Meeting Adara Blake

Adara Blake
Adara Blake

I recently had the pleasure to be in Sedona, Arizona, contemplating my next book.
Sedona is a city that straddles the county line between Coconino and Yavapai counties in the northern Verde Valley region of the U.S. state of Arizona.
Sedona’s main attraction is its array of ed sandstone formations. The formations seem to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun.
The red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.​
Sedona is also the city in the US where I wrote Freedom After The Sharks.
I decided one evening to have dinner at my one of my favorite restaurants in uptown overlooking the red rock, when I had the fortuitous of meeting Adara Blake. Adara’s revolution as a musician was greatly influenced as she began to record & produce her own music. She started a small recording studio out of her home & began to produce & record other local musicians as well. Delving into the world of recording, really affected the way she thought about, wrote, created & heard music.

Adara began learning piano about six years ago. Becoming a pianist, opened up Adara’s scope as a songwriter & singer.

We began talking about the meaning of words, the depth of the message in music and compared notes as artist’s in writing from poetry, music, performing arts to writing books, the power of words as a message that reaches audiences with love, compassion and prospective, how words can affect people’s moods, their light and even some of their darker moments.

The popularity of music and books show us that this is a part of our culture, but researchers continue to find that music and reading can also be an part of our health.

Scientists at the University of Missouri have found that people can boost their mood simply by listening to upbeat music or reading a book. Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher chance of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income, and greater relationship satisfaction.

People can successfully focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination.

Once I provided the synopsis of Freedom After The Sharks, Adara spoke greatly about the love and passion for one of her songs Free Fall, which she decided to perform, which I must say was an excellent solo piece that caused an ovation of applause.


Have you ever wandered
Lost in the dark
Nothing to hold you
No glimpse of a spark
No one to save you
As you’re falling apart
No one to love you
When you forgot who you are

Let it all come tumbling down
Laid deep, so deep into the ground
Let go, let go of all you know

Be fearless in the free fall
Be fearless in the free fall

Have you ever wanted
A place for your heart
Where it’s held softly
Safe from the dark
Have you ever needed
A break from the knots
That tie up your joy
With the pain that you got
Let it all come tumbling down
Laid soft, so soft inside the sounds
Let go, let go of who you thought

Should catch you, catch you when you fall
Should catch you, catch you when you fall

Have you ever pleaded
With your soul to be strong
When you feel half naked
& everything’s wrong
When you’re left to remember
All that you’ve lost
& you can’t find shelter
From the storms in your heart

Let it all come tumbling down
So deep, so deep into the ground
Take hold, the hand that’s placed beneath

It’s there for you if you just breathe
It’s there for you if you just breathe

Let go of your control
The fear that you’re all alone
We are so simply intertwined
More that you can ever know
So slow your spinning down
Feel the drifting of the flow
It is there to catch you
If you let go of what you hold

Let go of all you hold
Let it all come tumbling down
Laid soft, so soft inside the sounds
Let go, surrender, to it all

Be fearless in the free fall
Be fearless in the free fall
Be fearless in the free fall

Adara loves to write, “no matter how I am feeling at a certain moment in time or time of day, I know my words are the truth that will never change even when my feelings do, so I will write, I will write when I want to, giving myself love, grace and balance and having gratitude for the devotion and abilities to; write, create and perform to others which is the greatest gift of all

Adara’s new album New Crossing is available shortly, do visit her website!

Book Review: Murray Eldridge’s “Leading High Performance”

book cover "leading high performance"A good friend and fellow Non-Executive Director Murray Eldridge, has just launched his new book Leading High Performance.

Over the Easter break, Murray asked me to read and critique his book. Not only was I honoured with such a request, I decide that this week’s blog post should present Murray and a synopsis of his new book.

Murray rowed for Great Britain at Junior World Championship level. He won at Henley and other national competitions. Completing a career at sea as a captain at twenty-nine he embarked on a thirty year business career. He ran companies in China, Singapore, and the UK in oil & gas, and telecoms. He was also active in the water sectors where he remains a shareholder in a desalination company.

