The opportunities you have been handed on a plate…

Hello

Firstly let me say, what I’m going to be telling you is 100% factual, it is not a rant. And it is very, very important you know about it.

It wasn’t all that long ago when the banks could do little wrong… no one minded they were making big profits because they were supporting us through the money they loaned out and advice they gave. But in the last few years we’ve had a glimpse of how much things have changed. I’m going to show you how the banks are now thinking …. and as we all know, thoughts drive actions.

Have you heard of the legal case Crestsign v NatWest that was decided just last month? Not many have but it’s a decision that demonstrates perfectly why the banks have surrendered their ‘trusted adviser status’. If you have trouble sleeping, follow THIS LINK to download the 46 page judgement. If you want a shorter summary, go HERE. Here’s my summary…
This was a case about a complicated product sold by a bank to a family business, which cost it a lot of money. The customer argued the bank had given them negligent advice. The bank argued they had given no advice nor made any recommendations but had merely presented options…and in any event their terms contained an exclusion clause which said that no advisory relationship existed. The judge decided that the bank had indeed made a recommendation… but the outcome of the case hinged on the written terms, which said the customer was on their own, they weren’t being given advice. The customer did not win his argument that those terms were unfair so he lost his case, the bank wasn’t liable.

What do we learn from this?
… What anyone outside of a bank considers to be advice from a bank isn’t really advice. You’d be a fool to rely on anything they tell you.
So where does that leave the banks?
… With all the credibility of a used car salesman.
Where does that leave banks’ customers?
… In need of reliable, top quality, independent professional advice from someone they can trust.

This gives accountants, financial advisers, even lawyers a great opportunity to step into the space of ‘trusted adviser’ to potential new clients and to get much closer to existing clients who up to now have been ‘a little distant’, who previously relied on their friendly local bank manager.

So how do you do it?

Advisers are already under huge financial and time pressure. I believe the only way they will ever be able to step into the breach will be by collaborating closely with others in complementary fields – otherwise how can any individual or firm ever hope to match the banks’ resources?

This is a vision that I have had for a good while now within the professions, I woke up to this possibility a good while ago after reading a book on collaboration in IT ‘Wikinomics, how mass collaboration changes everything”. I asked myself why when collaboration in IT can have such a massive impact, can’t it be done in other areas like finance or general business support?

Look at it in this way…huge international businesses like Microsoft still have a big influence on technology, but most of the real technological innovation and results in terms of the impact on people’s lives comes from the efforts of much smaller firms using free/open source software given to them by highly principled, skilled members of the gnu hack community. Just look on your computer or mobile right now, you will find numerous examples of what I am talking about – and these are not inconsequential things, it is they which make your life the way it is today.

My Business Resuscitation work is my own personal effort to inhabit the collaborative, highly principled trusted adviser space. So what are you going to do to inhabit that space? And if you choose not to inhabit it, who will do so for your distanced clients, how are you going to attract quality, appreciative, new clients to you in what may be a reducing market?

You see the world is changing – or I should say it’s changed – and it’s now time for the professions – accountants and others involved in finance, and yes even you lawyers – to step into the breach for all of their actual clients, not just the few paying higher fees, and also for potential new clients.

But here’s a word of warning…I’m seeing a growing number of accountants and lawyers telling people they walk the journey with their clients as ‘business advisers’. But they do nothing to back it up – it’s just sales hype. In fact get some of my better leads from the clients of such firms, they come to me direct with two things: major problems and a willingness to pay my bill. You see they were attracted to that particular firm because they needed more than a stereotypical reactive service, yet when they asked for it they found it had never existed. And because aggrieved clients tell on average 10 other people, it gives the competition an opportunity to differentiate themselves and attract appreciative, ‘adviser fee friendly’ clients.

So what’s your plan for taking advantage of the banks’ and your over-hyped competitors’ own goals?
Paul Brindley
Licensed insolvency practitioner, chartered accountant and trusted adviser
(and if you want evidence, read our testimonials – click here)
Tel: 01902 672323

Mom and Dad’s bathroom tiles and the OMG moment they created!

