In the face of adversity

14th May 2010

It was my honour and privilege to once again be asked to contribute to the Business Hub last Sunday. The Business Hub is a business radio show broadcast every Sunday morning across Cambridgeshire, linked to a web site forum, and presented by my good friends Ian McKendrick and Mark Peters. You can download last weeks program here.


It has only been running for a short while but seems to be going from strength to strength. One of the regular listeners is none other than former BBC TV Dragons Den panelist Doug Richards who is based in Cambridge. Mark and Ian have persuaded Doug to appear this coming Sunday, indeed he is on for the full hour answering listeners questions. If you are interested you can post a question on the forum here.

Anyhow ...back to the subject of this piece!

Mark and Ian asked that I speak about businesses that had perhaps made good of the recent downturn or even had succeeded in the face of adversity.

It was an interesting question as over the past year or two we have seen a number of our clients have difficulties often created through no fault of their own. In some cases this has caused near terminal issues in their business and has needed pretty intensive care as a result. With some we are pretty sure that if it were not for the quality of the management information that we provide for those business, and the close cash management processes we run, they may not have survived.

I drew on two specific examples which really illustrated to my mind the strength and resilience of the management in those companies.

The first is a relatively new client, Variation Limited, run by two very entrepreneurial and dynamic individuals, Graham Williams and Bill Howie. Variation is a diverse business operating in the logistics area, which lost its biggest customer in January when it went into Administration without any real warning. This presented huge challenges not least because of the commitments the business had to deliver on this contract, and some personal liabilities that resulted as well.

Undeterred Graham and Bill were very quick to come to us and over a couple of quite dynamic meetings we were able to work with them, using the extensive management information they now had about their business as a result of our work, to consider alternative solutions. As a result we have protected the other aspects of their business, including a division which is a rather clever and inventive process for delivering significant cost savings to landlords with empty warehouse properties (which in itself is almost counter recessionary!), and enabled them to move on. Indeed when I spoke with Bill on the day I recorded my interview with Mark and Ian he said he could not be busier and was extremely up beat (but then he and Graham always seem to be!!).

The second story concerns a much longer standing client run by a close business associate and friend of many years. This business delivers training through the Government backed training programs. On the face of it a good solid model with a blue chip customer (well just!). However, a huge number of these contracts were just terminated overnight during last year with no warning as part of Government spending cuts. This left businesses like our client high and dry with no work. However, some quick thinking enabled them to look at the skills, knowledge and intellectual property they had in the business and see other opportunities for using this to turn the business around. In just a few short weeks the business has transformed itself and is now profitably delivering its courses to international students coming to the UK to gain specialist training and experience. The company has even achieved one of the highest levels of accreditation with the UK Border Agency for its work.

Both of these stories I feel just show how if you don't let the circumstances knock you back and with some quick thinking it is possible to actually get really very good results out of otherwise seemingly impossible situations.

There can be no doubt though, in both cases, and in many others, these decisions could only have been made as a result of the relevance and quality of the information the businesses had at their disposal through the systems and processes we are operating for them. Without the numbers these stories may have been very different!

So ...coming back to Business Hub. If you are interested in getting involved why not sign up on the website and make a contribution. You never know you too could be on the radio!

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