COVID; Analysis of Key Commercial Benchmarks

We look at the past twelve months and ask – if everything has gone wrong, was that simply because of COVID, or were the downsides always there, it’s  just that Covid was the excuse  of choice? Or are there new trends and behaviours come to the surface that we never considered until now?

Looking at the obvious – you can  say that 2020 was the death knell of Events and Conferences. Major companies globally are in trouble and have not been able to rediscover a new secret sauce as to why you and should even  bother to attend an online event. As long as COVID continues, it is doubtful whether many will still be around with their current offering, thru to the end of 2021. In our discussions with vendors, we have yet to find any vendor that is satisfied that being part of a virtual event has has offered them any benefit at all. Criticisms range from “ this is a scam”, to the more polite “ it’s not the fault of the organiser, they are doing their best”  etc.

It is made doubly worse  by the lack of interest from so many delegates.  Worst in our discussions, were anything to do with the UK NHS. Even those that attend workshops have almost nil interest in pursuing a discussion after they have gone offline and  in almost all cases there is no way for a vendor to progress a discussion. Much better are the Financial events; there is a clear monetary and commercial objective  – but even then – online workshops that we looked at – were sparsely attended, the vendors themselves outnumbering the delegates.

This situation is made worse alas by the naivety and astonishing optimism of the conference organisers themselves, who routinely do not bother to answer emails from apparent interested parties, preferring to have a voicemail, saying “we are working from home”.  Or those who publish and write to us with sentences such as:”We bring people together and excite them with truly life-changing experiences. Creating the ideal environment for doing business, learning about new trends and innovations, and cementing relationships. Discover our unique mission, vision and values.”

This is not what people are saying to us.

At least some organisers are trying tho. This one in Liverpool, sent us a nice paragraph:

It is all down to simplicity and not trying to recreate a inperson conference. It is impossible to recreate an inperson event so why not shake things up and cater for what you have in hand. By having more focused sessions and pre arranged 1-2-1’s rather than a networking area sponsors, delegates and speakers have a much more comprehensive experience’
The trouble is – this  is alas not our experience, as well intentioned as it may be.
In short – the market exists on two levels; established vendors who just want to support their brand. They are not so dependent on  people coming to see them. Or at a deeper level – the vendor who has something new to say – in which case, the conference has work to do to keep the delegate focussed and  on-message. One thing is clear; the lack of face to face contact will continue for longer than we care to admit.
Looking  at our work habits, what is clear is that we all accept, employers and employees, that work is a thing we do, rather than a place we go. The problem is, that the novelty has worn off. What started as a great experiment, working from home – an increasing number of people have told us that six months in, they are much less focussed, and that work expands to fill the entire day. There is no “me” time.  We frequently receive emails at 23.00, from companies and even prospects, wanting our attention.  This is damaging to both our work performance and our personal health.
The good people at the property rental specialists Knotel company in London, who we have spoken to,  tell  us that corporates are looking in increasing numbers for short term flexible packages and locations.
All of which is good, for them, but we expect to see as the vaccine kicks in, a gradual return to the heady days of returning to an office to work. It has to be like this, for reasons of sharper contact with one’s colleagues, as well as the dependence on infrastructure, theatres, social gathering, that we all need as human beings. The only question is one of size; just how many people will indeed retreat from corporate values, and decide they actually like to earn less but are happier in themselves.
Moving on…..as of today (at time of writing I have just received a News Item that we have a Brexit deal, that will deliver us more or less half of what we already had anyway – clearly good news….) – this is a good moment to take stock and see which markets are now relevant, or have changed.
Talking to my colleagues in La Rochelle and Toulouse, and Paris, France; this is not a market that is worth exploring for the time being. The South West France in particular is in deep depression. The empty streets, the 20.00 curfew, has demoralised the french psyche.
Similarly, the failure of COVID free expression in Sweden, has created a sense of uncertainty among an increasing number of areas of Sweden, particularly around the Goteborg area. There are no such hesitations from the south of Sweden, or Norway.
Two things are of interest; there is a new vigour in the UK, to going and doing things. What was unmitigated disaster some nine months ago, has now manifested into something more positive. Similarly, my colleagues in Switzerland are saying “2020 was our best year”, from technology services to  consumer drinks. However – this growth has all been domestic. We would like to see more outreach from Swiss companies internationally.
Ultimately, it will in both  the consumer/delegate, as well as vendor and organiser, to increase their appetite for being serious and implemting change. That thread is the common denominator  of both avenues.  It will be interesting to see in twelve months time, which industries and geo areas have risen to the challenge.,

 

 

ARE SMALL ARTICLES THE FINANCIAL LIFELINE FOR CHARITIES?

