Monthly Archives: September, 2019

Don’t Thomas Cook It

September 27th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Don’t Thomas Cook It”

Don’t Thomas Cook It

What we can learn from the former travel titan so that we don’t strand those who count on us

How Did We Get Here?

After 178 years of dominating the industry, how exactly did the UK’s largest travel group, Thomas Cook, manage to capitulate at such an alarming rate? 

Since completing a MBA in Business Administration and Aviation in 2017, I have kept a close eye on developments in the aviation and travel sectors during the 21st century. I therefore think it’s appropriate for me to share my reflections on the staggering, yet perhaps foreseeable demise of this industry giant.

Throughout my recent years of interest and research on this topic, I noted what I saw as Thomas Cook’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities – many of which were missed. I believe herein lies a good place for me to begin my postmortem evaluation of the company.  

Thomas Cook was the oldest and one of the largest travel companies in Europe. This, for quite some time, gave Thomas Cook an edge over their competitors. Thomas Cook was able to draw customers in with the affordability of their packages, which were often customised to respond to unique customer needs. Additionally, Thomas Cook was accessible. There were Thomas Cook agencies on nearly every high street, which gave this far-reaching global company a sense of local familiarity – one which will surely be missed. Thomas Cook then continued to defend its crown by continuously increasing brand awareness, whether it be through London’s 2012 Olympics or by becoming sponsors of some of England’s largest football clubs. From Thomas Cook’s track record then, it certainly seemed that the company knew how to grow and maintain the value of its brand.

However, I noticed in 2017 that amongst Thomas Cook’s many strengths, cracks had been appearing for quite some time; and as seen by the events of last week, in the past two years these cracks had grown into deep and cataclysmic ravines. Namely, these cracks were, unwise business deals; an insufficient response to the ever-increasing competition of the travel industry; the persistent acquisition of long-term debts; and the lack of strategic innovation in the face of an online revolution within the sector.

Flawed Business Decisions

To begin my postmortem evaluation, focused strictly within the 21st century,  I need to dissect the last twelve years. In 2007, Thomas Cook merged with MyTravel, which looked as though it was going to be the deal of the century. The deal promised to save the companies millions of pounds per year and offered an opportunity to renew their ability to ward off encroaching internet rivals. This deal however was in fact a ticking time-bomb. Thomas Cook had inadvertently bound itself both, to a company that had only turned a profit once in the past six years, but had also acquired colossal debts, which would prove to the grim reaper that would follow Thomas Cook for the following twelve years. 

In addition to inheriting these lingering debts, in 2011, Thomas Cook doubled down on what was a cornerstone of its past glory. The company merged with The Co-Operative Group, gaining roughly 1,200 additional brick and mortar stores. Being in the midst of an online revolution however, these stores became a liability and closing these stores proved extremely costly for a company that had just handcuffed itself to large debts. Thomas Cook’s mergers were therefore, in a sense, the company’s signature upon its own death warrant.

Fights With Finances

This was further proven when the company narrowly survived a brush with bankruptcy that same year as a result of its two recent mergers and escalating debt. The company’s debt pile had grown immensely and actions needed to be taken quickly in order to save the company from going under. Thomas Cook managed to stay afloat through negotiating some breathing space with its banks and bondholders, and with some emergency cash injections- which for a company already in the hole, was a bold move since this hasty tactic saddled the company with an even larger amount of debt to service in the future. Just two short years later, in 2013, the company survived demise once again by asking its shareholders for extra funds. Their compliance allowed Thomas Cook to live another day, or as we now know, five years. 

It’s important to note here that neither of these brushes with death led to a sustained revival of the company’s fortunes. There were no actionable plans created for the future, just rusty paint-jobs that were doomed to scratch off quickly. 

Thomas Cook played a game of Chutes and Ladders with the grim reaper over the next few years and by 2018 the paint-job that had been layered on were seeming to hold up. Trading was looking good and a promising rise of sales had led to a steady rise of shares, but it wasn’t enough. The company still had a dark cloud of debt looming over their heads. 

External Forces at Play

The final nail in Thomas Cook’s coffin was however, the evolution of a new traveler and the rise of ‘do it yourself’ online holiday bookings which disastrously coincided with unpredictable variable factors such as weather and politics. 

