Archive for the ‘Business Culture’ Category

This is the first of our new guest blogs.

We are delighted that Fergus King of Shirlaws will be writing a series of business blogs for us over the coming months.

Over the last 14 years and now in 11 countries, Shirlaws has helped more than 3,000 business owners build more profitable, more valuable and more enjoyable businesses. Fergus is our Business Coach.

What is the value of your business?

Do you know what your business is worth? Is it enough? What could it be worth? How do you increase its value? Does it matter to you?

I observe that most entrepreneurs wake up each day and think “How can I sell more stuff to more people?” And why not, profitable income growth is very important. Yet, it is only one side of the coin. If you owned a buy-to-let flat you would know the rental income for sure, but I bet you’d also know the flat’s value too. Most business owners are not so conscious of the value of their business. At least not until they are thinking about some form of transaction/exit, at which point it is generally too late to affect its value.

Imagine you had a two-bedroom home in a sea of other two-bedroom homes and they go for £300,000. Trouble is your retirement wellbeing needs £500,000. The estate agent can tell you various tricks: repaint the walls neutral colours, de-clutter the place, do up the garden etc. and you might get £320,000 with a bit of luck, but never £500,000. But what if you had spoken to an architect and built an extension with two more bedrooms? Suddenly your home is repositioned as a “family home” in a sea of two bed “starter” or “retirement homes”. Family homes due to their rarity in your neighbourhood go for £500,000 and the extension only cost you £50,000. You have created additional value of £150,000. What is the equivalent of this for your business? Are you an estate agent or an architect?

So how do you know what your business is worth? There are different ways to value a business, of course, but the usual formula is Value = Profit x Multiple.

As a Business Coach, I always ask business owners: Who determines your  profit? and they say “Us”. Then I ask: Who determines the multiple? and they say “The buyer/market”. Of course this is true at some level as anything is only worth what someone is willing to pay. But the question is: Can you influence their willingness to pay? Most will doubt it. But the answer is yes you can and in our experience more than most business owners realize.

A multiple is just an expression of anticipated future profitability. The starting point is to understand your current industry benchmark multiple – what a normal business in your sector might get. The process is then exploring the things that enhance that industry benchmark and eliminating things that discount it. There are broadly six things that can enhance the multiple/value and six things that can discount it. SK Chase has, among other things, taken two key steps in this regard.

If the business is dependent on it owners, then the multiple and hence the value of the business is reduced by around 50%. In devolving responsibility and setting their management team free within a Functionality framework, Steph and Kaye have eliminated this dependency. One of the other areas they have also done extremely well is developing their Talent & Culture. This alone can enhance the value by 20%. The whole team don’t just understand their culture they live and breathe it day to day and use it to guide the development of their strategies, plans and behaviours.

To some this whole topic will sound very commercial and money isn’t everything some will say. So let’s look at the personal impact of it too. Let me illustrate that personal element with this question: If you doubled the value of your business and sold it for that amount, what could you then do differently in your life?

Fergus King is a Partner in Shirlaws. Over the last 14 years and now in 11 countries, Shirlaws has helped more than 3,000 business owners build more profitable, more valuable and more enjoyable businesses.

Email Fergus.
Follow him on Twitter @Fergus_King


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Welcome to infographic #2

This infographic looks at the male / female buyer percentage split.

We have included a preview of the infographic below, but it’s best to view it in full by clicking onto this PDF.

Male vs Female_framed

As you can see, women purchase the most gift vouchers!

Although not a huge surprise that women are the predominant buyers, what is interesting is how high the split is.

Different approaches to online shopping

Being aware of how (in general) men and women differ in the ways they purchase online can help our clients market their gift vouchers to the right people at the right time, for example in promotions on their websites, targeted mailshots or via social media channels.

Men buy, women shop?

Online shopping research shows us that in general:

  • Men tend to stick to their mission when shopping online (taking less time to complete a purchase), while women view shopping as an experience and spend more time browsing, looking through categories and items, considering the possibilities.
  • Female shoppers tend to start their shopping (for an event such as Christmas) earlier than men, with men making more last minute purchases.
  • Men are bigger spenders. One study shows that men tend to spend 31% more on average on an online purchase than women. It may be a case of men simply buying more items all at once to minimize virtual shopping trips, but maybe they are just more generous! Maybe….