 

We look at how the subtle growth of paid-for online Content, will be the revenue stream of choice for the charity and giving market. We focus on the SHEKINAH homeless charity in Plymouth and ask; is their model the way forward?

Charities are not backward when it comes to asking you and I for money. Every charity has it’s “please give me” column, it’s “terrible hardship” note, or “aspirational” look what we can do with your £5.00, and the list goes on.

They all sound so desperate and deserving in equal measure.

The problem is that in current times, the ordinary guy and family, have less disposable money to make the sort of contributions they used to do. And what is worse there is the hesitation of “what am I actually getting for my money. Feel-good factor is all very well but what about feeing your kids?

For many families, there are today’s choices, when for many, there is no comparison, and no option.

Except that maybe there is.

The growth of online Content has spawned a new payment process that allows Charities (and others), to charge nominal sums, in an instant, to read some of their published material. Instead of ticking the box to give a sum of money, the reader ticks the box to read something that stimulates him, that helps him understand better the charity involved – and in return, his small contribution, goes towards making a difference.

The SHEKINAH charity (shekinah.co.uk) uses the EXODOX (exodox.link) platform in Stockholm, to be the payment gateway. And it works like this.

SHEKINAH create a suitable article – which they publish either on their own site or on a third party News site, They install an EXODOX plugin – and create their unique payment account. They link their article to their payment account. And when you or I visit the Charity or News site, we click on the article, and pay usually £1.00 or so, to access the Content.

It is simple and immediate and you wonder why nobody had thought of this before. Maybe we were all waiting for “tap and go” and familiarity of card based transactions for pretty much not a lot.

But lots of “not a lot” mount up to “quite a lot”, thanks for asking.

The latest SHEKINAH article can be accessed at: https://www.thelibraries.co.uk/financial/society-does-not-depend-on-government-society-depends-on-society/

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WHAT NEXT FOR UK EXPATS AND BUSINESSES?

We look at the current Brexit paralysis and its affect on Uk and EU financial organisations

Whilst the recent dispensing of several of its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement by the UK Government has caused Uk business tremendous damage to its reputation and ability to get new business – a couple of key announcements published in the “L’Agefi” online newsletter in France, have crept under the radar unnoticed.

They should not have done so, as they are likely to have the more profound affect to the ordinary person and to pretty much every size of UK business.

It may come as no surprise that the giant AVIVA Insurance company in the UK has sold off its filiale in Paris AVIVA France. These things come and go. What is interesting is the timing, In the same French publication just a few days before, there was a larger discussion about the exit of UK financial firms generally from the EU.

It seems that UK companies, for so long holding out for a continuation of things as they are – which benefits the UK – have decided enough is enough. They are coming home.

On a purely domestic level, this coincides with announcements elsewhere that UK expats, will not be able to continue their UK bank accounts, if they live in EU. It is however – Ok in reverse. If you happen to live in the UK, but have your bank account in Paris – well, that will seem to work fine. I know that because LCL have just sent me a new Bank Card, complete with a personalised photo on the  front of the card, of some flowers in my garden. How nice.

My friend Victoria who lives in a flat in Paris, is very worried. The lack of financial passporting mentioned above, whilst inconvenient, is nowhere near as high an issue as the need to transfer qualifications – which threatens job viability – and quite apart from the shut down of ferry companies, who will no longer operate. And who can blame them? With some 7000 trucks planned to be parked up in fields in Kent, pending customs clearance – we are at the point of having customs-points next to Bromley South train station. More serious, is the lack of any physical card, that confirms residency and country rights. It is another Windrush in the making. In twenty years time, UK expats will not be able to physically prove, that they have UK rights, because the online IT Systems currently used, will be long gone. All of the above facilities that were free before, will now cost you and I money to get back to where we were, and with greater hassle.