 

I’ve recently lost both my Mom and Dad. When I went around the family house last night, the quietness hit me, and writing of Mom’s eulogy has got me thinking. Yet standing there in the bathroom, tinged with sadness, I couldn’t help but chuckle. And I’m going to share why. And later on in this newsletter I’ll be sharing something else, something pretty big, that few of you know about me because it’s highly relevant right now…

But first, the story of the tiles… back in the ‘70s when I was barely in my teens, I negotiated with my Mom and Dad to tile the bathroom in return for some money towards a youth hostelling trip. This, my first major DIY project, was going great, I was really proud of my work, that was until my Uncle Terry popped by to see how I was doing…

You see, Uncle Terry was a DIY expert, he’d taken his old 80 year old terraced house and turned it into a veritable palace. We thought that what he didn’t know about DIY wasn’t worth knowing…

He came into the bathroom. The picture in the heading of this email is what he saw. (and yes all my handiwork is still there!)

‘You’ve not fitted them with the ‘Chick pattern’ showing!’ Here is a close-up:

Close up of the chicken tile

Have you ever had one of those OMG moments which live with you forever? Well, this was one of mine.
And every tile is the same… only neither I nor my Mom or Dad noticed… and I’d already tiled half the room.

Having exhausted the dictionary’s stock of expletives and a few more, my parents and me consulted… should I carry on, ignoring the chicken, or not. I carried on…

As I fitted every tile, all I could see were chickens, facing left (arguably properly), upside down and facing right, lying on their back or suspended face down. Those bloody chickens still haunt me to this day as I sit or stand in the loo!

The point is once you’ve ever had such a wake up ‘OMG’ moment like that, it can never be reversed, once the cat it out of the bag, it’s out forever. Never again can you look at things in the same way. You’re haunted.

And I’m haunted by some of the things I’m seeing happening in the professions nowadays …

The banks have had a really tough time reputationally in recent years. They got found out for the ‘traders’ they are. Banking is no longer one of the professional pillars of society. Instead they’re the people skulking in the corner of the kitchen at parties. I’m not here to knock the banks, that’s far too easy and cheap a shot, I’m talking about some of the things that are happening in other professions, particularly in my own of insolvency, and in accountancy, where similar things are happening as have happened in the banks. Let me explain…

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘the Wolf of Wall Street’. Incredibly it’s the biography of a real – and totally dispicable – fellow called Jordan Belfort. He was a financial expert who’s probably best summed up by his closing words at the meetings he held to stir up his sales people – ‘now go rip their (sic his clients’) f—ing eyes out’. He’d talk about his staff being the hunter, the clients their prey.

In Jordan’s world, every client was treated as a ‘transaction’ – even though his people – the so called experts – gave the impression there was a real relationship with the client. The purpose of this masquerade was to extract maximum fees from the client regardless of whether what they were selling them was right or wrong for the client. Giving the client the impression the expert cared for their best interests was all part of the game.

Jordan also talked about ‘plausible deniability’ and ‘rationalising, justifying and denying’ to anyone decrying what they were doing … all things it seems to me the professions are doing nowadays to try to best protect their elevated position. How many times have you heard a profession shout down proposals to change how things are done? How many times have you seen sales people within a profession advise on a particular course of action? – are they really the best people to advise?

The problem many people have when taking advice from experts is we live in a highly complex world where there is often no readily visible benchmark to compare advice at the relevant time. And that’s what some accountants and insolvency practitioners are doing right now – feigning an interest in the wellbeing of the client, giving them appalling advice which digs the client into an even bigger hole yet earns the giver of advice maximum fees.

In my blog of recent weeks you will find 3 links to articles I’ve written on this topic, eachdemonstrating the pain felt by real people who have come to me for advice after having been given ‘plausible advice’ from other experts. Please take some time to read these – you may know someone who is in this position right now. You may even have introduced them to the insolvency practitioner.

So why’s this happening?

It’s simple really… for some, doing the right thing has become far less important than lining their own pockets. It comes down to the driving force behind the person.

I’m going to tell you something now that few outside of my profession know. It’s what’s determined what I do and how I do it for the last twenty years…

In the 90s I joined a firm. The role had fantatstic promotion prospects, keep my nose clean and partnership, my main aim in life at that time, was virtually assured. Soon after I joined I found that one of the owners of that business was working with other professionals – bankers, agents, etc – to seize people’s businesses, massively defrauding the rightful owners of those businesses of their livelihoods. The problem for the person in my firm who was heavily involved in this was I had a ‘role model’, and if ever I encountered any sort of problem, I’d ask myself what he would do in those circumstances. And I then did it. For my role model doing the right thing was always more important than doing the thing that makes you most money.

