Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

Posts Tagged ‘start up

Business Turnaround, a Dark Art or Common Sense and a Proper Business Plan

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Business Turnaround, a Dark Art or Common Sense and a Proper Business Plan

More than half of Britain’s small businesses collapse because of cash-flow problems. The UK Insolvency Service sites 65 common reasons why businesses fail.  Many advisers and “experts” publish lists of a number of reasons, seven being a common number, unlucky for the failed business, with clearly a prize and first place going to the Insolvency Service at 65, clearly retired exhausted after then.

We like to keep things simple as this helps us and our clients, but we believe that the success of a business (and therefore the failure of a business) is down to one area (ok, poetic license as it is a related area), cash flow problems due to the lack of a real plan and system of control (i.e. the area that an experienced business orientated FD is good at).

Looking at seven common reasons why businesses fail, it points to the same cause and solution:

  • Business started for the wrong reasons and to try and make money quickly (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • Poor management and lack of management (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • Lack of capital (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • Poor location and marketing (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • Lack of planning (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • Over-expansion (lack of a real plan and system of control)
  • No website (lack of a real plan and system of control)

No apologies for labelling the point but all FDs would say the same thing, lack of cash caused by a lack of a real plan and system of control and improvement.  Other recent articles that we have read with interest now refer to zombie businesses and that pretty much sums it up, a re-animated corpse, with no mind of its own; no control of its own; in fact control lies with others; never learning and never changing. In fact a favourite observation of ours is the common lesson for most areas of human behaviour; “If you do the same thing that you have always done, you will always get the same result.”  This is as important to businesses as anything else.  In fact in business, if you do the same thing that you have always done, it is likely that the future results will be worse than before.  We do recognise that many also say; “If it’s not broke then don’t fix it,” but this is also ignoring both normal wear and tear and inevitable depreciation.

Speaking to and working with people who have experienced or been a part of a business failure (and those of us that have seen, have worked with and have been a part of successful turnarounds), there are a range of views and emotions, noting the lack of support from interested parties such as banks, other lenders and major creditors, but in the vast majority of these, there is a common issue, lack of a real plan, lack of innovation and change, lack of a system of control which leads to a cash flow crisis.  In fact the references to lack of support from the bank, when explored further, usually uncover a situation where the business has pretty much lost control to the bank or lender.  There are also a significant and scary number of businesses which only produce annual statutory accounts, find out that they have made a loss, months after the year end; face another issue, such as loss of a major customer or restricted key supply and then tell the bank all the bad news at the same time, asking for funding/overdraft extension, with no solutions being offered by them.  They lack any plan in respect of the relationship, communication and information being given to their bank and are confused and angry when the bank then either refuse the extension or worse still, reduce or remove the overdraft facility completely.  We are not going to comment on the issues surrounding banking over the last two years or so, as this is well documented, but we are aiming to concentrate on how businesses can and should take matters in their own hands and control.

As we are still in what can only be described as challenging and uncertain times for businesses, there are now many who describe themselves as turnaround specialists and look to help to ensure that your business starts on a road to recovery.

I will now make a sweeping generalisation and observation, but in my opinion, there appears to be broadly three types of turnaround specialists;

  • Investors and their advisers who are looking to save the business but also to take advantage of the vulnerable position of the business, to take part or majority ownership of the business for considerably less than normal market value, this is harsh but to be expected;
  • Insolvency experts acting as expert advisers (but usually only looking to support the lending bank).  The reports that they produce and advice that they give can be very biased for not only the lenders positions, but for them to win the future work from the lender, quite a lot of business people recognise this with the analogy of putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank and emergency blood supply;
  • There are, however, other experienced advisers who have been there, done that and have the necessary skills and desire to help the business turnaround and be successful.

Going back to the title of the blog, despite the mystery and myth of business turnaround specialists, it is not a dark art.  Businesses are successful because they have a good product; a real plan; a system of control and improvement and control of their cash, businesses fail because they may have a good product but they do not have a real robust plan; have no real system of control and improvement and they do not have control of their cash.  Businesses achieve a successful turnaround because they eventually recognise the position that they find themselves in and take the appropriate action and introduce a real and robust plan; a system of control and improvement, no matter how simple, and control of their cash, before it is too late.

