06 11 2012
Although annual inflation had dropped to its lowest in 3 years at under 3%, Inflation and Productivity research by the Forum of Private Business’s (FPB) showed, from those who took part in the referendum survey, inflation was running at 6%-7%, with the most common increase in costs for SME’s being energy. Also citing fuel and energy costs as a sector challenge, the construction industry saw a fractionally higher output in the Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index Mark/CIPS with a figure that only just separated growth from contraction. Residential building activity showed as being the weakest performing sub-sector, with commercial activity also showing a drop.
According to Zoopla figures for the last 12 months, the value of the average home in Britain has risen by £3,373: the Independent shows the average home value as £226,369 and property prices in London continuing to rise. Changes to mortgage lending regulations which intensify scrutiny of the borrower’s ability to pay have been put back from 2013 to 2014, whilst research, published by Cluttons, shows rents expected to rise significantly over the next ten years in the Capital, will not be matched by a rise in supply - therefore prices and rent will be pushed upwards in an area which already has the highest concentration of renters in the UK.
Not alone in wanting to see the evidence used for the postponement decision in the Revaluation of Business Rates, are The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also wants the scrapping of inflation based increases. As companies will have to pay rates based on property rents in 2008 (near peak evaluations) until 2018, they face hikes of over 2% next year. Every 5 years, the way bills are calculated is revised by the Valuation Office Agency, The Growth and Infrastructure Bill (clause 22) includes postponing the next business revaluation until 2017. With some commercial property values having fallen significantly since pre-recession any business rate fixture not relevant to current values could be hard hit – some potentially facing higher rates than rent.
Whilst there are now around 30 institutions taking part in BofE’s Funding for Lending which gives access to cheap funding; with the proviso of growing net lending into the economy Supply Chain Finance (SCF) a cashflow scheme has been announced. Based on the strength of large companies i.e. Vodafone / Rolls-Royce / Tesco, credit ratings notifying suppliers’ banks that invoices have been cleared for payment, those suppliers can then arrange for their banks to give them 100% advance of the money they are scheduled to receive. With a £20bn target set, the Government intends to implement this amongst its suppliers, starting with the Community Pharmacies in England and their 80 million monthly NHS prescription items.
Another month with no hanging-around in business, including for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who, having some building work done, spent £10,000 re-stuffing an old snake and taking care of their assets.
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012
15 10 2012
The man ‘flu hasn’t receded: meaning I’ve been at the receiving end of quite a few ‘told you so!’ from those near and (increasingly) not-so-dear as they remind me of their fore warnings – ‘It’s colder out there than it looks’, ‘keeping those wet socks on won’t help’, ‘feed a cold, starve a flu… where does it say drink plenty of whisky?’
Basically I’m being told I’ve been a fool to mess about on the river for an inclement day, when I’d managed to get a boot full of water before I even set off… and now I’m paying the price twice; once with the persistent cold symptoms and once by the annoying ‘told you so’.
I haven’t had my flu jab… is more likely the reason. It might be more opportune as a lone voice, or fighting conventional wisdom to be able crow ‘I told you so’ – like to those I’d warned to look at their metrics – but they’re managing to keep warm, out in the cold, fighting fires, trying to breathe new life into something that has clearly gone…. and I can’t be bothered because I’m sick…. of people saying ‘told you so!’
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012
21 09 2012
To avoid future bailouts at taxpayers’ expense, the splitting-up of major European banks debate continues considering the separation of high-risk investment banking and other bank operations: similar to the Vickers Commission (London) aim, in separating capital market transactions from banking activity (lending and deposits).
Since 2008, the familiar phrase ‘too big to fail’ banks, has ensured that four years down the line countries are running out of resources and the public are enlightened enough to want to know where their public contributions are being placed. Creating splits between the banking types seems to have two arguements; should there be any future problems being split, they’re easier to be dealt with, whilst the counter argument is, it was the specialised banks which instigated the problems in 2008 and the universal banks were stable.
Complex problems require comprehensive explanation.
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012
13 09 2012
In the hope of making something tasty for the economy to feast upon, one can only imagine the conversations that occurred during the process of creating something that has a bit of everything thrown in.
