Thursday, 27 December 2007

Simplifying Business Support - a humbug/cynic's view

Call me cynical, but isn't it strange that the Government releases its response to the 'Simplifying Business Support' consultation on 20th December just as we all break up for the Christmas break - will anyone read it...? will it get reported in the papers...? does anyone care...?

And I thought that the small/independent business community was high up their agenda!!!

The paper can be seen at:
Simplifying business support: Government response to consultation (359KB)
but what does it mean...? It is pretty much indecipherable although ironically it does say:

'Government’s aim for publicly-funded business support in 2010, set out in the ‘simplifying business support’ consultation, is to reduce the number of publicly-funded business support schemes in England to no more than 100 by 2010, to ensure publicly-funded support is:
• Simple for business to understand and access;
• Good value for money; and
• has a substantial, measurable impact on public policy goals.'

Not long to wait then!!

Initial response to the consultation on simplifying business support to accompany the pre-budget report (162KB)
Additional information on the business support announced in the Pre-Budget Report
Simplifying business support: Government response to consultation (359KB)
Business support simplification programme: impact assessment (332KB)

Fifteen Ways To Raise A Million

Business XL Magazine has a great article named ‘Fifteen Ways To Raise A Million’ by Marc Barber.

And here’s the list – it’s all stuff we know already but sometimes people seem to miss out one or two:

1 Venture Capital
2 Invoice Discounting/Factoring
3 PLUS Markets
4 Venture Capital Trusts
6 Business Angels
7 Corporate Venturing
8 Cash Shells
9 Network Like Crazy
10 Regional Venture Capital Funds
11 Debt
12 Your Own Pocket
13 Commercial Finance
14 The Personal Touch
15 Enterprise Capital Fund

For more information go to BERR’s website or read the full article in the magazine..

Monday, 24 December 2007


With the New Year upon us it is time to FOCUS. Here we have two recent articles on this very subject!

Time to Focus on Brighter Marketing - If you want to succeed, you've got to be smart in today's competitive age. That means not just being better than the rest - but also being different (Better Business, December 2007/January 2008).

Get Your Focus Right - Businesses had better watch out. Customers do not feel in charge and they do not feel delighted, despite what the rhetoric might say (Better Business, November 2007).

Time to Focus on Brighter Marketing - Better Business, December 2007/January 2008.
Get Your Focus Right - Better Business, November 2007.

How Good Is Your Marketing? - Forget your marketing expenditure for a minute - its all about delivering... (Growing Business Mag, Sept 2007).

Sunday, 23 December 2007

How To Energise Your Business In 2008

2008 is already here!

Start your Business has just published this article which seems like a pretty good place to start - How to energise your business


How To Energise Your Business In 2008 - Feel like your business has lost its direction? Working hard but not getting the results you deserve? Robert Craven, entrepreneur guru leads the way! (Start Your Business Magazine, December 2007).

A Bunch of Fives - Robert Craven's New Year's Resolutions for 2006(?) - print it off and pop it on your wall. (First published in Daily Telegraph Business Club, December 2005. Also in Dealer Support and USP Magazines Jan 2006 - and on the USP Magazine website).

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Audio Logo, Elevator Pitch and so forth

Here’s a quickie – a new article of mine in 'Start Your Business' Magazine – just 200 words – How To Write An Elevator Pitch - it is a very brief summary but the other links/blogs will give you some more meat to put on the bones!

How To Write An Elevator Pitch - Marketing guru, Robert Craven, shares his top tips (Start Your Business Magazine, December, 2007).
Elevator Pitch - 30 seconds to introduce yourself - Women in Rural Enterprise blog (July 2007).
Elevator Pitch discussed in a blog on Ecademy (Nov 2006).
What Would You Say To Sir Alan? - A full-length article on the 30-second pitch. Robert Craven (Better Business Magazine, March 2006).

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Law Of Diminishing Customer returns

In Wikipedia diminishing returns is also called diminishing marginal returns or the law of diminishing returns.

When applied to marketing and sales we get an interesting (and true proposition)…

The larger your customer database… then you will find that the average value of additional customers reduces…

I will put this another way… as you grow the sales of a particular offering then additional customers are probably worth less!!!