To cut a long story short, I reported the guilty partner to the regulator – not an easy decision despite the fact that my role model happened to be the chair of my regulator’s ethics committee at the time. It was a terrible time for me personally when every sinew of what I was all about was tested – after all I’d come from a working class background and about to break through into the big time. The guilty guy was sacked from the firm and cut a deal with the regulator to accept lesser charges in return for handing his licence back quietly. The whole episode was hushed up and for a while I was shunned by some in the insolvency profession – you see no one likes a whistle blower. For a good many years afterwards people would ring me from insolvency firms around the country asking for my advice on how they should deal with major issues going on in their firm – they knew they could trust me, they knew I’d encountered similar problems.

It’s been a few years since I last saw Roy, my role model – the last time was at the Baggies when I went up him, shook his hand, thanked him for the fact that unlike many of the class of ‘85 I was still working and not living it up on some beach somewhere but that I was so very glad because I could sleep properly at night. Whenever I have seen him in the last 20 years I have always thanked him for having taught me what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s been a father to me in business.

It might be me, but right now I’m not seeing many role models of the calibre of Roy. In fact I see far too many Jordan Belfort type characters.

Do I regret standing firm when it was far easier just to walk away?

Not one bit, you see it’s part of who I am, it’s something they can put on my tombstone when my time comes: ‘He always did the right thing’ will suit me fine.

Here’s a question for you …Are you dealing with a Jordan Belfort or a Roy? Do you know?

Your turn to do some thinking…
Paul Brindley
– Chartered Accountant, Licensed Insolvency Practitioner, and much much more!
Midlands Business Recovery
Tel 01902 672323
www.midlandsbusinessrecovery.co.uk

 

Mom and Dad's bathroom tiles and the OMG moment they created!

 

I’ve recently lost both my Mom and Dad. When I went around the family house last night, the quietness hit me, and writing of Mom’s eulogy has got me thinking. Yet standing there in the bathroom, tinged with sadness, I couldn’t help but chuckle. And I’m going to share why. And later on in this newsletter I’ll be sharing something else, something pretty big, that few of you know about me because it’s highly relevant right now…

But first, the story of the tiles… back in the ‘70s when I was barely in my teens, I negotiated with my Mom and Dad to tile the bathroom in return for some money towards a youth hostelling trip. This, my first major DIY project, was going great, I was really proud of my work, that was until my Uncle Terry popped by to see how I was doing…

You see, Uncle Terry was a DIY expert, he’d taken his old 80 year old terraced house and turned it into a veritable palace. We thought that what he didn’t know about DIY wasn’t worth knowing…

He came into the bathroom. The picture in the heading of this email is what he saw. (and yes all my handiwork is still there!)

‘You’ve not fitted them with the ‘Chick pattern’ showing!’ Here is a close-up:

Close up of the chicken tile

Have you ever had one of those OMG moments which live with you forever? Well, this was one of mine.
And every tile is the same… only neither I nor my Mom or Dad noticed… and I’d already tiled half the room.

Having exhausted the dictionary’s stock of expletives and a few more, my parents and me consulted… should I carry on, ignoring the chicken, or not. I carried on…

As I fitted every tile, all I could see were chickens, facing left (arguably properly), upside down and facing right, lying on their back or suspended face down. Those bloody chickens still haunt me to this day as I sit or stand in the loo!

The point is once you’ve ever had such a wake up ‘OMG’ moment like that, it can never be reversed, once the cat it out of the bag, it’s out forever. Never again can you look at things in the same way. You’re haunted.

And I’m haunted by some of the things I’m seeing happening in the professions nowadays …

The banks have had a really tough time reputationally in recent years. They got found out for the ‘traders’ they are. Banking is no longer one of the professional pillars of society. Instead they’re the people skulking in the corner of the kitchen at parties. I’m not here to knock the banks, that’s far too easy and cheap a shot, I’m talking about some of the things that are happening in other professions, particularly in my own of insolvency, and in accountancy, where similar things are happening as have happened in the banks. Let me explain…

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘the Wolf of Wall Street’. Incredibly it’s the biography of a real – and totally dispicable – fellow called Jordan Belfort. He was a financial expert who’s probably best summed up by his closing words at the meetings he held to stir up his sales people – ‘now go rip their (sic his clients’) f—ing eyes out’. He’d talk about his staff being the hunter, the clients their prey.

In Jordan’s world, every client was treated as a ‘transaction’ – even though his people – the so called experts – gave the impression there was a real relationship with the client. The purpose of this masquerade was to extract maximum fees from the client regardless of whether what they were selling them was right or wrong for the client. Giving the client the impression the expert cared for their best interests was all part of the game.

