Why Arsenal Football Club is my Model for Business Success


Let me say in the very first sentence of this piece that I am an  unapologetic fan of Arsenal Football Club.  Now that we’ve taken my bias out of the way let me tell you the fact that makes that club my model for sustained long-term success in a challenging and very competitive (business) League.

aresenal

Of course we have to start by congratulating Leicester City Football Club on winning the Premier League in 2016.  I saw a list of the clubs that have won the Premier League in the last 20 years and of course Manchester United dominated lots of those years under  Sir Alex Ferguson,  Chelsea was about the next dominant Force and then Arsenal and Manchester City.

In business,  I will opt for the Arsenal model.

So many people who in life and in business prioritize winning; and by winning I mean at the very front, being the top most, the most successful,  then probably Manchester United will be your cup of tea. However when I think in terms of success I see that 2013  and the end of the Ferguson era has been the last time United ever matched it’s performances of usually been the first or second in the league and they even dropped down to 7th at a time, I wonder.  

Chelsea,  powered by the very self confident Jose Murhino dominated the league for a while,  but they are in mid table in this 2016 season.

Chelsea,  powered by the very self confident Jose Murhino dominated the league for a while,  but they are in mid table in this 2016 season.  Manchester City is the new kid on the block,  the jury is still out on the team that will be led by the world’s most expensive coach in the next season. Arsenal however has stayed between the 1st and 4th positions consistently  for 20 years. In my technical field of quality assurance, we will say that it has been the club with the least process variation or the one with the most precision.

In business,  I will opt for the Arsenal model.  Not the boom and burst of Chelsea,  unsecured leadership transition of Manchester United,  and the sudden artificial financial boom that currently makes Manchester City a competitive club, let’s hope the oil price does not affect the Sheikh’s ability to pump money into the club..

wengar

Football aside,  I choose the  Pursuit of consistent, replicable, sustainable success  over any kind of boom and burst  wins.  While the road to initial success in business is hard and actually breaks many,  even at that stage (of starting and building) one needs to set up and position oneself for long-term success,  such that 20, 30,  40 years from now,  the business exists and and it’s sustained and perhaps has the potential to outlive its founders.  When you are in it for such a long run as  I am describing,  you think differently, you plan differently,  you seek long-term wins,  long term relationships,  sustainable business models.  You may not be the first,  but you will be at the top end of the game for a long long time.

Back to football,  I am cross with  Arsene Wenger,  Arsenal need to be back winning the league.

 

Why Start up Businesses Fail? Top 3 reasons from 3 top business mentors


I asked 3 leading start-up business mentors to tell me the top 3 reasons why they think start-up businesses fail.  I will straight away give you the reasons provided by each mentor,  as I haven’t however requested permission to identify them as the providers of this information I will simply identify them as Mentors A, B and C, note that between them, these mentors have over 40 years of mentoring experience. Fasten your seat belts.

Mentor A –

  • Lack of Planning
  • Lack of Passion and Drive
  • Lack of Experience

Mentor B-

  • Lack of planning
  • Lack of resources (not just financial)
  • Lack of persistence

Mentor C-

  • Poorly thought through decision to leave employment and get into business
  • No written business plan or financial projections
  • Unprofitable pricing structure (You need to calculate your break-even price and NEVER charge below this)

I am amazed at the common trend of ‘planning’, otherwise known as business planning or in it’s most simplistic format, a simple business plan is on thread that cuts across

I am amazed at the common trend of ‘planning’, otherwise known as business planning or in it’s most simplistic format, a simple business plan is on thread that cuts across. And I know how many aspiring business people might not generally like what they consider paperwork; but hey, that is the reason why several of the folks who have tried before us failed.

I have a documented business plan, but following this feedback, I will surely be reviewing it a lot more regularly than I do. Your business plan need not be war and peace, it could just be a 3 page document- it is quality over quantity that matters in a business plan.