As the online travel industry began to grow, package holidays quickly became a thing of the past. The new generation of travelers liked to march to the beat of their own drum. These individuals were born and raised in the age of the internet; they liked quick, easy, do it yourself solutions and the high-street package holiday chains, like Thomas Cook, were left to feel the ripple of this new online trend. 

It’s not to say that Thomas Cook didn’t make an attempt at joining the online world but their online platforms were operating on a much smaller scale in comparison to their competitors. Management seemed to lack a forward vision, and although I do commend them for staying true to their original brand, companies need to continuously be innovating and adding value in order to stay on top. 

The types of holidays that interest travelers the most has also changed over the past few years. Recent studies show that you are much more likely to find tourists wandering the city streets of Prague or Paris, than relaxing at a remote beach on the coast of Spain. These recluse beach get-aways were what Thomas Cook excelled at, and with this change in traveler preference, a competitive edge was given to newly emerged online platforms such as Expedia, low-cost carriers like EasyJet and RyanAir, and the hotel/resort alternative Airbnb. 

In 2017, even the weather had seemed to turn against Thomas Cook. Heat-waves struck all across the globe and the UK wasn’t left out. Graced with warmer weather and more sunny days, many travelers opted to stay in the UK rather than going abroad. This drastic rise in temperature completely decimated the demand in Thomas Cook’s bookings and caused them to start offloading deals at rock-bottom prices. 

It would be unwise to ignore the consequences that Brexit’s uncertainty has generated within the travel industry as well. In addition to Brexit massively hitting the pound sterling’s buying power abroad, the political chaos worried potential travelers and caused many of them to delay their travels.

The End of an Era

In 2019, Thomas Cook’s inadequate paint job began to peel off for the last time. This past May, the company reported a £1.5 billion loss, with more than £1 billion written off from their 2007 merger with MyTravel. Last month Thomas Cook made its final attempts to release the hold of the grim reaper who now had the company in a choke-hold. The company was thrown a lifeline and agreed to a £450 million deal with its biggest shareholder, Fosun. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough and no lender, including the government, could be found to extend additional funds to Thomas Cook. With its last minute attempts having failed, Thomas Cook’s lifeline snapped and the company finally succumbed to the reapers choke-hold this past week. 

To conclude my postmortem evaluation, past and present research all point towards the same verdict, Thomas Cook was in trouble for a long time and this shutdown was inevitable. The company was destroyed by their lack of a proactive response to changing trends and adaptability. This resistance to innovation coupled with bad business decisions, poor financial planning, and being hurled along by attempting to finance an unfeasible amount of debt, Thomas Cook fell flat on its face and in turn stranded those who counted on them the most. 

Upon my reflections, I can’t help but feel there are certain lessons to be learned from the curious case of Thomas Cook. Would any of this have happened if Thomas Cook had paid attention to the trends occurring and faced its problems immediately and head on, rather than searching for what always seemed to be the easiest and quickest, but extremely temporary, fix? Living to fight another day without long-term strategic responses isn’t really fighting at all. This mentality of fighting without changing is a dangerous one and tends to produce massive blowbacks, which as we saw earlier this week, was ultimately the source of Thomas Cook’s demise.

5 Tips To Help You Prosper As An Entrepreneur:

September 24th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “5 Tips To Help You Prosper As An Entrepreneur:”

1. Define Your Vision

What happens when you lead a team with no vision? Everyone ends up working, and often working quite hard, but important goals are never achieved. A vision brings the team together under a common goal so that your team is not simply working, but is working together to create something that moves you closer to realising your leadership vision.

As an entrepreneur, your vision is a vivid, inspirational picture of the future of your organisation. It is long-term and measurable. Your vision answers the question: Where are we going? You need to be crystal clear in your definition of what that destination looks like, even if you do not yet know exactly how you are going to get there. Your team need to understand your leadership vision, be reminded of it, and see how you role model your vision to remain personally invested in it.

2. Get The Right Team Around You

Your employees have direct contact with your customers, so you need to hire people who are motivated and inspired by your business’ value proposition. If your business has future objectives aligned with your employees, you can achieve your goals a lot quicker. Employees appreciate a stronger feeling of teamwork and are less likely to leave the business. Aligning employees with the objectives of the business makes them feel an essential part of the environment.

Developing a trust and loyalty with your employees is an absolute must. This will encourage a motivated workforce, employee retention and a healthier work environment. Want to know the secret of creating the perfect team? Combining people who don’t think, act and express themselves in the same way can help your business grow to the next level.

