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 (DefrostingColdCases.com) 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.

A balanced business

DNA of a business modelThe pursuit of business success often comes at the cost of our personal life. We do not say no to another international trip. We put in the late-night hours to get a proposal just right. And we often throw ourselves into our work to avoid getting close to people or of coping when they disappoint us.

Could it all be different? Can you build a balanced business that leaves room for a personal life? And what if, in this business, you get to work with people who are interested in achieving the same kind of balance?

This thought became my new business philosophy: sharing, encouraging others – and ultimately trust. My mission statement is based on this thinking, philosophy, and discovery.

I started writing my mission statement by exploring my perceptions of various words. For example, I thought that confidence meant having or showing certainty; surety meant having complete trust in someone or something; respect required genuine actions based on loyalty. I considered whether people too often jumped to conclusions, analyzing a person or a situation too quickly and shallowly. Soon I was ready to clearly formulate my thoughts.

Are you ready to write your mission statement? How do you balance your business with your personal life?

Are you investment-ready?

Geoff SearleThe first step in raising capital is to draft a capital plan for the growth of your business. The company then uses this plan to identify its funding requirements in terms of the amount, the timing, the structure as well as the most appropriate capital mix for business growth. The plan also should look into alternatives to raising external capital.

By defining a company’s business goals and strategies, you find all the costs involved in the company’s business growth plans, including working capital requirements as well as the impact of budget over-runs and product development delays. Then you must take a long and hard look at the feasibility of your plan.

The capital plan and the business plan compliment each other. They both identify issues and risks. You must decide what resources your company requires to grow, when those resources are needed, how to get them — whether they can be sourced from within the business – as well as what the goals are and the value of the equity in the business after the introduction of new capital.

Attracting equity investment is not an easy process. Businesses need to be well-prepared and investment-ready to maximize the potential for success. A failure to be investment-ready is the most common barrier to accessing equity investment. Second chances are rare, so it is important to become investment-ready before establishing relationships with potential investors, regardless of a company’s stage of development or capital needs. Investors can be found among friends, family, venture capitalists, financial institutions and business angels, but wherever the capital is found, they need to know you are investment-ready.

When investors put their money into a company, they invest in the capability of that specific company and its people.

I made a list of issues that a business must address as it works to become investment-ready:

  • Management capacity and systems
  • A suitable business structure 
  • A realistic business valuation
  • Management commitment
  • A business model
  • An investment structure, terms sheet, and exit plan
  • A business and/or commercialization plan
  • An investment proposal (information memorandum) and pitch
  • Management capacity and systems

If you have any question for me please post them in the comment box.

Good luck advancing your business!

QUEST

I believe that companies must define their brand in a way that moves both employees and clients, and to communicate that effectively. In order to do that, it is critical to have a deep understanding of the role sales, marketing, and communications strategy play within a company’s overall business.

Note that while a consultant always asks for information from the client in order to diagnose problems and find solutions, the quest is to find the information that really matters. This is how the concept “QUEST” was born.

  • Qualities
  • Understanding
  • Expertise
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Time

If you think strategically about the most significant underlying factors that affect business performance, it is clear that employee motivation impacts customer behavior, and customer behavior needs to be positive in the relationship to secure new contracts, vertical sale opportunities and business referrals, so maintaining and increasing the motivation of the client companies we work with is valuable.

Q is for Qualities.

When managers are asked what qualities they most want their team members to bring to a given project, they may generate a list that includes responsibility, integrity, initiative, creativity, task orientation, persistence, clarity, co-operation, etc. These qualities exist in every company, and this is where potential skills arise.

  • Which qualities would you like to see more of in yourself?
  • Which would others on your team like to see more of, or less of?

Learning to use and express any specific quality or attribute is one kind of learning goal.

U is for Understanding.

Understanding requires more than just information; it requires a comprehension of all the components of a particular subject or system and the relationships among these components. You can have a great deal of information about a job or task without really understanding it. You may be able to state the mission of the company or of a given project, but do you really understand the mission sufficiently to be truly effective?

You should ask yourself: Given your current performance goals what, if understood better, would make success easier or more likely? Such goals might be stated in terms of, for example, “Expand my understanding of ….” (my co-workers, my boss, the customers, the competition, market dynamics, systems and processes, finance, obstacles, and so on).

E is for Expertise.

Expertise is what you call know-how or skill. It can be technical or emotional. Ask yourself what skills you have or could develop that would let you attain a higher level of performance. What skills are you learning that you could apply to your present role or project? Which of these skills could you learn from experience on the job, and which need some book or classroom learning?

Skills you could choose to develop might include computer literacy skills, negotiating skills, communication skills, accounting skills, technical skills, management or leadership skills, or you could choose to master a given body of knowledge. Once you develop these skills, they are available for you in a variety of future tasks.

S is for Strategic Thinking.

Strategic thinking can be viewed as a quality, a skill, or an understanding. But it is a distinct kind of thinking. It is the ability to step back from the trees and see the forest, to see past short-term goals and view long-range goals. It is a critical skill not just for a few managers and leaders, but for everyone in the organization. You need to ask yourself:

  • How strategically am I thinking?
  • Do I have a strategic perspective, or merely a tactical view?
  • How clear are my priorities in the company?
  • Are my current activities in line with my long-term goals?
  • Am I thinking independently enough?
  • Is my work life balanced and in harmony with the rest of my life?
  • Is my definition of work self-driven?
  • Do I see tasks in relation to other projects being completed?
  • Do I see what has to be done in line with the overall mission of the team and company?
  • Do I think strategically about my life?

Strategic thinking is about more than setting goals and targets in your work and in your life; it is about developing the ability to think strategically when you need to.

T is for Time.

All work is done in time and related to time, and understanding this relationship is critical to successful work. The best strategies and the best experts have failed because of an inability to come to terms with this fact.

  • Do you complete your work on time?
  • How aware are you of the time required to complete the tasks on your to-do-list?
  • Are you feeling constantly pressured by time?
  • Are you constantly behind on time lines?
  • Do you procrastinate?

You may want to consider setting a learning goal around the relationship between time, task and priorities.

The whole idea of QUEST is to provide leadership through dialogue and discussion, to ask questions and to promote discussion and creative thinking around those questions, and thus to help leaders broaden their horizons and persuade others within the mission to do the same.

Tribute to Annette & George Searle

Annette and George SearleMy book “Freedom after the Sharks” is coming out soon. The editing process is done and the final cover will be revealed within a few weeks. None of this would have been possible if it had not been for two wonderful people: Annette & George Searle, my grandparents.

I believe that my main drive for writing ‘Freedom After The Sharks’ was born out of my wish to share life’s learning experiences and lessons. The book describes the life of a young boy who despite the various challenges he faced, survived and found success and happiness based on truth.

My grandmother reminded me often as a child that “I have the ability to achieve my dream,  but the question is how much do I want the dream?

I think her counsel applies neatly to writing. One must write with passion, determination and drive. An author keeps refining their work and expect that it will be very hard work. Effective prose and a readable, engaging writing style and personal voice will not happen magically without concerted and disciplined effort.

I look forward to hear what you think about my book. The cover will be revealed soon so stay tuned!