Patchwork Traditional Food Company launches new products NOT so traditionally

It is great to see The Patchwork Traditional Food Company:

a) launching exciting new products and

b) using new social media channels to good effect to launch quickly, cheaply and effectively.

I’ve long been a HUGE fan of their pate so to see the launch of this ice cream is great news. Here is a business that has stuck to the knitting in producing high quality pates from a family recipe over a good few years. Now run by the founder’s sons, it is great to see traditional family business values mixed with forward thinking marketing techniques and product innovation.

I stumbled across the announcement of the launch of the new alcoholic ice creams via Twitter. A click on the Twitter link led to their Facebook fan page where the company is already generating some buzz around this new product launch.

Throw into the mix some nice artwork (just one example above) to support the new products and its difficult not to comment. But that was the point…. wasn’t it?

Great Leadership Demands A Brave 1st Supporter



Right now, the world needs more Leaders.

Business Leaders. Community Leaders. Not-for-Profit Leaders…. the list goes on.

Leaders have to push themselves out on a limb. Leaders have to stand out from the crowd. Leaders must push the status-quo and challenge accepted ways of thinking. For these reasons, being a Leader can be isolating.

So what is the catalyst that can turn individuals (often initially perceived to be) “lone lunatics” into admired Leaders of Movements?

Answer: a 1st Supporter

Being this 1st Supporter demands bravery (just as brave as being the (about to be saved) isolated, lunatic Leader). The first supporter is often accepted as an equal by the leader – perhaps an element of relief from the Leader to find a kindred spirit. The 1st supporter needs just one more person to join for a crowd to emerge (i.e. 3, the Leader + 1st supporter + 1 other). From this crowd, a Movement can develop.

Nowhere is this more perfectly demonstrated than in the above talk by Derek Sivers. Watch how the (initially) perceived dancing “nutter” is quickly enveloped by those eager to become part of the in-crowd – those who had, up until a few minutes before, watched with a mixture of amusement and horror from the safety of the crowds. But they stood up and joined in – all due to the bravery of that 1st supporter. Fascinating stuff.

Lesson: Great Leadership can only emerge by virtue of that single 1st brave supporter.

So can you see an opportunity to be THAT 1st Supporter and be the much needed catalyst to help create a Movement?

iPad frenzy begins – What can businesses learn?

Today is the day that the media frenzy for Apple’s latest toy, the iPad, reaches new insurmountable heights with its launch in the US.

What can we learn from the iPad that you can apply to your business?

Here are some of the traits that strike me:

  • design thinking – it looks beautiful
  • usability – it looks easy and fun to use
  • innovation – it may redefine the computer – will separate keyboards become a thing of the past
  • game-changing – digital or ebooks may finally have THE portal device that could make them mainstream. I suspect the Kindle will look primitive in comparison
  • anticipation – Apple created a buzz before Steve Jobs announced it in Jan 2010 – we knew they had some sort of tablet on the way but no-one knew what it would look like or its name (e.g. iSlate anyone?)
  • evolution – look back at how the iPad evolved from the ipod (first incarnation was clunky looking but functional). The ipod Touch and iPhone developed the touchscreen that was necessary to roll out the tablet iPad
  • crowd-sourcing –  the real value of the iPhone and ipod Touch emerged from applications developed by external developers. Apple resisted releasing the developer tools initially but since then applications (both free and paid for) within iTunes have flourished. These will also be available for the iPad
  • stubbornness – nobody asked for the ipod – we had perfectly good walkmans. Apple just showed the way.
  • never resting on their laurels – Apple could have sat back and basked in the glory of the ipod and iphone. They are still selling by their millions. But no, they pushed forward with the iPad to change the game once again
  • building new markets – the publishing industry may be changed beyond measure. Magazines and books may be consumed in new ways.

What have I missed?

Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) – Dawning of Constructive Capitalism?

Today’s the day that a mandatory carbon reporting and trading scheme comes into force for some 5,000 UK businesses (the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme is its full title if you’re interested!), yet confusion still reigns regarding its implementation, enforcement and its overarching policy goals.