The average new customer is more price sensitive and less valuable than earlier ones...
The newer customer also tends to be less loyal than the existing customers... Typically your earlier customers are the one ones that find your offering the most valuable and may even pay more for it…

Why am I pointing this out?
Well, most growing businesses think that the early customers are the hard ones to attract and that later on everything will be OK. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns (which I believe I saw in my restaurant, sound recording studio and management consultancy companies) holds good for specific product sales – earlier customers are keener to pay more than the later ones… Its another variety of the Dip or Death Valley.

In growing, medium-sized businesses we often see:
1) Turnover growing but profit slipping as costs increase disproportionately...
2) The value of new customers often slips as well so you are trying to run up the ‘down’ escalator! (The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns)...
3) For many, what’s really going on is that the cost of acquiring each new customer is rising (see the graph above). (Marginal Cost rise!)

A triple whammy!!

No wonder its hard!


Wikipedia on The Law Of Diminishing Returns
Valley Of Death Article in Growing Business Magazine (Nov 07)
The Valley Of Death - How Many Employees Should You Have? - Will Critchlow, June 07
My Valley Of Death blog article - Robert Craven, July 07

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Green Is The New Black - Tara Struk

An article by Tara Struk for Investopedia, Green Is The New Black, concludes:

"1 As consumer attention begins to shift more toward environmental concerns, companies are increasingly "going green".

2 But despite what their public relations suggest, companies probably don't take the initiative to make these changes to their companies out of goodwill.

3 In fact, as many companies have discovered, there are solid economic incentives for reducing waste and moving toward more sustainable business measures.

4 By "going green" companies have already succeeded in reducing costs and increasing sales.

5 In the future - particularly if the dire predictions about the availability of energy resources bear out - these moves may also ensure that companies maintain market share, avoid legal repercussions for environmental damage and stay in business.

Green products score points with consumers... staying ahead of the curve is good business... going green is better than going to court... green is a flattering colour (in PR)... "

So, what's holding people back? Is it all just a lot of buffalo dust and lip-service or are people serious about going green? In which case, sell the car and cancel the plane trip! Or are people just in love with the idea of going green (or being seen to be going green)?! Or is it just a conspiracy...? Maybe you think it doesn't matter that so many businesses realise that green is licence to charge disproportionately high prices and make disproportionately high profits!? Hmmm!

Is Green The New Black? - Robert Craven explains why going green will not just benefit the environment (Start Your Business, November 2007)
Green Is The New Black article by Tara Struk at
Global Warming - No Problem - Today's London Sunday Times reports on Bjorn Lomborg's latest book, Cool It... 'Do you care about global warming? Yes? Liar.
Whitewash - Greenwash: who cares if your business is green? - It is easy to say you are green, but consumers are skeptical.

Coming Soon - "Let's Talk... Bright Green" - how green credentials can help your business: a new workshop from Robert Craven with Barclays - watch this space and The Directors' Centre homepage.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Nutrichef Wins Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Nutrichef attended the Barclays Bright Marketing event in Poole last week; so we were delighted to hear of the news that Barrbara Cox, of Nutrichef has been awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by local Chambers of Commerce...

"Nutrichef delivers delicious and healthy meals to customers across the South... to thousands of customers throughout Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, Bath and Bristol.
Meals comprise 187 different ingredients (of which 70 are fruit and vegetables) across a 30-day plan. Customers range from athletes such as six-times British Mixed Martial Arts Champion Jeff Lawson to people who simply want to lose weight, eat more healthily and feel more energised. "

Barbara has grown the business using a classic 'expert' model approach if she did but know it...

Nutrichef spread the word with a promotional campaign on a local radio station and the controller was so impressed with Barbara’s engaging way of talking about nutrition that she was invited back as a guest every day for three weeks.

“Since then I’ve been a guest on four local radio stations, I’ve given talks to a wide range of audiences from school children to doctors, I’ve written articles for a national cancer awareness publication, I’ve written a health column for the Southern Daily Echo and I’ve been appointed team nutritionist by my local professional football club, AFC Bournemouth.”


Abbreviated Expert article

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Guerilla Marketing meets Customer Is King

Guerrilla Marketing - When Less Is More - yesterday, the B2B International blog writes:
“Without vast marketing budgets to call upon and with acute time-pressure upon employees, small businesses can sometimes struggle to generate interest in their company.”

