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.
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.
I was recently reminded of something my old gardener told me about ivy. I had been surprised at how slow some lovely variegated ivy that had been planted by my fence was coming on, and his words were as follows:
With ivy, the first year it is put in, it does nothing, it just sulks at having been put in a new place. The second year is starts to spread out horizontally along the ground by the bottom of the fence, and in the third year it starts to grow upward, like a curtain.
Wise words, from someone who knew his onions. And his ivy. It seems to me that this is a great analogy for many new businesses. Entrepreneurs obviously look for a rapid return on capital employed. They want their profits and the cash back to invest in the next thing. But nature takes its course with some businesses just like it does with the ivy, and you cannot rush it.
The first year, you have set up costs, people are getting used to each other in a new team with a new product, new identity. This is like the ivy “sulking” – just establishing a new root system and adapting to the chemistry of the soil and the direction of the light.
The second year you start to see sales pick up but the prices are not that good yet and also the volumes don’t allow the contribution to cover fixed costs. You get growth but you don’t get the profit. It is like the ivy growing along the ground by the bottom of the fence. It is obviously going somewhere, but you aren’t getting the effect of it yet.
The third year you reach a certain critical mass, you break even you start to nudge into profit, your cash flows turn the corner and you start paying back your seed finance. This is like the ivy making its curtain up the fence.
If the ivy survives at all, it will certainly produce the coverage in time. The same with these new businesses. They simply need to be nurtured and for nature to be allowed to take its course. If the soil is right, the light is there, and the water, the plant healthy, then it will do what it is programmed to do in its own time. Micro-managing it will not help. Restructuring the team which is only starting to gel will not help. it will be like transplanting the ivy at the end of the second year for failing to raise – it will only go through its sulking and creeping years all over again in the new position.
In Monopoly, whichever player is banker is supposed to keep the bank money separate to the money he’s also doing business with in the market. He’s also supposed to run the bank according to certain rules and if he was cheating it’d be game over. They should bring out a new version of Monopoly in which the Banker is allowed to cheat all he likes and always automatically wins, and another player is called The Government and that player chooses from the Chance and Community Chest cards for the other players instead of just getting them to take the next one in a shuffled pack. The Government cannot only do it to the banker – they automatically give the Banker the best card. Banker and Government get to throw three dice instead of two, and they are also allowed to compulsorily purchase other player’s properties, and also send them to Jail for two turns if they complain about the unfairness of the rules.
That modern update to the famous board game would be most enlightening. Nobody would play it given the choice, but in reality of course we don’t really have a choice. After all, there’s a monopoly of government in any country and there’s an oligopoly of banks.
At University, one of my Northern Irish friends used to say “What are you on?” if he heard anyone saying or saw anyone doing something he found strange. I believe he meant “what medications are you on, to make you say or do that?”
Well, today I’d like to ask my viewers the same question but in a slightly different context, namely, what social media platforms are you on?
I’m going to put a few of them, by no means all, into a poll, and please put a tick by all the services where you BOTH have an account AND use that account fairly regularly – the benchmark would be if someone you knew or an old friend tried to get in contact with you on there, could they do so and you see it and get back to them reasonably quickly, as in within a couple of weeks, say.
I have included Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Youtube and Twitter, which are largely of non-business use, and the rest are more the business networking sort of platforms, liked Linked-in, Viadeo, Xing, Ushi, Goldenline. I also included Google Latitude, which is in my view a new class of social media linking in GPS location to all the other things going on in social media. I’ve included in one line the fora of any newspaper you read that has discussion of articles where a regular crowd sometimes gathers.
Please add in comments, other than anything else you might wish to say about the relative advantages or disadvantages of these social media sites, any social platforms I’ve left off.
And please check back in after a few weeks, if you’re curious how it pans out, especially if you’re among the first to answer.
Remember – this poll has multiple tickable options, and there’s a supplemental question of how many ticks you put in – this is just so we can all see how many services our fellow internet people are using.
I am writing to relate a story based on true events which came to light last week when one gentleman came into one of our offices and spoke to me. To keep matters confidential, I won’t say the country – the same can happen in any country – or identify anything about this company the gentleman had – even the sector. It can happen to many sectors.
This gentleman had given his company bookkeeping and tax affairs to an outsourced book-keeper for his business in that particular country. He used outsourcing back home in his own country (I’m not saying where that is either) and he appreciated the benefit of being able to have his bookkeeping professionally handled by experts without needing to employ anyone, worry about holiday cover, etc etc.
Some time ago this gentleman had included our firm in his search, and we gave him a price entirely fair for a company with our niche in the market, that is, internationally trained people, with English, with proper quality assurance, supervision and back-up. In other words, a peer-reviewed, branded service tailored absolutely to the needs of West European businesses in the middle tier coming to start up in East Europe, and also very good for businesses not exactly in the middle tier and from places outside West Europe.
That means that the fee offered was not nearly as high as a Big Four service would cost, but certainly higher than a purely local service.
Now I’m not knocking the purely local services – many of them are very good, but for purely local clients as they don’t tend to be claiming proficiency in foreign languages or have the ability to engage cross-culturally with the client (a source of just as many miscommunications as the language barrier on its own). They are not a great fit with the international client, and often their cheaper price becomes a false economy as frustrations rise on both sides of the desk.
The problem in this case wasn’t lack of English – this gentleman’s chosen bookkeeper spoke English, apparently.
But she was in business just on her own. With no back-up employees, probably very little insurance, probably very few resources to turn to, and very few overheads hence enabling a price no quality firm could ever compete with. That was the price that tempted this gentleman to take her bid over mine.
But since then, it became apparent that this bookkeeper was not entirely what she seemed to be.
Neither this gentleman nor myself are qualified psychiatrists, and we could only speculate on what might have gone wrong, or been wrong all along with this person. The fact is, though, that mental illness happens in the human population. We’ve probably all had employees or acquaintances who have had a mental illness, and in a larger company they quickly get noticed by colleagues, and steps taken to look after them and safeguard the clients’ affairs. When they are on their own, no such controls exist.
Suffice it to say this lady no longer was answering emails or picking up the telephone when he was calling, and when he rang from another number she didn’t know, she put the phone down when she heard his voice – the person entrusted with his company’s books and records and processing a VAT reclaim for more money than she would normally earn in many years. As you can see, the situation is now much harder – and therefore more costly – for us to repair than if he had simply given us the work in the first place.
It simply doesn’t pay to use these Bargain Basement Bookkeepers. You know what you get if you pay peanuts, and if a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.