This is most evident from a Telegraph article today in which, not only are the quotes in the body of the article pretty much unanimously derogatory toward the scheme (e.g. “the scheme is likely to add 6% to affected business energy costs next year” etc) but more interestingly, there are also some 28 highly disparaging reader comments (at the time of writing). Most reader comments refer to climate change being some sort of conspiracy theory (or even April Fool’s joke!) aimed at lining the pockets of politicians, experts and consultants, without a single positive comment to the effect that we might actually need a change of tack in our approach to doing business – and that attempting to change business behaviour by implementing a limit on carbon usage might (just might…) help wrestle in global warming.

Admittedly, the introduction of the scheme does not appear to have been as widely publicised as it could have been. As a result, the opportunity to clearly spell out the vision of success in reducing carbon emissions by 2020 (and ultimately 2050) and what this might mean for climate change has been missed. The danger now is that the naysayers get the opportunity to nit-pick and detract from a potential game-changing opportunity. Surely, even those sceptics who contest whether pumping fossil fuel fumes into the atmosphere actually impacts on global warming, must agree that extracting oil and fossil fuels at the rate we are now cannot continue infinitum?

Our current mode of business revolves around extracting and spending (most of) the natural capital resources of future generations when really we should be confining ourselves to spending and investing its income only (“spending capital”, “getting in debt for future generations….” does this sound familiar?).

Bringing the extractive qualities of businesses (in this case, energy consumption) sharply into focus for business decision-making and strategy should help empower new ways of thinking. Less about short term profits and targets and more about longer term value. New modes of thinking such as:

Sustainability. Responsibility. Accountability. Transparency. Community. Innovation.

Building sustainable value for the long-term. We can’t put this off any longer.

It was Umair Haque who aptly coined thick or constructive capitalism. A new way of thinking about business that is centred around building sustainable long term value.  Could the introduction of CRC represent another small step toward the dawning of constructive capitalism?

Photo credit: Kuyzetac

Fresh Water creates a Fresh Challenge for Business

A further significant challenge facing businesses wishing to do business in the 21st Century is emerging with news that access to fresh water is declining more quickly than originally feared.

A report by Globescan and SustainAbility notes that a combination of population growth, urban development, farm production and climate change is increasing competition for fresh water and producing:

“shortages so acute that virtually every industry in the world anticipates sweeping and systemic transformation over the next decade in their strategic planning, production practices and business models”

I repeat: “over the next decade“….? Are business leaders prepared for this? I must confess that this is not a business issue that has been high on the agenda with my clients but might this be about to change?

The survey, which covered some 80 countries and 1,200 influential leaders, said that water scarcity will deeply influence virtually every major company that wants to stay in business in the 21st century.

Respondents called for a focus on water conservation rather than increasing water supply.

This will impact on the way all businesses operate: from the way they function, to the products and services that they produce, as levels of water conservation continue to be squeezed.

This also opens a significant opportunity for innovation by entrepreneurs to either remodel a production process to use less water or to create products that use less water in the hands of the end user. Think of white goods manufacturers; easy-clean fabric and textiles; washing powders; sewerage systems; farming irrigation methods etc…. all ripe for reinvention.

Future investment in production plants will also likely be governed by the availability and access to water e.g. the report suggests that executives considering a new plant in China will be mindful of rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau that feed some of China’s key rivers and that US factories may need to be relocated from drier South West areas to the more water-rich Great Lakes region.

So in addition to businesses managing their carbon-footprint it looks like a company’s water-footprint will become increasingly important – to understand the life-cycle of water within the business and to maximise conservation and management. Coca-Cola has been ahead of the game in this area and it is likely that the rest will have to follow.

“When it rains, it pours”…..so the saying goes, but this might turn out to be a distant wish unless we start responding to these challenges now.

Photo credit to gato.

2010 Year End Tax Planning Tips for UK Entrepreneurs

Given that the 5 April 2010 UK tax year end is imminent, we are busy advising our UK entrepreneurial clients on ways in which they can arrange their tax affairs to pay the right amount of tax – and not a penny more!