It then goes on:
“Finding the most efficacious promotional strategy possible is something of a Holy Grail for SMEs... In essence, focus is key. That’s why the notion of guerrilla marketing has become a bit of a buzzword amongst marketers in recent years.

A simplified distillation of this technique is as follows:
- Concentrate your efforts on small, focused areas of promotion that are effective; and
- Repeat them over and over again. “

I agree.

And the key themes:
- step back
- don’t do too much
- narrow your focus
- repeat it again and again

Today their blog continues with the theme of
Professional Services and Valuing the Customer and writes:
“Following on from
yesterday …we look at the poor level of service sometimes given to small companies by firms offering professional services. Everyone’s a consumer at some level, and as Robert Craven argues, SMEs should be valued customers just as much as anyone else..”

It goes on to quote the Better Business
Customer Is King article in this month’s edition.

A minor PS – anyone who knows me would know that I can’t stand the SME tag and would never use that label myself – a theme for another blog, I am sure. Still I would still like to thank the B2B International team for pointing people towards the Better Business article – all the usual copyright legals apply!

Guerrilla Marketing - When Less Is More B2Bi blog
Professional Services and Valuing the Customer B2Bi blog
The original Customer Is King article Better Business magazine

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ritz Carlton Service Experience - part two

As you read this I should be in Athens - in my recent research I re-visited the great Ritz Carlton website and this page on the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, etc. These give us the underlying values and principles of the Ritz Carlton success story.

My previous posting looks at the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, Service Values. This one considers what is known as The Sixth Diamond and the Employee Promise. (All rights etc belong to Ritz Carlton)

The 6th Diamond
- Mystique
- Emotional Engagement
- Functional

The Employee Promise- At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.
- By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.
- The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

Ritz Carlton website
Previous posting on Ritz Carlton
Exceeding Customer Expectations - A Seven Point Plan - Are customers really in charge when it comes to dealing with organisations. Here is a seven-point plan to make sure the customer is 'king' (Customer Management, July/August 2006).
Customer Is King - the book

The Ritz Carlton Service Experience

A few years back, I worked with Sandals and Ritz Carlton in Jamaica… the subject matter was customer service and the customer experience… a great time was had by all.

Next week, I am off to Athens to deliver a keynote presentation on customer experience, and in my research I revisited the great
Ritz Carlton website and this page on the Credo, Motto, Steps of Service, etc.

These give us the underlying values and principles of the Ritz Carlton success story – you must visit one of their hotels to understand the experience. (All copyright etc belongs to Ritz Carlton):

The Credo The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfils even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen." This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Three Steps Of Service
1 A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest's name.
2 Anticipation and fulfilment of each guest's needs.
3 Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest's name.

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton
1 I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
2 I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
3 I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
4 I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
5 I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
6 I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
7 I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
8 I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
9 I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
10 I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behaviour.
11 I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company's confidential information and assets.
12 I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

Ritz Carlton Service Experience - part two
Ritz Carlton website
Exceeding Customer Expectations - A Seven Point Plan - Are customers really are in charge when it comes to dealing with organisations. Here is a seven-point plan to make sure the customer is 'king' (Customer Management, July/August 2006).
Customer Is King - the book

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

A leading business travel magazine has just asked me to write a 1500-2000 word article on “How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint”

My reply in four words:
“Travel less; phone more.”

Have I missed something?

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Which Books Would You Recommend?

At the Let’s Talk… More Profit event we ran yesterday in Woking I was asked to “recommend some business books worth reading, something that moves on from the Old Michael Gerber I have just re-read”.

Here’s the first five that came to my head – they won’t suit everyone but I do find myself suggesting certain people read them (you know who you are!):
Tim Ferris – The 4-hour workweek
Felix Dennis – How To Get Rich
Bo Burlingham – Small Giants
Andy Bounds – The Jelly Effect
The Long Tail - Chris Anderson

There are loads of others but these are the ones I seem to be recommending at the moment… (and of course my own!)

Bright Marketing Seminar in Bath – review of 4-hour Workweek
How To Get Rich - Felix Dennis – a crisp quote
Small Giants - companies that choose to be great rather than big….
The Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

How To Get Rich - Felix Dennis

I need to quote to you from Felix Dennis's book 'How To Get Rich'. (I'll send this to my wife!)