In some overtrading situations, where the businesses are growing rapidly, control can be lost as they did not believe that they needed it.  The sales and money keeps rolling in.  In many situations, we have seen the business hit a wall, when either an unexpected cost arrives (usually the tax bill, but if you do not have a real plan then anything could be unexpected) or when they face a supply problem.  We have seen many situations where a business has one main source of supply for a key component, product or service and when this supplier cannot provide the volume or specification required (or has gone out of business themselves); this has the knock on effect to our business.  This may fall under risk management, but it is common sense management that many businesses fail to address until it comes along to hurt them.  Having one supplier for a key area can prove fatal, indeed one key supplier sometimes can wield too much power over the business anyway.

As any successful and experienced FD would also tell you, a real plan is not only about one area, and it is common-place that the FD is the architect of the plan and its delivery; it is about ensuring that all parts of the business have a plan and the ability to deliver the plan and this has to include;

  • Recognition of where you stand, your strengths and your failings, what are your opportunities and what needs to be protected;
  • A good product/service combined with a marketing plan to deliver the appropriate sales;
  • A good knowledge of key supply and a good supply plan and agreements;
  • An operational and delivery plan, recognising and controlling key drivers in the business;
  • Appropriate recognition of your team development, management and leadership;
  • A budget which includes the key performance indicators relevant to the business;
  • An appropriate financial plan recognising the requirements for long term investment and finance as well as working capital management and short term cash flow;

Recognising the above and how an experienced FD can help and yes that includes the creative marketing stuff as well, when a business is facing financial difficulty it is cash that has to be the key priority and when we start to help this has to be the first area to control.  Sometimes, however, a formal insolvency route of administration or receivership will be required to allow the business to be put back on track, but sometimes a common sense plan will enable a business to right itself without the need for a formal insolvency process.

Some of the areas that a turnaround strategy and plan will include will be:

  • A thirteen week rolling cash-flow dealing with immediate and short term cash flow issues, identifying and managing the pressure points.  It is still remarkable the number of businesses that do not have a short term rolling cash flow plan.
  • A cash plan, breaking down what cash has to be collected weekly from debtors and how; what are the priority of creditor payments and then more formalised revised repayment schedules agreed with key suppliers.
  • A detailed recognition of short and medium term cash requirements and following a draft cash plan, engaging with banks and other sources of credit and lending to bridge the shortfall.
  • Recognition of the break-even position of the business and translation of that into a simple and understandable plan (i.e. the number of sales required a week or the number of conversions needed or jobs needed to be completed every week).
  • Following the break-even review, a plan for staffing requirements with the current and future work.
  • A marketing and sales pipeline made into a simple and realistic plan of hot leads and conversions to sales.  Who are they, where are we with the contract progression (which also recognises the price and profits for the contract) and control of this sales lead flow and reporting.
  • A rolling 13 week marketing and sales plan, what is coming in for the next three months and what marketing initiatives are being put in place for week 13 and onwards.  Having worked in retail this is a very useful, practical and vital plan that addresses every week the initiatives being put in place for week 13.
  • A profit improvement plan, reviewing all key supply and support contracts and where necessary going back out to the market for competitive tenders.  Again the real benefits will be obtained from having a full and detailed understanding of what it is you need and use, volumes, product requirements and when required, to be able to fully specify the tender and obtain realistic tender proposals.
  • A medium and long term plan of what the business needs to develop, following on from recognition of the business strengths, what are the real unique selling points that the business offers and how these areas should be further exploited for the benefit of the business.

We are not saying that business turnarounds are easy or can always be done with a positive outcome in every situation.  Sometimes the business has left the position too long or the market in which they trade has shifted significantly and the business has not changed to reflect that.  In many situations, however, businesses that are failing or are hitting a rough time can be helped and turned around by practical and common sense measures.  The business owner, however, needs to recognise the issue, take a step back and consider what is happening.  Many times the businesses are just doing the same thing over and over again (very zombie like) and with only their fingers crossed expect to see improvements and things change.  This will not happen in the majority of times and a more measured and practical critique and plan will be required.