Murray runs a consultancy company, carries out board evaluations under the Governance Code, and delivers leadership and strategy workshops for the Institute of Directors. He is a Chartered Director, Chartered Manager, Fellow of the Institute of Management, and an MBA.

Murray’s book provides an excellent and candid summary of the winning principles that rip apart the methods used in many such books, as well as arguments from evidence-based management.
The book focuses not only on leaders, but on the people who work in complex and highly competitive environments. Those environments need people not only to be the best they can be individually, but to cooperate closely over time to secure long-term winning performances.

In sports, coaches are intimately involved in developing athletes, squads, and teams and bring an impressive array of technology and wide-ranging expertise to bear on all aspects of high performance development. There is much that businesses, especially leaders, can learn from coaches and sports.

Leading High Performance takes those elements of sports coaching that are relevant to businesses and shows how the principles of coaching, sports science, training, and even psychology offer tremendous opportunities for achieving high performance in all organisations. It looks at ways in which high performance is achieved in sport and describes, using examples, how this approach develops individuals while encouraging them towards high performance. It then analyses the most relevant ideas and techniques, converting them into easily applicable business models and tools.

The book then goes on to describe how not only leaders, but people in general rely on their connections with other people for business sustainability, that other people can change our very physiology and our emotions, and how people, especially in groups, can inevitably “catch” feelings from one another. This is especially true of the leadership simply because everyone watches the boss. Even when the boss isn’t visible, his or her attitude affects the mood of his direct subordinates, and a domino effect will eventually ripple through the company’s emotional climate. In this way, the author demonstrates the reason a successful leader must be credible at all times.

The last part of the book describes exactly what is required of the high performance leader to effect results, demonstrating through a bespoke methodology, the performance triangle, how leaders can select followers and develop these people in ways that will offer the highest possible chance of achieving high performance in the organization.

In summary; great performance is as much about the belief system and culture in the organization. These beliefs are found in the vision, ethos and values, leadership, the strategy and plans, in people, and importantly that people are trusted to make things happen.

Murray continues to state that if these core attributes are applied to the business then high-performance leaders must have an overwhelming desire to lead – and that the desire to lead must be for the right reasons. It is only through having this overwhelming desire that they will have the energy, enthusiasm, stamina and drive to undertake the unremitting pressure and sustained hard work required to turn an average organisation into a high performing one.

Recommended reading!

Books that made an impact

Geoff SearleGreat leaders learn every day in business that storytelling is key to their role. Reading great books is one of the best ways to learn for some. A company that inspires leaders and business owners to meet results using the power of stories, personal branding, and thought leadership is a necessity in today’s business world.

I have been fortunate enough to read some excellent books over the last 25 years – books that have inspired me to change the way I see the world, my career, business, and the opportunities in front of me. Below is a list of those books that changed my life:

1. Mark H. McCormack – ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School’

Mark McCormack, dubbed ‘the most powerful man in sports’, founded IMG (International Management Group) on a handshake. It was the first and is the most successful sports management company in the world, becoming a multi-million dollar, worldwide corporation whose activities in the business and marketing spheres are so diverse as to defy classification.

In this book, Mark McCormack reveals the secret of his success to key business issues like analysing yourself and others, sales, negotiation, time management, decision-making and communication. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School fills the gaps between a business school education and the street knowledge that comes from the day-to-day experience of running a business and managing people. It shares the business skills, techniques, and wisdom gleaned from twenty-five years of experience.

2. J.W. Marriott, JR., Kathy Ann Brown and Jim Collins – ‘The Spirit To Serve’

Since taking over the business from his father in 1964, J.W. Marriott has moved from triumph to triumph, building an international chain that includes more than 1,000 hotels making Marriott one of the most recognized names in the hospitality industry. In this book, Marriott explains for the first time the unique management philosophy that brought him this enormous success. Written in an informal first-person narrative that is both engaging and easy to read, The Spirit to Serve distills his years of hard-earned wisdom and experience into a practical blueprint that anyone wishing to emulate his achievements can follow. It includes tips on how to motivate employees, nurture in-house talent, cultivate customer loyalty, as well as invaluable advice on handling growing pains, understanding the big picture, and knowing when to take risks. Packed with many real-life examples that illustrate his principles, The Spirit to Serve is vital reading for all CEOs, middle managers, and department supervisors.