3. Always Be Thinking About Growth

Growth planning can be a stressful and complicated process. Whether you’re a young entrepreneur just starting up or the owner of a well established business, growth planning should be on your mind. Growth is an important part of any business and it’s important to remain competitive and to ensure progress and profits follow. It’s all about identifying your growth opportunities, whether it’s your consumer base, new markets or your competition.

You should be constantly thinking about discovering where your next growth opportunity will come from. From finances and planning to operations and handling suppliers, you can face many challenges to grow your business and move it forward. Therefore it’s crucial to keep growth on the agenda.

4. Use Mistakes As Tools For Improvement

Mistakes are what make us. Making mistakes in your business are ultimately what enables you to grow going forward. Everyone has experienced a fair few mistakes when running a business but you should credit them with giving you the tools you need to improve.

To be able to pinpoint all the mistakes and draw valuable lessons, put your goals into perspective. Were they unreasonable? Did you attempt to bite more than you can chew? Then you identify the differences: define the gap between what you expected and what actually happened, and you’ll get just a little bit closer to reasons why the endeavour was unsuccessful.

5. Hire People Who Strengthen Your Weaknesses

No matter how successful your business has been with just you working in it, if you want to grow you’ll need to employ people who can do the tasks you may not be so good at!

There comes a time in your business where you’ll feel like you need to clone yourself to get all the tasks checked off your to-do list. Unfortunately there’s no formula for cloning someone yet, but the next best thing you can do is outsource to gain back more time to work on other areas of your business. Delegation enables you to stop worrying about a lot of the things you’re unable to do, giving you space to think more about the most important aspects of your business.

As an entrepreneur, your hands can be tied up so understanding all of the necessary information for growth can be difficult. This is something we can help you with. With our specialised business expertise, we can take your business to the next level and find that next growth opportunity.

Need help taking that first step? How about a free 30 minute strategy session to find out how we can help move YOUR business forward. contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

Time Is Money

September 20th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Time Is Money”

For CEOs, Managers, and Employees alike, the thought that “there just isn’t enough time in the day” is not a foreign one. It’s human nature to think we have to do it all and furthermore, do it all at once, but that isn’t the case. Implementing practices such as delegation, prioritising tasks, and exploring new strategies are just a few examples of processes that can help free-up a business leader’s time.

Delegation coupled with prioritising tasks allows leaders to stop worrying about “the details” and lets them focus on the big picture of their business and where they ultimately want to go. Identifying and assigning detail-oriented responsibilities to various groups and position holders within the team is one way to begin the delegation process.

It is at this point where leaders come to face a common problem: they realize that they do not have someone ranked high enough or with enough knowledge for the position needed to spear-head the list of tasks ahead. So where do they go from here? The most obvious answer would be to permanently hire someone into that position. But that is, for one, a costly solution and for another, the higher-ranking position may not be needed once the ball gets rolling. Meaning that there may be enough knowledgeable members to carry out the tasks in the future but they aren’t currently prepared enough.

The other solution, which is becoming increasingly more common throughout the business world, is to consider hiring a part-time Director for that role. Part-time Directors come in to these roles with experience, clarity, and direction. They are able to effectively map out an efficient and strategic plan to achieve the company’s ultimate goal.

Take Part-Time Finance Directors for example, these directors can quickly become an indispensable strategy for moving a business forward. Effective strategic planning, credible future forecasting and recommendations on financing overall operations is not something most Business Leaders can do alone.

Having an FD part-time provides leaders with an affordable and cost-effective method to navigate the financial future of their business. The insight provided enables leaders to easily avoid common mistakes.

By leaving the details to someone who specializes in them, leaders can then begin to feel like they actually do have enough time and that they are able to keep moving their business forward.

Think your business could benefit from having a Finance Director? Email contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

Have You Considered Employee Ownership For Your Business?

September 17th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Have You Considered Employee Ownership For Your Business?”

EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP

If you’ve been considering succession and business exit options, then Employee Ownership should be one of those options you consider.

There are many examples of high performing employee owned businesses. If more motivated and engaged employees sounds appealing then considering employee ownership as part of your succession and exit strategy will align with your objectives.

Companies which are employee owned, or who have large and significant employee ownership stakes, now contribute £30 billion in the UK. With a 3.3% increase in employees within employee-owned companies in and 4.6% increase in sales year-on-year.