If ever there was evidence needed of Thick of It goings on in Mr Osborne’s department, the announcement of plans for a Government-backed ‘business bank’, to increase lending to UK companies, might be it.
”Vee’re-a gueeng tu meke-a bunk?”, Mr O might have said, in a `Muppet-style Swedish Chef ‘ dialect to spice-up incomprehensible ideas because they’re rarely understood. “Well we have tried, and we come up with jolly good names, remember Project Merlin?”, the advisers would encourage. “Tag of ‘bank’ can’t do any harm. Tho, make it different from the credit schemes before; this time instead of giving tax-payers’ money directly to the banks for them to lend it back out, we could pass the loan applicants to the banks”. “T- meke-a decishun. Eff’en it’s a ‘no’, business bank will make a decishun….. Eff’en its a ‘no’, it will be passed out-a agin” he might have continued. “Boot its nut reelly a bunk”, he’d confirm.
“Jolly good name tho’ : Business Bank, it could be run with a purpose, just like a business”. After some thought he might have responded, “Yuoo meun Bunkroopt?”. The advisers overlooked what he’d said. ”Indeed, in a speech delivered at Imperial College, London, Vince Cable called for the Government to be ‘more like a business’ by making strategic plans and sticking to them”. “I hefe-a a plun…. und I’m steecking tu it!” “Exactly! Perfect strategy sir, keep things moving. Err, would now be a good time to pencil in a discussion about direction?”
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012
10 09 2012
Being recognised as a caring, sharing company sounds better for business – It conjures up images of a big family ready to embrace you in their circle of products and services as they go about their daily activity of focusing on profit. Interesting then to read an email sent to me with editorial-type articles – Including one from the MD of a major high street bank: quoting Churchill, pessimism and optimism, glasses half-full and half-empty…. and then a nifty self-promo of their product, along with the usual numbers-without-facts; Or rigorous statistical analysis or data. Which can, to some, be impressive stuff, things `getting better’, `enhanced services and offerings’ – These guys know where they’re coming from.
But it’s a bit disingenuous for a bank, at the centre of some major questioning about its own activities and context to be quoting Churchill out of context. For me, that leaves more Unsaid than said – and what was said wouldn’t make a jot of difference to many people applying to them for funding – zilch, nothing – the cupboard can still be empty. Many would say it’s impressive that such a high street bank is encouraging the small business to approach them, they like the sound of things going back to ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ meant before things changed.
Before the financial crisis there were small enterprises going about their business, holding tightly to the notion of value and doing the right thing. Before the financial crisis there were banks doing what banks did then, and still do now; Delivering for themselves.
Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012.
04 09 2012
The Business Equivalent of Lactic Acid – Am I Bothered?
It would be too simple to blame the Olympics, too easy to blame the holiday period and too British to blame the weather for absorbing business focus. But, without wanting to sound like a easily forgettable Award speech that lists the team involved – amongst the landlords, property developers, retailers, publicans, pharmacists, beauticians, hairdressers, builders, decorators, artists and others I’ve worked with (….almost forgot the portable toilet developer), I’ve never met a time before when “Can’t Be Bothered”, as an attitude, has been so disturbingly prevalent across so many different sectors and markets. The polarisation between virtually audible sighs and animated attitudes, laughable excuse and insightful reasoning is striking.
There are those whose business holds their attention and they want to fight for its long term existence and those who neglect it until annual account check when the fading pulse is obvious in the statement and returns.
Maybe it’s Clarkson-esque to make a sweeping statement and assert the character traits of those in business without delving further into their individual circumstances but, on this occasion, highlighting the inertia-busting characteristics of the Can Be, won’t be deflected by an ‘ but you don’t understand’, or ‘ it’s different for them ’ because, in my experience, there are few with the common denominator of being their own boss who can be sieved through into the Can Be bothered from the Can’t Be bothered: no matter the circumstances, we’re all in charge of our own attitudes.
Those who understand the need to spend their money to benefit their business before they can tweek any model definition and focus on their customer base already review the balance sheets, keep the files updated, monitor financial reports, use cash forecasts, know their margins – the Can Be Bothered. They’re doing it, no procrastination for them, they understand business’s equivalent of lactic acid.