As concerning as that is, UK businesses are in an even worse situation. We are now regularly seeing EU companies not wanting to enter into contractual terms with UK companies, because of concerns of contractual behaviour. And in order to efficiently handle financial simple tasks abroad, such as a simple clearance payment for good received or supplied – UK companies are being advised to set up their own EU office. Add to that the lack of mobility of long haul travel for the next six months or so, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see where UK companies are going to expand their business.

According to the newspapers in the UK, we are due for an increased unemployment phase, and there is a need for additional social security support. This is not the time for employees to lose jobs.

One would like to think that some sort of common sense will prevail, but our suspicion in the UK at least is that there are too many large corporate interests that are in direct opposition to the views and needs of the general public, who are both their employees and customers.

Perhaps we are too close to the action, here in the UK. Maybe it takes a French newspaper, to tell us what we should have seen from the beginning.

CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME. OH NO IT DOESN’T. IT BEGINS WITH THE CHARITY COMPANIES.

CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME. NO IT DOESN’T. IT BEGINS WITH THE CHARITY COMPANIES.

We look at important new ways for Charities to raise money, increase revenues, and ask – why are they so reluctant to do something new?

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The conversation goes something like this. “I’m a Charity. And I have no money. But  I would like to save the world/Africa/the NHS… So – I would like to have some of YOUR money, because you are obviously richer than I, and you don’t need all of yours”.

This same approach also applies to related businesses, such as Theatres, the Arts, anywhere that there are good and valiant people  that are desperate for our immediate help. And it is unfair. The classic donation based revenue structure for charities is centred  around a guilt trip. Heavens, we must do something.  The home page of every Charity, large and small, is honed in like cruise missile, to get us to sign up. 

And we feel good about this. We have done our duty. People say that the “giving” of  presents at Christmas time, is better than the actual “receiving”.  Actually, I’m not too sure about that one, but you get the point.

And yes, some Charities try to offer a bribe – give us your money, and you get some vouchers for this or that, at whatever retail store or coffee place near you. I’ll drink to that.

And it is a pity because it misses the point. Firstly that the key asset that people are indeed interested in, is the depth of knowledge that you yourself have as a charity of many years standing, and that you currently either don’t talk much about or actually give away for free! And second – that people who are prepared to support you, will spend many times over their initial subscriptions etc each month, to buy access to your Content.

In short – your deeper knowledge as a Charity, about human nature, life’s experience, solutions and philosophies, has a commercial value. What is more, the technology exists to make that purchasing decision, simple, immediate.

Welcome to The Futureshapers.  What started out just a few years ago as a publishing platform for deeper business articles, by providing an instant payment mechanism for micro-payment amounts – a few pence here – a quid there – is rapidly becoming the de facto choice not only for businessmen, but for ordinary people  like you and I, to support the charities we wish to help.

There is no big monthly commitment. You just look at the material on the Charity website of your choice, click on the article, and that’s it. 

In theory this is a no-brainer, and you would have thought that there would be a queue of arts and good organisations just wanting to get involved.

Not so.  The stigma still exists that somehow, the fragrance of commercialisation gets in the way of the higher things that TFS and the public,  are very willing and indeed open to trying to do.  More so when you consider that the monthly readership of TFS Articles, is well into six figures, it makes commercial sense for any Charity to reshape their online strategy.

It is already clear, from, the increasing amount of subscription based Content available to us all online, that pay-per-read, is becoming the method of choice, for each of us to access the information we truly value.

If we have already proven to ourselves at last, that we value the good things that Charities are doing, then surely it is not too much to ask that the Charities themselves start to accommodate us – and in doing so, better accommodate the very people and projects they are trying to serve.

 

The Futureshapers can be contacted at; www.thefutureshapers.com

 

Shall we forget about 2020? Not at all.

We take a moment to take a pause, and ask;  is it that we have two choices: either we accept that this year the cards were just stacked against us, and we   accept the doom prophesies. Or we don’t.   This article is a sequel to our earlier comment about humans and recessions. Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.