Jordan also talked about ‘plausible deniability’ and ‘rationalising, justifying and denying’ to anyone decrying what they were doing … all things it seems to me the professions are doing nowadays to try to best protect their elevated position. How many times have you heard a profession shout down proposals to change how things are done? How many times have you seen sales people within a profession advise on a particular course of action? – are they really the best people to advise?

The problem many people have when taking advice from experts is we live in a highly complex world where there is often no readily visible benchmark to compare advice at the relevant time. And that’s what some accountants and insolvency practitioners are doing right now – feigning an interest in the wellbeing of the client, giving them appalling advice which digs the client into an even bigger hole yet earns the giver of advice maximum fees.

In my blog of recent weeks you will find 3 links to articles I’ve written on this topic, eachdemonstrating the pain felt by real people who have come to me for advice after having been given ‘plausible advice’ from other experts. Please take some time to read these – you may know someone who is in this position right now. You may even have introduced them to the insolvency practitioner.

So why’s this happening?

It’s simple really… for some, doing the right thing has become far less important than lining their own pockets. It comes down to the driving force behind the person.

I’m going to tell you something now that few outside of my profession know. It’s what’s determined what I do and how I do it for the last twenty years…

In the 90s I joined a firm. The role had fantatstic promotion prospects, keep my nose clean and partnership, my main aim in life at that time, was virtually assured. Soon after I joined I found that one of the owners of that business was working with other professionals – bankers, agents, etc – to seize people’s businesses, massively defrauding the rightful owners of those businesses of their livelihoods. The problem for the person in my firm who was heavily involved in this was I had a ‘role model’, and if ever I encountered any sort of problem, I’d ask myself what he would do in those circumstances. And I then did it. For my role model doing the right thing was always more important than doing the thing that makes you most money.

To cut a long story short, I reported the guilty partner to the regulator – not an easy decision despite the fact that my role model happened to be the chair of my regulator’s ethics committee at the time. It was a terrible time for me personally when every sinew of what I was all about was tested – after all I’d come from a working class background and about to break through into the big time. The guilty guy was sacked from the firm and cut a deal with the regulator to accept lesser charges in return for handing his licence back quietly. The whole episode was hushed up and for a while I was shunned by some in the insolvency profession – you see no one likes a whistle blower. For a good many years afterwards people would ring me from insolvency firms around the country asking for my advice on how they should deal with major issues going on in their firm – they knew they could trust me, they knew I’d encountered similar problems.

It’s been a few years since I last saw Roy, my role model – the last time was at the Baggies when I went up him, shook his hand, thanked him for the fact that unlike many of the class of ‘85 I was still working and not living it up on some beach somewhere but that I was so very glad because I could sleep properly at night. Whenever I have seen him in the last 20 years I have always thanked him for having taught me what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s been a father to me in business.

It might be me, but right now I’m not seeing many role models of the calibre of Roy. In fact I see far too many Jordan Belfort type characters.

Do I regret standing firm when it was far easier just to walk away?

Not one bit, you see it’s part of who I am, it’s something they can put on my tombstone when my time comes: ‘He always did the right thing’ will suit me fine.

Here’s a question for you …Are you dealing with a Jordan Belfort or a Roy? Do you know?

Your turn to do some thinking…
Paul Brindley
– Chartered Accountant, Licensed Insolvency Practitioner, and much much more!
Midlands Business Recovery
Tel 01902 672323
www.midlandsbusinessrecovery.co.uk

 

What we can all learn from the mountains about fear …

Hi, this month I’m going to talk to you about something we all experience from time to time – and that’s fear.

We all feel fear from time to time, and right now, although there is more of a feelgood factor around, I am seeing people who are fearful of making key decisions whether they be ‘positive’ – growing their business or exiting – or less so, such as seeking a formal insolvency solution.  Fear can paralyse.  It can cause people to settle for a lesser outcome than they’re capable of.  Fear holds us all back, it’s just a question of how much we allow it and where.

I’m going to tell you a few personal stories about when I was afraid, indeed in fear of my life in the mountains, drawing on the circumstances, my thoughts, my and others’ actions – you see the principles that apply in the mountains also apply in business!

Firstly, let’s set the scene … I’m a member of a mountaineering club, a small team of us within it are ‘ticking off’ the highest mountains across Europe… and doing so has got us into a few scrapes.  Here are just three of them…

Let me take you back to my first European trip, all those years ago…

Here’s me part way up Gran Paradiso, Italy’s highest mountain.

