.

CNN has a team of staff updating its Twitter account, providing very valuable content, i.e. real-time updates of breaking news from one of the world's leading news networks. Ashton Kutcher updates his entirely on his own, with no additional resources beyond his PC, a mobile phone and a broadband connection.

Secondly, my son Ben, entirely on his own, has set up a website where he can post whatever he chooses (I'll be checking regularly). He got into Twitter last month.

What does all of this mean?

The world of communication is changing incredibly rapidly. One individual with a PC (granted he's a famous actor, but he's still one individual) can get his message out to the world and inspire a greater following than one of the world's biggest providers of "old-fashioned" communication.

A whole generation is coming through now that see these methods of communication as second-nature. They will be working in your business (and your competitors' businesses) very soon. They will also soon be your customer and suppliers.

Those of us in senior positions now - if we are still planning to be in the workforce in 20, or even 10 or 5 years time, need to sit up and take notice. The rules are changing, and we'll be dead in the water if we don't grasp the nettle now (a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get the point). Going into an economic recession can only accelerate the process - those organisations, and employees, that understand these technologies will be the ones that thrive, and keep their jobs. Those that don't will be the ones that fall by the wayside.

I don't want to finish on a negative note. We still have a head-start on this next generation - there is a great opportunity if we act now. If you haven't already, set up accounts on Twitter (takes 5 minutes), Facebook, Linkedin and the like. Have a dig around and see what you can learn. Right now, the combination of business experience alongside these skills makes you invaluable, but that won't be a differentiator in a few years' time when this generation gathers experience. See you in there.

The time to act is now!

Good luck in this brave new world.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Top 10 current concerns of CFOs/Finance Directors

Thank you to Cindy Kraft of for bringing this list to my attention.

The following is the top 10 current concerns of CFOs/Finance Directors according to the Duke-CFO Global Business Outlook Survey, Q1 2009, reproduced from a webcast available for download from

  1. Ability to forecast results
  2. Working capital management
  3. Maintaining morale/productivity
  4. Balance sheet weakness
  5. Attracting and retaining qualified employees
  6. Cost of health care
  7. Pension obligations
  8. Managing IT systems
  9. Supply chain risk
  10. Protection of intellectual property

Anyone have anything to add or disagree with the priorities?

I was surprised to see the absence of cost-cutting from the list!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The right mindset for dealing with a difficult economy

I came across this video on Youtube and thought it might be a useful boost to anyone who is finding things difficult at the moment:

I hope this has inspired you.

The easy way to cut your overheads (UK Companies)

The new FC Procurement website has been launched at

Here you can take advantage of savings from FC Procurement's wide range of suppliers at no cost, or risk, to you. An ideal way to beat the recession.

Simply register the spend categories in which you wish to save money and FC Procurement will endeavour to get you a saving (usually at least 10%, often greater). There is no charge for the service, and no obligation to follow the recommendations. If you like the saving offered, start using that supplier. FC Procurement are paid by the suppliers, ensuring that the service is entirely free to the client.

Take a look and see what you think.

Friday, 20 February 2009

SMEs turning to family in absence of bank credit

I have reproduced a press release below, that highlights just how the credit-crunch is affecting smaller businesses in the UK:


Confidence in ability to access bank lending drops from 73% to 6%

Over 540,000* SMEs across the UK are turning to family and friends for cash rather than the banks - six times as many as when polled in early 2008 - according to research from Close Invoice Finance, part of the FTSE 250 merchant banking group Close Brothers Group plc.

The survey of over 500 SME owners indicates they are having to rely on family and friends as bank funding dries up. Less than 6% of SMEs said they were confident their bank would extend them credit into 2009 compared to 73% of those polled last year.

David Thomson, Chief Executive Officer of Close Invoice Finance said: “The relationship between banks and SMEs has collapsed with severe repercussions for the sector as a whole. With banks now closing their doors to SMEs, owners are relying on friends and family for financial support, placing immense pressure on these most precious relationships.”

He continued: “As the recession takes hold, the adage ‘Cash is king’ has never been
so true. SMEs need to be far more creative in how they source working capital and deadly serious about tackling late payment.”

The central premise of invoice finance is that it allows companies to raise cash quickly and easily against their sales ledger, affording businesses a greater degree of
flexibility and control over their cash flow.