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SK Chase are excited to announce that we are in the process of recruiting for three new roles within the business. These roles are Service Manager, Client Support Administrator and Training Manager.

Both the Service Manager and Client Support Administrator roles are full time roles based in our Edinburgh office, whereas the Training Manager role is a part time role (2.5 days a week) and will be based in the London/South East area.

Before you jump in and look at the job descriptions please take a moment to browse our slideshare on our culture here.

And if you like what you see then please read each job description and how to apply on the recruitment section of our website.

We look forward to hearing from you.


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Have you ever been stopped in your tracks, struck by what someone has just said? It happened to me the other day.

I had just turned on the radio in the car and what the presenter said hooked me straight away.

Which is really saying something because my two seven year olds were in the back and they are usually a) fighting, b) singing some inappropriate lyrics at the tops of their voices (think Bruno Mars, Locked Out of Heaven or c) giving me driving ‘instructions’ (incidentally you don’t actually need to scream ‘STOP – RED LIGHT!’ when there is a red light 50 metres to the right of you).


The programme that caught my attention was called ‘All in the Mind’ (Radio 4) and the topic was ‘Neuromyths’.

In a nutshell, the programme looked at how the latest brain research can be put into the classroom to help children to learn; it discussed the idea of how children may have one preferred style of learning; for example, they may be someone that gets things better if it’s:

  • Visual (they look at them)
  • Auditory (hear them)
  • Kinaesthetic (things that are moving)

Myth busting

While it’s true that children can have a preference for one of the styles above, it’s just not true that it makes any difference to how they learn, if you go with their preference. There is no convincing evidence to show that there is any benefit in teaching to any particular learning style for learners. It’s a myth. And in fact some psychological studies have shown that there is some advantage to some people in receiving information that is not in their preferred learning style.

And that’s what stopped me in my tracks…

It got me thinking – if there is an advantage to receiving information that is not in our preferred learning style, as the programme highlighted, could there be an advantage in receiving something that is not in our preferred communication style too?

At SK Chase we use ‘Think – Feel – Know’ to help with communication.

Effective communication brings many advantages: we get where we’re choosing to go faster and more efficiently.

This particular tool helps us to understand how each member of the team prefers to process information and express themselves using the different communication styles that we all use. Therefore any communications we have, both internally and externally, we try to ensure that it appeals to each of these different preferences:

  •  Think: focus on fact, data, words and numbers, detail
  •  Feel: energy, use stories and anecdotes and will ‘paint a picture’
  •  Know: use their instinct and intuition

In recent projects I’ve worked on, such as creating a gift voucher best practise guide, I have tried to ensure that I have appealed to all styles:  the knowers (the headlines), the feelers (visual representation) and the thinkers (facts, more detail).

If we appeal to all three styles, each time, as much as we can, there’s no missing information. And everyone benefits from this.

I’m a ‘knower’, but I believe there is huge benefit to me receiving all the information both in a visual way AND backed up by data and words too. It’s a complete picture.

Another neuro myth? We only use 10% of the brain. Not true – we use it all  🙂


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Welcome to the first SK Chase Infographic post!

Each month, we’d like to share information, data or knowledge about gift vouchers with you in a visual way. We’ll be using the data we’ve stored over the years to create these to share with our clients and other people interested in gift vouchers and SK Chase.

Not only do believe the infographics will be interesting, they will also ultimately help our clients optimise their gift voucher sales, now and in the future.

Infographic #1 – Reason for Purchase

Our first infographic looks at why people are buying gift vouchers i.e the reason for purchase. The more we understand the reasons why people are buying gift vouchers, the better we’ll be able to create, market and sell them.

We have included a preview of the infographic below, but to view in full, please click onto this PDF.


As you can see ‘Birthday Gift’ is the top reason for purchase!

We find this so interesting, as whilst Christmas is the busiest period of the year, Birthday’s are the top reason over the course of the whole year. We believe this data can help our clients’ optimise their gift vouchers sales in a number of ways including:

1. To assist with their online gift voucher markeing  i.e. SEO:  consider the key words typed in for their gift vouchers to be found on different search engines for birthday gifts.

2. Plan an email / social media campaign to market ‘birthday gifts’ to their clients around the busiest birthday months of the year (there are a differing views, but August and September consistently appear top).