Some guy named Osterwalder, created some nine building blocks of what is required for your business  or planned business to function, I have copied it down below for your attention courtesy http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/

Create a one page document that answers these questions in as much detail and as thoroughly thought through as you can, you will have your first business plan in place, no matter how crude. All the best!20151102_120501

9 Building Blocks of a Business Plan

  1. Customer Segments: Who are your mass and niche markets?
  2. Value Proposition: What are you offering and why are you different?
  3. Channels: Look at the phases your product goes through. This is everything from awareness and distribution to after-sales service.
  4. Customer Relationships: How are you building relationships with customers and is it working?
  5. Revenue Streams: Look at what you are charging and if you could be charging more. How are you receiving your payments and does it contribute enough to overall revenue?
  6. Key Resources: What resources do you require to function? These can include physical, human, financial and intellectual.
  7. Key Activities: Ask yourself what activities need to take place in order to deliver on your value proposition?
  8. Key Partnerships: Write down who your key suppliers and partners are and how they contribute to your overall goals.
  9. Cost Structure: Look at fixed and variable costs so that you can see what can be improved upon.

5 things I did wrong early in my business journey.


  1.  Marketing an unproven product or service

Have you ever heard somebody say that “I am starting a business I am just waiting for the business card to arrive from the printers so that I can get started”.  Nowadays if I hear that from an aspiring business person I become sceptical about the chance of ultimate success. Starting running and growing a business has little or nothing to do with business cards!

 

It  has nothing to do with a good looking website,  if you do not believe me check out this website  http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/ , I believe it’s one of the worst business websites I’ve seen,  but you might be surprised to know  that that website is the primary business of the world’s most successful investor and one of the top ten richest men in the world today Warren Buffett.

warren buffet

Before any marketing the first task used to prove your product or service in the marketplace and obtain  feedback,  improve the product or service and  then obtain if you references in whatever format that maybe;  then maybe you now have something to market.

It has nothing to do with a good looking website

  1. Competing on Price

Whoever told you  that customers buy from the cheapest provider told you a big lie.  Yes we all like a deal but equally have attachments  to specific brands or providers for our specific products or services and those brands are not always the cheapest providers available.  People do everything they can to get the latest Apple product,  Apple is far from the cheapest product on the market.  Some people will never be caught dead shopping at Primark,  if we all shopped based on price then we will all shop at Primark.  You need to establish and create a reason why customers will buy from you other than price.  That reason may vary from quality of service,  flexibility of payment terms,  uniqueness of raw materials,  perception of premium value-  whatever it is you need to establish a very definable reason why people should buy from you and therefore pricing becomes is secondary consideration in the minds of your customers

  1. Partnering with the wrong people

“You can’t do a good deal with bad partners”,  I think it is the, now infamous, Donald Trump that made that statement,  and it is so true.  You need to establish what your values are as a business person  when you come across people news values are significantly at odds with yours,  it doesn’t matter how attractive the offer seems,  it is in long-term recipe for disaster.  However pragmatic judgement can mean you work with this people over a defined  time frame  or with clear documented an enforceable agreements or terms of service.

“You can’t do a good deal with bad partners”

  1.  Employing the wrong people

When you understand that there is nobody that is a BAD EMPLOYEE by definition but that many people even though they’re fantastic individuals they might not be the right employee for you and your business,  then you will be able to make decisions about whom to employ without feeling bad about your  employee decisions and actions.  the process of getting an employer in the right people is so complicated that there’s a field called HR  set aside for that process.  when you are starting off as a small business the best way to employ in my little experience  is by  strong competency based recommendations  from people you trust.  

trump

The day you realize that everyone cannot be your client no matter how hard you try, that day you become free and more strategic

 

  1. Loosely defining your market

Your market needs to be clearly defined not just a product or service but the geography of your operation how far from your base will you work.  I remember travelling over 200 miles to discuss with a company to take on some of my services,  I did not get the project after all that effort,  now my market is better defined to about a maximum of 75 miles from me in any direction,  it will take a real monster offer for me to be tempted to go outside of those boundaries and I have established that there is enough potential client based within  that defined geography for us to achieve our business goals.  Now are marketing and business efforts are localised meaning we spend less on marketing in a concentrated geography and therefore are potential to create a strong brand is greatly increased. The day you realize that everyone cannot be your client no matter how hard you try, that day you become free and more strategic.