Despite the deterioration of the credit profile of many businesses, the fundamentals of factoring and invoice discounting haven’t changed. Close Invoice Finance is interested in the integrity of debt not the company balance sheet or rate of growth and therefore approach businesses in a very different way to traditional lenders who are focused on more obvious indicators of business success. Invoice finance can represent a lifeline to companies that have seen other forms of trade finance dry up.

Research findings are based on a survey of 505 UK SMEs commissioned by Close Invoice Finance and indexed against the findings of the first Small Business Finance Barometer completed in March 2008.

* Figure extrapolated from the BERR 2008 statistics that calculates 4.7million SMEs in total in the UK. Figures on the number of SMEs in the UK provided by Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Lean for Tough Times

For a view on how to deal with the recession from a lean manufacturing viewpoint, take a look at the following blog entry on Andrew Nicholson's excellent Manufacturing Times blog:

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Banks vs Property - a thought-provoking report

I just received a link to this free report from a property investment advisor whose mailing list I am on.

Clearly he has a particular inclination towards property investment, but I thought the report was worth sharing for its rather alarming summing up of the current crisis, and the state of the banks.

Have a look yourself at:

I'd appreciate any comments from any of you once you have read it.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Arrogance of banks

Has anyone else received a guide from their bank on surviving the recession? I received one this morning entitled "Trading through the Economic Downturn".

I was expecting some advice from the bank's own experience but I have scanned it from cover to cover and they seem to have kept the advice that really worked for them to themselves. As they seem inexplicably shy about revealing their best tip, I thought I had better do it for them:

The banks' real approach to trading through the downturn:

"Gamble everything to make sure you get your bonuses and then ask the taxpayer to bail you out."

Am I missing something?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Recession?......what recession?

by Les Hodgson of Next Level Financial Management

Now that we are officially in a world wide recession what should we be doing? If we listen to those that have just realised we are in recession we might think all we need do is hold on until things get better next year. But if they did not know the recession was coming until things were really bad, how do they know when things are going to get better?

We are also told the recession is world wide but the UK is better placed than other countries – so why is Sterling going down against the Dollar and the Euro?

While we need to listen to what the ‘experts’ are saying we also need to get on and make the best of the situation.

In stormy times cash is king, so close attention must be paid to making sure cash is closely controlled. Instead of the profit & loss being the primary focus, attention needs to be switched to cashflow. Key areas to look at include:
  • Accurate forecasting of cashflow on a monthly basis for 12 months and a daily basis for 8 to 10 week is essential. Performance against the daily forecast needs to be continually monitored and adjusted – this means looking at it every day.
  • Money from debtors needs to profiled and collections closely controlled – the telephone is the greatest weapon in the fight to get paid.
  • Credit terms and limits need to reviewed and applied rigorously. Tight credit control is crucial to the process – if customers do not pay on time or go beyond their credit limit - stop supplying immediately.

Cost control is also important and all costs must be closely scrutinised and suppliers changed where appropriate. If you are not already using the services of companies like

FC Procurement then you need to see what they are offering.

Rapid change and fast moving situations always throw up many opportunities – you need to spot these opportunities and be ready to grasp them. Having access to a pot of cash or access to capital is a great position to be in!

Areas to watch include:

  • Sterling weakness is an opportunity to look closely at overseas markets. A poor exchange rate makes UK goods and services cheaper for overseas buyers. There is a lot of help available from
UK Trade & Investment.
  • Companies are failing at an alarming rate and there are a lot of opportunities to purchase these businesses or their assets at a knock down price. Even if you do not have the cash, liquidators will often accept a phased purchase.
  • Review staffing levels and remuneration strategy. Uncertain times mean employees are more receptive to changes in pay and conditions, such as the ending of final salary pension schemes.When competitors are cutting back watch out for opportunities to capture their star players – they usually come with a lot of knowledge and new customers. Of course be wary of unsettling your own star players.

  • Well good luck going forward; hopefully things will improve sooner rather than later!

    Next Level Financial Management is a specialist Chartered Accountancy practice dedicated to turn round & rescue and VAT & PAYE arrears arrangements. Email or 0191 548 6000 / 07939 809 249.

    Thursday, 6 November 2008

    Will a 1.5% interest rate cut do the job?

    Today the Bank of England dropped its usual "steady as she goes" image to make a dramatic (and larger than anyone even asked for) rate cut to bring the Bank Base Rate down to 3%.