"Whatever qualities the rich may have, they can be acquired by anyone with the tenacity to become rich. The key, I think, is... confidence and an unshakable belief it can be done and that you are the one to do it.

"Tunnel vision helps. Being a bit of a shit helps. A thick skin helps, as is a capacity to work so hard that your best friends mock you, your lovers despair and the rest of your acquaintances watch furtively from the sidelines, half in awe and half in contempt."

Felix's words are sobering for those of us who have experienced (or are about to experience) the Valley Of Death...

Valley Of Death Article in Growing Business Magazine (Nov 07)
The Valley Of Death - How Many Employees Should You Have? - Will Critchlow, June 07
My Valley Of Death blog article - Robert Craven, July 07
Time - The Silent Killer of Businesses - Fred Edwards blog, August 07
'How To Get Rich' - at Amazon
Felix Dennis's website

Friday, 23 November 2007

What Is Bright Marketing? (Comments from Ashford)

Karin H's blog The Kiss Business Too does me a big favour by summarising the Bright Marketing book and the Ashford workshop - an outsider can always see things better than we can ourselves... and I wouldn't disagree with her...

"By the time you finish the book (or leave the workshop) you should have sorted out How and What your Brand should be Communicating and to Whom."

She continues...
"Talking about workshops, like business advice books I have a personal 'definition' on proper, worthwhile workshops: it's is the word WORK - i.e. not having to listen for hours to a so-called guru going on and on about mostly already known strategies and/or marketing ideas, but being actively involved in the going ons...

"Workshops should be interactive and not just a lecture filled with cliché solutions...

"The 'Lets Talk...' workshops by Robert Craven in cooperation with Barclays fit the bill perfectly, if you are ever in the position to join in don't hesitate, just go and be prepared to work!"

Thank you Karin!

Bright Marketing book
The Kiss Business Too

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Bright Marketing Seminar in Bath

We had a great Bright Marketing seminar today, just down the road from us, near Bath.

100 exciting, independent/growing businesses squashed themselves into the Cumberwell Golf Club for this event run by

My book recommendation was
The Four-hour Workweek – Escape the 9-5 and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss… a provocative book which will make you realise that you are probably the bottleneck in your business. This book is a combination of '80/20' and 'work ON not IN your business' thinking... It’s time to rewrite the organisational chart so that the business can survive, grow and prosper without being 100% dependent on you!!!!!

We all left the room full of enthusiasm and excitement and I thought I should take the opportunity to mention some of the people who kindly thrusted business cards in my direction:
  • Martin Davies from NRG networks – a lunchtime networking community
  • Sarah Owen from Referral Institute – they run courses on word-of-mouth marketing

The ‘prize’ for the best business card went to Claire Morgan of Faragher Jones who publish local/regional Fairtrade Directories.

Special thanks go to our ‘resident belly dancer’ Emma – don’t ask if you weren’t there!
Dar Tangerina

And of course special thanks to our hosts, the Barclays team, especially Helen and Brian.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

"I love my Accountant"

The last few weeks I've been working with and talking to accountants of all shapes and sizes... most have loved what I have to say but some have found it a little too challenging. I did an interview (Accountancy Age interview - 25 minute interview on "What accountants should be providing to their clients)

My one-liner:
Accountants can be... should be... and, in fact, must be... fantastic for your business...

FIRST, they help you obey the law (all the compliance stuff), but more importantly they add real value to your business:
- they can help you pay less tax,
- they can help you to grow the business faster and more profitably.
Who wouldn't want someone like that on their side?

SECOND, if you think your current accountant is underperforming then sack them - get one that who you do trust and that does add real value to your business.

I do understand why this approach has ruffled a few feathers, but I must quote The Animals...
"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good:
Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood ..."

What do Today's Entrepreneurs want from their Accountants? - 25 minute interview with Accountancy Age (Nov 2007).
Accountants - Know Me, Know My Business - Accountants have still got to learn that the customer is king. (In Practice, 2005).

Friday, 16 November 2007

Fun in Basildon

I got back from a great Bright Marketing seminar with Barclays in Basildon to find not one, but two, blogs talking about the event. (Good old Google Alerts!).