3. Phil McGraw “Self Matters”

The well-known “life strategist” and TV personality Dr. Phil begins this upbeat self-help book by recalling one of the most unpleasant phone calls he ever had to make. In 1989, ten years into a flourishing career, McGraw called his father to say that, despite the outward trappings of success, he was miserable. His new plan was to move away and start a new career and a new life. According to McGraw, many people are now in a similar situation. They are trapped in unsatisfying lives or jobs that they loathe.

Too many people, says McGraw, are “so busy being busy, that they have let the colors fade from their lives. They’re worried about superficial matters rather than what’s important: “I’ll bet 90-plus percent of them spent months, or even years, planning their wedding and almost no time planning their marriage!

To change their lives, McGraw’s readers must first complete two questionnaires that he designed to assess their “authentic self” and their “congruence” (how someone’s current life compares with a vision of an ideal life). With the scores from these tests, readers can then embark upon a specific plan for changing their lives and for determining which external and internal forces they will, or won’t, allow to control their futures.

Readers familiar with McGraw’s aggressive TV personality may be surprised by this book’s thoughtful and serious tone. McGraw’s notion of making change is not a simple one. It requires readers to look at every aspect of their daily lives and it’s likely that some readers may not be able to make all the changes he advocates. However, his book offers a thorough, realistic resource for those who are committed to turning their lives around to get what they really want and need.

4. Tom Peters – The Circle of Innovation

Business guru Tom Peters has been recognized for his originality and perception since co-authoring one of the most influential management books of all time: 1982’s ‘In Search of Excellence‘. Now, in his seventh work, ‘The Circle of Innovation: You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Greatness’, he presents a provocative new vision for prospering in the “permanent state of flux” that is ruling today’s business world. By juxtaposing short text passages and bold graphic images, Peters simply but passionately offers his prescription (perpetual innovation) in a nontraditional way intended to foster individual interpretation.

5. Paul R. Lawrence & Nitin Nohria – Driven

Harvard Business School professors Lawrence and Nohria present a socio-biological theory of motivation, claiming that humans have four basic drives

  • to acquire,
  • to bond,
  • to learn, and
  • to defend

What makes their theory novel is the way they apply it to the workplace. The authors use historical case studies to show that successful organizations are those that give their employees opportunities to fulfill these drives, while those that fulfill only the drive to acquire are ultimately less stable. Examples of both types of organizations are provided.

The authors are well versed in sociobiology and their four-drive theory makes intuitive sense. There are, however, a number of competing drive theories, from Freud’s sexual drive and death urge to Steven Reiss’s 16-drive theory. The authors acknowledge that the numbers and exact nature of our drives need further exploration and offer suggestions for research projects that would verify their hypotheses.

6. John Simpson – A Mad World My Masters

Some people just aren’t cut out for the suburbs. As one of the BBC’s top foreign correspondents, John Simpson has been at the epicentre of many of the world’s flashpoints for more than 30 years. Afghanistan, Belgrade, Hong Kong, Baghdad; you name it, he’s been there. And what’s more, he hasn’t just met the great and the good, such as Clinton and Blair, he’s met the top bogey men, too. He’s had Osama Bin Laden pleading with some Afghani guerrillas to kill him and his crew, he’s interviewed Emperor Bokassa, Colonel Gadhafi and Arkan and had close up dealings with Saddam Hussein. And it goes without saying he was one of the first people in the entire world to see in the new millennium on the specially named Millennium Island, which the Kiribati government claimed just squeezed inside the international date line.​

What books can you recommend to me?

How I experienced the Shen Yun performance

Geoff Searele at the Shun Yen Performance, Birmingham 2014 smallI was lucky to attend a performance of the Shen Yun Performing Arts Troupe in Birmingham.

Shen Yun was established in 2006 as a company with about 30 dancers, as well as an orchestra, soloists, artistic directors and production staff. Since its inaugural season, the company has expanded to include three equally large companies with dozens of dancers, soloists, and orchestras.