It is fashionable to be pessimistic these days. God knows we have enough right to be.  According to the mainstream media, the “economy” will tank both this year and next. But in the same pages, we learn that in the UK, house prices have reached their highest level since, well, the last time they reached that level. It’s all very confusing.

So conventional wisdom is to assume the worst.  Put what little money we have under the mattress. And do nothing.  In doing “nothing”, we create the very downturn and recession  we have been guarding against.  For some reason, we just love bad news, – and we pay the consequences for that.

The answer – is to do “something”. In fact, it is to do more than “something”. It is to take the view that you carry on as you had originally planned. Surprisingly, if you are that single minded and determined, things are likely to work out.

So what is the secret, of doing “something”?  There are five simple points of understanding.

First – by doing nothing or firing your people – you will not return  to the same place that you left; you will have less people, less experience, less competence, and your market will have less money. It’s a spiral; to the bottom.

Second – your pipeline is your future success. Cherish it, go after it. Silver linings will come back sooner rather than later.

Third – be innovative. Life indeed is not the same as it was. But it is unlikely that there is no demand for your solutions and competences. You just have to phrase it a different way.

Fourth – change your outreach. Forget sending emails, we all get too many, but do invest in video, Seeing is believing and virtual meetings do work.

And Finally – things never were easy. But as we come out of the darkness of COVID – now is the time to reap the rewards while others are still asleep.

RECESSIONS ARE NOT CAUSED BY VIRUSES. RECESSIONS ARE CAUSED BY HUMANS.

We look at the concept that battening down the hatches in difficult times, is good for our corporate health, and ask; maybe it’s not so good for our health… We give an alternative RoadMap.

My good colleagues in our Insurance Clients, show me the data, and it goes something like this – those companies who abandon their marketing and sales ship in any ensuing storm – will lose around 23% of their revenues that year. And it will take them a further two years to recover.

I do “get” that the above scenario is tempting. Our Press and Media do not get our attention by publishing good news stories. The constant doom and gloom which populate all of our news feeds and Inboxes, gives the end of the world impression of reality.

Except that it is not reality. Our experience over the past two months, in monitoring our corporate colleagues and clients, is that it is a true case of “be careful what you wish for”. Maybe you haven’t thought this through…

The fact is that, how you proceed now – is a choice that you yourself will make. Your reaction to events is the same as any other business decision.

So…. This is how it is.

If you persist in treating your sales and marketing facility as a discretionary spend as opposed to an essential lifeline, then you cannot be surprised if your revenues shrink in the immediate and long term.

What we have found is that those companies that continue to go develop their business, do continue to build up their pipeline, and continue to get new business, come what may. We have seen an increase in Meetings, and very little difference between face/face meetings; and Virtual Meetings. Surprisingly, there is actually quite a positive buzz. Our own clients tell us  they have continued to win new projects.

The evidence we have, is that those companies who suddenly stop – will not be perceived as “serious” when the sun comes out and all this darkness goes away.

So what is the answer? We have a RoadMap which you might like  to consider:

1. Keep your marketing and direct sales efforts alive. People do understand the global situation, but they still want to see you and hear from you.

2. Don’t let your people go. The good people will not be there for you when you come back.

3. The longer you leave things, the more difficult it will be to ramp up again. This is because there will be exponentially more competition not necessarily in your space, but in the availability of your customer to see you.

4. Your excuse of using this period for “planning” – does not fly. The same pressures will soon apply as before, when you restart – expect that you will be in a worse state to achieve the results you need to get. You still have the office rent to pay, after all.

5. Remember that your key asset – as we are frequently told – are your people. They will indeed continue to be that – but you have to do your part too.

Why Inclusion & Diversity Is An Executive Priority

Mariana Bodiu, VP of The Inclusivity Partners – looks at the current issues in corporate understanding of this key topic.

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Creating inclusive, respectful and engaging workplace cultures is essential for an organisation’ success. Seems just right on paper but how do companies define and create this culture, empowering employees to feel motivated?

If we consult some very scary statistics to get us all thinking…. Research by the mental health charity Mind, identifies long hours, excessive workloads and unrealistic deadlines as causes of stress. Mind’s own research of 44,000 employees found 48% of people say they have experienced mental health problems in their current job. According to the Samaritans, UK men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, while men aged 45 to 49 represent the highest suicide rate cohort.