Emma Duggan was a feisty photographer who 'asked for my business' in the coffee break - and my next slot was going to be on just that subject... "The guest speaker was the truly inspirational Robert Craven of the Directors Centre and I am now feeling completely psyched up about making my business work." Thanks for your flattering words. Robert Craven - 'The Entrepreneurship Guru'

Steve Hearn has put me on a tin (of beans I think!) in his blog entitled New idea, new product!... "I have created a new and unique way to give a gift or novelty item to people!" This isn't the first time that Steve has captured me although his caricatures are normally a little more flattering (more like Ringo meets George Harrison rather than looking slightly drug-crazed!).

Steve Hearn - his blog
Emma Duggan - her blog

Friday, 9 November 2007

Michelangelo - the greatest danger...

A brief blog, today... a simple yet powerful quote...

'The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.'

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Tom Peters at The London Business Forum on Women

Saw Tom Peters yesterday at The London Business Forum. Very good.

I will share this slide of his with you:


  • Women make [all] the financial decisions.Women control [all] the wealth.
  • Women [substantially] outlive men.
  • Women start most of the new businesses.
  • Women’s work force participation rates have soared worldwide.
  • Women are closing in on “same pay for same job.”
  • Women are penetrating senior ranks rapidly [even if the pace is slow for the corner
    office per se].
  • Women’s leadership strengths are exceptionally well aligned with new organizational effectiveness imperatives.
  • Women are better salespersons than men.
  • Women buy [almost] everything—commercial as well as consumer goods.

So what exactly is the point of men?

As I said, 'very good'.


  • What is your business doing to sell to women?
  • Do you recognise that women buy in a different way from men?
  • Do men, or do women, design your products/services/offices/websites/adverts? How does that impact on how it is received by women?

Women = Men?
I believe that men and women do behave differently from each other (a sweeping generalisation!) and I believe that they do buy differently.
Bright Marketing: She's Your Number One Customer!

Marketing To Women: What Women Really Want! - Are women different from men? Do they behave differently when they are buying? And if they are different, should we be marketing to them in a different way? (CriticalEye, Aug 2006).
Targeting Number One - Women make the majority of buying decisions today. Why reaching this segment is possibly the number one opportunity for businesses (London Business School Business Strategy Review)


Thursday, 25 October 2007

Let's Talk... Exit, Sell or Retire

I've just come back from a most depressing two days in North Wales (Bangor and Wrexham) - the area and the people were great: real warm hospitality. Special thanks go to the Welsh Assembly and Wrexham Business Week!

The problem was the subject I was discussing... succession planning.

Like writing a will, you can always put off succession planning till tomorrow... and that is the problem.

Roughly three-quarters of business owners expect to have a big pay-out when they sell their businesses... but roughly the same number don't have any plans in place for their exit strategy.

The result is that the majority of business owners (as much as 75%, according to the research!!!) get next-to-nothing for their businesses when they retire - a couple of old Dell computers and some staplers is hardly fair recompense for the years you have put into growing your business.
The chances are that you will be one of the ones who get next-to-nothing when you sell/close your business.

And how much is your business worth?
Most people have hugely inflated ideas of what they will get when they sell their business - I mean totally unrealistic!

Doom and gloom or what!

However it is never too late. Ask yourself:
  • How much do you think the business is worth right now?
  • How much would someone realistically pay you for it right now?
  • How much do you want it to be worth in x years?
  • What do you need to do create the business that someone will pay that amount for?
  • Who do you need to talk to in order to make sure that your sums really will stack up (business growth adviser, banker, accountant, lawyer, business transfer agent)?

If you don’t start planning your exit right now then you may well have a very impoverished retirement!

Let's Talk Growth - Exit, Sell Or Retire workshop in Birmingham on 2nd November
Time For A Sharp Exit - Options To Get Out Of Your Business - article for IOD

Monday, 15 October 2007

Companies lose half their customers every five years!

From the Sunday Times :

"According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, US companies lose half of their customers every five years, with two-thirds of them citing inadequate customer care as their primary reason for leaving. The study calculated that it is six or seven times more expensive to gain a new customer than retain an existing one, and that if customer loyalty is increased by just five per cent, profits can increase by 25 per cent. "
Read the whole
Sunday Times article.

I often quote the figures from
Leboeuf that up to 65% of clients leave you because they feel that you just don't care - you don't make enough effort.

And as the Americans say, " Do the math!".

How much does it cost for you to acquire one new customer?

How long do they stay with you? What is the average gross profit/contribution over the life-time of a customer?