Taking a break, high above the clouds, I was feeling good – I’d already put a lot of effort in, I was enjoying myself.  Sure, I wasn’t exactly in my comfort zone and had no idea what the next few hours would bring, but all was good, I was feeling strong and moderately confident.

Over the next few hours as we climbed higher, more of my colleagues fell by the wayside – the combination of intense heat, effort and reducing oxygen levels was taking its toll.  20 steps before stopping gasping for breath and waiting for the pain in my legs to subside became 15, then 10, then 5.  The slow plod up the snowfield then became more technically challenging, the penalty for a stumble more serious – if I hadn’t been roped up to an experienced climber who’d been along a similar, even though not the same route, before, I wouldn’t have got this far, I couldn’t have gone on.  But I was, and could.

Eventually we got to the top.  Euphoria!  Staying there for half an hour we drank in the views.

How many countries, how many mountains could we see?  Then it dawned on us, the snow and ice was melting in the afternoon sun… descending is always far more difficult and dangerous, and can be slower, than ascending…  even more so as the snow and ice softened.   It seems as suddenly things had got far more serious.  Our plan needed to be bold… our actions decisive… we had to implicitly trust each other and our equipment.

This was the plan…  I’d belay the climber down the ridge until where he could safely belay me, then  we’d swop; if there was no safe belay stance, we’d both walk carefully down the ridge, as close to the top edge as we could so that if one of us fell down the steep snow slope (this seemed more likely), the other would instantly throw himself over the cliff (3,000 foot drop) the other side to counterbalance the fall.  A fall or slip not stopped by the other climber would mean certain death for both of us.

God I was scared… I’d been afraid on the way up but this was altogether another level … and I was uncomfortable having to place my trust in one person for so much…I’d not had the opportunity to train with him before, there’d been no dry run.

4 hours later we arrived down safely at the hut, exhilarated, a real thank God moment .

Then there was Liechstenstein…Grauspitz

In the restaurant at the top of the cable car, we took ten minutes out in for a coke, today was going to be a long day…  today’s objective was a simple climb up a mere 2,500 metre peak before crossing the ridge to the hut.  You see we were following a route set out in the trusted Cicerone guidebook.

I guess we should have listened to the restaurant owner, he’d been to the top 200 or so times.  But we were taking a different route – one he said didn’t exist.  Surely, we can trust the guidebook?  ‘Which hut?’ he asked?  ‘In one day? – that’s impossible’.  Maybe we should have listened.

We started on our way…the scenery was stunning, it was Spring in the valleys, the flowers were incredible, the lakes a magical colour, the views across to the high mountains stupendous.   So this is where the Swiss army do their mortar practice?  They weren’t firing today so we carefully picked our way up the firing range, avoiding the UXBs stuck in the mud, posing for photos with the remnants of those that had gone off.

A check on the GPS, yes, this is the climb, time to rope up…there were no telltale signs of climbers having been here before, but checking the guidebook, this looked like the route.  Anyway we’d be ok, we’d been training for months, we had done this before.

50, 100, 150 metres up the climb … things were getting progressively more difficult.  And there was no way of retreating – there were no safe anchor points off which we could abseil.  We had just one option, to keep climbing…


This is a photo of me at one of the advanced belay stances.  The look on my face says it all.  A few minutes before this was taken a rock the size of a fridge had come down, dislodged by my climbing partner, missing my head by inches.  I’d never seen it, my colleagues yards from me had.  There had been no warning shout, it had happened so quickly.  This was serious: I had just one piece of gear attaching me to the rock – the norm is 3 – and it was poor, it wouldn’t hold  a fall; the rope to my partner then ran out, he hadn’t moved for several minutes, he’d dislodged a ruck of rocks, it was obvious he was stuck; and on the way to where he was now stuck he’d been complaining he couldn’t get any gear in. There was a good chance he’d fall from 30 metres + above and straight past me – unless I could somehow jump on him as he went past.  We’d probably both fall straight to the bottom – 400 ft or so.  Look at the concentration on my face! – I was listening what was happening above, feeling, reading the rope, hoping to make the right decision in a split second should my partner fall – what was happening on the climb next to me was ignored, we had our problems, they had theirs, we couldn’t help them right now, 100% focus on the here and now.

A shout came down ‘ I need you to leave your stance, start climbing with me, I’m ten metres from a ledge, I might be able to make it’.  Leaving such an uncomfortable, unsafe place wasn’t too hard a decision, yet it still meant making a gigantic leap of faith… sure it might not work, but what was the alternative?  And it meant climbing at a grade above my normal lead climber capabilities, up a collapsing route, essentially with us both operating at the very limit of what we can do for a short while.