Shen Yun promotes itself as “a presentation of traditional Chinese culture as it once was: a study in grace, wisdom, and virtues distilled from five millennia of Chinese civilization.”

I was interviewed after the show, you can see that here. The news anchor and the short narrative are in Chinese but my interview is in English. In your browser an option should pop up to translate the page.

Here is a YouTube clip to show you a Shen Yun performance:


Guest blog post for Alium Partners

The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.
The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.

My first guest blog post has been published with Alium Partners. It was an amazing writing experience and I cannot thank them enough for hosting me.

Alium Partners has provided senior executives into a variety of organisations across the UK and around the world, for over 10 years.

Working across both the private sector and public sector, the team at Alium Partners consist of a variety of sector and functional led professionals who work collaboratively to identify the right recruitment solutions for their clients from a talent pool of over 10,000 skilled professionals.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me. I will gladly help.

Have a successful week!

Heads-up for my guest blog post

The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.
The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.

I have very exciting news to report!

Remember that on March 10th I sat down with Alice for a Q&A session? We discussed business plans, start-ups, how to support business continuity, and more.

This Q&A was of value to many people. As a result, I got requests to expand a little on some of the issues.

One of those requests came from Alium Partners. They asked me to write a guest blog post for their blog. That guest blog post will be about the current demand for business growth and how interim directors can play a part in the economic recovery.

I will name three challenges for today’s leaders, which skills you need to master, and how to upgrade your talents. You do not want to miss this.

My guest blog post will go live on 9th April. I will post the link here as soon as it is up!

Have a successful week, everyone!

Surviving the Upturn!

Transformation needs change, change needs focus. As I said before:

Logo: surviving the upturnDuring the conference “Surviving the Upturn” I asked the audience:

  • How many of you achieved all the change you wanted to in your business?
  • How many of you have changed the organisation in the last financial/fiscal year?
  • Do you think you will have a disappointing or progressive report this year to the business?

Tip 1: Brand; discussing the need for a strong strategy across brand and culture.

What is a brand; vision, mission, values and the need for a brand blue print.

Defining the company’s competitive advantage correctly is the most crucial part of any brand program, while external communications may raise expectations in the marketplace from brand perceptions; it the brand experience that clients have that will translate into customer satisfaction and therefore greater profitability.

A true brand program needs to be established to make sure that all employee’s, partners, teaming arrangements and agencies are engaged with the brand, the message can be then carried externally to clients, and prospects.

The brand needs to be brought to life through a variety of media channels to engage, explain and motivate employees, we need to measure the improvements and refine marketing plans based on this approach.

Communication is all about making connections, connecting people physiologically, engaging appropriate communications to the mind, culture, learning’s that provide long-term memory of representations.

Tip 2: Why organisation change fails

Leaders today must understand and apply the knowledge of behavioral psychology and the business lessons to manage organisational change successfully. In the past, efforts at organisational change which has focused on the structural aspects of organizations have systematically failed because they have neglected the reality that change doesn’t happen without each person changing their thinking, beliefs and behavior.

chart why organisational change fails/GSearle
Click to enlarge!

Tip 3: Why sustainability is so key to a business success and driving performance

Most organisations will tell you they know what good management and leadership looks like and will be able to identify people with skills and qualities they admire. They may also tell you they know that good management makes a real difference to organisational performance.

There is strong evidence to support this contention: historically, our greatest business leaders have driven economic prosperity and growth. The economy has been shaped and driven by the pioneers of business; driving change and making the most of new technologies and opportunities. Entrepreneurial spirit, drive and influence has been the key to this success

Equally, at a local or personal level, managers who stand out, for either good or bad reasons, for their impact on the lives of employees, influence of those who had the ability to engage and inspire, to help us learn and make sense of the business environment and to meet the right balance between challenge and support.

Managers who possess a high EI and TI helped shape not just current performance, but our own behaviours and practice.

There is no question that the performance of leaders and managers can have a truly significant impact on organisational performance, both in the immediate and longer term. Skills such as people management, strategy and planning, budgeting and risk management can transform the fortunes of an organisation. But evidence shows that in general – both in the public and private sector – company’s fall behind because of talent recruitment and an inability to apply strategy internally and engage employees at the highest level.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

Life after the sharks

Geoff SearleFreedom After The Sharks has really changed my life. I have always believed that it is your right to speak truthfully in all matters that concern you and to speak from the heart.