I think it is fair to say that not all accountants and advisers are the same and some of the areas outlined above do define how a good professional adviser can add real value and support to a business and can help that business to get back on its feet and achieve the success that it first set out to achieve.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.


SME Businesses Should Act Now To Secure This Major New Grant Funding Before It Is Too Late

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The New RGF Grant Scheme with Bank Lending

The government has announced details of the new Regional Growth Fund Grant Scheme which seeks to provide businesses with a grant amounting to 20% of the funding needed for a project, with the two major banks, RBS (including Lombard Lease Finance) and HSBC providing the remainder as lending.

Full details of £95m of the government’s banking RGF assistance can be found on the BIS site at:

The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) scheme is a £1.4bn fund operating across England from 2011 to 2014.  It is administered by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills:

Given the discussions that we are having with banks and that the total grant fund has been capped at £95million, we believe that small and medium sized businesses should act now and secure this major new grant funding initiative before it runs out.

The Fund objective is to stimulate private sector investment by providing support for projects that offer significant potential for long term economic growth and the creation of additional sustainable private sector jobs – especially in areas which are currently dependent on the public sector.

RBS Group has secured £70m and HSBC has secured £25m of RGF to distribute to eligible customers.  This is open to customers acquiring eligible assets via a NatWest/RBS/HSBC loan and also through Lombard on a lease purchase (hire purchase) agreement.

The scheme is designed to support the purchase of assets by providing a supplementary deposit contribution – this will take the form of a grant.

  • The minimum amount of RGF that can be applied for is £5,000
  • The maximum amount is £500,000 per customer group (i.e. including any group companies)
  • The RGF element cannot exceed 20% of eligible costs
  • This minimum amount to be funded after customer deposit and RGF is £25,001.

As the RGF element is a grant, no repayment is required unless the customer breaches any of the RGF criteria.

We are advising our current and future clients to contact us now to discuss how they can benefit from this valuable business initiative.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.

Written by Steven Mugglestone

November 17, 2011 at 9:45 am

You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

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You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”  (To be precise and the actual famous statement)

These are very famous words, spoken by Franklin D Roosevelt at his inaugural presidential speech and talking about the US depression and the prospect of turning the economy around.   This is looking as relevant today as it was when the words were said back in the 1930s. To succeed and change, to build a business or an economy, to be a successful entrepreneur, we need to be fearless and we need to look to build success.  Successful entrepreneurs, the Steve Jobs’ (he seemed not to even fear death), the Sir Richard Bransons’, The Lord Sugars’ did not fear the task at hand.

Yet fear itself sells; fear underpins many sales strategies; fear is the bedrock of many legal, accountancy and other professional service business sales training.  I was part of a large brand accountancy business and I was trained to sell fear.

How do we sell fear?

It is relatively easy.  Identify and find an issue or problem or something that a person loses sleep at night about.  Discuss this further and make it worse, take the issue to its most extreme conclusion, anything, the lack of growth, lack of cash, no pension, no will, a large tax bill or undeclared income.  Ensure that we can all see and understand what “could” be the result of the continuation of this situation; fines, court action, bankruptcy, failure or even death.  Make them feel really bad about something that they have created themselves.  Then, after a short period of time…… offer the solution, the solution that you knew all along.  Add on to that, the famous approaches of “you can’t do that,” “ that, sounds wrong, you need ours,” “really need to stick with this, use ours, everything else is too small, too big, too risky, wrong, etc, etc.”  Fear sells by the bucket load.

I have never at all agreed with this as a sales strategy, it has never sat well with my own positive outlook on life and the wish for my own success, my business success and success for my clients businesses and any business that I am associated with.  We, as a business, do not adopt this approach, we wish to promote, ensure and share in the success of our clients and we want to do everything we can to help promote and ensure that success.  Yes, we acknowledge problems and pitfalls and look to plan for those, but underpinning this is a positive approach rather than the negative one of fear.

As well as selling fear, we sometimes see fear as a solution to our behaviour ……

Have you heard about the man who owned a parrot ……… that swore like a sailor? This parrot was so terrible, it could swear for five minutes straight without repeating itself. One day the man finally got tired of this parrot’s horrible speech, and decided to do something about it.