    But as Mervyn King bends over the twisted body of the British Economy, shouts "Clear!" and applies the defibrillator, will it be enough to restart its bruised and battered heart?

    If the rate is passed on (and quickly) to mortgage payers and businesses, it might just get people thinking that they can afford to go out and get some Christmas presents in, helping out the retail sector.

    Again, if rates are passed on, and the banks are prepared to lend (big ifs), this could be a great time for all of those first-time buyers who have not been able to afford to get on the housing ladder to take advantage of cheap house prices and low interest rates - giving a boost to the construction industry.

    Combined with a new president, and a new found optimism, in the US, maybe things won't be that bad after all.

    Or am I clutching at straws.

    What does everyone else think? Please leave a comment.

    Tuesday, 4 November 2008

    A new dawn....

    I have just finished watching the news, seeing the queues lining up to vote in the US election.

    It has become the norm for the rest of us around the world to criticise everything about the US, but something about this campaign seems to have reminded everyone of the dream of freedom and democracy that was its foundation.

    Every poll suggests that tomorrow morning we will wake up to the first black leader of the free world. At a time when the world is dropping into recession all eyes are turning to one man, desperately hoping that he will lead us to a bright new future. I can't help but wonder whether that is too much expectation for anyone - let's hope he's up to it!

    Monday, 13 October 2008

    Gordon’s Alive: Why is Gordon Brown leading the way in saving the world from the credit crunch, and what can we learn for our businesses?

    by Glen Feechan

    Remember the dim, distant days of September 2008, when Gordon Brown was almost universally unpopular, wasn’t expected to last the year in his role as Prime Minister and everything he touched seemed to go wrong.

    I am writing this on 13th October and Gordon’s plan to save the banks seems to be well-received by the markets and looks set to be followed by the rest of Europe and the US. The rest of the world seems to be turning to Gordon for advice and leadership on what to do about the crisis, weeks after his party didn’t even want him as leader.. What happened?

    Clearly Gordon Brown has far greater experience than his fellow world leaders in dealing with the financial markets, from his time as Chancellor, however, I don’t think this fully explains the turnaround in his fortunes. There are some aspects of the last few weeks that we can all learn from.
    Primarily, Gordon Brown didn’t panic. When bankers, the media and a large proportion of the general public sounded like Private Frazer from Dads’ Army – crying “we’re doomed!” – Gordon analysed the problem, and what he could do about it, and then got on with the job.

    Lessons from Gordon

    1. Don’t Panic
    This time it’s Corporal Jones from Dads’ Army. It is so easy to get swept away on the tide of hysteria and bring your business activity to a halt – not because customers are not buying, but because you have stopped making decisions for fear of making a bad one. It is imperative that we review our activity and decide what activities are important for moving the business forward, and make sure we continue doing them!

    2. Work on your Circle of Influence
    A useful model I often use, from the personal development field, is that of the “Circle of Influence” and the “Circle of Concern”. This model can apply to both individuals and businesses. Our Circle of Concern contains all of the things that concern us, that bother us. This circle is usually very large, and has recently become a lot larger for most people and businesses. Our Circle of Influence is a smaller circle, inside the Circle of Concern, which contains all of those things that we can influence.
    We all get dragged into our Circles of Concern, but the time we spend there is of no use, as we can’t change anything. As a result, our time and effectiveness is gobbled up by our worries, actually shrinking Circle of Influence.

    The good news though, is that if we spend our time in our Circle of Influence, we are not only a great deal more effective, but our Circle of Influence actually grows as we move forward, bringing things that were previously in our Circle of Concern under our control.

    So much of the global financial crisis is in our Circle of Concern and not in our Circle of Influence that this model is incredibly appropriate at this moment. Work out what is under your control and put all of your efforts into that. The worst case is that you still fail, however this effort will not have made things worse, whereas worrying about the things you can’t change very well might.

    3. Put it all in perspective
    Keep a clear head and remember what’s important. I bet if you were to list the top three most important things in your life, they would have nothing to do with the FTSE-100 or the banks’ liquidity, or even your house, car or job. Take some time to spend with your partner, your children, your friends or in nature. The credit-crunch threatens none of these, but worrying about it might!

    Here’s to a profitable next twelve months.

    Glen Feechan is Chief Executive of the Feechan Consulting group of companies and editor of Not Just Numbers. Email Glen at