It has been an overwhelming experience to receive emails and phone calls from people across all walks of life wanting to share their experiences, their story. Entrepreneurs, business people, students, children, and charitable causes have approached me for key note sessions, general advice, and inspiration leadership.

I have been overwhelmed with inquiries but will continue to expand and express the journey that each and every one of us deserves, within our heart-motivated purpose in life, because there is ‘life after the sharks.’

Every audience has a different dynamic, a different rhythm, and a different reaction. The audience wants, needs, and expects pertinent, real-life information to enhance and support their lives and importantly what they’re facing. I believe it was my destiny in life to push things to the limit. You only get one chance to make an impression. I gave Freedom After The Sharks every opportunity I had of the events that took place for what I believed to be right and true.

In life you survive. You move on but with a purpose. A great philosopher and friend in the US once told me that you are in this world by divine right and you have the right to reach your highest potential through your own uniqueness. I know so many people who are only in bliss when they are miserable. They blame their parents, their spouse, their family, the system, their employers, their friends.

You know what’s amazing — and I’ve said this for years  — you have the capacity to love and be loved with an open heart. You can do whatever you have to do to get past your problem, you can do it. The question is how much do you want the dream or the purpose.

It’s your quiet inner drive and tenacious disciplined focus that will set yourself apart from those who seemingly fall by the way side. This may sound a little strange but when I’m asked about the key to my success, it has always been that guttural ignorant persistence. You do more, you give a little more of yourself in everything you do until it becomes a natural part of your lifestyle, it is also important to be a mentor to those who need help, encouragement and share.

If there is any question I can answer for you please leave me a note.

Available in print September 2014

Geoff SearleMy book “Freedom after the sharks” will be available in print coming September, 2014. The cover is still in preparation. As soon as this is done I will update the blog.

I am very excited about the great reviews that the book has received so far. Here are two examples:

“Discover the secret to succeeding in your business life, 11 Mar 2014
By Stevie Kay

The read of Geoffrey’s experiences is one that we see in SME businesses whether we admit to it or not, the book describes how irrespective of what background or circumstance you can succeed, the question whether you admit to or not is how much do you want to succeed. Life, career and setting up your own business takes courage, guts, drive and determination, a great read for those people in any walk of life considering change or transformation in their life, it delivers the tools, what to do and what not to do, but importantly has a good read to take you on the journey with an inspired ending, highly energized read for the serious entrepreneur.”

“A deeply inspiring read, 2 Mar 2014
By Otto 

With a new author, one never knows what to expect. This is probably one of the most deeply moving books I think I have ever had the pleasure of reading and I have been completely blown away by the incredibly inspiring story contained within. Only half an hour into the story, one begins to connect with the main character Geoffrey in such a way that one is almost moved to tears, knowing all the while that it is a true story. I wanted to scoop the little boy up and take him away from the sorrow that was his childhood after he gets battered again and again. Then there is a beautiful shift and the sad story turns into one of great resolution. I became deeply touched by Geoffrey’s determination to make something of his life and his perseverance throughout the many challenges he faced. As the plot unfolds, a great tale of forgiveness and the strength and freedom that comes from that forgiveness is a great message for us all to take away with us. I don’t usually write reviews for my books but I felt compelled to do so as never before has a book made me want to get up and make the most of my life as Freedom from the Sharks. This is a great read of how the hardships this little boy faced created a role model to inspire us all. A truly great read.”

Check here for more reviews and how to get the print version of my book. And, if you have questions drop me a line in the comment box.

Q & A with Geoff

Geoff Searle opreparing for a conference talk I sat down with Alice ( today for a short Q & A sessions about entrepreneurs and start-ups. Here’s what we spoke about:

Q1: What advice would you give to people who have an idea for a business and they know there is a demand for it but: they do not know how to write a business plan, they will need financing, and they do not know where to start asking for advice. Is there any step-by-step guide or a specific order people should follow to get their thoughts on paper? Of course, there are Small Business Development Centers but many people would like to have something on paper before they schedule an appointment.