He grabbed the parrot by the throat, shook it really hard, and yelled, “QUIT IT!” every time the parrot said something ungodly. But this just made the parrot mad, and it swore more than ever. Next, the man tried locking the bird in a kitchen cabinet. This really aggravated the parrot, and it clawed and scratched furiously until the man finally let him out (upon which the bird released it’s fury in a torrent of language so horrible it could never be repeated).

At that point, the man was so frustrated that he threw the parrot into the freezer. For the first few seconds the parrot made a terrible amount of noise in protest to this treatment, kicking, clawing, and thrashing about. But after a few moments it suddenly went very quiet. As the silence grew longer the man started to think that the parrot may be hurt. After a couple more minutes of silence, he became so worried that he opened up the freezer door. The parrot calmly climbed onto the man’s outstretched arm and said, “Awfully sorry about the trouble I gave you. I’ll do my best to improve my vocabulary from now on.”

Of course, the man was astounded. He could not understand the transformation that had come over his unruly parrot. Then the parrot asked, “By the way, what did the chicken do?”

Growth, the solution

Easy to say, and what do accountants know about this anyway.  Well some accountants think that they do, because they offer an associated marketing support system, but this really is only part of it.

Growth Strategy

Marketing and sales support is vital, and we have access to material and support, together with the creative expertise to help most businesses in this area, but that is really only part of the solution and a business needs to assess what it has to offer and what is its business strategy well before engage the creative juices.

Form our own business background and from working within businesses at board level, we ensure that our clients are equipped to grow their business successfully, and as our strategy we will also look to include this as a formal product and service area of our own.

Start with the sales strategy

This is addressed by identifying, promoting and assisting with the following:

  • An understanding of leadership with the vision and missions of the business, in order to effectively lead growth
  • An understand of the business theory (McKinsey) to effectively lead and evaluate growth
  • An understand of the key aspects of organic growth, the market, the business proposition, the people, the tools and the systems and processes, together with appropriate funding
  • An understanding of the key skills of account management, key client management and how to retain and expand existing relationships and value
  • An understanding of key marketing techniques and how to win new work and new clients and how to lead a sales strategy
  • An full understanding of how to create and fully utilise a business plan to set the agenda for a business and to use that plan as a road map and driver for success
  • After all of this we can then look at the creative marketing, sales and support services available through our associates to promote and accelerate this area

Build on to this, skills and approach of the Finance Director

I have touched up this before in detail as a former Finance Director, who will look to set areas for improvement covering support, operational and strategic areas and will look to structure the improvements in these areas, to be able to drive the business, with an article called “How an FD Drives a Business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up,” on

The key points to this, in my opinion can be seen as funding, operational improvements and controlled delegation.

Funding is vital to any business, but the funding needs to be appropriate to the business and for appropriate uses.  One key area that we see time and time again is a business losing control of their working capital and short term cash flow.  This is in essence the life blood of any business.  We always ensure that our client consider and implement appropriate strategies for the control of working capital, be it stock, purchases, creditors, taxation and cash flow.  A key tool is a 13 week rolling cash flow, which seeks to ensure that a business has a full understanding of the peeks and troughs of cash requirements to ensure that it is able to deal with this area.  Another key positive outcome of this tool is that for many businesses, it also allows the business to look to channel cash to appropriate growth areas and growth strategies in the shorter term.

Without including another chapter, then there is the external funding and the growth by acquisition or sale, the banks, the grants, the business angels and the private equity investors.  As being part of a number of organisations supporting these areas in the midlands, as well as helping fund new start-up businesses, buying and selling private SME businesses and floating and managing public company share issues, as both finance directors and as advisers, we have access and a little bit of expertise in this area as well.

Operational improvements can be assisted with both key performance indicators, KPIS and benchmarking with other businesses.  This allows an understanding of what are the key areas of business performance that have the most significant impact on its success.  Benchmarking is not about either complacency or fear and worry that your business is either doing any better or worse than others, it is an understanding that if your performance ranks as low compare to many similar businesses operating within your industry, then it points to something that you doing wrong and helps to start to correct that performance.