Here are just some of the issues we’re discussing – remember, you should seek advice specific to your circumstances as these are general points only:

  1. For those typically earning more than £150,000 per year, the new 50% super higher rate of tax will hit hard when it is introduced on 6 April 2010. So we are advising those likely to be affected either to bring forward bonus payments or, where they are shareholders and sufficient distributable reserves exist in the company, to pay a dividend by 5 April 2010. An accelerated dividend payment is preferable in most cases as this is normally more tax efficient plus there are National Insurance savings. A word of caution – watch out for the pension anti-forestalling provisions if you are taking steps now that might increase your total income above £130,000….
  2. From 5 April 2010, the personal allowance available to all UK individuals will be tapered away for earnings in excess of £100,000. This means that for those with income falling between £100,000 – £112,950 in the 2010/11 tax year, the effective income tax rate will be a whopping 60%! Taking steps now either to advance salary payments to pay the current highest rate of 40% or to structure arrangements to fall outside these bands will save hard cash.
  3. Making pension contributions (either personally or via the entrepreneur’s company) can still make good financial and tax sense, however, beware of the restriction on higher rate tax relief for high earners from 6 April 2011 – in an attempt to stop savvy folk from piling cash into their pensions in advance of these measures, the Chancellor introduced some hideously complex rules called the pension anti-forestalling measures that limit higher rate tax relief on contributions for those whose income exceeds £130,000 (either now or in previous recent tax years) to £20,000 (or up to £30,000 in certain circumstances). Seek professional advice if you think you might be affected.
  4. Consider transferring income generating assets to spouses in cases where the spouse is a non-earner. Given that every individual receives a tax-free personal allowance and a 20% tax band up to c£45k it makes sense to consider splitting income where possible – be wary of splitting dividend income in husband and wife companies where only one spouse is active in the company.
  5. Every individual has a capital gains tax-free annual allowance of £10,100 (in 2010/11) so make use of this to crystallise gains where possible – if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  6. The highest rate of capital gains tax is still only 18% compared to 40% (soon to be 50%) for income. Also, compare the income annual personal allowance (c£7k) with the capital gains tax allowance (c£10k). Could this influence your investment strategies going forward to favour capital growth rather than income? Beware of the time horizon though as this gaping difference is unlikely to endure for long… [Update: 22 June 2010 Budget increased highest rate of CGT to 28%]
  7. Every individual (over 16) can invest in a tax-free wrapper called an Individual Savings Account (ISA) in which interest income on cash or capital growth and dividends on shares is tax free. Most have a £7,200 allowance to 5 April 2010 and this goes up to £10,200 from 6 April 2010. Drip-feeding savings provides the benefit of cost-pound-averaging which can provide better returns than piling in lumps sums on 5 April each year!
  8. Many entrepreneurs are unaware that they can invest in pensions on behalf of their non-earning children and still obtain basic rate tax relief up to £3,600 – so you need only invest £2,880 and HM Revenue & Customs will kindly top it up to £3,600!
  9. Those with furnished holiday lets that haven’t performed to expectations have a short window of opportunity to obtain business asset tax treatment on a sale of the property up to 5 April 2010 – this allows for more tax advantageous income and capital gains tax treatment but time is running short… [Update: 22 June 2010 Budget extended this opportunity for a further 12 months]
  10. Useful additions to an entrepreneur’s investment tools include Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) which offer differing but welcomed income tax and capital gains tax benefits.

Above are just 10 tax planning ideas that we are busy discussing with our entrepreneurial and family owned business clients. Hopefully your accountant is doing likewise. If not, please contact me and we can discuss your specific circumstances.

Take steps NOW to review your tax position. Time is running out for the 5 April 2010 tax year!

The above analysis is a general summary of some tax planning opportunities available for UK individuals in the run up to 5 April 2010 and should not be relied upon. Please seek professional advice specific to your circumstances.

Photo credits – Roll the dice

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5 Killer Questions for Every Entrepreneur Starting a Business

  1. What problem or need will your product or service fulfill and how is this better than what’s currently on offer?
  2. How big is the potential market? What’s the potential “open goal”?
  3. Do you have the right team? Is it well balanced with a decent mix of experience and raw enthusiasm?
  4. How will you dominate your market? e.g. by having proprietary protected know-how that creates a barrier to entry for competitors or can you (quietly) build dominance in a small niche market then blast off from there?
  5. Can you deliver it now and if not, how and when?

