Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple

euan-sempleYesterday evening the British Library hosted a book launch for Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web by Euan Semple.

Instead of a speech, Euan was interviewed by Richard Sambrook a friend and college from their days together at the BBC.

Here are my notes from the evening followed by my selections from Euan’s book:

  • The development of the internet and social media present a unique opportunity for social change – Euan considers this a phase change in society.
  • Euan wanted to be part of that change for his children’s sake.
  • He felt that when he was at the BBC, the World Service was a role model for the rest of the organisation. There people rubbed along together from all departments and levels sharing information. Other parts of the BBC were much more hierarchical and stuck in their silos.
  • A lot of the use of early collaboration technologies were simple tools to help people find out answers to simple questions, such as ‘does anyone know a fixer in Poland’, or ‘how do you claim for petrol expenses’.
  • On a wider level introducing these collaborative tools helped to create a shared understanding of corporate issues.
  • Euan recognises that the control issues for social media for many organisations such as law firms are non-trivial, but he believes they will get there eventually.
  • Finding your own ‘authentic voice’ through blogging is so much more valuable than writing endless management reports written in “management bollocks”, to a set formula,  which no one actually reads.
  • Euan describes his idealised vision of future corporations as ephemeral meritocracies.
  • He wonders if it is unreasonable to expect people to be able to, or want to have their own voice. And thinks that education and corporate structures have led to many thinking they don’t. But he believes that ultimately everyone wants to have a say in their lives.
  • The barriers to social media are not about age, but about open versus closed approaches to the world.
  • He believes the internet and social media is the next big story after 18th century religion, early 20th century fascism and communism, and late 20th century capitalism.

The tweets from the event have been Storified here.

A more detailed summary from the Strange Attractor blog by Suw Charman-Anderson.

Book coverReview of Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do

The book comes in 45 Bite sized chapters, each with introductions and summaries. And in fact each chapter can be purchased individually in electronic format. Euan’s idea is to make it as easy as possible to spread the message to those who remain unconvinced by the benefits of social media.

An essential read for anyone with a connection to social media in the workplace (which means everyone), it is very wide ranging, quite philosophical at times, and always passionately personal.

Euan makes a strong case for the democratising benefits of adopting  social media and collaborative tools.

However, my experience of both successes and failures to introduce these technologies in various workplaces, makes me think that Euan is somewhat naïvely optimistic (an accusation he is aware of, and attempts to address several times in the book).

He ended the engaging question and answer session by saying he thinks it will take up to fifty years for the change to fully occur, and this strikes me as more realistic.

Here are my highlights from reading the book:

What is the book for? It is not a “how to” book nor, I hope, is it cyber-utopian vision of the future….I prefer to think of it as a collection of ideas that… can make the web more understandable and useful in the world of work.

Growing up onlineWe will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions. I am not naïve. I know that, at least to begin with, truly thinking for yourself and saying what you think with any degree of authenticity is a big ask. It may never happen for many people. There may just be too much at stake and too much to take into account for a politician or someone in a corporate setting to really be authentic.

Don’t let the techies ruin the party…keep things out of the hands of technologists as much as possible. Some of them aren’t so bad, and some of them are re-inventing themselves…if there is a single biggest block to making social media happen encountered by my clients in large organizations it is with their IT department.

Ten steps to success with technology:

  1. Have a variety of tools rather than a single system.
  2. Don’t have a clear idea where you are headed.
  3. Follow the energy.
  4. Be strategically tactical.
  5. Keep moving, stay in touch, and head for the high ground.
  6. Build networks of people who care.
  7. Be obsessively interested.
  8. Use the tools to manage the tools. E.G. Blog about blogging in your organisation.
  9. Laugh when things go wrong.
  10. Unleash the Trojan Mice. Don’t do big things or spend loads of money. Set small, nimble things running and see where they head.

Anarchy versus controlSomeone once called me “an organizational anarchist” and I have to admit I was quite chuffed at the description and took it as a compliment…. What I am talking about here is not complete free reign for individuals … I am more interested in the possibility  of all of us taking full responsibility for ourselves and those around us – the ultimate in democracy.

How about moving democracy inside the firewall instead of outside it?