A core question is whether we spend enough time in the discovery phase to truly understand what matters for our employees. What can we do of great relevance to their motivations rather than come up with a one size fits all programme to just put a check on the list?

We often hear executives saying that “People, their People” are their greatest assets. However the budgets allocated to support employee wellbeing are by far, not the greatest.

The Chief Excutive at Quilter, Paul Feeney stated in a recent interview for citywire, people and businesses need to be more open about mental health issues. After revealing that he himself had his own mental health issues in the past, Feeney said he signed the Time to Change pledge on behalf of the firm. “While movements like these are welcome, it’s really important that businesses fully recognise the value of mentally healthy workplaces and that good practice is embedded in policies and procedures so that the impact is felt by all staff, regardless of role or seniority”.

Johnny Taylor, chief executive officer and president of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), is shaking up workplaces by putting a spotlight on difficult conversations. SHRM launched a national initiative about toxic workplace cultures. The initiative aims to assist companies with facilitating crucial conversations surrounding controversial and uncomfortable topics. These conversations will cover race, religion, toxic workplace issues, politics, LGBTQ and gender equality.

The future of employee wellbeing and professional development in workplace cries out loud for individualised programmes and impactful mentorship.

The workforce is changing and so does the mentality of your employees. Your greatest talents strive for a more authentic, meaningful, work environment where they can feel not only financially remunerated yet also welcomed, understood and truly valued as human beings.

The Inclusivity Partners recognises the importance of this change and values employee wellbeing. We help businesses create an inclusive and diverse working environment by co-creating this strategy with their employees – designing momentum for authentic solutions driven by people for people.

GLOBAL WARMING. YES, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. YOU AND ME. EVERYONE ELSE.

If you think that the little we can do is insignificant – you would be wrong.

I’m sitting at one of those speed awareness courses run by our UK police people to chastise errant speedy drivers like myself, and I am looking out of the window, and there is this girl next to me and she too is looking out of the window. And my mind is starting to wander. It’s not that I’ve had a bad day – but I am increasingly tired of the doomsayers telling me that my new hybrid motor car, actually costs more in fossil fuels to make the thing – than my lifetime of electric driving savings can generate.

None of us can escape the heavy marketing of motor cars, the new generation of electric vehicles, from an increasing number of vendors, that promise literally the earth, to justify their enormous financial investments to date.

It is a message that does not fall in deaf ears. As humans, across the planet, we remain in love with our automobiles. And so we play around at the edges. Nobody takes seriously that we will, actually “stop” using our cars, – we just want to feel better about it. Global warming is simply a Guilt Trip. To be frank, like our Governments the world over in hock to the energy companies and our own lifestyle dependence on cheap energy – we will do what it takes in lip service to making the world a greener and more ecological place, as long as it does not impact on our own little journeys to the shops.

Which is why in the UK current government plans for 2020, the building of extra roads, is high up on the list.

It is also why none of us want to face up to the inconvenient truths – that indeed, sure, we can truly save money and precious energy resources by having a shiny new electric vehicle, when compared with the prehistoric gas guzzlers of yesteryear. Except that, when we put this in perspective – we are avoiding looking at the reality of the whole issue, and that the real benefits to our planet, are negligible,

And yet… all of us “do” want to do something. Whatever nuance and discussion and preferred solution might exist – we all know that there is a global warming problem. The question is – what can we as individuals do, that actually can work?

The answer might not be as far away as you think, and goes back to my speeding course and those moments that every student will appreciate when suddenly, the lecturer says something, the girl next to you nudges you – and the light switches on. And the answer goes something like this…

If you accept that driving, whether for work or socially – has changed for ever; that nice little pootles 100 miles, or 300 miles to see a friend etc – are a distant dream because there is just too much traffic and too much traffic calming and maintenance, and too much stress – then can you accept that your own driving habits must also change now?

Because if you do – and please stay with me on this one – then you will absolutely “get” the next few paragraphs.

How so?

