Business stories are often about the people that run them

Rudi’s story

Rudi had the energy and build of a scrum half. He bounced into my office and thrust his hand out to shake mine. He had teeth and over the ear hair that advertisers dream of. But he wasn’t smiling that day. He was a customer and he wasn’t happy. By a strange quirk of fate I had ended up running a group of companies in Germany. One of them made wooden windows and doors. Rudi and his small team of 5 were resellers – they sold windows and doors in a 150 mile radius, bought them from our company and fitted them for a day rate and a small premium. The problem was – the margins were so small that you if you had to go back to fix something you would make a loss. If you had to go back twice it soon became expensive. And he was having massive problems with our products that were costing him money.

Our team was not producing quality consistently and I spent a lot of time with Rudi in his shiny new red Mazda visiting building site after building site and mollifying angry German house builders and building contractors. I slowly got our team to produce quality consistently and we were soon following my mantra of making sure our resellers only visited a building site once – to install our windows and doors.

In the time we spent together I got to know Rudi well and liked him a lot. I spent time with him and his lovely wife and son over weekends and I was delighted for him when he excitedly told me that he had won a new ongoing contract to supply windows and doors to an ambitious and fast growing building contractor run by a guy I will call Tino.

Tino was short, skinny, dark haired, snappily dressed and charismatic. He was making a lot of money building apartment blocks after the reunification and wasn’t shy of showing it. He had a large and flashy office, business premises and house all on the same site that he had built himself and drove a huge black Mercedes. He even had a couple of security guys hanging around. Rudi had to hire more people. Soon he had over 15 people working for him and was an increasingly important customer. My time building bridges with Rudi and fixing our reputation and his had paid off.

Rudi and I gradually spent less and time with each other because he was now working for Tino all the time and had given up almost all his other smaller clients. He had also started socialising every weekend with his new best buddy. I was ok with that – we still spoke on the phone frequently and the orders and the money kept coming. Everyone was happy.

Then Rudi came and asked me for better payment terms. He seemed a little tense beneath the toothpaste smile but I ignored it. Tino had pushed his payment terms from 30 to 60 days and Rudi was having cash flow issues. These were getting bigger as his turnover increased – but the contracts and our orders were getting bigger and bigger and I liked Rudi so I made an exception.

Months passed and he started paying me a few days over the 60 days. He also didn’t return my calls. I drove unannounced the 40 km to his house and knocked on his door.

He opened the door. He smelt of schnapps and his eyes were red and bleary. His head was down. He was quite different. We went into his home bar and we started to drink. We smoked and drank and talked about nothing for an hour or so. Apart from us the house was silent – his wife and son weren’t there and the place looked unusually scruffy.

Then it all came tumbling out. Tino had started delaying payment of existing contracts until new ones were signed. Rudi was a sole trader and hadn’t ever thought of the need to use a limited company for his business. So he personally kept getting deeper and deeper into Tino. He often had 3 or 4 outstanding contracts signed with Tino with 2 or 3 that were overdue for payment.

In tears and in anger and desperation Rudi told me that Tino had also decided that he wanted Rudi’s wife. Whether she had initially been a willing mistress or not – the fact was that she and their son had moved in with Tino. Rudi had lost his wife, his son, his independence and he was close to bankruptcy and losing his house. The bank was phoning him every day. Tino would take him to the last day and then part pay just enough to keep him solvent – often on condition that he literally begged on his knees for the money or that he signed a new contract. Or both. On one occasion he was made to beg for money on his knees in front of his young son with his wife watching draped around Tino’s shoulder.

Tino had a large team of builders. But he also had a team of very sinister suited and armed minders and his compound had become increasingly well guarded with a guard pointing his nose in the car window when I visited.

In a Hollywood film this story would have had a classic and satisfying denouement. Rudi would have shot Tino or Tino would have been arrested for carrying unlicensed firearms.

It was less satisfying. Tino’s business did go bust and so did Rudi. We don’t really know what happened to Tino. Rudi lost his car and his team lost their jobs. But he was able to rent his house from the bank and his wife and son came back. But it wasn’t the same. The weekend parties in his home bar were over. His smile was rare and restrained.

He started buying windows on credit from me again and stuck to small modest jobs that he could do himself or with a friend – a few windows here, a door there.

No heroes in this story of business and people. Business stories are almost always more about the people than the business.

 

 

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Debate Prep for the Leaders Debate

Leaders Debate

At last the Great Debate or the Great Bore-a-thon is with us. Guy Bentley has a useful rundown in City AM on the format and the logistics for the night, who stands where, who speaks first etc.

Debate Prep

Debate prep and coaching is standard these days – avoiding the gift of the gaffe is the first priority. But how to win? Or will they all just want to survive?

What will the party leaders be thinking about today while they are being coached and during last minute debate prep?

David Cameron’s debate plan?

Cameron would be happiest saying nothing apart from listing the government’s achievements, talking about his “long term economic plan” and then repeating both in his closing statement. He is helped by the fact that he has the last word and his podium position keeps him away from the schoolyard. He will want to keep above the fray sounding like the only grown up amongst the squabbling kids. Cameron’s biggest risk is sounding patronising and only talking about his Government’s quite remarkable achievements and policies and forgetting that policies are only relevant if they improve the lives of people. He should have a little rule – only use the word policy if you have already said the word people 4 times.

Ed Miliband’s difficult debate

Miliband will want to do several things starting with not being called David and not being asked about David. His is the hardest gig tonight – not least by his central podium position that will make him look like the bullied kid in a schoolyard fight. He will try hard to ignore those around him and look straight and earnestly at the camera. Luckily for him, he is not as weird as his opponents paint him but enough to undermine this success strategy. He will want to ignore his dirty texting and pending fling with the SNP which is supposed to be Jolly Top Secret and definitely not spoken about in front of SNP hating Scottish Labour or the Press and the Conservatives who love the sordid affair.

