Learning to really listen can benefit your business

Uncategorized Feb 27, 2020

How many of us really listen to what is being said to us?

Listening is not the same as hearing and often we can tune out what is being said to us, either because it triggers an assumption or a prejudice, causing us to miss the real point of what is being said.

Being able to really listen, however, is crucial to both personal success and also that for a business particularly, but not only, for those in a customer services role, where it is crucial to really listen and respond appropriately to a customer’s concerns rather than parroting from a pre-prepared script.

How often are we frustrated by the tele salesperson who launches into their script without even pausing for breath.

Indeed, failure to really listen can have a serious impact on the reputation of a business with its clients or customers.

But the ability to listen well is equally important for a boss or manager wanting to communicate a change or an innovation, or to HR when dealing with issues with an...

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Late Payments putting even more pressure on SMEs in 2020

The amount owed to UK SMEs in late payments had allegedly risen to £50bn in early January according to research by digital banking platform Tide as reported by CityAM.

It has calculated that the average UK SME is chasing five outstanding invoices at once, wasting an hour and a half every day.

Data from Pay UK, which runs the Bacs Direct Credit and Direct Debit payment services, later in the month revealed that late payments had reached a four-year high last year at £23bn.

Tide’s new £50bn total was considerably higher than Pay UK’s total of £23bn owed to SMEs and I cannot reconcile the two figures.  The Tide research was conducted by Atomik Research among 1,002 SME decision makers from the UK and, it appears, judging by a footnote to the Tide report, that its £50bn figure may have been estimated on the basis of a total of 5.9 million SMEs, as calculated by The Department for Business .

However, the situation puts immense pressure on...

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Running out of cash – crisis management, the first step in dealing with a cash crisis

Crisis management when a company is in financial difficulties is about quelling the understandable panic and taking a long, hard look at managing the business’ cash flow and the potential for action that makes the business viable.

Running out of cash is the cause of most business failures where the cash flow test of insolvency applies such that a company is insolvent if it is unable to meet its liabilities as and when they fall due. This doesn’t mean the business should be closed down but it does mean the directors should take clear steps to deal with the financial situation.

The first thing directors need to appreciate is that their primary consideration is to protect the interests of creditors rather than that of shareholders. This is where an insolvency or turnaround professional as an outsider can help by bringing an objective assessment of the personal risk when making decisions and the prospects that turnaround initiatives can be taken to restore the business to...

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Will SMEs get more help from the Government?

growth small business sme smes Feb 19, 2020

Business pages are always full of articles claiming that SMEs need more help from the Government.

But equally, there have been a number of upbeat and positive reports that suggest the opposite is the case, so what is the truth?

According to the business lender Iwoca, lending to SMEs in deprived areas has dropped dramatically, by 8% between 2014 and 2018. Iwoca CEO Christoph Rieche has said: “It’s concerning that, in many parts of the country, major banks aren’t serving small and microbusinesses with the funding required to help them thrive. SMEs are vital for the health of the economy.”

The figures are borne out by UK Finance, which has revealed that small business loans and overdraft balances from big banks fell by almost 16% in the North West between the end of 2014 and September last year, from £9.8bn to £8.2bn, while loans and overdraft balances in London fell by only 2.3%. Wales saw a 14.2% drop, while Yorkshire and the Humber posted a 10.9%...

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Sector focus on the UK newspaper industry, regional, national and online

cash flow profit Feb 13, 2020

The UK newspaper industry has faced multiple challenges for many years but somehow it manages to survive.

In many ways it is a good example of how agile a business needs to be in the 21st century if it wants to continue, to prosper and to grow.

But arguably the UK newspaper industry is more than simply a business albeit, like all businesses it needs to cover its costs and make a profit.

Relevance is critical to having and retaining readers as consumers of content in what might be assumed to be a traditional supply and demand business. At its most basic, news is about informing readers about what is happening in the world, and in the country and region in which they live and aspiring journalists in training were often told that their purpose was “to entertain, to educate and to inform”.