Can’t Be is unlikely to change: the MD of an independent lender who procrastinated for eight weeks in response to my concerns about misleading behaviour from one of its directors, the pharmacist who wanted a unique solution for business wavered for six weeks and couldn’t be bothered to implement the small amount of energy needed to implement it, pension-pot landlord who needed answers and wannabe property developer who sought guidance both picked my brains and all illustrated that Can’t Be could be a blueprint for the white-lie easy way to take out but not put in. They’re the mini-me of the greater culture of lying: politicians do it, banks do it, CEO’s do it, marketplaces do it, in our social lives sports people do it, celebrities do it, the ad-men sell it, – There would seem to be little incentive to behave differently. We all, to some extent or another, do it, attitude determines to what extent and purpose we are a Can Be or Can’t Be.
‘Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it’ – Lou Holtz.
It’s the way of the small independent in business – different business characteristics, run in different conditions, with different routines and different regulations; and so then the architect who went out of his way for wannabe property developer, the small enterprise owner managers who understand that to explore an idea doesn’t mean dirty tricks in the mix, our web/internet guy who reacts quicker than internet connection speed, the non-arrogant accountants who return calls, and the MD’s who lead their directors in accurate advice, are all their own Can Be bosses: As are the lender managers who gave time to pension-pot landlord and the manager willing to drive out on a second lengthy trip to reassure a small business owner.
Can’t Be seems to have a prominent feature; it’s from a culture of things coming easy, in which it’s easy to let things go. And it’s interesting to observe Can’t Be in moments of realisation, the finger of blame is pointed, weapon style, usually toward another Can’t Be in a type of Mexican stand-off, because they can’t be bothered to shoot first.
Weakness of attitude becomes the weakness of character – Albert Einstein.
Image credit: The Mad LOL Scientist Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012
13 08 2012
The storage boxes held the detritus of family shifts and changes, much had gone to charity shops but there were several pieces that had been hanging about the corners of the garage, which ‘collectors’ might appreciate. “Head off to a car boot”, was the suggestion put forward to me: a business area that I know nothing about – and how quickly I was made aware of being a novice.
I would be well organised, managing my ‘stock’ – all the prep had been done - an organised site chosen, each toy type had been separated, price label allotted and readied to be brought out for viewing. I could imagine myself whiling away a couple of hours, relaxing and chatting with my customers in between taking in an opportunity to work outside.
No one warned me about the descent of dealers, ‘Any gold or silver? Records? Got any ……?’ The list went on as they pulled at the boxes and opened lids manically. Those that didn’t want ‘vintage’ toys moved on, leaving a combination of mostly men fighting worse than four year olds. Metal farm vehicles were put into bags before they’d been purchased, Schleich dinosaurs were tipped into the box of non-marked dinos and distractions from hagglers meant some managed to walk away without paying.
Deviant dealers cutting into my profits, having to keep track of my (small amount) of stock that was in effect right in front of my eyes! If my experience is marginally similar to this type of market trader’s regular experience, this is one trader who gets a tip of the hat.
Image credit: Dominics Pics Article credit: Copyright SUF
08 08 2012
This was a character who understood that every aspect of business processes has its complications; he dealt in facts…. not opinions.
‘Earlier this year we had some trouble with seahorses’ – so went a line in a weekend read about the trials and tribulations of a chef who was having difficulty getting kosher certification ‘it’s a tough business – tougher than the pharmaceuticals business’.
This guy was talking about examining Nori, the seaweed around Sushi. Seahorses aren’t kosher (neither are Shrimps and Eels and Octopus and Squid) and he’d found Seahorse infestation. He went on… ‘Only fish with scales and fins are kosher. But not all fish with fins and scales – sometimes what you think are scales are in fact in fact bony protrusions – bony protrusions do not qualify as scales’.
His business partner asked him ‘What are we left with?’
Halibut, Salmon, Red Snapper, Mackerel, Mahi-Maho, Tuna…. but…. only certain kinds of Tuna.
(Image credit: Oscar Alexander Article credit: Copyright SUF 2012)