Ed has other issues though. The SNP, the Greens, Plaid and the Lib Dems all need Labour voters and will all be attacking him for not being left enough, not grown up enough, not having had a real job outside Westminster, taking Scottish voters for granted, screwing up the NHS in Wales and being a remote control Union toy (amongst other things) – while his own team will be dreaming of David.

I agree with Nick – or do I?

Nick Clegg will dream of his first debate outing. Now people know him too well. But. He speaks well and sounds reasonable and can do grown-up. One to watch out for. Again.

The Ones who will hate Ed tonight but who will happily sleep with him after the election

The Greens will be the indignant, ideologically pure and socialist and green hybrid trying to steal votes from the Lib Dems and Labour. They risk being snappy and angry and would do better to sound grown up, reasonable and responsible.

Plaid has a huge chance. They will be desperate to make the most of it. But they risk being tea break time for everyone outside Wales.

The SNP will be focused on winning big in Scotland – post-election niceties will be determined by post-election numbers. Nothing nice about tonight.

Debate Farage

Farage will try to ignore the carefully selected TV audience of 200, reflecting the UK’s ethnic, age, gender and social make-up, and reach out to the pubs around the country without football on the TV. Knackered from being The UKIP Face and stuck in a heavy suit between Nick and Ed, he also has a problem with sweating under the big TV lights and two hours of studio heat may cause him trouble. He desperately needs grumpy Conservative voters so he may be awfully nice to Ed and just rant loudly at Dave. His position means that this will produce lots of shots of him, Ed and Nick looking at Dave – great images that support the Conservative’s accurate point that if you vote for UKIP or the Lib Dems you get Ed as your Prime Minister.

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Vacancy – Speechwriter at NATO

Be a speechwriter at NATO – where they actually pay you!

The good people at NATO have asked me to promote their current vacancy for a speech writer.

It’s a really interesting job at a fascinating time with a secure and decent salary – which is not something many speechwriters enjoy!!!

I am sure it will be as challenging as the times facing NATO at the moment.

Here is the link to the job – http://bit.ly/1DaFJYX.

and here is an excerpt from the Job Description…

Expertise Development

Draft speeches, articles, press conferences, media messages and other written material for the Secretary General, and the Deputy Secretary General. Edit press conferences and media messages for the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General as required. Keep abreast of NATO’s broad political and politico-military agenda in order to gain a deepened understanding of all issues that form the subject of NATO’s public communication.

Policy Development

Assist in the drafting of declarations, communiqués and other documents associated with the Summit meetings.

Knowledge Management

Conduct the appropriate research and analysis to draft speeches, press conferences, articles and policy statements for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

Project Management

Assist in the planning and preparation of work produced by the team in the appropriate style and in a timely manner.

Representation of the Organization

Provide public briefings as required on NATO’s current political agenda, ensuring that communication is consistent with NATO policy and approved public messages.

Information Management

Assist in the effective flow of all work produced by the team, ensuring that appropriate products are distributed in a timely manner and in accordance with NATO’s administrative procedures.

Stakeholder Management

Maintain close relationships with the staff of the Private Office, the NATO Spokesperson and the Deputy Spokesperson, PDD, other Divisions within the International Staff and International Military Staff, as well as with the NATO Military Authorities and Allied missions.

Perform any other related duty as assigned by the NATO Spokesperson and the Deputy Spokesperson.

The closing date for applications is 24 March. If anyone is interested and has questions, please email me and I will forward your email to the team there – otherwise please just apply. This is a seriously great opportunity… If I was not so happy doing my own thing ….

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100 days to GE2015 How Many Conservative Candidates have been Selected

Conservative Candidates have been selected in lots of seats – but not everywhere!

Today is 100 days to the General Election. As many have said before, the next General Election will offer voters the biggest real directional choice between the Conservative and Labour parties for a generation, complicated by the decline of the Lib Dems and the emergence of UKIP and the SNP as spoilers or kingmakers.

In March last year I published a blog showing the 290 seats that were still to be selected. Unfortunately there were a couple of seats that had been selected when I published the blog for which I apologise so the actual number was closer to 285.

97 Selections in 100 days

Anthony Gearing has done some work on this and his tally of unselected seats is now 79 excluding Northern Ireland making it 96 in total as Charnwood is selecting tonight.

This is a best effort so please feel free to add updates or corrections below.

AG15GE15ConsC

Will there be any more retirement seats?

That is the question everyone on the candidates list wants to know. There is hope for wannabe candidates as there will be some more resignations (and possibly Knighthoods) before the election. Depending on the date that the MP announces they will be standing down (or the date of the selection – whichever CCHQ decide on!) these selections will probably come under by-election selection rules which may mean all-women short-lists.

Candidate Update from Guido Fawkes 27.01.2015

Preston – Richard Holden

Candidate Update: 27.01.2015 – 15:33

I have just been emailed by John Anderson with a candidate update from Scotland.

Dundee East – Bill Bowman
Dundee West – Nicola Ross
Inverclyde – Jaber Jabbour
Paisley and Renfrewshire North – John Anderson
Paisley and Renfrewshire South – Fraser Galloway

Candidate update 27.01.2015 – 16:29

Christopher Miller emailed me with this update.

Wolverhampton North East – Darren Henry http://www.darrenhenry.org.uk

Candidate Update 27.01.2015 – picked up the next morning

Bishop Auckland – Chris Adams

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