How to upgrade from Tiger direct to Snow Leopard

Although I’ve had few problems with the Tiger OS X operating system for my Apple Mac, there’ve been a few occasions recently where applications have not supported Tiger (e.g. Google Chrome, Evernote etc) – this is only going to get worse.

So I thought I’d better make the move from Tiger to the latest Mac OS Snow Leopard. Easier said than done.

Here’s how I managed to upgrade from Tiger to Snow Leopard.

First, let’s address my two initial points of confusion:

  1. Can you move straight from Tiger to Snow Leopard? There is little guidance on this but the answer is YES (provided you’ve got the right hardware i.e. Mac with an Intel Processor . 1 GB of RAM. DVD drive for installation and 5GB of spare hard drive disk space).
  2. Is it a case of just sticking the Snow Leopard CD ROM in to update and sitting back – NO!

(I wonder whether point 1 is not widely publicised because plenty of folk will have paid £100+ to upgrade from Tiger to Leopard OS when it was launched a couple of years ago (before the launch of Snow Leopard) however, now you can jump directly from Tiger to Snow Leopard for just £25!)

As you have gathered from point 2 above, I did initially just shove the Snow Leopard disk, rebooted my Macbook (holding down the C key to activate the installation process) and installed it. Beforehand, I had ensured that I had cleared up my disk using the handy Disk Inventory X free tool to free up the minimum 5 GB. I had also backed up my data.

It all appeared to install fine, but when I clicked on Safari, iTunes, Finder and pretty much any other application (apart from Firefox) it failed showing an error message along the lines of “Safari quit unexpectedly”.  So frustrating!

Here was my Twitter feed at the time!:

After much searching online using trusty Firefox (with Safari now defunct) for possible explanations, I found the following which came to the rescue:

This article. – although the disk permissions etc didn’t actually help, it was the reference to the “fresh installation” that opened my eyes to the fact I’d probably missed something…..

This video showed exactly what I should have done – basically, erase Tiger OS. Having followed this advice, it worked perfectly.

I hope this works for you too.

Build your business around its WHY?

What is it about a businesses like Apple that allow growth in market share plus increasing profits? All whilst retaining a cool and forward-thinking market perception?  Is it due to Apple Mac’s relentless focus on growing its profits and market share?

Partly perhaps, but there’s something else. Apple understands its WHY?

It exists to create innovative and beautifully designed products that are simple to use. The increased profits and market share follow this why – the old adage, build the fire and the heat will come is apt.

Building a successful business is easier when you understand WHY you are in business – understanding your purpose.

Understanding your WHY? helps you:

  • At best: Solve a world need
  • At worst: Solve a local need (still an incredibly compelling purpose)
  • Build a crystal clear vision
  • Inspire customers
  • Inspire employees
  • Inspire community
  • Have a mission
  • Make strategic decisions – is the issue congruent with your why? If not, bin it
  • Make a contribution to society
  • Attract like-minded customers
  • Turn off unsuitable customers
  • Make price irrelevant – your why becomes your market differentiator
  • Do good – your why must be about more than making money – it must solve a problem
  • Take pride in your business purpose
  • Tell your story (about your why) to influence your customers
  • Avoid becoming a commodity
  • Contribute – rather than extract value
  • Be focused
  • Diversify – as long as you stay true to your WHY.

Is your business WHY clear?

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Fun + games for the Budget 2010

Today was a busy day working alongside the Manchester Evening News to provide exclusive business tax coverage of the Budget 2010.

I won’t cover the detailed proposals here now as a) you can Google Budget 2010 and get a ton of facts + figures and b) you can get my initial reactions by visiting the M.E.N. Business section of the site.

Suffice to say that there were a lot of promising proposals for UK fast growth companies (including the video gaming industry – which is great news) but we are still lacking the crucial detail which will be key – I will update as the details emerge.

It was good fun to interact via Coveritlive as the Budget unfolded. Listening to Alistair Darling speak, digesting the info whilst reading and interacting with Coveritlive comments (many humorous comments too – thanks!) was both fun and challenging. You can replay our coverage here.

What announcements for UK business caught your eye? Please also feel free ask any questions following today’s Budget below.

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