A few hours later, exhausted we go to the top of ‘the climb’.  We’d made it… or so we thought.  A plod up a rubble field led us to a col ….

The summit was a mere hour’s round trip to the left, the hut a very long way down, you can just see it left of the mountain.  As it was early evening we took the difficult decision of abandoning the summit attempt despite traveling all that way just to bag it!  Our plan of crossing the ridge was also abandoned – it wasn’t a ridge as the maps had suggested, it was another immense climb – our plan, based on books and maps, was unachievable – foreign maps are so unreliable!

Contour around, pick up the path, it’ll be easy, won’t it?  8 hours later, 2am at night, in the pitch black, exhausted physically and mentally, we collapsed into the hut – having improvised on our crossing of 2 precipitous snowfields (we’d abandoned our snow and ice gear in the car as we’d been told there was no snow up there); done several via ferrata in the dark, above huge drops …etc.  We’d been the first to cross from the col this year. Although hardy mountaineers this relatively small one had pushed us to our limit, and beyond, time and time again.   We’d given it our best shot, but we’d failed… but we were alive, no one had died – our pride was dented.

Then there was Germany…Glossglockner

Getting up any 4,000 metre peak is hard work, they don’t give in easily.  A long walk up the valley, across the glacier, up a scramble led us to the hut at around 3,500 metres.  I was really struggling – the speedy climb to such a height meant I had ‘mild’ altitude sickness. I couldn’t eat, I had a raging headache, I ached all over, I was shivering uncontrollably, my breathing was shallow and very rapid.  I doubted whether I’d be able to get up in the morning, let alone have a crack at the mountain.

After a night of no sleep, things hadn’t really improved, yet forcing some breakfast down, and with some encouragement from my fellow climbers, I decided to give it a go as I’d come that far.  The problem was Andy, our most experienced guy, suggested that I should lead the team!  I hadn’t lead climbed a 4,000 metre peak before.  And I was feeling terrible. My pride meant I simply had to give it a go – the nickname ‘bunk-bed’ given to one of my climbing friends who had had similar altitude issues but stopped in the hut on a previous trip had stuck with him!

Slowly I started off, zig-zagging up a snow bank that steepened until eventually the snow gave a way to a scramble, time to ditch the snow gear.   I still felt terrible.  Huge drop to the left – memo to self – be aware of it but don’t let it detract from my focus – always keep three limbs on the rock; plan half a dozen moves ahead; find and stick to a rhythm; test each move before committing to one that might be fatal; look out for and use what protection you can when it’s there, but if there’s none, trust yourself; small moves, no big ones; stop and re-appraise strategy when you can; expect a crux – don’t worry about it until you get there, and then just deal with it; control the emotions; trust in your team but keep watching them to monitor their performance; expect someone, in this case the foreign guides, who somehow think you’re inhabiting their space to try to walk all over you.


This is a photo of the ridge, that I led us up to, across and back down…with pride, with increasing confidence and adrenalin overcoming my physical difficulties and mental uncertainty.

So what comparisons can we draw to being in business, especially one that is struggling?

  • Being in a comfortable place is only temporary.  Make the most of it because it’s not the norm – the norm is being out of the comfort zone, continually stretching yourself.  
  • It’s ok to aim high and miss, because even then you’re still achieving far more than almost everyone else!
  • If pushed, you’d be surprised what a normal person can achieve…especially if they’re supported, even tacitly, by an expert who’s got real, practical, experience along a similar route. 
  • It’s important to have the right equipment / tools around you.  It’s vital you have the right team around you.  You may be able to improvise on the equipment/tools, but don’t ever consider compromising on the team.
  • After someone has got used to operating outside of their comfort zone, decisions and actions that were once considered to be impossible become easier.   And that breeds self-confidence.
  • Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it, however hard it becomes.
  • Desperation is not always a bad thing, even if it did feel like the worst thing in the world at the time. 
  • Pride can either get in the way of achieving something major or drive you on to do it – it’s neither entirely a good nor bad thing, but it’s important to know how it’s effecting your decisions and assess whether you should allow it to, or not.
  • There must be an end game and a plan, but neither should be set in stone – it’s a good idea to adapt both of them as you go along to reflect changing circumstances.
  • You can never stop working on your skills – it’s not enough to just rely on the experts.  Everything that’s worthwhile achieving involves a good degree of self-help. 
  • What’s going on inside a person’s head is key – your own self belief and a willingness to take calculated risks are vital when the chips are down.  To others, even you at an earlier moment in time, this may seem reckless, but it’s not.  Having overcome any sort of challenge in your life, even in completely unconnected areas, can be a help to taking tough decisions now.  
  • Sometimes to survive it’s essential to focus on one thing at a time, ignoring everything else that is going on around you.  The ability to blank out things you cannot influence and are irrelevant right at that moment in time is important.   
  • 99.9% of the time there’s no need for you to take big steps – there are only small steps strung together to make one big step.  Looking no further than the current step can be a good thing.
  • Things take longer than you’d anticipate.  Everything… always.  
  • It’s ok to be scared, even out of your wits, and to lack confidence.  But it’s vital to harness your fear, to control your emotions, to maintain your cool, to dampen down any uncertainty even if things are going against you – doing so will sharpen your awareness, up your game if only to enable you to live for another day.  In business what’s the worst that can happen? – after all, you can rebuild!