Or put it another way... with, say 1000 clients this year, you will need to replace 200 of them every year just from natural wastage... and yet it costs six or seven times more to sell to new customers... so why not focus on existing customers.

  • Do a customer survey every three months - find out who is and is not happy with your service (90% of businesses have not done a survey in the last three months!)!
  • Use a customer satisfaction/happiness form after as many customer interactions as possible
  • Find 10 ways to get closer to your customers right now! How can you not want to have incredibly loyal customers right now?!

Calculate how much time/money you spend:

  • Acquiring new customers
  • Getting them to buy more or more often from you
  • Stopping them from leaving you...

Read the whole Sunday Times article: Keeping The Customer Happy
Read the book Customer Is King (Virgin Books)
Read the Customer Is King (for professional advisors) article (Better Business)
Read the 10 Way To Keep Your Customers Happier article (Wilts Times)
Read the Exceeding Customer Expectations article (Customer Management)

Attend the Bright Marketing workshops

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Global Warming - No Problem

Today's London Sunday Times reports on Bjorn Lomborg's latest book, Cool It.

'Do you care about global warming? Yes? Liar.

'You still drive and fly. Your house lacks solar panels and windmills. You drive to super-stores where you buy food laden with air miles...: nobody really cares about global warming, they just talk about it.

'“The vast majority,” says Bjorn Lomborg, “are along for the ride. They’ve kids to pick up from day care, jobs to get on with, marriages to work on. This is a background phenomenon to many of these people.”...

Read the full
Sunday Times article.

'“There’s a huge difference between what people say and what they do,” observes Lomborg...

'Look at all the websites where you can take a flight and offset your carbon. Only about 1% do it. Likewise this goes for most politicians who say they will cut emissions dramatically. Blair said in 1997 that he’d reduce carbon emissions by 15%; we’ve seen an increase of 3% since then.”
Nobody denies that we waste too much or that it us that is causing many of the climate changes... the question is whether we are doing the right things to sort it out!

Sunday Times article

Monday, 1 October 2007

Fantasy CEO in The Times

Start as you mean to go on!

Competitors in The Times Fantasy CEO Competition are keen to make their mark but have found preparing for the first round unexpectedly taxing. Carly Chynoweth reports .

My humble advice, as quoted:
'As with a real business, it’s worth putting the time in at the beginning.

Think about where you are now, where you are going and how you plan to get there.

Clear objectives from the start determine your trajectory and whether you poodle along or whether you want high growth. Equally, setting up a solid strategy at the outset should mean that later turns require much less work. '

This interview got me thinking about the real life (not the fantasy) CEO role that most of our clients currently hold... and the questions we need to ask ourselves...
  • What are you trying to do with this business? What's holding you back?
  • What have you got to keep and what have you got to lose to move to the 'next level'?

Maybe it is time to reflect...

  • What is your role in the growing of the business? Are you making the best use of your time and if not, why not?
  • What can you do to speed things up?
  • What advice would a raw meat-, raw garlic-eating entrepreneur give you if he/she saw what you are doing in your business?

Strategy Sucks - article in European CEO magazine by Robert Craven
Fantasy CEO in The Times - full article in The Times
Will a bit of fantasy help your reality - article in The Times

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Workplace ‘dreamers’ of today make tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

Research reveals untapped potential of today’s workforce...

"Workers caught staring into space at their desk or ‘away with the fairies’ during business meetings are a mass of untapped, entrepreneurial talent, according to research from Barclays Local Business... nearly half of today’s UK business bosses (44 per cent) admit to having plotted their entrepreneurial future whilst daydreaming in the work place of a previous employer...

"... just six per cent were prepared to think about being their own boss in between pints down the pub...

"The survey also uncovers the concerns keeping aspiring entrepreneurs awake at night; just under 40 per cent admit to feeling nervous about giving up the financial stability of a full time job, while nearly one in five (19 per cent) worry about getting into debt."
Read the full Workplace Dreamers story

I spent a very pleasurable Friday morning with John Davis, Marketing Director of Barclays Local Business being interviewed by 15 or so local radio stations on the implications of this research and how entrepreneurs can join the Let's Talk More Profit and Let's Talk Bright Marketing workshops. Drop me a line if you hear one of the interviews...