Bosses who don’t get itIf you can’t get support from your boss, see if you can get support from their peers. Find senior people who get what you are trying to do and enlist their support … Keep talking to them in their language about what you are doing and why – even if they occasionally glaze over!

Collaboration and trustThere is a lot of “collaboration software” out there that is really just the same stuff that failed to deliver data management, information management, knowledge management  and is now failing to deliver collaboration. In fact a lot of the tools labelled as collaboration tools actually work against effective collaboration.

Blurring work boundariesThe blurring of the inside and outside raises issues both for us as individuals and organizations we work for. For us it means that we have to take more responsibility for whatever lines we draw between work and non-work.

PR and marketing under threatI believe that marketing and PR are professions at real risk of disintermediation by the web. We will need people to do our marketing for us less and less as we use the tools in everyday work and start to have more effective conversations between ourselves and our customers.
Help your staff to become your best advocates. Give them the tools and the insights to become your ambassadors online.

The Return on Investment of social media – … I am becoming more robust about the ROI question and turning it back on those who ask it. What is the ROI of the way we do things now? … Where is the competitive advantage in preventing staff from using these tools to build and maintain the networks that develop their knowledge and their ability to get things done. Where is the competitive advantage in allowing your competitors to embrace these changes before you do and potentially re-inventing the industry you are so rigidly clinging to?

Online indiscretionsMuch has been made about recruitment teams searching Facebook and LinkedIn to find prospective candidates and the damage supposedly done by online indiscretions. In some ways this is an anachronistic attitude coming from people who don’t themselves engage online. People are becoming much more robust and open in their online lives. Besides, what is so awful about these supposed indiscretions? Rather than worrying about photos of potential recruits drunk at parties, I would be more worried about people who appeared to have something to hide. In fact I would be less likely to employ someone who hadn’t been indiscreet as a student!

Deal with management fearsOnline …You can’t hide behind your status or your pomposity. In fact being remote and pompous will severely inhibit your attempts at effective communication on the web.

So the answer is to help those who are disapproving or pompous in reaction to what is happening on the web. Don’t dismiss their reactions or sneer at them but make it easier for them to relax and say what they think. Show them the ropes and hold their hands rather than ridicule them as they discover  for themselves the fast changing world they have felt excluded from.

Develop guidelines-not rules, collaborativelyDon’t start with rules. Learn to use your tools, and see how people make them work before you cast too much in stone.

Use Trojan miceSet up small, unobtrusive, inexpensive, and autonomous tools and practices, set them running, and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.

Don’t feed the TrollsThe best way to deal with trolls is to befriend them. Even the worst of them are human.

If your critics have shown the energy to engage, and can then be turned around to be supportive of you, then this sends a very strong signal to other dissenters.

Radical transparencyIn fact online I recommend that people assume that if you have written something on a computer then someone else will at some time be able to see it.

Does this mean you can’t write about anything? No, but it does mean you have to think harder bout what you are writing, where, and why.

Blogging as therapyBy writing about the workplace you become more thoughtful about your place in it and what it does for you.

My favourite quote in the book comes from Vint Cerf, one of the ‘fathers of the internet’. When asked by a journalist if the internet was a good or a bad thing, he replied, “It is just a thing. Whether good or bad depends on what you are doing with it.”

Euan ends the book with his final blog post at BBC after 21, years about the importance of love at work.

CMI Management Book of the Year 2012

Last night I attended the CMI Management Book of the Year for 2012 held in association with the British Library.

brainwaveThis competition aims to celebrate the best of management books published or distributed in the UK, from the most inspiring to the most useful.

This year Cass Business School joined as sponsor for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category.

I was pleased to see that Celia Gates’ book From Brainwave to Business, How to turn your brilliant idea into a successful start-up, was one of the short-listed titles.

The overall winner on the night was The Cult of the Leader, A Manifesto for More Authentic Business by  Christopher Bones.

cult_leadershipThis is a very timely topic with the media attention firmly on the causes of our economic plight, and railing against excessive executive pay.

The book is a critical look at the way business leadership has gone so badly wrong, and what can be done to fix it. Christopher explained that this was his first book for 15 years, so was particularly pleased to have won the award.

