Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It's All About Performance

This isn’t about performance management, but more about “performance” as a means of getting your point across, pitching to lenders or investors, or persuading people to follow you.

I recently attended week-long session on training others in a new subject.  The people training us had a large amount of material to “download” in a relatively short space of time, and we were expected to then pass it on to others.  Some of those trainers were good, some were “OK”, and some lost the attention of the delegates pretty quickly.

What I learnt (apart from a lot of new facts) were some very important lessons for presenting to/training others:

Know your audience:
Do your research in advance: who are you talking to?  What is their experience and/or level of expertise?  Where are they from?   What is their purpose in coming to hear you (may not be as obvious as it sounds)?

Control the environment;
Check the room where you’ll be speaking an hour ahead of the start time.  Does it have all the equipment you need?  Does it all work?  Is the seating suitable?  Is it set out in the most suitable way?  Check your presentation on the big screen?  Are all words and colour combinations visible on a large screen in a large hall?  Do you have enough flip chart paper & that pens work (preferably with a “chisel tip” rather than a point)?  Check your presentation - is all the material there (and does it match the trainees’?)

Know your stuff:
Make sure you not only know your content (facts, figures, etc), but how you’ll deliver.  

Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!  
In advance.  Rehearse out loud and TIME your presentation.  Then allow extra time for questions.  That’s your total presentation time.

Introduce Yourself:
Who you are, what your area of expertise is, why you're there.  

Speak clearly:
If there’s a microphone, use it.  Say things once and once only.  If you have a presentation slide behind you, that reinforces the point and people can ask you to repeat.  

Slides:
Use slides as illustrations and to list your main points, not as a replacement for wisdom.  Don’t just read them out.  Limit the number of words on slides (too many words means they may be too small to be seen - use speaker notes if you need to).  If you’re properly prepared, this won’t be necessary.  To change slides, either use a remote control or have someone change your slides.

Engage (attention):
Move about and bring energy to the audience.  Face them.  Watch/listen for signs of non-comprehension, tiredness, boredom.  Watch the time.  If necessary, say “We’ll discuss at the end/during lunch/dinner but let’s move on.”  

Examples:
Keep them brief and relevant. I look for something less than 12 months old unless it is a “universal truth”.

Questions:
Have rules re questions (e.g. save until the end, etc).  Some prefer to keep them until the end, others to allow people to “jump right in”.  Some advise you to admit if you don’t know the answer, but that you’ll find it out and get back to the questioner.  Others feel that you should make sure you know everything.  You should know your own content and the meanings of any acronyms you use.

Remember:
Your audience are there to listen to you.  They want you to succeed.  





I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Collecting Your Cash

I recently mentioned that businesses fail because cash going out exceeds cash coming in.

With the best will in the world, there are buyers who just don’t pay on time (despite agreeing to, say, a 60 day credit period).  If your buyer is a “big player” in the market and can pretty much pay when they like, you may have little choice.  You can still, however, have a robust “Collections” process to ensure that you get paid.  

Apart from the advantage of knowing when a buyer is likely to pay, a good collections process (the process of tracking, following up on and collecting payments owed) shows your lenders that you are in control.

A good collections process means you:
  • Know your buyer;
  • Know how your buyer pays;
  • Have an accurate tracking system for invoices outstanding;
  • Have a process for actioning invoices outstanding after a set number of days “overdue”;
  • Know how, when and to whom to “escalate” a problem;
  • Know when to hold, fold, walk away or run.
Know your buyer:
There are people who go into a deal because it’s a “good one”, even if they don’t know whom their dealing with.  Shaking hands at a trade fair doesn’t count.  There are a lot of people who make their money by tricking others.  Do your research (internet, other people who use the same counterparty, etc).

Know how your buyer pays:
How does your customer deal with your invoice?  See my article on this.

Have an accurate tracking system for invoices outstanding:
How many invoices are outstanding at any one time?  How many are outstanding on the same buyer?  Have the buyers actually received them?  Are there any questions or disputes?  When are payments due?  Which are the “high value” ones (which may need more focus)?  How many are “past due” by 30 days, 60 days, 90 days +?  

Have a process for actioning invoices outstanding after a set number of days “overdue”:
The sooner you take action after an invoice goes “past due”, the higher your chances of recovering the money.  Do you call the buyer on day 30, day 60, etc?  Do you keep notes of date, time, to whom you spoke, what was said, what was agreed?  Is the buyer experiencing their own temporary cash flow problem because one of their buyers is delaying?  All this helps when/if you have to take more drastic action to recover a debt.

Know how, when and to whom to “escalate” a problem:
Depending on who’s doing the chasing, there comes a time when a junior member of staff can’t handle the case and needs to pass it on to a more experienced colleague (or even the business owner) so they can get back to collecting the “easier” payments.  Equally, more senior people on the buyer’s side may also need to become involved, depending on the nature of the case.  “Escalation” may also mean passing the case to a debt collection agency, taking it to court or other more drastic action.

Know when to hold, fold, walk away or run:
The most difficult.  You need to decide whether to:
  • Continue to chase (hold);
  • Try a different tactic (fold);
  • Write off this time because you’ve made good money from them so far and there’s more to come (walk away) or
  • Never deal with them again and let them become someone else’s problem (run). 