Because the temptation in the hassled-fuelled world we now inhabit on our roads, is to accelerate and go quicker than we should, because the impression by going faster, is that we get to wherever we want to go, quicker.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to my good lecturers from the Highways people in the UK – a journey of 300 miles taken at 80mph, will save you approximately 13 minutes, when compared to doing the same journey at the legal limit of 70mph. It will also cost you around 25% more in fuel cost (ref. The Money Advice website)
The 13 minutes that you save will be taken up by having to stop to refuel, and you will simply get to your next speed restricted stretch of road hardly any earlier at all. Worse, you will have spent more money on extra fuel than you need by quite a stretch.

But what is most significant is that – and this is where everyone on my little Course started to wake up, eyes wide; apparently, if everybody just accepted the smart speeding signs, and drove within the speed limits, kept their cruise control on the legal speed for the conditions etc… the savings in CO2 that we would make collectively, would equal the aims and aspirations of the entire UK.

The thing is, just now – we have been looking in the wrong direction. We have been adapting our response to suit our lifestyle.

But our lifestyle, has changed, and will not come back. The numbers that have hit us today are compelling, and the options are easy to introduce – and the benefits significant. Driving a bit quick at the wrong time, does not cut it any more, in an area that hurts us most, our wallet.

DOES AI WORK IN HEALTHCARE?

 

We take a look at a recent Study from across the Pond by the guys at Black Book Research, and ask – why are we not having the same results in Europe?

If there is ever a case for not believing what you hear, or putting your finger to your face and pulling your eyelid down – “you’re kidding, right?” – it is in the happy figures that are quoted by Hospitals about their impending use of AI.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, AI is frequently confused with “let’s do a bit more work on our EHR”, or more simply – “AI is a technical solution so we give it to the CIO to solve.”

When handled correctly, AI is none of those things; rather, it is a clinical evaluation of what we need in clinical management, and work backwards from that.

We see frequently, in the Uk as our base, hospitals having little or no plans or concept as to what actual benefit can be achieved – and in some cases, actually throwing out the AI project they had started in the first place. One Consultant told us he had moved back to pencil and paper.

And yet, the concrete figures from across the Atlantic from colleague Doug Brown at Black Book Research, are compelling and convincing. What they say is; some “44% of healthcare organizations already report using AI in one form or another, and 88% of surveyed C Suite officers expect widespread implementation in next 5 years.”

Practical benefits include, in the USA at least, significant reductions in payments claims being refused, because there is a faster, more accurate process for matching data from all relevant parties.

Whilst the Study spends a lot of time talking about Coding and IT issues – it also goes on to pick out those vendors who have best succeeded in giving a practical advantage to all sides. Doug goes on to say; “Overall, 89% of all hospitals surveyed report cutting transcription costs in half or more while improving the transparency of dictation and transcription processes within one year of implementing end-to-end coding, CDI and transcription software tools. 94 % of providers realized operational efficiencies without impacting clinician workflows. “

What is becoming apparent is that in healthcare, despite the need for enhanced platforms and IT speak etc – the key driver is the identification of what actual benefits you are trying to achieve – and then let the tech do the rest.

CAN A.I. HELP THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND CAN IT INDEED HELP YOU?

We take an advance peek at the upcoming AI Legal Forum from the experts at IQPC, in London this week, and ask – where does AI fit into this very personal relationship-based industry?

The AI Legal Forum is rocking up at what should be already the centre of UK artificial intelligence. With its base for two days this week at the Hilton London Canary Wharf, the venue is surrounded by the movers and shakers in the banking and financial industries. If anybody depends on accurate use of data – it is them.

So we are in good company. The Forum already has some of the UK’s leading Legal Firms as Speakers, including a couple of large Media companies and PDA vendors. It is a broad church. And it needs to be,.

Reading through the nice announcements, what the Forum is there to do, is ask questions of its delegates rather than deliver information. Sure, there will be experience lead discussion – but as much can be gained from the feedback as the initial presentations from each leader or speaker.

A key element will be the redefining of how legal firms calculate their revenues, from what source. A major bugbear from customers who require legal advice is the constant focus on billable hours, and this is a key topic under discussion, as we move in to new ways of assessing client value.

It’s about time. But then, in the legal profession, you could say it has always been that way.