Geoff: The first step in the capital raising process is to draft a capital plan for the growth of the business. The capital plan is used to identify funding requirements in terms of the amount, the timing, the structure (loan, lease or equity) as well as the most appropriate capital mix for business growth. It should also investigate alternatives to raising external capital.

Start by defining the business objectives and strategies. Identify all the costs involved in your business growth plans, including working capital requirements as well as the impact of budget over-runs and product development delays. Then look long and hard at the feasibility of your proposition. The capital plan will need to be revisited once the business plan is completed as this is likely to identify additional issues.

Determine what resources you require to grow your business, when they are needed and how to obtain them and whether these can be sourced from within the business. If external capital is needed then consider what you are willing to give/offer to achieve your business objectives and what will be the value of your equity in the business following the introduction of new capital.

If you were a dispassionate investor with a wide range of choices, what would make your business expansion or idea irresistible? Check if your plan is viable, sound and realistic by seeking professional financial advice from someone familiar with the size and type of your business.

Q2: My thoughts on business plans are that they should evolve with the business so you need one to get started and get financing, and another one to cover year one (maybe until you break even)? What are your thoughts?

Geoff: Creating a solid business plan is the first step toward success in your business venture. From obtaining funding to hiring employees to planning for expansion, a business plan can be your guide to keeping your business on track. Your business plan can keep you focused on your goals and keep you moving forward when faced with obstacles.

Qualify potential investors based on their preferences and availability of capital – not all venture capital funds have money available for start-up investments.

What makes an attractive investment opportunity

Some of the factors in making an investment opportunity attractive are:

 experienced and effective management – track record
 high growth sector
 high business growth potential
 replicable business model
 strong financial returns
 significant entry barriers – competitive advantage
 sales history or confirmed purchase intentions – customers
 market knowledge and distribution systems
 exit strategy

Q3: Imagine someone has started to execute their idea and it takes off faster than expected. They rolled into their career, they have clients, and are suddenly faced with time management and shaping their daily routine and responsibilities. Remember what you did when you were in that phase? How did you handle that?

Geoff: Every entrepreneur tries to maximize his/her start up growth by building and selling more product and services for the widest geographic area that he can support. This strategy is called “organic growth,” yet it alone may yield only a fraction of the potential you could achieve, unless you add the additional strategies of partnerships and M&A (mergers and acquisitions).

The real challenge here is balance. Too much emphasis on organic growth can become a straitjacket that leads only to incremental innovation and limited horizons. Too much reliance on growth via contracts and alliances makes you vulnerable to partners’ actions and conflicts of interest. Overreliance on acquisitions drains resources and de-motivates internal teams.

In every startup, as well as in mature companies, there is no substitute for constantly maintaining a pipeline of alternatives. This requires constant focus, as well as maintaining the skill set. to do things like the following:

There is no question that startups which manage the broadest alternatives for growth will gain competitive advantages. This selection capability is a skill and a discipline that every entrepreneur needs to nurture and develop over time. The world and current economic environments have changed. The past can be a deadly rear-view mirror. Look for new horizons.

Q4: Every start-up should use social media. However, a start-up must focus first on products/services before they can market themselves or promote themselves. Right or wrong? Can you promote yourself without having a line of products/services or should you wait?

Geoff: Going into business for yourself for the first time will change your lifestyle, both professionally and personally, and can involve a significant financial commitment.

There are many reasons why you may be thinking about starting your own business. You may have a great business idea or the opportunity to take on a franchise or to purchase an existing business. For most people it’s a combination of many factors including a desire to make money, greater autonomy and freedom, an opportunity to work at something they enjoy doing or the prospect of building an enterprise they can eventually pass on to their children.

Whatever the reason it’s an exciting venture that could provide an opportunity to enhance your lifestyle or achieve personal goals. Whether your business succeeds or fails depends on many things including your abilities, initiative and capacity to work, as well as the economic and business environment in which you’ll operate.