I am not yet middle class….Are You?


The majority of people I have known in my life will consider themselves middle class. I have always considered myself middle class most of my life; but I took the time to examine what really describes a middle class person. I found this fantastic article on Investopedia by James E. McWhinney titled “6 signs that you have made it into the middle class”.

He explained that a US government task force defined the middle class by 6 financial aspirations; home ownership, automobile ownership, a college education for the kids, retirement security, health care coverage and family vacations.

A very interesting list I suppose. In my relaxed research on dealing with money problems, I came across the assertion by Robert Kiyosaki that one of the key causes of money problems is what he called ‘The middle class delusion’. The fact that several of use believe we are middle class and therefore that has earned us a right to have some things and so if we cannot afford those things, we still feel a need to get them and will get ourselves into financial trouble getting them because we, in reality cannot afford those things..

Taking the 6 aspirations that represent the middle class, I want to ask if you are truly middle class

  1. Home Ownership- Renting in the middle class or highbrow parts of town does not mean you are middle class, it just means you are living the delusion of being middle class. The difference between ownership and renting is that rent takes money out of your pocket on a monthly basis while with ownership; you have an asset- something that can potentially yield you money if need be. Many folks stay in the rented house because they find that they cannot afford to buy in the middle class area but they want to live there. Owning a house in the ‘poorer’ part of town stops you shedding out money you cannot gain back and hey it is an asset, though it might not be worth as much as homes owned in the posh parts.
  2. Automobile Ownership- Owning a car tells folks you are middle class, and then we usually go on to try and own some types of cars, that make the ‘statement’ clear. Car ownership is a liability- it takes money out of your pocket; petrol, maintenance, servicing, repairs. But we understand that it is a necessity for most. Folks go into debt to buy the car that befits their ‘status’. That’s the middle class delusion at work; your actual status should be what you are worth in real time.
  3. A University Education for the kids- I am a firm believer in higher education as a minimum for kids. The very smart poor people kill themselves to get this for their kids. In the UK, University education is about the £10,000 mark for students now and the US is about $20,000 both per annum. Well, there are student loans in place because government helps people to ‘aspire to the middle class’, but they also load debt ahead for folks. A university education is an asset (it will earn you money in the future), so there might not be many problems with getting a student loan if it is used for the studies…..not for drinking!
  4. Retirement Security- Running out of money in retirement is the biggest fear that folks in the developed world have now. In the developing world sometimes the pension is not enough to give the basic life you want. To be truly middle class, you want to have a life that is not a step down on what you had in your working years. If your retirement security is not enough to achieve this; you might not be middle class yet after all.
  5. Health care coverage- Barack Obama’s biggest domestic programme was health care coverage for millions. In the UK, being able to have access to private medical care is sometimes considered a middle class feature. In Nigeria where I come from originally, you had better have your money on hand when you appear at the hospital or you will be getting substandard to no care. If you cannot afford qualitative care for your household you are not middle class
  6. Family Vacations- When ‘middle class’ families begin to have financial problems. Still being able to go on family holidays is the key factor that re-asserts to them that they are still middle class. They will use credit cards and other forms of borrowing just to go on family holidays. The folks that can’t afford family holidays are clearly not middle class in the opinion of most.

If you have all these 6 in place without any form of borrowing then congratulations you truly are middle class. Me, I am still working on it!

 

 

Picture- courtesy BMW 320d GT Luxury Line (F34) – Frontansicht, 21. Dezember 2013, Düsseldorf

The Long Month of January!


My mum was a salaried government employee, she’s retired now; and I very much remember that January used to be the longest month of the year for us. Christmas, always fantastic, because we spent the bulk of the salary for the Christmas and new year festivities. Everything you asked for after Christmas, always had to wait till very early in February. I never liked the post new year blues!