The Cult of the Leader, A Manifesto for More Authentic Business
Modern business is obsessed with leaders.  We talk about leadership all the time, but its real meaning is becoming more and more obscure.  Recent corporate crises have shown that all too often, our leaders are missing in action when we need them most. 

In this groundbreaking and provocative new book, Chris Bones shows how we need to:
    Restore trust and confidence
    Be more realistic about what leaders can and can’t do
    Redefine talent
    Revalue experience
    Reconsider remuneration

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

GEW_logoTonight as night as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week we held another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs. This time the topic was Question Time for Entrepreneurs, and was a chance to grill our assembled panel of experts.

Emma Bridgewater, Chairman and Founder of Emma Bridgewater Ltd, Vernon W. Hill II, Co-founder and Vice Chairman of Metro Bank, Lara Morgan, Founder of Pacific Direct Group Ltd and Company Shortcuts Ltd and Tim Campbell, Founder of the Bright Ideas Trust.

Jonathan Moules, enterprise correspondent at The Financial Times, was in charge of moderating the team.

Emma BridgewaterEmma Bridgewater admitted her business was more home counties than ‘wild west’.

You will have to go through tough times. So even if you don’t feel strong enough, when it is your company, you feel differently about it.

You will surprised how creative you can be in business when you first start out and have no money.

Having to think about accounts was something unpleasant, but necessary.

Her value add, was to make modern dishwater friendly pottery.

‘We have spent ‘shed loads’ of money trying to protect our designs. I don’t think it is possible to protect them.’ The next new design is the key to success. And your brand.

Vernon W Hill IIVernon W. Hill II managed to extend his five minute introduction into an impassioned 15 minute talk about the amazing success of his banking ventures.

Be aware of the brand hierarchy: Basic brands,
Emotional Brands and Legendary Brands. When you reach the top stage you have fans not customers.

You need a clear business model that differentiates you from the competition. The culture of your company must be unique but matched to your business model. Your business execution must be fanatatical

In the US they gave away 28 million pens, and they were trying to get the number up. They let dogs in on the theory that if you love my dog, you must love me.

Metro Bank have 90 percent customer satisfaction rate, Barlcays has minus 35 percent.

Emotional brands create massive value. Look at the example of Apple who grew from a five percent market share less than 10 years ago.

Are you really emotionally and equipped to go down the entrepreneurial road? Ask yourselves does your product or service add value? What is different about you? Successful entrepreneurs start with the end result, not the process of getting there. In the UK we concentrate too much on the technicalities.

He went through 15 years of the press saying ‘this won’t work’, so having a thick skin is essential.

Ninety percent of people they see looking for investment don’t have a business plan, they just have hope. Not good enough! If you don’t have convincing numbers to raise money you will fail.

‘My problem is dealing with the government every day!’

In the US they were recruiting 6,000 jobs a year, most came from existing staff contacts. If they didn’t smile in the first interview then they were out.

Lara MorganLara Morgan.

The ability to just keep going is vitally important. Jack of all trades and a master of one, where you recruit others to fill in the other roles required.

She worked on her own for two years, morning, noon and night. Her first recruit was a ‘gobby’ hocky player who had the ability, and could be taught the skill required.

Be aware that you can recruit people if you are creative as employers, find out what will lure someone in other than money.

You can actually learn lots of good stuff from books. This is a solution Lara has applied on many occasions.

Understanding finance was a painful part of becoming a successful business. You don’t need to to do the numbers, you do need to understand them.

Finding the right staff, means being utterly rigorous in you recruitment process. Make sure you test skills, because there is a lot of flannel from candidates. Check with your receptionist for their behaviour. Maths, English and culture tests are key. Invest time in this and you will be rewarded.

It took several years to work out what our USP was. It became representing the best products to the best hotels. A key to this was understanding the market place and the competition better than anyone else.

There are very few new ideas, so you just need be aware of how you are different and better.

Tim CampbellTim Campbell

There is a huge value in mentors and advisors. Having a wise head behind you will help solve some of your issues. Having a loyal team with you on your journey will be a key to your success.

Entrepreneurs need to learn to rely on others to deliver the expertise required for the business.

You may need to extend your sales technique to family and friends in order to raise capital for your business. However, business angels are sitting there waiting to find ideas to invest in. There needs to be a better way to bring these two together.