To give yourself every chance of success, be sure to make some time to pre-plan before diving into your business head first. Take a step back and consider the feasibility of your idea and your personal suitability for going into business. Some of the things you should think about are:

  • Personal Attributes
  • Technical Skills
  • Hobby or Business?
  • Business Management Skills
  • Feasibility of the Business Idea
  • Financial Capacity
  • Business Names
  • Business Licences and Permits
  • Business Structures
  • Business Starters Checklist

Q5: We all need to reflect on what we are doing to maintain the right balance. How often do you recommend that entrepreneurs evaluate their actions with their team or mentors to possibly adjust their course of action (aside from adjusting their business plan)? Quarterly?

Geoff: If we don’t know what the business is seeking to achieve, how can effective business decisions be made? How can conflicting priorities be resolved? How can people be held accountable? Conventionally, the answer to these concerns has been to write a business plan.

However, business plans are almost always written primarily to attract and retain capital. As soon as they are published they are out of date, and within a matter of months often bear little practical relevance to what’s happening in the real world. Even where they are in place, conventional business plans are seldom used to proactively manage the business. Typically, only the senior managers of the business are actively involved in the process of developing and using such plans. These plans rarely enable individuals to be held accountable for results.

Some key points for maintaining business continuity:

· Every quarter the business plan is replaced by the next version. This takes place at the quarterly strategic review meeting. This meeting is not the place where the next version of the plan is devised, but where it is endorsed as being in place.
· During the quarter, performance is reviewed on an hourly/daily/weekly/monthly basis against the agreed structure of expectations within the plan.
· During the quarter the most recently agreed version of the business plan is used as the starting point for developing the next version.
· The primary mechanism for developing the plan is that the senior person/team coaches everybody in his or her contribution to the plan. The plan structure provides the agenda for discussion.
· Everybody’s key objectives are documented within the plan, especially their short-term (i.e. current/next three months) objectives.
· Whilst in the process of delivering their agreed objectives in the current quarter, people are already giving thought to what they will be aiming to achieve in the next quarter.
· The primary role of the senior person/people is to ensure that everybody’s objectives are in alignment with each other. They have a key responsibility to ensure that everything that needs to happen to achieve the strategic goals of the business are the identified responsibility of a specific individual or team.
· All of the key result areas are monitored with Key Performance Indicators.
· For it to work, the plan is kept as simple as possible. Anything that doesn’t change much quarter by quarter should be taken out of the rolling business plan document and should appear as (optional) appendices, or supplementary documents. Examples might be market analysis, mission, vision, values, etc.

Q6: Someone approaches you with a great idea but is very hesitant to start on their own. What could you do to help this person?

Geoff: We use a capital raise diagnostic for strengths and weaknesses. The Capital Raising Diagnostic is a self assessment tool to help businesses determine their level of “investment readiness” or capacity to attract capital. It also forms part of the assessment for entry into the Capital Raising Program.

1. Growth and Capital Requirements

1.1 – Expected business growth (total not average) over next 3 years.

1 = < 10% 3 = 30 – 50% 5 = > 100%

1.2 – Average annual growth rate of the industry sector you will operate in.

1 = < 0% 3 = 10 – 20% 5 = > 30%

1.3 – Have you sufficient existing resources to fund operations into the future?

1 = less than 3 months 3 = 6 – 12 months 5 = > 18 months

1.4 – Have your resource needs for the next 3 years been fully costed?

1 = Estimate 3= Partly 5= Capital and cash flow needs fully costed.

1.5 – Have you identified the most appropriate capital mix (loan, lease, equity, etc) for your needs?

1 = no 3 = partly developed 5 = yes, capital plan in place

2. Management

2.1 – Do management skills meet current and future business growth / commercialisation needs?

1 = Not meeting current needs 3 = Meets current needs 5 = Meets future needs

2.2 – Have strategies been implemented for the future management of the business?

1 = No, rely on 1 person 3 = Some skills development 5 = Systems to develop / attract key people in place

2.3 – Are the business’s directors and advisors skills sufficiently diverse and well developed to meet business needs?

1 = Unsure 3 = Partly 5 = Yes

2.4 – Are there strategies in place to retain key skills?

1 = No 3 = Informal incentives 5 = Formal incentives and contracts

2.5 – Is there a well understood growth strategy for the business?