Aligned to this is controlled delegation or internal controls.  These are not considered for the sake of it.  Controlled delegation is about identifying the skills and attributes of a business team and allowing individuals with the most appropriate skills to work in areas most suited for those skills, whilst doing this under a documented structure and system that everyone understands.  An example of this is a business that engaged a new part time finance director, adopting the same approach to business that we encourage and utilise.  That finance director looked at some numbers and KPIs etc and this included monthly sales patterns.  The patterns showed two months of good sales and one month of poor sales and this was consistent for quite a long period of time.  When looked into and queries further, the reason was that the main owner/director, who was also the key person for sales, re-wrote the company catalogue every three months and so was not engages in selling.  A relatively simple solution, with appropriate controls and checking ensure that another member of staff was engaged in this role and the business increased sales by 20% in the following year and profits and cash accordingly.

Add on appropriate tax planning support and additional cash

As a business grows and becomes more complex, bigger and with more profits, so can the complexity of its tax planning and more complicated and expensive areas are available to support that business and its owners.

There are, however, still simple and legal ways to ensure that new and growing businesses do not give away profits or incur large tax bills.  We work with our clients to ensure that these areas are all considered and adopted accordingly.  Without going into detail, these are few:

  • Consider the need to incorporate at an early stage or the valuable tax breaks later if you choose not to,
  • The use of unincorporated businesses, such as partnerships and limited liability partnerships to grow a new area of a business, a new market, a new product a new geographical area etc, to share in the tax breaks of incorporation of these areas at a later stage,
  • A review of tax breaks available including the still over looked capital allowances within properties, as well as a business costs of research and development where even more tax incentives are available, including tax credits against other tax areas
  • The use of pensions such as SIPPS, SSAS and ORBS to increase wealth, lower a tax charge, finance and acquire properties and even provide cash for the business to utilised to grow further.

Our own view is that businesses need to be fearless to be successful and we embrace that approach.  We as a business always aim to be positive to ensure that our clients succeed and grow, which we adopt for ourselves.  This does not mean that we do not plan for the problems, the downsides, the tax issues, the cash shortages, the plan Bs, the risk registers.  It is just that share in our clients’ vision to want to aim for the stars.  I really like the saying that if you aim for the moon and miss, you will at least end up in the stars, and that it the philosophy that we encourage and promote.

Going forward, our own business is in its own way looking to help ensure that businesses can grow in the midlands region.  In the new-year we are aiming to create cost effective business groups in the Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester area to share in the skills that we have touched upon in this article as well as introducing even more cost effective monthly accounting support to smaller businesses by use of new cloud technologies, after recently introducing our 33% reduction in audit and accounts costs to established businesses.

As Roosevelt famously said himself and we are embracing, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.

Written by Steven Mugglestone

November 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Midlands Investor Network – 18th May Spring 2011 Event and Current Businesses

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Midlands Investor Network – 18th May Spring 2011 Event and Current Businesses

The Midlands Investor Network Group is holding a second “Showcasing and Networking” event on Wednesday 18th May at 6.30pm.

The evening will, again be at The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 4th Floor, 2, St Philips Place, Birmingham, B3 2RB at 6.30pm. We will showcase between 6 and 8 business opportunities.  We can outline some of those businesses already and have a very brief outline of some of the opportunities available below.

To attend the event, please contact Christine Gilligan T: 0121 236 3317 E:  We are requesting a £10 fee to cover the costs of the event, however, at the previous event all funds were donated to the Birmingham Acorns Children’s Hospice.

We already have a number of businesses who are working with us to attend the event and promote their businesses for future investment.  As we intend to continue with the event being held seasonally throughout 2011 and beyond, both in Birmingham and in other Midlands cities, we would welcome more businesses looking for investment to be part of future events.  Our founding group meet regularly to review new businesses and this is an on-going process so current business plans and presentations are very welcome to be submitted for review.

The businesses that we have accepted so far include the following exciting opportunities:

Medical device opportunity

This company has developed a lightweight patient carrying system to carry patients through body scanners.  The innovative board allows the scan to be carried out for 360 degree review with limited interference from the board itself.

Branded Footwear Online Retailer

This company has established itself as the largest independent retailer of footwear online, having been one of the first-movers in the sector back in 1999.  The company now benefits from an extensive product portfolio that includes some of the most sought after names in the branded footwear market.