Nevertheless, to the accountants, newsroom journalists have increasingly been seen as a cost, a drain rather than a contributor to the business’ profits.

Indeed, relevance is...

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Directors’ duties and liabilities survive insolvency – a new court ruling

A recent High Court ruling on directors’ duties after insolvency has said that they cannot buy assets from their liquidated companies at below market value.

The ruling was made after solicitors for the company’s second liquidator who took over the case, Stephen Hunt, argued that Brian Michie as former owner and director of the construction company, System Building Services Group Ltd, had “unfairly bought a two-bedroom house from the original insolvency practitioner involved for £75,000 less than it was worth, 18 months after his company went out of business”.

The company went into administration in July 2012, and then into a creditors’ voluntary liquidation in July 2013 following which Mr Michie bought the property in Billericay, that was owned by his company, for £120,000 in 2014 from the previous liquidator Gagen Sharma.

The case revolved around whether director’s duties survived the insolvency of a company and specifically those...

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The state of UK business activity

UK business activity is either in a woeful state, or slowly picking up speed following December’s general election, depending on who you are listening to.

Given the dire insolvency figures for 2019, which I covered in Tuesday’s blog, there is clearly plenty wrong in specific sectors of the economy.

The construction industry, High Street retail and the accommodation and food services were the worst-affected last year but it would be foolish to pretend that any business, from SME to large corporations had an easy time given the global economic slowdown and, more recently, figures revealing that the EU economy is near-stagnant.

Nevertheless, now that the withdrawal of the UK from the EU has passed its first hurdle and that the government has a clear mandate with a huge majority to implement its decisions for the next five years, there are signs of optimism.

The first Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Business Barometer in 2020 showed a 13-point increase in business confidence,...

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Dire insolvency figures for 2019 – and little respite in sight?

growth insolvency Feb 04, 2020

The final quarter insolvency figures for 2019 make grim reading, as does the regular Red Flag update from insolvency and recovery firm Begbies Traynor.

The main messages from the latest insolvency figures, published for Q4 2019 by the Insolvency Service at the end of January, were that in 2019 underlying company insolvencies increased to their highest annual level since 2013 driven by a by 8.2% increase in CVLs (Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations) which were at their highest level since 2009 and by a 24.0% increase in administrations, their highest level since 2013.

Construction, the wholesale and retail trade and accommodation and food services suffered the most, as they had been doing all year.

Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag update published last week also piled on the misery, with findings that a record 494,000 UK businesses are now in ‘significant financial distress’ with property, support services, construction and retail businesses suffering the most. These...

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Emotional Honesty at work – mutual respect turns a negative into a positive

There are many situations in our working life that have the potential to damage relationships with colleagues and managers and it takes emotional honesty to confront them.

Disagreements are inevitable especially where individuals are ambitious and want the best for the business and its goals. There are often many solutions to problems and teams need to learn how to share differing ideas without disagreements being seen as confrontation and in particular avoiding individuals being afraid of others in such a way that they don’t contribute.

Team decision making doesn’t necessarily mean agreement but is should be positive, especially when the team is needed to implement the decision. Sophisticated teams may explore decision making as a form of idea meritocracy by considering the knowledge and expertise of each contributor rather than team democracy where everyone is equal, or worse, where overconfident individuals, bullies or HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) make...

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Retrain to do what? The jobs of the future

employment planning Jan 28, 2020

A national government retraining scheme was proposed in July last year to help those workers whose jobs will become obsolete because of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation.

Whether it will materialise following the Brexit mayhem and subsequent election remains to be seen.

Research by Oxford Economics has found that 1.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots worldwide since 2000, including 400,000 in Europe, 260,000 in the US, and 550,000 in China and that a further 20 million manufacturing jobs will be obsolete by 2030 although most of these will be abroad.

There is no doubt that the future world of work, especially, but not only, in the manufacturing sector will look very different.

The drive towards aver more automation may conflict with concerns for the future of the planet and the environment but both will doubtless mean a radical rethink of economies, especially those that are dependent on consumer activity.

Demographics too will play their part as many of...

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