As an insolvency practitioner, I have to deal with stressful situations similar to those I’ve encountered in the mountains, every day.  I believe that these experiences help give me the right balance, help me best support the clients I work with.  Sure, not everyone wants to go on such a journey, but that’s ok, because plenty do, and for them the world is their oyster.

Paul Brindley
Midlands Business Recovery

When riding a tiger or hanging on to the tail of a bear, it’s rational to hold on for a while

(why it’s now time to get off the tiger)

Hi

But first…

The door bell rings just as Geoff is getting into the shower.  His wife, Sue, has just finished hers.  She quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.  When she opens the door, there stands Bob, their neighbour.  Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you £1,000 to drop that towel…’  She thinks for a moment, then drops the towel and stands there naked.  After a few seconds, Bob hands her £1,000 and leaves.  Sue wraps back up and goes upstairs.  When she gets to the bathroom, Geoff asks, ‘Who was that?’  She replies ‘It was Bob from next door’.  ‘Great,’ he says, ‘did he say anything about the £1,000 he owes me?’

The moral of the story is:  If you share critical information on credit and risk at the right time, you could prevent avoidable exposure.

And that’s why I write my newsletters…you see I support your clients to make decisions that are right not just for now, but also for the future…

and you never know, you might find them useful in your own business!

We’ve got a lot to get through, so read on – and don’t forget to read the two great offers at the bottom of this mailer!

I’ve a question for you:  Is this recession (and recovery) following a pattern and if so, what’s next?

Right now, we’re out of recession, or at least that’s what we’re being told.  But is what we’re being told real?  Where could we be going next?  What impact could that have on you, me, your and my clients, our families?

Let’s look at one aspect of what’s happening out there…

What I’ve seen in my time on this planet is that when the prices of assets like stocks or property rise, ‘insiders’ get in early, then use their experience to sell on to ‘outsiders’ in a game of pass the parcel.  Those outsiders are lured in by the hope of rich pickings hoping that the upwards trend will continue forever or that they can exit just before the trend stalls. Greed, jealousy and a desire to avoid missing out on easy profit are typical motivators.  The insiders know when to get out, or how to make money from the market in different ways, the outsiders sit ride the tiger and then when price starts to go south, hold on equally tight to the bear’s tail. Such outsiders include not just the investors themselves, but also the banks who lend to them – often chasing market share, they too are caught up in a feeding frenzy, increasingly throwing caution to the wind.  But it’s ok, because everyone is doing it, or at least that’s what they convince themselves, because there’s safety in the herd.

The investors borrow money from over-eager banks to invest in the rising market because the anticipated capital gain exceeds the cost of borrowing.  And at the moment I’m seeing a lot of inexperienced outsiders following the trend.  The problem is when such margin trading goes wrong, it goes horribly wrong.  And here’s evidence of the extent of margin trading – investors borrowing (‘margin debt’) to invest in the stock market.  As you will see there’s a spike right now.

The point is that every time there has been such a spike, it’s followed soon afterwards by the real economy plunging back into recession – the highly leveraged speculation we are seeing right now has only ever ended badly.  And there’s a similar thing happening with property in the South East, where ‘capital gain trend followers’ are ignoring our Midlands based, longer, less sexy, deals to pursue short term London property opportunities.  Opportunities for a good level of growth here in the sticks are falling by the wayside for want of funding.

So there is a pattern, and it is: market/price goes up, profits are generated; momentum grows as more investors and lenders are attracted; outsiders marvel at the paper profits they’re making and re-invest them in the rising market; insiders quietly exit; something major happens to disturb the market – maybe a change in interest rates?; there’s panic, price plunges to below the level of bank debt; the panic intensifies, banks stop lending; mainstream economy falls into recession; once at the bottom the insiders return to the market, having hoovered up the outsiders’ savings.