The company has been heavily active in Europe and plans to exploit the emerging online EU market.

App Gaming Business

Developing games for App use for I Phone, Windows and Android formats, this new business is launching its first game.  The owners/developers have come from a gaming background, having worked for larger gaming businesses.

File Encryption Key Business

The company has developed and patented a unique key system that encrypts computer files with a secure encryption system and algorithm.  This is being developed to allow cloud and internet applications to replace the need for passwords but ensure significantly improved file security.

Toothbrush Cleaning and Storage System

The company has designed a unique and stylish toothbrush storage system that both stores, cleans and sterilises the toothbrush.

Educational Game

The business has developed an educational family darts game and already has the interest of Tesco as a retail outlet.  To promote the game, the business has also the support of former world’s darts champion, Phil “The Power” Taylor.

Classical Crossover music project album and tour

This entertainment opportunity is a cross-over classical music project bringing together a young soprano with the writers of the music of Lord of the Dance.  The project takes classical music and interprets the pieces into modern dance and ballad tracks, mixing modern key board with a world famous violinist.  The project has part completed an album and is looking to both complete the album and commence a UK tour.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA

Area Director
McGregors Corporate

T: 0121 236 3317

Midlands Investor Network

Else Solicitors LLP                    
BA Capital                                 
Citizen Corporate Finance       
RBS/Nat West                          
McGregors Corporate              

Written by Steven Mugglestone

April 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

New and established businesses seeking funding being recruited for the Spring/Summer MIN Investor Event

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New and established businesses seeking funding being recruited for the Spring/Summer MIN Investor Event

Following the success of the launch event in January and the interest and further negotiations taking place for the initial group of businesses presenting, we are now organising a second event for late spring (date to be announced).

Businesses looking for funding and wishing to have the opportunity to present to a group of potential investors should start to contact us now for an initial review and discussion.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

Midlands Investor Network Launch with a Song and Dance

Events are being organised in the West and East Midlands

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA, McGregors Corporate, More than just Accountants!

McGregors Corporate are a Member Of Probiz Tax.  We provide Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.  We are relentless in helping businesses.

We like to keep things simple, for ourselves and our clients;
We build our business by reducing our clients’ business and taxation costs;
We build our business by increasing our clients sales;
We build our business by helping our clients succeed in their business;
It is that simple and we meet you to discuss all these things for free;

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.

Written by Steven Mugglestone

February 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

Midlands Investor Network Launch with a Song and Dance

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Midlands Investor Network Launch with a Song and Dance

A group of banking, finance and business professionals working together as The Midlands Investor Network launchedthis month, literally with a song and dance in Birmingham at the main offices of RBS/Nat West at St Phillips Square, which as the area director for RBS jokes as is also known as the bank at the back of Rackhams.

The Network has been put together by Steven Mugglestone, West Midlands Area Director of McGregors Corporate, the midlands based firm of Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, in order to give growing SME owner managed business an opportunity to pitch their businesses to potential angel and private equity investors. The Network also includes RBS, Else Solicitors based in Birmingham and Burton, Citizen Corporate Finance based in Nottingham, BA Capital based in London and MidvenVenture Capital based Birmingham. The event saw seven growing businesses from new technology start-up businesses through to established west midlands based engineering and manufacturing businesses looking to European expansion,pitching their plans to an audience of business angels and venture capital organisations together with their professional advisers.

One of the ventures was the opportunity to invest in a new musical looking to secure funding to establish a West End run. Mod Crop, the Musical contains well known songs from the sixties and has been written by the creator of Quadrophenia, and has already been seen by sell-out crowds at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. As an addition to their pitch, the show’s co-writer and producer, Steve Wallis, brought part of the cast and a group of musicians along to round up the presentations with excepts of songs and scenes from the show, with a finale of songs including Gimme’ Some Lovin’. The midlands head office of a national bank may have appeared to be an unusual setting, but the evening was a welcome song and dance alternative to routine business and financial issues.

