Author: quoracy

Accountant, business adviser, auditor. I have been in practice in East Europe for 18 years, and have experience in company set-up, mergers and acquisitions, audits, advising on tax, and also internal audits and operational review.

I come to bury mind-mapping, not to praise it.


Mind Mapping
Mind Mapping (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

Tim Brown recently wrote the following small article on Linked In updates, which I found by clicking a link telling me to stop using words to describe things:

Make it Visual

Some things are hard to describe in words. In fact, many things are hard to describe in words. Try describing in detail the bedroom you spent your childhood in. My guess is that you will have a hard time describing it well enough for someone else to recreate it. The same is true for new ideas. Words may be a start, but they often lack the precision and clarity required to describe a new idea to someone else. Photos, sketches, and data visualizations can make complex ideas easier to understand and share. That’s why portfolios beat résumés, and young designers are still encouraged to carry a sketchbook.

This week, try recording your observations and ideas visually, even if just as a rough sketch in a notebook or a picture on your camera phone. If you think you can’t draw, too bad. Do it anyway.

Mind mapping can be an excellent way to get visual about abstract ideas. For example, check out the design thinking mind map used in Change By Design, which you also can see in my recent post, “Start Designing Your Life.

There were nearly two hundred likes on this and a discussion had kicked off which seemed fairly one-sided, with 42 people all agreeing with this premise in one form or another. Oddly they had all used words to express this agreement and not one picture could be seen.

I had to add the contrary view, and did so as follows:

I respectfully disagree with some of the premises in this article. We think with language – I defy anyone to frame a conceptual thought without it – and human language, at least the ones I know, bases on words.

I have looked at Mind Mapping and some of the other inventions of Tony Buzan, I have read several of his books and remain skeptical as to the practical use of them. As far as mind mapping is concerned, its main use in my opinion is to give people of an artistic bent an excuse for doodling in meetings, and at least some direction to the doodling they’d probably be doing anyway.

A tabular approach wins out every time – the human brain loves tables and rectangular things. That’s why we live in rectangular rooms in rectangular buildings with rectangular furniture. Placing any problem into a table immediately highlights areas which are uncovered, and ensures deeper and more consistent thinking on any topic. Even “out of the box” thinking is only possible if you’ve defined a box. None of this happens with mind-maps, which ensure a very subjective and random summary of any topic.

I thought it was worth taking a contrary position and maybe getting some thought and discussion going, so please don’t be offended at my detraction from your premise, which is certainly not intended in an agressive spirit.

I thought we could find out whether the mind-mapping is actually popular among the people who follow or at least stumble upon this service, so please take part in the following poll:

Best Advice Letter Intercepted


I intercepted today one of the best letters an accountant could possibly write to a troubled client. The client, whom I’ve remained Bill, wanted to go for a court appointed liquidator in East Europe assuming that some equity would apply as it does, at least in theory, in UK law. The accountant, whom I’ve renamed Ben, gave the client the benefit of his experience and we both agreed that I could share this with the Quoracy.com subscribers. By the way, the part about the liquidator driving the best car comes from a real case and in that particular case the liquidator is still driving it four years later and delaying the closure of the liquidation simply to prolong his free ride! There are many such cases, but that one took the biscuit. One other time I’ll tell you about what happened to a certain German tourist’s car in Belarus. But that’s another day. For now, enjoy and take note from Ben’s letter to Bill:

Dear Bill,

 

The Receiver will recover for himself first, including making a reserve for all future costs. He will ensure that he has money to run the liquidation including the wages of the employees he keeps on, security people, light and heat etc. He will drive the best of your cars, at the expense of the receivership, and sell it last.

 

Yes, the chargeholder may wait for years and have nothing in the end because there are preference creditors before him. The Receiver will sell the best stock first to satisfy his appetite and the most important creditors such as employees and taxes. This means he does not sell systematically nor is he in a hurry to finish if there is cash about. If he gets good prices then there may be money to distribute to the secured creditors. If he does not get good prices the banks will end up with the worst stock that will be given to them to take away or it will be sold by the weight to someone that gives the best price per ton. The Receiver will not work hard if there is little money at the end of the rainbow.

