Getting a grip

27 Jun 2016

You really don’t need any more pontificating about Brexit. But sometimes a topic is so overwhelmingly part of the national conversation, it’s hard not to pitch in. So: what does the referendum vote mean for finance execs and growth businesses? Let’s start with the chatter. AccountancyAge did a poll and 45% of accountants say it’ll be a disaster for the profession. They’re wrong,…

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Cassandra calling

19 May 2016

Are we on the brink of some kind of economic meltdown? We’re seeing lots of indicators showing the UK, US, European and Chinese economies cooling off – and plenty of doomish commentators warning this might trigger a tipping point into some kind of collapse. Is this Cassandra – cursed by Apollo never to have her accurate forecasts believed – calling? Or are they just…

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The price people will pay

21 Apr 2016

In the 1st century BC, Publilius Syrus wrote: “Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” (Among other quotes apocryphally ascribed to him are “better late than never” and “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Smart guy.) That’s a lesson on value that springs quickly to mind when I look at the current market for growing businesses. What prompted…

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A day to value

21 Mar 2016

The days of financial engineering are (mostly) behind us. Today, growth companies - whether backed by private equity or not - have to find, engineer, accelerate and communicate the value they are creating. And, as over 100 guests at The Contemporary FD event heard last week, the finance director has a key role in all those dimensions. "Finding a balance between control…

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All about the margins

29 Nov 2015

The secret to running a business in a crowded marketplace? The equation is simple: you either steal market share - usually by killing margins. Or you find something someone else has missed - meaning you learn to play in the margins. And that’s what The Gym, recently floated at a value of £250m, has done. And it might just be an…

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A new kind of politics

29 Sep 2015

Jeremy Corbyn, eh? Labour's new leader is something of a mystery. Somehow he's managed to flummox the right-wing press by not being a foaming-at-the-mouth Trotskyite when he's made rare media appearances. And far from scandalising business, many of his ideas have recieved a positive welcome from various industrial bodies. (It's true that some businesspeople and some bodies already loathe him. But…

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Cash (but not cashflow)

21 Jul 2015

Finance execs at growth companies are exhorted to follow the cash. It's good advice: whether or not you're servicing debt, generating cashflow frees up funds for investment and instills a discipline in the business that both current backers and future acquirers will value (often with enhanced multiples). But what happens when you generate cash and you're not growing? What if there…

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Cross pollenation

2 Jul 2015

There are some subjects that keep coming back into management fashion, no matter how often they've been reheated or how long ago they emerged. That's not to be overly critical: the world turns, pendulums swing this way, then that - and often, each new iteration of a well-worn cliche brings something new. So it is with "breaking down silos". It's been a constant…

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Thinking the worst (and doing their best)

19 Feb 2015

We’re an unforgiving bunch. People seem ever-ready to ascribe the worst possible motives to other people’s actions, while pretty much always having perfectly good excuses for their own human failings. This is particularly true in the business world. It’s perfectly possible to criticise the goings-on at Tesco, for example, without singling out any individual as the heartless beast determined to drive suppliers…

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Embracing the unpredictable

12 Jan 2015

Twitter really can bring out the worst in people. No, not in the sense of encouraging them to say horrible things, or start “trolling” people. I mean displaying to the world their limitations - and sharing things that, perhaps, require a little more nuance than 140 characters allows. Example: there’s a “community of leaders” called CriticalEye. I’m sure it acts as a…

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