As I got into working life, this factor of the January ‘lack’ became an even bigger reality to me. Pay day was going to be the 25th and I had to survive after the Christmas expenses on the low salary characteristic of early working life. 25th looked like an eternity. I remember asking myself “why can’t employers move the pay-day forward in January just like they do at Christmas”. For me then, the employer was the problem! Now I have re-framed that question ” why can’t I manage my Christmas expenses properly so that I am not in a quagmire by the middle of January?”

More than anytime in the year, you need a budget for the Christmas festivities, whether this budget is formally written down or informally identified as the maximum spend you will do for the season. This budget should be within your income stream. If the budget is higher than your income (after your bills are paid), you have an extravagant budget for Christmas, you are living above your means and unfortunately, January is the time when you will most feel the pain.

It’s February now, let’s get busy increasing income, controlling expenses and hey you might be able to have a much better Christmas in 2014 with no financial hangovers next January.

Have a brilliant week!

Yemi

Measure Yourself with the Best


“Like beget like” Anon

 

I had one of the top results within the school when I graduated from my primary school, I thought I was good, until the results of the first class test in my new secondary school were released. I was shocked, my performance was only average. Where did it all go wrong? Apparently it was the best pupils from various primary schools that made up my new class. Thereafter, my confidence to perform in the class was understandably low; it didn’t help either when I discovered that my scores from the Common Entrance Examination was not even in the top 20 percentile of my new class.

In that class, there was a guy that sat at the desk beside me, I heard him “attempt” to speak English – it was terrible! I assured myself that there was at least one person I would do better than, I wouldn’t be bottom of the class, or so I thought! How wrong I was. Though he performed poorly in English language, at the end of the first term Femi (not real name) was in third place in the class standing. I, on the other hand, was lost somewhere in the middle positions in my 40 member class.

Take a look at my thought pattern, learn from my mistake. Why measure yourself against the supposed worst why not the best?! Do not search out the worst student to measure yourself up against in a new class, look for the best. Find the ‘best guy’ in the class and beat him to the top spot. When you make such positive assessments you can only improve, if you take the other option you will constantly perform below your potential.

The best is where you ought to be.

A wise person once said there is a lot of space at the top; it’s only the bottom that is crowded. Aim for the top, your space is waiting to be filled.

During my undergraduate days, in the second year, I remember fellow classmates agreeing that we needed to set up tutorial classes, the obvious high performers in the class were selected as tutorial leaders to lead the tutorial classes in the various courses that made up the programme. There was one slot unassigned, one course that needed a tutor, with a little encouragement from my friends I offered myself up to lead that tutorial class, and everyone was ok with it, but I sensed that there was some reservations.

Being a tutor was a good experience but led to some of the most demanding days of my university experience as I realised in a short while that I had to be ‘up to scratch’ with my knowledge of the course I led; people started asking me questions on the course at just about any time of the day, this meant I had to always be prepared if I did not want to be embarrassed or disappoint any of my friends.

I began sitting in on the other tutorial classes, though some of them were as good as hearing the lecture a second time over (which is a very profitable task in itself), there was also the added advantage that I could stop that ‘lecturer’ at anytime and ask all my stupid questions.

As I write today, I have a copy of my undergraduate transcript and as I look at the grade were B’s I obtained in that year. This might not sound very impressive to you until you realise that my first year was a near academic disaster and all the (over) confidence I had imported into university (based on my Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) results of 6 distinctions and 3 credits) was at an all time low!

By following the example of the ‘best guys’, I got results the ‘best guys’ got! What my classmates and I did not realise at the time was that by giving the top guys those responsibilities we made them even better, and if we had dared take up the same responsibilities, tackle the same problems, deliver at the same level, we would have ultimately achieved the same outcome and get the same results!

I learnt this principle, I proved it, and my second year was one of the best of my undergraduate years!

image credit- http://goo.gl/WRHCqs