Thinking about the next steps in succession planning? Employee Ownership has been a great method for this. What makes a great success of Employee Ownership? Well the following:

Challenge and opportunity

Building the right team

Employee Engagement

John Lewis Partnerships is the largest employee-owned company in the UK and their Employee Ownership structure allows them to plan for the long term. It’s been said that an industrial democracy (where employees share knowledge, power and profit) was a better form of business. This has shaped the company culture and encouraged the happiness of all its members. Higher employee engagement and commitment, isn’t what every company wants?!

Make Architects were inspired by John Lewis’ structure and have always been 100% employee-owned. Founder, Ken Shuttleworth visioned the company to be a democratic workplace where everyone’s opinions mattered, ideas were free-flowing and decisions were made together. As an employee-owned company, the structure has turned out to be a strong factor in recruitment and retention.

Employee Ownership encourages your employees to get more involved in the company’s vision, governance and ensures they are fully engaged and motivated with the company goals.

For companies in the service industry who became employee-owned, they revealed a great tactic to ensure great engagement and service from employees was for them to take full responsibility and ownership of all their work. They express that it isn’t just a day at work, it’s another day growing their business. This is a great demonstration of when you own something, you care a little bit more!

Another employee-owned company- Riverford, who are an organic vegetable delivery company, have seen the commercial and emotional benefits of Employee Ownership. These are higher productivity, retention, better morale, greater resilience and less debt.

Are you thinking about transferring ownership to your employees or succession planning? We can work with you to identify the best route for your business.

Get in touch- contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

Everything You Need To Know About Finance Directors

September 13th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About Finance Directors”

WHAT DO THEY ACTUALLY DO?

Usually in your business, you will have likely relied an accountant to set out your financial strategy and undertake leadership of your balance sheet. But there comes a time when you’re looking to expand, and having an FD becomes necessary.

With your accountant keeping the past year’s books watertight and balanced, an FD will take control of financial performance and provide a blueprint for improving financial systems and meeting new goals.

They become invaluable in establishing KPIs, monitoring overall operations and ensuring that your company stays on a path of meaningful growth planning, working as part of the team to deliver a clear vision for the future finances of a business.

ARE THEY ALL THE SAME?

There are many types of Finance Directors and some companies don’t even have one.

– Finance Directors that are great at closing the month end and making sure your books and records are tidy

-Finance Directors that are great at mergers and acquisitions, doing big deals that involve raising money

-Commercial Finance Directors that are great at understanding the business and really driving and focusing on profit performance.

These then often come in the same package. So having an additional Finance Director on your team or someone that adds benefit from a different angle could really benefit your business moving forward.

It’s rare for an FD to have ALL these skills, so if you already have an FD then that’s great but sometimes, two are better than one.

The ideal FD will need to understand the importance of proper planning and strategy. They will provide you with relevant and insightful reports that give you what you need to run your business. Having a part-time FD provides you with an affordable and cost-effective method to navigating the financial future of your business, enabling you to avoid mistakes you don’t need to make.

If you’re looking for an FD tailored to your needs, feel free to get in touch with us right away! contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

How To Move Your Business Forward As An SME

September 10th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “How To Move Your Business Forward As An SME”

INTEGRATE A FINANCE DIRECTOR INTO YOUR TEAM

There are great benefits to having a Finance Director on your team! They help provide insights such as forward looking financials and metrics so you know where you are heading.

Given that most SMEs fail within their first year of business, investing in a team of professionals with your company’s best interest at heart becomes invaluable – especially if you’re trying to move your business forward or improve financial performance. This would be the perfect time to invest in an FD for your business.

Having an FD is a key factor for your business’ growth! They focus on:

–Improving financial performance-setting and monitoring KPIs

–Developing and improving internal finance and business systems

–Challenging and advising on growing the business

INVEST IN A CONSULTANT RATHER THAN A COACH

As an SME, it can be difficult to get access to advice at an affordable rate. This is advice larger companies automatically have from access to established boards, advisors and management teams. Coaching gives you access to one experience person working on the business. However, a consultant can give you access to multiple different people with specialist skills and experience rather than one individual working on the business.

Consulting doesn’t solely focus on correcting behaviours, but also implement proven systems and processes also. Where a coach decides the format & process, a consultant would make sure everything is tailored to your needs.

Consulting has a longer term planning for continued success, rather than a short term focus on resolving issues.