 

You need to estimate what the receiver will take and the costs to liquidate. This means the redundancy costs and costs to dispose of the outlets and stock which includes retaining some warehouse staff, bookkeeper, security upkeep costs (light and heat)  etc.  need to be considered in your schedule.

 

The receiver will keep his direct and indirect paymasters happy, ie the court and tax office. As employees rank higher than the tax office he will satisfy these as well.

 

The receiver will only hand out any surpluses, after the above, first to the secured creditors. What do you think will be left to distribute?

 

Regards

Ben

 
That’s quite an eye opener, isn’t it? Don’t let it get that far – if your business is starting to go down, get proper advice on time, from a reputable, international accounting or law firm.

Audit fees bouncing back in the USA. Will Europe follow?


European flag outside the Commission
European flag outside the Commission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CPA Trendlines have recently run a few articles highlighting a rather brisk upturn in the fees taken by audit firms in the States, and together with that an increase in salaries as well as movement in the market for hires in audit in that country.

Europe may or may not follow the trend in the USA – on the one hand we all went down together in 2007, so hopefully we will start to rise together also, but on the other hand Europe is author of some of its own problems. The Euro crisis is far from over, credit is still not flowing in the way people had become accustomed to in those halcyon pre 2007 days, and even where there is talk about green shoots of grass out on the Eastern European green fields, it seems to be a case of “two steppes forward, one steppe back”.

Europe has been discussing the Barnier proposals for audit reform which would have given more teeth to the profession as well as reduced the oligopolistic effect of the Big Four, who seem to be using their oligopoly so as to sour the market for the middle tier and thus cement their place as fairly unthreatened by competition from the mid-tier audit firms.  In this, the smaller firms with low audit quality are their natural allies, and in places like Poland where the Big Four took effective control of the local audit chambers, the previous initiatives to force the small pensioner firms to either level up or get out of the market have been unravelled and tiny micro firms of auditors manned by geriatric owners still get to pronounce on the financial statements of even listed companies in exchange for fees which simply guarantee that they cannot possibly have done the work required to be able to make such pronouncements and back them up. Should they ever land in court they will probably not need to worry as they will be too old to get into trouble or endure sanctions for long.  Even though this status quo means that governance is largely bogus, the Oversight boards don’t seem to care and the Companies themselves are not complaining, as they save money and also don’t need to put themselves to the trouble of a proper audit, where they might actually need to answer questions and furnish documents to an auditor following a proper audit plan. And behind all this is the Big Four, knowing that this state of affairs squeezes hardest on the mid tier, as the largest companies simply must use the Big Four, and they are fighting the mid-tier for the medium sized business since the recession started and every euro counts.

Before 2007, they tended to bother less with mid-tier clients as they themselves are aware that they are not really geared up to give them what they want, and that is what the mid-tier audit firms are designed for.

The Barnier proposals initially struck hard at the Big Four, and they responded by sending armies of lobbyists to Brussels and to national governments. As a reesult of this, the European Commission is already arguing over a watered-down version of Barnier, and there is the opposing threat that has appeared from nowhere of upping the audit thresholds again.

Now it seems crazy that exactly at a time when many European governments are going to be increasing tax burdens in order to fund their return to lower sovereign debts, and therefore the motivation for taxpaying companies to cheat will be intensified, governments at the same time are talking about reducing seriously the percentage of the economies which are subjected to proper audit.

It makes no sense, but it seems that they don’t appreciate at all the value of the audit system. They are aware of the failures when they occur and concern themselves with the 1% of audits that have gone astray and ignore and legislate in an adverse way for the 99% of audits that have not gone astray. As a result the markets for audit firms have been skewed and more pressure on our prices occured and more and more pressure on time available for audits, which in turn doesn’t do much to improve auditors’ chances to spot abuses and irregularities.

So we hope that the situation will be on the mend in Europe as well, but the politicians need to wise up in order for this to happen. They need to understand that  an audit profession that is choking to death in this continent is not in anybody’s interests, and least of all in their own.

Contact managers and CRM systems are incredibly stupid | ZDNet


 

In the following article:

Contact managers and CRM systems are incredibly stupid | ZDNet.