1 = Focus on immediate needs 3 = Focus on the next 6 months 5 = Long term focus formalised and understood by all

3. Business & Systems

3.1 – Do you have a comprehensive business plan?

1 = Not formalised 3 = Covers next 12 months 5 = Targets and details for next 3-5 years

3.2 – Are plans reviewed and updated regularly?

1 = Not formalised 3 = Updated annually 5 = Updated and reviewed on rolling basis.

3.3 – Have you identified company weaknesses and offered valid, productive solutions to these?

1 = Not identified 3 = Identified but no action taken 5 = Identified and strategies implemented to address

3.4 – Are there well developed financial management systems in place?

1 = Basic tax compliance accounting 3 = Financial management covers some aspects
5 = Budgets and monthly financial management reports for all aspects of business

3.5 – Are there well developed business systems and procedures in place?

1 = Not articulated 3 = Cover some aspects 5 = Systems and procedures documented for all aspects of business

4. Market

4.1 – Is there clear evidence of market need for your product / service?

1 = No 3 = Yes but anecdotal 5 = Yes, has been quantified

4.2 – Is there a global market for your products or services?

1 = No 3 = Yes but anecdotal 5 = Yes, has been quantified

4.3 – Have you identified the path to market, distribution channels and customer purchasing patterns?

1 = None 3 = Partly 5 = All of the above

4.4 – Have you completed your competitor analysis including identifying barriers to entry?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Yes

4.5 – Are you able to list all potential domestic and international market segments?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Yes

5. Product (or service) / Intellectual Property (IP)

5.1 – Has the product/service enforceable IP protection?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Yes

5.2 – Is the ownership of the IP held by the entity seeking capital?

1 = No IP 3 = Licence arrangement 5 = Yes

5.3 – How many products could be developed as a result of the expansion / commercialisation project?

1 = Single product 3 = 3 – 4 new products can be developed 5 = Represents a technology platform

5.4 – Can the product / service be produced at a competitive rate?

1 = More costly 3 = Unknown 5 = Cost advantage

5.5 – Does the product / innovation represent a significant advance over existing products?

1 = no. 3 = Incremental improvement 5 = Significant advance.

6. Financiability

6.1 – Is there a sustainable competitive advantage?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Yes

6.2 – Is your organisation able to supply audited financial statements and projected operational and financial statements?

1 = No 3 = Partly completed 5 = Fully

6.3 – Projected profits represent what percentage of funds needed to service borrowing requirements

1 = < 100% 3 = 150 – 200% 5 = > 300%

6.4 – Is the company compliant with environmental, equal employment opportunity and other regulatory requirements?

1 = No 3 = Well down the track 5 = Yes

6.5 – Asset backing (business assets and shareholder guarantees) is equivalent to what percentage of borrowings?

1 = < 100% 3 = 125 – 150% 5 = > 200%

Questions 7.1 to 7.10 are equity related questions

7. Equity Finance A

7.1 – Are you able to provide details of types of shares and share distributions to potential investors?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Fully

7.2 – What will the venture return an investor (% return pa) ?

1 = Less than 10% 3 = 20 -25% 5 = Greater than 35%

7.3 – Can you demonstrate a well thought out exit strategy?

1 = No 3 = Partly developed 5 = Yes

7.4 – Have you perfected your investment pitch / presentation to potential investors?

1 = No work 3 = Partly 5 = Fully developed and assessed

7.5 – Are you ready to undergo the due diligence process?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = yes

7. Equity Finance B

7.6 – Are the shareholders realistic about your company’s market value?

1 = No 3 = Yes 5 = Have accepted an independent valuation

7.7 – Are private and company financial affairs separated in the operations of the business?

1 = Cash often taken 3 = Drawings captured in financials 5 = Totally separated

7.8 – Can you clearly articulate the attributes of your ideal investor?

1 = No 3 = Partially 5 = Fully

7.9 – Are you able to supply a copy the the company constitution and shareholder agreements?

1 = No 3 = Being developed 5 = Yes

7.10 – Are the company’s accounting policies in accordance with accounting standards?

1 = No 3 = Partly 5 = Fully

If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I will answer as soon as possible.