When moving your business forward you can learn about your potential growth through your competition. You can either choose to learn from a competitor and try to replicate their success or find an avenue to separate and differentiate themselves from competitors. Both avenues can increase productivity and brand awareness. You can find that growth opportunity by analyzing alternative industries. If a similar industry has a large consumer base, then there is opportunity to learn why consumers choose the particular industry.

Whether you’re an SME looking to move your business forward or need help your financial strategy and growth planning..we’re here to help! Get in touch with our team right away- contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

How To Grow Your Business With A Part-Time Finance Director

September 6th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “How To Grow Your Business With A Part-Time Finance Director”

When coming to the stage of business growth, Finance Directors become indispensable to moving your business forward. Effective strategic planning, credible future forecasting and recommendations on financing overall operations is not something you can do alone.

Some business can’t afford a full-time FD, however you don’t need to! Why would you pay more than you need for a service? Having a part-time FD will be more cost-effective. This makes it possible and practical for small/medium companies to take on the experience, knowledge and skills of an FD on a part time basis for a fraction of the cost of a full-time FD.

An FD that is devoted to your business will help highlight growth opportunities and are responsible for outlining KPI’s, monitoring overall operations and ensuring your business stays on a path of meaningful growth. They work as part of the team to deliver a clear vision for the future finances of your business.

A part-time FD has given previous SME’s such confidence to grow their business. It enables you to stop worrying about a lot of the things you used to worry about before, giving you space to think more about the creative aspects of your business.

A textiles company said one of their biggest challenges was recruiting and training staff with the knowledge and practical skills required in their industry. They couldn’t focus on this as their focus was on increasing the level of strategic financial support and guidance. Since their FD had joined part-time, there has been instrumental focus on driving the sales pipeline, tightening cash flow control and streamlining business structures to reduce unnecessary expenditure.

You probably didn’t know you needed a part-time FD until now. Integrating an FD into your team on a part-time basis will bring you flexibility and control. They will be able to deliver a clear vision and unparalleled expertise to your financial strategy.

Having a part-time FD provides you with an affordable and cost-effective method to navigating the financial future of your business, enabling you to avoid mistakes you don’t need to make.

How can we help?

Whether you need help in strategic growth planning, operations or even handling suppliers, we aim to tailor guidance to your company and set goals for performance and growth. We provide peace of mind, that with the expertise of our FDs, they will deliver a clear vision and unparalleled expertise to your financial strategy.

If you’re looking for an FD tailored to your needs, feel free to get in touch with us right away! contact@evokemanagement.co.uk

3 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know

September 3rd, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “3 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know”

1. Find New Growth Opportunities

Growth planning is all about discovering where your next growth opportunity will come from. You can face many challenges to grow your business and move it forward. From finances and planning to operations and handling suppliers.Whether you’re an SME or a well established company, growth is important to remain competitive and to ensure progress and profits follow. It’s all about identifying your growth opportunities, whether it’s your consumer base, new markets or your competition.

2. Financial Planning

Your business will only grow with the right financial planning and strategy. If you still remain small, this might be because you aren’t benefiting from outside guidance. You need a long-term strategy for sustained success, to create a business built to last and remain profitable.

Have you thought about having a Finance Director for your business? FDs seek to ensure a sustainable path to meaningful business growth through strategic planning, applying their wealth of commercial experience. This is useful when trying to communicate with an untapped consumer base or looking for new growth opportunities.

You can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes when it comes to your financial strategy, that’s why you need to make sure you have the right FD.

3. Creating the Perfect Team

Being able to elevate your team to peak productivity is a crucial task for any business owner. To push your team to peak performance, it helps to understand the characters on your team. Combining people who don’t think, act and express themselves in the same way can help your business grow to the next level.

There is a healthy friction that develops when you combine people from different backgrounds and set them up to work together. When people who all think the same way work together, it can be more efficient however, it may not reach its full potential.

The friction caused by diversity will lead to discussions that will lead to realisations that could lead to breakthroughs for your team members and business. The collection of different styles of thinking and acting will help your team to reach new heights.

How can we help?

As an entrepreneur, your hands can be tied up so understanding all of the necessary information for growth can be difficult. This is something we can help you with. With our specialised business expertise, we can take your business to the next level and find that next growth opportunity.

Using our services or any professional advice is an investment, not an expense. Need help taking that first step? How about a free 30 minute strategy session to find out how we can help move YOUR business forward.

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