You can’t expect people to invest in your idea if you aren’t prepared to stand by the loan, or put in your own money.

Employing people who don’t have the same passion as you do, is the biggest problem. Managing them out is incredibly difficult. You need to be incredibly clear about what you want from your recruits.

Don’t compete on price, there will always be someone cheaper.

Intellectual protection can be a very costly route to protect something that may not be unique enough. Speed to market is your best protection.

You can learn from other first mover’s mistakes.

The time to pull the plug on his business, was when he realised he could not get the 2,000 outlets needed to reach the minimum size. There is an inner voice you can hear when you go to sleep at night. Listen to it, and to advisers you trust.

There is nothing wrong with a lifestyle business (small scale).


Video now live here, Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011 by BIPCTV’s channel

Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

by BIPCTV’s channe

Review of who’s got your back

whosgotyourback_coverOnce again I am indebted to Pervin Shaikh for another generous donation to our Business Help book collection.

Last time it was the amazing What Would Google Do? This time I am reviewing who’s got your back (yes, it seems lower case titles are still trendy). Keith Ferrazzi, the ‘best selling author of NEVER EAT ALONE’, supplies ‘The Secret to Finding the 3 People Who Will Change Your Life’. I think I’m all case confused at this point.

By the way, what a great surname for an author, or in fact, anyone intent on becoming a personal brand.

If the title and pre-title (see cover shot) don’t get the message across, then how about the sur-title? ‘The breakthrough program to build deep, trusting relationships that create success – and won’t let you fail’.

It is at this point that I have to confess to breaking a long standing policy on this blog of avoiding negativity. I don’t really see the point of writing about something unless it has something positive to contribute.

However, I’m afraid this is going to be an exception, and this is really an appeal to you, to help me understand where I am going wrong with this very popular book.

Unfortunately the author gets my goat right from the first chapter, by using the example of Jean Nidetch, ‘a plus-sized housewife who enlisted her friends to help her stay on a diet’. This was the 1961 beginnings of what was to become Weight Watchers, a $4 billion turnover business by 2007.

The author explains that Nidetch, ‘just wanted to get skinny, but through an inner circle of friends offering expertise, wisdom, honesty and support she achieved far more than she ever imagined possible.’

However, to me Weight Watchers is an organisation that exploits people’s desire to lose weight by persuading them to adopt a calorie counting diet, when so much evidence indicates that no diets work in the long run.

Why diets don’t work and The Problem with Weight Watchers and other Calorie Counting Diets

To quote the book’s blurb; Keith Ferrazzi, the internationally renowned thought leader, consultant, and bestselling author of Never Eat Alone, shows us that becoming a winner in any field of endeavour requires a trusted team of advisors who can offer guidance and help to hold us accountable to achieving our goals. It is the reason Ph.D. candidates have advisor teams, top executives  have boards, world-class athletes have fitness coaches, and presidents have cabinets.

In conclusion, I am left wondering if this the management book equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes. So please let me know why I am wrong.

Our Management and Business Studies Portal goes live

THE BRITISH LIBRARY HomeThe fruit of many months of labour by my colleague Sally Halper has finally emerged blinking into the bright light of day.

The Management and Business Studies Portal is a joint venture from The British Library and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

We have joined forces to develop a new online service for managers, bringing together the latest management research and business information, alongside the British Library’s vast collections of print and digital material.

Jude England, head of social science collections and research at the British Library, says: “Our joint aim is to develop joined-up information services and content. The partnership with CMI expresses our continued commitment to supporting the government’s vision of building Digital Britain and improving UK productivity.

We have created a video explaining the site on our YouTube channel.


Whether you’re a University researcher or a busy manager, this Portal will help you find and use high quality management research publications quickly and easily.

  • Download research reports, summaries, briefings, working papers, conference papers and articles from key publishers.
  • You must register (see button above) to see most of the content.
  • Discover the British Library’s vast print and digital collections – in one powerful search
  • Receive alerts about new content that matches your subject interest(s)
  • Watch author interviews and other videos
  • Disseminate and preserve your work
  • Contact us

The introduction of the portal is the second joint venture with CMI this year. The first was the CMI Management Book of the Year awards, which I blogged about last March (Who will win Management Book of Year?).