Ask yourself: do you want to spend more time chasing a debt that may never be paid, or spend the same time getting new business?  What lessons can you learn from the bad experiences?   Hopefully, these will let you see a bad deal before you do it so you can run. 

In all cases, communication is key.  The more you communicate in a calm and positive way, the higher your chances.  Tempting as it is to threaten and shout, this is the very last resort when all other efforts have failed, and you are prepared to lose the relationship.




I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.


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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Getting Paid Promptly

Businesses fail because cash going out exceeds cash coming in. 

One secret of managing this is to understand how the customers to whom you allow credit actually process your invoice.  Not every buyer does things the way you expect.  Each of them will have their own processes designed around their particular needs and way of doing business.  The larger organisations design their processes around efficiency - to do things with the least possible wastage to themselves. 

This way of doing things may not always coincide with how you want to do things, but often people learn too late.

So, when signing up a new buyer to whom you will extend credit, ask the following questions:

What information do you need on invoices?
You want to make it as easy as possible for them to pay you.  Invoices usually include a description of the goods or services and the amount payable, but does your buyer need, for example, to see their Purchase Order number on the top line?  If this is missing, there will be a delay whilst they try to reconcile it, or call you and ask to which PO it refers.  What does your contract with them say?

Is any other documentation needed with the invoice?
Do you, for example, need to attach copies of receipts for delivery of goods or services signed by the recipient to prove that they were delivered?  Is a copy of the buyer’s original PO required?

To whom should invoices be sent?
Do you leave the invoice with the person who receives the goods, or should they be sent direct to the finance department for the attention of a particular person or section?  Misdirected invoices will only add to delays in receiving payments whilst you chase things down.

How does the buyer process invoices?
Do they pay them as received, or do they batch them all up to be paid at the end of the month?  In this case, if you send an invoice at the beginning of the month and the buyer won’t process it until the end, that’s an extra 30 days that you’ll have to wait.  How many individuals are in the chain that processes them?  How long does it take to process a payment assuming all documentation is in order?

How will they pay?
Cheque or bank transfer?  How many signatures are needed on cheques or transfer authorisations?  Does this change depending on the amount to be paid?  If they pay by sending cheques through the post, you will have delays whilst the post reaches you, you receive the cheque and match it against your records, take it to your bank and pay it in, and then wait for payment to be cleared.  This can add up to 10 days.

In the event of a dispute, what’s the resolution process?
If a buyer disagrees with an invoice, you need to know as soon as possible what the issue is and who on the buyer’s side is responsible for it and has the authority to authorise payment.

Some buyers may wonder why you’re asking these questions (and even resent it).  The answer is simple: you want to make their life as easy as possible so that you can meet your obligations under your service contract (if there is one).  Noone benefits if you don’t fully understand how your buyer works.

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.


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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Time & Tide

“Time and tide wait for no man” - a saying that dates back to around 1225. 

We’re all expected to do more in less time thanks to all the so-called “productivity tools” that are available.  We can read more office emails in the day, thanks to mobile technology - remember the days when you could only read them in the office?  We can be online literally 24/7.  But all this comes at a cost.

I first noticed it when I worked in Hong Kong in the 1990s.  Hong Kong had a real “work ethic” then, and I would imagine it still does.  The place was a pressure-cooker and I often felt stressed-out. 

People never said “no” to a request, with the result that they usually worked late into the night and over weekends to get that vital “whatever" done.  As a result, everybody started leaving things until the last moment, secure in the knowledge that they would never be turned down (as it often meant the loss of their business to the product/service provider if this happened).  There was competition for most things, so people couldn’t really be choosy.

Many might think that this is the way that things should be, but sorry, that’s not the case.  Not every culture (or everyone, if the truth be known) wants to or even can respond to every single request no matter when.  We’ve already seen this in the way that some suppliers segment their buyers and will simply not deal with those from whom they receive below a certain level of revenue or return.  Others are more subtle and simply prioritise those who pay more - the others have to wait...

What I’m getting at is that people need to start planning again.  Don’t just assume that there will be someone there when you need them because everyone else is doing the same and may have got there before you.  When relying on anyone else, allow for fallibility.  Yes, I know they said they’d get it to you by Tuesday, but they didn’t count on the one person who could do it being taken ill two days before with [insert name of condition here].  They counted on that person, you counted on them, whose problem is it?

Show respect for other peoples’ time; build in allowances.  You can’t cater for every eventuality, but you can cover most disasters.  Shouting at, or sacking a supplier who got caught by the key member of staff who went sick may make you feel good, but won’t get the results you want any faster.  You may be the customer, but if another comes along who pays more, and is either as demanding (or, worse, less), don’t be surprised if the supplier ditches you.

Similarly with colleagues, don’t assume that, just because you’re the boss, you can interrupt or demand their attention when you want.  Yes, that’s your right, but abuse it too often, and suddenly morale falls, stress and absenteeism rise, work isn’t done, and your team start sending out their CVs.  I’ve seen one “leader” who says that meetings will take place at such and such a time and then either shows up much later or not at all - without telling anyone.  This irritates their team, but no one dares say anything.  However, what credibility do you think that boss now has when he states that something will happen at a particular time?  Exactly - very little, and this can happen to businesses as well if they forget to respect Father Time.



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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