David Gewirtz writes:

I’m having a crisis of faith. I can’t stand contact managers. Whether you call them CRM systems or contact managers, they all seem to be stuck in the land time forgot. They’re incredibly inefficient, and no matter how hard I try to force myself to use them, I find I get busy and never bother to update my contacts.

 

Find out why…

Why do Governments try to make competitive businesses follow the same kind of labour law that applies in their own offices?


Labour law concerns the inequality of bargaini...

I was reading on Linked In today a post by someone blaming Labour Law, and the risks associated with having employees, as one reason why Europe is having more difficulties getting out of the Crisis than maybe some other places.

I think his comments were quite true. There are now, in situations where employers even have any choice, serious reasons not to employ anyone whatsoever and just go for self-employed subcontractors. Reasons include:

1. What you said, the inability to sack anyone, and the huge potential claims if you bungle the sacking of an employee

2. Employees cost more because the social insurance regime in most EU countries is expensive on employment and the onus falls on the employer

3. Self-employed people are likely to be more entrpreneurial anyhow. They already showed themselves to be less supine than the chronic employee by dint of actually going on the self-employed subcontractor route.

The problem is, where does this leave people who cannot deal with the challenge of saying, “to hell with my social shield in employment law, I will put my self out as self employed and stand and fall on my daily performance, and not on the basis that I have accrued rights that make me unassailable even if I become useless”? Even those who genuinely intend to be conscientious and profitable parts of a boss’s team often can’t get their heads around the transition to self -employment, and simply remain unemployed. And where does this leave bosses in businesses in places or sectors where the tax office doesn’t smile on people being self-employed and calls it “crypto employment”?

The reform of labour law to be a little bit more business-friendly is long overdue in most of Europe. And it’s not just the EU. I did some work in the Ukraine a few years back and what I heard about the claims wrongly sacked people can bring about there I found simply astounding. I learned that if the employee who sacks a person – even in a disciplinary way which is fully justified, and fails to pay them all they owe by accident – if it is found even 5 or so years later that they did not pay them everything, even if they were under by a miniscule amount, they now owe that ex-employee their whole final monthly salary for each month of the intervening period as if they had been working!

Have people in Government who write these laws got some kind of grudge against business or what? Certainly they are welcome to have such luxurious laws to protect Government workers if they want to, but why do they insist on forcing them on private businesses? They don’t seem to understand, these Governments, that even though the government of the Czech Republic is not in competition with the government of China for the role of running this Central European country, the same is not true of Novak s.r.o., competing against China or anywhere else in the world with lower social leveraging, in order to make money which, if it is succesful, pays for the taxes that pay for the salaries of these Czech Government people. They certainly don’t create any wealth themselves – excpet for those politicians who have real business interests also, that is. And often the less there is said about that, the soonest mended.

UK Trade and Investment Initiatives to support business ventures to and from Poland


logo of UKTI
A message from UKTI

Martin Oxley sent this out for the Foreign and Commonwealth office and we are pleased to assist in its propagation.

Dear Quoracy.com subscribers,

Poland presents an attractive nearshore growth opportunity for Britain Plc. In line with the new UKTI strategy presented to government recently by Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment we are introducing a step change in the way UKTI supports British business growth.

We are taking a very proactive approach on behalf of government to provide a range of bespoke services to enable British SME’s to significantly enhance exports and also work with large corporations to win major overseas contracts and expedite their growth in market.

With our new Ambassador HMA Robin Barnett and the Embassy team we are engaging to support strong growth oriented business agenda in Poland.

With this in mind I am pleased to attach a brief outline of the services which UKTI has developed to support British business in Poland. I very much look forward to meeting you over the course of the coming weeks to discuss with you how we can assist you with your specific company needs.

I am very happy to visit you or alternatively you would be most welcome to visit us and I will provide you a tour of our excellent event facilities at the Embassy.

Kind regards

Martin Oxley

110715 EVR Expand your Business with UKTI Poland.pdf

Quoracy.com would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate our dear friend Martin Oxley on his recent new appointment to the FCO in Warsaw, and to wish him every success working with Her Majesty’s new Ambassador to Poland, His Excellency Robin Barnett. We wish you and your team many successes and a lot of fun.