Fifteen of the UK’s best management authors are now one step closer to winning the coveted title of Management Book of the Year, having made it on to the competition shortlist.

The CMI Management Book of the Year competition, launched by the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) in association with the British Library, aims to uncover the UK’s best books on management and leadership and raise the profile of the great management writing published or distributed in the UK. The shortlisted books are those that, in the opinion of the panel of expert competition judges, will help transform the working practices of managers and help to raise awareness of how management theories and thinking can be better applied in practice.

With £5,000 at stake for the winning author, the shortlisted books, which include John Adair’s Leadership of Muhammad and Richard Donkin’s The Future of Work, will now undergo an intense review process, where expert judges will whittle down the entries to find the UK’s best management text. One winner will be chosen in each of the three categories – ‘Practical Manager’, ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Digital Management Book’ – before the overall winner is picked from the three.

The first competition of its kind, Management Book of the Year was created in response to shocking research that revealed that 85 per cent of employees would rather seek help elsewhere than turn to their managers when they need guidance at work. Despite this, just five per cent of these people are turning to management books when they have work issues, suggesting that managers are struggling to find useful, practical texts.

The research also revealed that surprisingly, when it comes to topic choice, more people would like to read about how to achieve a good work/life balance (40 per cent) than how to get a pay rise (30 per cent). In addition, 31 per cent are interested in advice on how to manage people, while just 19 per cent would like tips on securing a promotion.

The winning book will be announced on 25 January 2011.

The books that have made it onto the shortlist are as follows:

  • Practical Manager category:
  • Leadership of Muhammad by John Adair
  • ReWork: change the way you work forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Managing by Henry Mintzberg
  • The Intuitive Mind by Eugene Sadler-Smith
  • The World’s Business Cultures and how to unlock them by Barry Tomalin and Mike Nicks
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship category:
  • Glimmer: How design can transform your business by Warren Berger
  • Brilliant Business Creativity by Richard Hall
  • Evolution:  How to thrive in crazy times by Bill Lucas
  • Supercorp by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Design-Driven Innovation by Roberto Verganti
  • Digital Management Book category:
  • The Future of Work by Richard Donkin
  • The Leadership Illusion by T. Hall and K. Janman
  • Fast Track to Success:  project management ebook by Patrick Harper-Smith
  • How to lead by Jo Owen
  • Meet the new boss by Philip Whiteley
  • Who will win Management Book of Year?

    THE BRITISH LIBRARY HomeMy colleague Sally Halper who looks after Business and Management in the Social Sciences collections of the The British Library, has collaborated with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) to launch a Management Book of the Year competition. The aim is to find the UK’s best management writers, and to raise the profile of the great management writing being produced by UK authors.

    It is the UK’s first ever competition to focus specifically on management and leadership books and to have a category dedicated to texts in a digital format.

    The competition is open to individual authors, publishers and agents who can enter books that were published within the 12 months from August 1 2009 to 31 July 2010, and for the digital category, between 1 August 2008 and 31 July 2010.

    Books can be entered in three competition categories:
    • Practical Manager: Books that provide insights or guidance to help practising managers in their work or professional development
    • Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Texts that inspire innovation, encourage business or product development or support organisational development/adaptability
    • Digital Management Book: Titles which make use of technology to enhance the accessibility of the text and the readers’ engagement with the subject matter covered

    Further information for authors, publishers, and agents, including how to enter a book plus full competition rules can be found at

    In addition the CMI have started a web discussion on contributor’s favourite management and leadership books, with some fascinating examples given including Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win by Steven Spear.

    Micro Men and the birth and death of the personal computer – 1980 to 1985

    Last night I watched Micro Men, another in the recent BBC series of dramatised portrayals of historical events from the 1970’s and 80’s, such as Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley.

    This was the story of the battle for dominance in the newly emerging personal computer market from in the early 1980’s. It was also a personal clash between eccentric inventor of the pocket calculator Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry (formerly his right hand man).

    The film cleverly interwove news footage from the period and actors, effectively reawakening memories of my involvement in that era as a callow youth.