The launch proved to be a success and a platform for future events in Birmingham and elsewhere in the midlands, with interest being shown in the businesses for future potential investment from the business angels and venture capital/private equity organisations within the audience. Steven Mugglestone of McGregors Corporate said, “We are very pleased that the event has gone down exceedingly well indeed. The presentations from all of the businesses were very well delivered and well received and we have had really good initial feedback. As well as interest being shown in the presenting businesses, I have also been approached by representatives of businesses and business angels groups wishing to put businesses forward as well as other equity investors wishing to be part of the network and future events. The team at Nat West/RBS have been fantastic in supporting the event and providing the venue and catering and they have already told me that they are very keen to promote and host another event in the Spring time. All in all, I think everyone enjoyed themselves, which for business and finance isn’t always the order of the day. I also believe that there will be some real positive outcomes for the businesses presenting at the first event.”

Businesses pitching at the first event included a company who have developed a system that refuels gas powered cars from mainssupply gas; a company that has developed a UV light cured car body filler; an award winningmanufacturing company that adapts small cars for wheelchair access and use; a company that has developed a system for doctors surgeries to control and monitor their referrals to the NHS; a rugby leisure clothing brand; anonline radio station for the over 40s and Mod Crop The Musical. All of these businesses are also being assisted by Citizen Corporate Finance, in their current and future search for funding.

Businesses or investors wishing to be part of the Network and future events being organised should contact Steven Mugglestone at McGregors Corporate on 0121 236 3317 or visit their website,,for other contact details and further information.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA, McGregors Corporate, More than just Accountants! McGregors

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How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up

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Written by Steven Mugglestone

January 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up

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How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up?

Recent debates and criticism from Finance Directors say that Accountants generally do not have the commercial skills required to truly help, support and drive a business.  What does that mean; when a significant number of FDs go on to be chief executives, could you see your Accountant doing the same.  What are the skills and experience that an FD possesses, that an Accountant does not and how can those skills and experience help all businesses.

Most FDs work within a structure of their role covering how a business operates and where it is going and this can be looked at within three distinct areas, support, operational and strategic.

Support Areas

This covers some of the traditional areas that you would expect an Accountant to be responsible for, but an FD may have a differing approach to improve and support the business.

Compliance reporting is one of those areas and whilst this ensures that a company is up to date and complies with its statutory requirements to file its accounts and tax returns, an FD will also ensure that the messages within those financial statements are firmly within the company’s strategic vision and missions and that those financial statements reinforce publicly where the business is heading.

An FD will also be responsible for tax planning and overall dealings with HMRC, on an annual basis.  Whist an FD may not be a tax expert, they will ensure that tax costs are mitigated and planned for and sensible structures are in place to ensure that all relevant reliefs and tax breaks are made available to help the business, and individuals involved in the business to manage its tax costs.  As part of this, an FD will assess the risks involved to ensure that overall risks are managed in line with the strategic plan of the business.

As part of a support role, an FD usually gets responsibility for the areas that the other directors do not wish to touch.  These are usually HR, IT and insurance (part of risk control and mitigation).  Whilst larger organisations may well have separate staff and departments (usually reporting back to the FD), in a smaller organisation and business an FD is likely to outsource these and other similar areas.  Outsourcing allows an FD to ensure that the relevant risks involved in these areas are controlled and mitigated and that costs are also controlled.  However, despite being an Accountant by training, costs are not the only reason why outsourcing is considered as the risk profile and support afforded by the outsourced provided may well be more beneficial than trying to carry this out in house.

Again an area that other directors or the owner of the business may have little interest or desire to be responsible, albeit an area key to the success of a business is dealing with legal documents and agreements.  Whilst an FD is not a lawyer, they do understand what reasonable terms and conditions would include and what clauses should be in an agreement and what should be avoided or mitigated.  An FD will liaise closely with the businesses legal advisers (outsourced) to ensure that commercial matters are reviewed and considered in all of the legal agreements that the business adopts.

Operational Areas

Again this would appear to be a traditional area that an Accountant would operate within to help support a business, but an FD will have a different emphasis to ensure that the operational areas truly help to improve a business.