There are two issues –

Firstly right now money that could otherwise have gone to support real businesses such as yours is being diverted into speculative lend in the stock and property markets – and

Secondly in the past when such bubbles burst, the banks not only stopped lending on such speculative deals, they stopped lending right across the board, including to real businesses.  So right now while the tap might be on, even though you may not feel like it is, but when it gets turned off, you can expect to see your facilities reduced. 

Let’s explore what this means for you, me, your clients, all of our businesses and families…

We’re all feeling a little more flush than we really should be – I bet your annual pension fund statement showed you did quite well last year, I guess you’re feeling a little happier as your home has again started to go up in value?  The point is it is not real, it cannot be converted pound for pound into cash. Like the outsiders’ paper profits, they’re meaningless.

Secondly, if you thought funding your project, business or practice is difficult today, or if your business is just holding its own, don’t expect any improvement going forward, in fact there’s every chance things could get much more difficult.  It’s a good idea to plan now for a more difficult future – to make important decisions sooner rather than later, because the risk of waiting for the optimum time to take action is too great – do as the insider, not outsider does.

Here are some tips:

1.     Get those bank finance lines put in place early, and with some leeway for further shocks to the system;

2.     Start investing now in new marketing initiatives, growing your business into areas that others can’t or won’t move into – you’ll need to have these areas fully developed so you can turn them on when needed.  Spend money on marketing, don’t cut back;

3.     Finance your company or project in ways that involve little bank finance even if it means you giving more away than you’d intended – think about getting an investor in, try that crowdfunding, sell your investment property now when the market is still strong;

4.     Start reducing your fixed costs, converting as many as you can to variable;

5.     Reduce your personal cash commitments, if you can, so you put less pressure on the business;

6.     If your business is already on the verge of insolvency now and you are either short of money or simply don’t have the stomach for a lengthy fight, then don’t waste any more time or effort, move on to something else now;

7.     Restructure the business now when you have more money, resources and options.


And that takes me on to this month’s offer for the sector that I believe will struggle most in 2014 ….     

‘The End of Lawyers …  as we know them?

‘The End of Lawyers‘ is the title of a hardhitting book by Richard Susskind.  Perhaps we should add the words ‘as we know them’  at the end, because while we’ll always need lawyers, there are now more ways than ever of delivering legal services?

Here’s a few of the more recent casualties in the sector – Linda Myers; Challinors; Cobbetts; Barnetts; Hilliers HRW; Hacking Ashton….

They are living proof that being good, even great, at what you do doesn’t stop you from going under. Here’s what Andy Hemming of ActionCoach has to say……….

Good lawyer?  Not good enough…….

We’re living in the experience economy, so it’s no longer good enough just to exhibit a high level of professional competence.  The world is changing fast, and when it comes to the law, here’s one I especially like:
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” (John F. Kennedy)

I’ve noticed in the professional services (and especially the legal) sector that things are polarising – a few innovators are rethinking their business model and thriving as a result.  The vast majority are doing more of the same because it’s worked in the past.
 
Unfortunately, the pace of change in the market place means that we all need to keep reinventing ourselves, and being professionally competent isn’t enough to differentiate yourself any more.
 
So what are you doing to stay ahead of the game?
 
There has never been a better opportunity than now to catch the growth wave.  A clear strategy and the discipline to execute a great plan can put you head and shoulders above the large majority of the market. 

  • What does your strategy and plan look like? 
  • How clear is your team so they can help you achieve it?
  • When was the last time you critically evaluated your activities in order to make change to your modus operandi?

Take action now!  We can offer you a complimentary, no obligation session with one of the UK’s top business coaches to help you get clearer on the way forward.

To take up Andy’s offer, call him direct on 01562 734065 or email him at andyhemming@actioncoach.com.   Confidentiality is assured.

And if you are closing down your lawyer’s practice or part of it, you’ll have a huge storage problem – ask Dave Rose of L&R Services for a quotation for storing and ultimately confidentially destroying your records – he’s used by numerous IPs, accountants and lawyers – I have used him for almost 25 years now, there’s no one better in what he does and he does it at a great price – tel 0121 555 8838.

Thanks for taking the trouble to read my newsletter, please let me have your feedback, good or bad.

And don’t forget, I’m here for all your formal insolvency needs.


Paul Brindley FCA