    In particular I remember the excitement young people felt at the rapid development of the technology, and how we thought they would change the world. One scene from the seminal BBC Computer Programme talked about how personal computers would replace manual typewriters and much of the associated office paperwork. (here are some snippets). It was also something of a shock to remember how Britain led the world for that brief period, with by far the highest rate of ownership of personal computers. There was an optimism that this lead would give us an immense advantage in this newly emerging industry.

    As with so many cutting edge technologies of course expectations far outstripped reality. As a ‘programming expert’ with 98 per cent in my Computer Science ‘O’ level, my father presented me with a brand new £99 Sinclair ZX81 and asked me to show him what it could do. My memory is a bit hazy on the details, but I seem to remember that its state of the art 1k of memory (compared to 2 gigabytes in today’s computers), allowed me to create a spreadsheet about 5 rows high and 16 columns wide. Unfortunately that didn’t leave any room for calculations or content.

    However this did not dim my nerdish enthusiasm and I went on to study Computer Science at ‘A’ level using a Commodore Pet, and then to university on Apple II computers. It was only when I came to leave university and was pondering which model of personal PC to buy, that reality dawned. I remember my cousin asking me what I would use it for. Programming of course was the main purpose, but outside the learning environment that was not a practical application. Games were next, but the basic ones available did not appeal to me. The applications we take for granted today such as word processing and spreadsheets were not established at that time. I decided to save my £600 and wait for the technology to develop.

    Which brings me to the point of this blog. Today we are surrounded by personal computers which have profoundly affected how we live our lives. Whether it is the constant bombardment of emails via Blackberries, shopping over the Internet, sharing our lives through social networking, watching or listening to films, television or radio on our iPods and personal media players, meeting new life partners through internet dating (7.8 million in the UK alone), spending time in virtual realities like Second Life, or just computing on the move (I am writing this on the train sitting next to another laptop owner – who appears be writing a gripping novel – from my furtive glances)

    So although the personal PC went from boom to bust in just five short years between 1980 and 1985, apparently taking its future promise with it, the long term impact of computers on our lives has been truly revolutionary.

    The footnote at the end of the show reminded me of how the two companies at the centre of the story subsequently went in very different directions. Clive Sinclair returned to his obsession with creating the world’s first mass produced affordable electric car. And produced the legendary Sinclair C5, perhaps the single most spectacular failure in the history of personal transport with sales of less than 12,000.

    However, the chip that powered Chris Curry’s Acorn computer went on to be developed into the ARM processor, which has gone on to become the most successful computer chip ever, with over 10 billion shipped to power the majority of mobile phones manufactured across the world.

    Karan Bilimoria and the story of Cobra Beer

    Cobra_Beer_bottleAnother late night for me last Thursday night. This time to attend the Chartered Management Institute 2009 Sir Kenneth Cork lecture. It was organised by my friend Chris Seow from the University of East London who is the current chair of the City of London Branch of the CMI.

    I have to admit I was reluctant to spend another evening in London and went along to support Chris. However, I am glad I made the effort as the talk by Karan Billimoria was absolutely fascinating.

    Even while waiting for Lord Bilimoria to start I heard an amazing story from Darren Way the founder of Streets of Growth.

    Streets of Growth is a dynamic community leadership organisation founded in 2001 and led by local people in Bromley by Bow East London. Committed community adult and young people work together to offer real solutions and practical approaches to tackling the issues that people face in their local community and so develop sustainable and healthier communities in the East End.

    karan-bilimoriaAlthough I had not been following the Cobra beer story closely, I was aware (along with everyone else in the audience) that they had gone bust in May of this year and had been rescued by the giant Canadian brewery firm Molson Coors.

    I was wondering if Lord Bilimoria would mention what seemed to be an unfortunate end to what had been an amazing success story up till that time. His first slide gave an indication that he would not be skirting around the painful aspects of his fascinating twenty year story to bring a new beer brand into mass consumption. The title of the slide was ‘Adapt or Die’. He immediately began to explain how quickly the
    credit crunch had impacted high growth business such as his, who were dependent on external finance for expansion. As he pointed out, prior to the crash, cash had been king, but then it became an emperor.

    Fortunately, he then went back to the beginning of his story, and spent an hour giving an absolutely riveting speech which concluded with the painful details of the collapse and eventual revival of the business.