Workplace dreamers - Barclays Press Centre
A Big Swinging Success In The Business Jungle - What does an entrepreneur need to transform a smart idea into a profitable venture? Wendy Sloane (Sunday Times, 28 Jan 2007).
Let's Talk Profit Formulas - The one question that start-ups and new business-owners should be asking is ‘how do I get more profit?’. Robert Craven (Start Your Business Mag, Sept/Oct, 2006).

Our friend (and former client) Simon Topham of Millivres Publishing won the Businessperson of the Year Award at the GALA Awards at Claridges on Friday - it was a busy day!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Porsche dealer admits 'not too good at maths' after buy one get one free deal

- kindly sent to me by Debra Spurway of HR Dept

Glen Fergusson, sales and marketing manager for a new Californian Porsche dealer, has lost his job and faces possible legal proceedings as the company strives to reclaim the costs of the 18 Porsches given away free under Glen's opening day "buy one get one free promotion".

Glen said: "I have never really been too good at Math and I was sure the whole time we were making money - I was initially blown away by the amount of cars we were selling in that first hour. I had seen the "buy one get one free card" work extremely well for the new coffee shop down the road and thought what a great idea I will try it here."

Anyone who has been to one of the Let's Talk... More Profit seminars will know about the financial implications of a BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) offer - how, when and why to run such an offer!

Even More Profit - free seminars with Paul Jobin (12 venues across the UK)
Let's Talk... More Profit - free seminars with Robert Craven (venues nationwide)
HR Dept - Debra's website

Friday, 21 September 2007

Podcast on SmallBizPod

Taken from

SmallBizPod #54 - Monday 17 September 2007
"This week SmallBizPod #54, the podcast for anyone starting a business who needs inspiration and small business advice, returns to the subject of marketing with some very practical insight from serial entrepreneur and author Robert Craven."

SmallBizPod #54 - Monday 17 September 2007
Robert Craven

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Women = Men?

I attended a seminar today on selling! I am still learning...

In the wrap-up Q&A session to all the speakers, a question was posed:

"How are female salespeople different from men?" followed by "Do you sell differently when you are in front of a woman rather than a man?"

In true non-sexist, non-racist, politically correct style, all the speakers pronounced that there should be no difference in how men and women sell ("the same basics apply") and that men and women buy in the same way.

Well, "yes!" and "no!". I am not sure I agree.

Yes, the same basics appply (rapport, qualification/understanding, demonstration, close etc) but...

I believe that men and women do behave differently from each other (a sweeping generalisation!) and I believe that they do buy differently.

The situation is as follows:

  • Men and women are very different…;
  • Men are (still) in control… and are ‘totally, hopelessly, clueless about women’;
  • Women are not a niche market or a minority – they have wallets, and for many businesses, women as decision-makers and consumers hold the key to future success.


Marketing To Women: What Women Really Want! - Are women different from men? Do they behave differently when they are buying? And if they are different, should we be marketing to them in a different way? (CriticalEye, Aug 2006).
Targeting Number One - Women make the majority of buying decisions today. Why reaching this segment is possibly the number one opportunity for businesses (London Business School Business Strategy Review)

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Bjorn Lomborg says balmier weather could ward off millions of deaths.

This man gets off to a good if controversial start:
Global warming has been portrayed recently as the greatest crisis in the history of civilization... In the face of this level of unmitigated despair, it is perhaps surprising - and will by many be seen as inappropriate - to write a book that is basically optimistic about humanity's prospects.

Global warming has become one of the permanent concerns of our time

In this highly controversial book, Bjorn Lomborg claims most 'environmentalism is little more than scare mongering' - he exposes this wide range of disinformation.

He demonstrates that drastic, here-and-now measures are the worst way to spend our money. Climate change is a 100-year problem - we should not try to fix it in 10 years.
Like it or hate it, this is a companion for the controversial video The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Bright Marketing: Whitewash - Greenwash: who cares if your business is green? - blog entry
Washington Post Writers Group - a review of the book
Bjorn Lomborg - his website

Monday, 10 September 2007

Small Giants - Companies that choose to be great rather than big….

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham poses big challenges to those who assume that by definition growth is a good thing.

Consultants, accountants, bankers and business schools all tell us that thriving companies grow their profits and revenues year-on-year (and if you aren’t doing it then you feel like you must be failing!).