An Auditor and Accountant will carry out tests and comment on procedures and reporting known as internal control.  An FD sees this area as controlled delegation, the difference being that the appropriate structures and controls are put in place to allow senior members of the business to concentrate and be allowed to carry out roles that they are good at and that are crucial to the improvement of the business.  As an example, if the key director is also a key sales person, they should not be spending their time writing brochures, catalogues or processing orders, but they need to be comfortable that those areas can be carried out to the appropriate standard without them.

A real traditional area is reporting, but an FD will always ensure that the reporting format and what is reported is not about dwelling on the past but ensuring that appropriate areas are planned for and controlled.  The term key performance indicators tend to be over used but an FD will always look to simplify the reporting to concentrate on key areas that really matter and these may not always be financial.  An FD will use budgeting as a control tool for reporting, but will also use benchmarking against best performance within the business and external to the business.  This is not done to dwell on the facts that the business is performing better or worse than others in a particular area, but to understand the reasons and address accordingly.  Sometimes you find that your competitors carry out some things better than you and if you can address these areas you can make a difference to the bottom line.

The use of benchmarking, budgeting and using key performance indicators by an FD will lead to identifying profit improvement, ensuring that operational reporting is used to enhance the earnings of a business.  An FD will usually be responsible for negotiating and agreeing many of the businesses supply and service contracts.  This will mean that they will look to consider all relevant factors, model usage accordingly and ensure that competitive tenders can provide what the business needs.

Profit is one thing, but cash is king.  Businesses do not go bust because of profits, but because they run out of cash.  An FD will always be responsible for working capital and cash management.  The maths in this area is relatively simple in that with high stocks, work in progress and debtors with low creditors comes a strain on cash.  An FD will control this area on a rolling weekly basis and on some occasions and with some businesses this will be done on a daily basis, to free up cash for use in the business.

Strategic Areas

This is an area that perhaps a traditional Accountant does not readily engage with or is involved in.  An FD will have knowledge and experience of an overall strategic plan which covers customer and marketing strategies, systems and processes and people development, but whilst overlapping, an FD will concentrate on the financial areas that underpin a strategic plan.

But what is strategic activity and how can it be defined.  An FD will lead defining strategic investment and activity.  This will mean assessing where a business is going to channel its resources to improve;  an FD will ensure that investments in both capital and human resource, marketing or other activities together with other related improvements and new areas that they are undertaking have a reason and a goal and that these are appropriately considered taking account of strengths and opportunities.  The costs and impact on the business can be measured and the future impact forecasted.  An FD is ideally placed and qualified to ensure that strategic activities are appropriately considered, planned, assessed and monitored and along the way they can add to the creative and entrepreneurial flair gained from the experience in this area.

An FD would not be an FD without considering risk.  All project management and strategic plans will contain a risk register.  Full consideration of both financial and commercial risks involved in all activities are considered and recorded and appropriate mitigation and insurance will be put in place.

All businesses should consider a time plan and an FD will ensure that an appropriate implementation timetable is considered and worked to.  This may be in respect of a specific area or the overall plan for the business leading to eventual exit by sale, or perhaps listing on a recognised market.

Underpinning a strategic plan is an appropriate funding structure.  The businesses own cash generation may not be appropriate to fund longer term investments and in return some higher risk areas may not attract bank or similar funding.  An FD will ensure that funding is appropriate for both the timescale and risks related to the business’ activities and strategic plan.  An obvious key area underpinning funding for a business is the relationship with current and potential future funders.  An FD is key to this relationship, whether banking, private equity or institutional as they understand what information is required and help to ensure that funders are comfortable with the current position of the business and its future aims, goals and requirements.

In summary an FD is not just an Accountant and some of the areas above highlight what FDs mean when they say that Accountants do not have the commercial skills and experience required to add real value to a business.  Some of their roles, including controlling delegation and support areas ensure that other members of the senior management team or the business owner are allowed to concentrate on other areas to enhance the business.  Other roles and functions such as reporting, profit improvement and cash management ensure that that the business can continue to improve cash generation which leads to cash being made available to support the strategic goals of the business.

Given all of this that an FD can offer a business, the only remaining question is why would you just use an Accountant when you can have an FD.

To find out how we can help all SME businesses with this real pro-active support, experience and background or to help you source a part time FD for your business, feel free to contact me at or call me on 0121 236 3317.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.