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As self proclaimed Queen of Culture at SK Chase I was feeling rather smug when I arrived for Julie Grieve’s recent talk on How to Avoid Toxic Teams. “It’s not really relevant for us” was my remark to Steph as we made our way to the Morton Fraser Business Women’s Network event. After all our culture is our core asset; we’ve invested our hearts and souls into creating an environment that inspires, supports and promotes personal and professional growth.  I’m fascinated by the psychology of business; the feelings within business and how they contribute to our successes (and failures); and I am in love with creating a space for amazing opportunities enabling people to live their purpose.

So I was surprised when I felt my smugness evaporate only for alertness and discomfort to take its place as I listened to Julie and recognised small but significant signs of toxicity that I had created in recent days.

Under pressure

Our system rebuild project has reached a climax and we are at the critical stage of implementation. As with any big project, it requires all hands on deck and interdependence within the team. We are being tested in many areas of our business; functionality, capability, capacity and of course whether we can truly live our values when the going gets tough.

A few days ago I sent a long (for me) detailed (for me) and angry (for me) email to the project team (made even more frustrating due to typing it with one finger on a smart phone whilst being driven to the airport). The email was thinly veiled as ‘sharing my truth’, though in reality it was a bollocking. So when Julie touched upon how management by email simply doesn’t work, my sideways glance at Steph was met with a knowing smile.

Julie reminded me that one person’s unacknowledged and unfair behaviour gives permission to others to show up the same way. So when I act out of alignment with our core values (which for us are to be true, courageous and fair to all) I’m saying to others that it’s okay. And it’s not.


I’m reminded of Jim Collins observations on Leadership in his fabulous book Great by Choice; he explains (paraphrased) that it’s only possible to tell how great a leader is when the going gets tough. In good times it’s difficult to distinguish an average leader from a great leader, it’s only when the business is faced with big challenges that the true leader prevails.

I believe the same is true of a company’s values – it’s easy being true courageous and fair when everything is flowing along nicely. Can I still consciously choose to be true, courageous and fair when we are in the midst of a pressure point?

I wasn’t being the best version of me when I sent out that email to our team and had I taken a step back and used our values as a context, I would have chosen an alternative route.


I’m at an interesting stage in my career right now as Steph and I have visions for our ‘next phase’ and we’re encouraging our team to step up and run our business.

So Julie’s final point rang so true for me; if your team can’t perform without you, it’s impossible to get promoted. That applies to Steph and me too. Unless our team has the capability and confidence to perform without us, we won’t get to be the fullest expression of ourselves and realise our big vision.

In other words, I have to get out of the way (my own way AND the team’s way!).

We have the most amazing people in our business and when I do remember to sit back and consider what we’ve created together I feel huge pride and immense gratitude towards every single person that has contributed to making SK Chase the great place to work that it is. We have all the right people on the bus – and they’re nearly all sitting in the right seat (that’s another story for another blog post). Thank you, Steph, Kate, Heather, Dani, Jan, Ben, Catharine, Jon and Linda for being who you are and accepting me as I am and being committed to creating the culture we love.

Ben inspired me the other evening when he shared with Steph and me “‘I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and show myself what I’m truly capable of”. Well, Ben, so am I!

It’s time to embrace it all – and live the lives our dreams are made of.



P.S. I admire women (and men) who have the courage to stand up in front of an audience and share their personal experiences in business; thank you, Julie, for taking time out of your diary to prepare and give the talk; it was a great reminder that when I think I know it all, I really don’t!

Julie can be found on Twitter @juliegrieve


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Each function manager is in the process of putting together a new vision for their functions. A vision is a clear picture of the future, which is something that you choose to become real and when painted properly, conjures up positive emotions and feelings. Our visions help us to plan for the year ahead and should be something to strive towards as well as something to be now.

Dani our sales manager has come up with the vision: ‘to be the source of creating a pistachio journey’. Take a read of Dani’s recent blog post to find out more about what a ‘pistachio journey’ means.

Management Accounts

We are already 6 months into our 2012/2013 financial year so finance has been busy putting together the second quarter’s management accounts as well as our net profit forecast review. The second quarter’s management accounts are a great check in to see how we are doing compared to our budget.


We are very proud of Catharine who completed the Rat Race Dirty Weekend in 3 hours 31 minutes and 4 seconds, completing 20 miles and 200 obstacles. She came 56th out of 2902 people!

And watch out for…

Our new look ‘Just three things’ email, which marketing has been working on to improve.

And remember to watch out for our first inforgraphic which will be introduced very soon…

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