But bigger is not necessarily better!

Burlingham looks at businesses that choose ‘the road less travelled’… they reject the pressures of endless growth and instead they focus on being the best at what they do, creating a great workplace, legendary customer service, and a sense of community (both locally in the workplace).

Six attributes of these ‘businesses with mojo’ are:

  1. The founders/leaders recognised the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. They hadn’t accepted the standard menu of options as a given.

  2. They had allowed themselves to question the usual definitions of success in business and to imagine possibilities other than the ones all of us are familiar with.

  3. The leaders had overcome the enormous pressures on successful companies to take the paths they had not chosen and did not necessarily want to follow. They remained in control rather than accommodating themselves to a business shaped by outside forces.

  4. Each company had an extraordinarily intimate relationship with the local community, with customers and suppliers, and in the workplace.

  5. Because they were privately owned, they had the freedom to develop their own management systems and practices

  6. The leaders had unbridled, limitless passion for their business and about their service/product.

So What?

We currently have a number of clients who endlessly beat themselves up because they are not achieving year-on-year exponential growth…
- Maybe the growth lifestyle doesn’t suit them?
- Maybe their business hadn’t been designed to grow?
- Maybe you don’t want to sacrifice all you have created to create a Frankenstein’s monster?
- Maybe there’s more to life than selling the business for a huge profit?

Small Giants
Success At What Cost
Let's Talk... More Profit - free seminars with Robert Craven (venues nationwide).

Friday, 7 September 2007

Sacking Customers

Here are the words of two attendees from recent Let's Talk seminars where we often bang on about why we should sack difficult customers!

And I quote from an article in the Mail On Sunday by Helen Beckett:

Last year Matt Somers, owner of Peak, a Sunderland-based company offering bespoke training in management skills began sacking customers who behaved badly. And the results have been impressive.

'In the last year turnover has risen by 25 per cent and profits have been boosted by up to 10 per cent,' he says. 'They quibble about price and constantly squeeze you for more...I realised that many businesses shared the problem and it was OK to do something about it'

Laura Brown, director of Leeds-based event management company Circle Events, also sees advantages in turning away bad business.
'I very politely told a customer that he could call back when he knew what his budget was for an event,' she says. Brown believes the business has benefited from saving time on nurturing flaky customers. 'We've gained more credibility as a result,' she says.

I reckon that "Pond Life" generally accounts for 20 per cent of a business's customer base, but they can soak up 80 per cent of its time and resources. That's time that can be more profitably spent winning business from good customers. It seems like a no-brainer to me!

Write a list of your worst customers... Which ones would you like to sack?
What are you going to do?

Circle Events
Let's Talk seminars
Mail On Sunday article - "Awkward Customers? Well Sack Them"
Get Rid of The Scum - entry on this blog

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The Long Tail

Part of heated discussions at The Directors' Centre have been around the relevance of Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail for our clients.

The theory of the Long Tail can be boiled down to: "Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving towards a huge number of niches in the tail.
In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare."

The book challenges (and also supports!) our current thinking about the good old 80:20 Rule... There emerge six key themes as described in the book:

  1. In most markets there are more 'niche' products than 'hits'
  2. The cost of reaching those niches is falling dramatically - so you can now offer a massively expanded variety of products
  3. 'Filters' (recommendations or rankings, google etc) can drive demand towards the niches/the tail
  4. A consequence is that the 'hits' become less popular and the niches become more popular - the demand curve flattens
  5. There are so many niches that they can compete (collectively) and exist as a market rivalling the 'hits'
  6. The natural shape of the demand curve (without the physical constraints of shelf space) are less hit-driven than we believe.

So What?
The message is a straightforward one for smaller players. What you need to do is:

  1. Make it!
  2. Get it out there!
  3. Help people find it

And now it is cheaper and easier to do these things than ever before!

The Long Tail is a thought-provoking read - anyone growing a business should reflect on how they can scale up their existing offerings... In most markets the future does not lie in the 'hits' (the high-volume end of the traditional demand curve), but in what used to be regarded as the 'misses' (the curve's endlessly long tail)!

The Long Tail
What's The Problem? What's The Hurt? - a brief article


Even More Profit - free seminars with Paul Jobin (12 venues across the UK)
Let's Talk... More Profit - free seminars with Robert Craven (venues nationwide).