    As with so many entrepreneurs Lord Bilimoria went against his parents wishes with his plans to start his own business. Although his father as head of the 350,000 strong Indian Army did not want Karan to follow him into the military, he felt a career in the City of London would be a more appropriate use of his Cambridge University education. He was told ‘you should get a real job like a banker’.

    But, he had developed a love for beer and recognised there was a significant gap in the market between traditional British bitter beer, and the sharp and gassy lager beers available at that time. There was nothing that was a suitable accompaniment to curry meals in Indian restaurants.

    The second slide of the talk consisted of just three words, ‘Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration’. He reinforced my experience of dealings with entrepreneurs that the business idea is the easy part. Bringing it to production and then to the market is the hard bit, and may take many years.

    Lord Bilimoria went to give many instances when his business nearly died. Often from causes which could never have been predicted. For example, a one year boycott of his product by Indian restaurants (his primary customers), after an article criticising the professionalism of the restaurant owners in a trade magazine which Karan had founded, but no longer had links to. In each of these ‘near-death’ experiences it was always flexibility and a creative approach that led to a solution.

    It was good to hear his quite confidence about the new opportunities the partnership with Molson Coors would lead to. He said they were moving from a David vs Goliath situation to one where David and Goliath were working together. He had been impressed by the family culture that was still present despite the global size of the company, and how they had been true to their initial agreement despite the financial turmoil of the period when Cobra was forced into a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

    He concluded by listing the Molson Coors definition of what makes a remarkable brand:
    1.    A compelling story
    2.    Refusing to compromise
    3.    An instantly recognisable look
    4.    A unique, relevant and consistent product
    5.    To inspire brand champions from customers
    6.    To deliver enduring profits

    The Chartered Management Institute ‘does’ the Apprentice

    the_apprenticeInteresting to see that the Chartered Management Institute has started it’s first official blog specifically to comment on the latest series of the Apprentice on BBC television.

    I know the show is very popular so I assume they are using this factor to attract visitors. However, they are right in thinking the show is an ideal opportunity to illustrate how management techniques should be applied to solve problems. This in stark contrast to what happens most of the time on the show. The very first episode The Demise of Anita provided a neat lead-in to the role of budgeting.

    I think there were several management related issues covered in last night’s show, but with the demise of Anita revolving around her budgeting problems that seems a sensible topic to focus on for this weeks Apprentice blog.

    A budget is a statement of expected expenditure or income that has been allocated under a set of headings, for a set period of time. Budgets = incomings as well as outgoings

    Sadly you feel that this was the element of budgeting that was severely lacking in yesterday’s task.  Anita was very diligently counting up how much was being spent by the girls, but no mention was given to exactly how much they expected to make.  The checklist outlines some steps you should be taking when drawing up your budget (the following is just a sample).

    1. Identify the key plans and objectives – In its simplest sense, to make more money than the other team
    2. Determine the key or limiting factors – You only have 1 day’s trading so payback period is very important.
    3. What is coming in? – What are your revenue forecasts?  Indeed were there any revenue forecasts?  On this count the boys were much better and factored this into their pitch before heading out to meet the mini cab company.
    4. What is going out? – This part Anita seemed to have covered.  She knew exactly how much was being spent.
    5. Think through the fixed and variable costs – Last night’s task was simplified in this sense as no labour costs or anything were factored in.
    6. Collect all the information you need to set this year’s budget – Another failing for the girls (and to be fair the boys too) here, they gathered no information on how much a car wash could fetch, and therefore how many cars they would need to wash to break even when the money was being spent.  Only in the car afterwards did they question the budget spend and how many cars they would need to wash to break even.
    7. Ask some important questions – Basic risk analysis is required when setting a budget, what factors could throw your predictions?  Are your assumptions suitably accurate?

    Of course the producers engineer the aprentice activities (usually by allowing insufficient planning time) to ensure things go wrong to provide entertainment for the viewers.

    One of the things that really annoys me about the show is the misleading impression it creates of business life. For instance teams really need to work together and support each other when things go wrong. A blame culture is not conducive to business success. Even more misleading is the way ‘Srallen’ is able to fire staff on a whim. Even in these recessionary times HR policies rightly give protection to staff, unless they have received previous warnings, or for gross misconduct. The I am being fired website has more details on what happens in the real world.