Archive for February, 2010

Leadership in the workplace

Isnt this so very topical right now?

Well enough has been said about the Rawnsley extracts in the Observer over the weekend. All I will add is that he is a top class journalist with strong links to all levels of the administration. But aside from the issue of Browns suitability to have his finger on the nuclear button, this has brought into the open the whole issue of workplace relationships

I will add just one observation…

There would appear to have been such a culture of fear at number 10 that staff became extremely reluctant to bring “bad news” to the table. This is absolutely fatal

I have worked for some fairly strong minded characters but never have I felt that I was unable to knock on the door and say “well im afraid to say…”. More importantly I managed numerous staff and would believe it to be a complete failure of management if they felt they couldnt bring problems to me. I will also point out that in recent times I have worked for managers who couldnt understand the bad news I was bringing, but thats a different matter…

Was interesting to read that John Prescott was really admired and respected by all his staff during his (mixed) time as deputy PM. He was known to be a superb and warm man manager (as no doubt his secreatary will verify…). But why was this? Maybe because he spent valuable years working in the “real world” ?

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Digesting Readers Digest

Is there anything significant or interesting about yet another old familiar household name collapsing? Not really perhaps. The title will almost certainly survive (it has a suprisingly large  500k circulation in the UK) and on the face of it little would have changed.

But there is personal experience angle I could add. I was credit manager for one of Readers Digest’s largest suppliers during the 90’s. We manufactured VHS video tapes and CD’s for this very reliable and genuinely nice client. We had to often extend credit lines of up to £1m, but could we always get all the credit Insurance cover we required? No. Even at a time when insurance cover was remarkably easy to obtain, there were slight issues with Readers Digest.  And if i recall correctly, these revolved around their pension commitments and the stability of the US parent company

The message from this?  Well whether or not it was quite the self same issues that brought the group down or not, company failures can be a very slow burn.  It is often assumed that it takes a suddden shock or horrific decision to bring a company to its knees. This is definately not the case

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Another Airline Crash

The news that Japan Airlines had collapsed isnt new, but it was a perfect example of a business without a focus. Under pressure from the goverment to maintain unprofitable but supposedly prestigious routes and yet at the same time having to operate as a business, it was seemingly caught between two stools. And also suffered from the inertia and lack of flexiblity which has bedelived so many Japanese businesses over the past couple of decades

Now this isnt to say that one model of transport provider is better than another, Many frequent travellers will certainly have warmer feelinsg towards nationlised rail systems in europe than they will towards Ryanair. But being neither one thing or the other surely leads to confused management and a lack of focus? Business failures arent just identified by balance sheet analysis. A credit managers role will be very simliar to that of a banker (without the bonuses…). Its all credit a the end of the day, whether it comes from the trading or the financial markets

Airlines are probably the most risky of all businesses for Credit management. Paddy Power, the Irish bookmakers recently ran a market on the next airline to fail (I got my bet wrong). The reasons for this are manifold and maybe i will address this next time around.

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Public sector lets us down again?

One in three invoices issued by small business to the public sector is paid “late”.  Not good, but what is “late”? That isnt clear from the survey and frankly are we talking 30 days, a week or even one day late? Lets be honest here, a couple of days late isnt the end of the world. Also a cursory look at the survey indicated that it was pure Q&A. So is this rhetorical or audited information?

The other side of the coin is that in my experience, too many public sector administrators (for want of a better description) simply dont understand why a business starts screaming when the huge payment is delayed because of some technicality. The system is the system and you will just have to wait….

But preperation is the key. Generally public bodies will pay well if the right information is submitted. That can be bit painful but I wonder how many of the above bodies delivered all that was required in terms of paperwork (and maybe the services too)

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