Start your own #consultancy #business from scratch..

So you really want to start your own Consultancy business from scratch !?

ppt1Here are some tips I hope will help:-

  • Identify your key skills – if you want to sell yourself as a Consultant the first thing you need to identify is the skills you possess which people will be willing to pay for. If you can’t do this don’t give up your day job.
  • Develop a Business Plan – don’t put it off because you can’t be bothered or don’t think it’s necessary. If you want people to take you seriously as a Business you need to start thinking like a Business.
  • Identify your target market – who are you going to sell your skills to ? – your current or former employer perhaps ? Former customers or suppliers, ex colleagues, business partners etc etc
  • Network – Develop your contacts, LinkedIn is great for this but don’t forget about your address book & business card collection.
  • Have a look at the Professional Contractors Group website www.pcg.org.uk – it has a fantastic free downloadable guide for freelancers/consultants.
  • If you still want to take the plunge this is perhaps the hardest step of all – You will need a MINIMUM of 6 months income in the bank before you start. Do not plan to earn anything from your Consultancy business for the first six months. If you really want to succeed with your own Consultancy business you will find this money. If you see this as too big a hurdle then sorry but Consultancy is not for you.

Look out for my new book “Start your own Consultancy – Now!”

chris@amberhill-associates.com

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Minimising cost at the #Design stage………..

Bizplan03All companies need to be mindful of costs & for those producing products this is best done at the Design stage. Here are some suggestions:-

 

  • Before beginning the design a Product Specification is essential, this needs to have been agreed at Senior Management level.
  • The product design needs to meet the spec and no more.
  • The material choice is critical, why make it out of gold if steel will do.
  • Use minimum thickness, as long as the design meets the spec.
  • Reduce the number of components as much as possible.
  • Re-use existing design components wherever possible – this gives Purchasing negotiating strength over suppliers and reduces inventory.
  • Consider Manufacturing by minimizing the number of process steps in manufacture.
  • Hold regular Design reviews & involve other parts of the Organization.
  • Build a prototype to test the design.
  • If possible test the Design using Computer Aided Modelling.

If you need help minimizing cost at the Design stage feel free to get in touch.
chris@amberhill-associates.com

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5 #Lean principles……

value-stream In their iconic book “Lean Thinking” Womack & Jones identified 5 Lean principles of fundamental importance.

1) Specify Value from the End Customers perspective. What does the End Customer actually want from the product or service. The only way to ascertain this is through the Voice Of Customer. We will expand on this in later posts.

2) Identify the Value Stream. This is the sequence of processes from raw material to the end customer which comprises Value Adding and Non Value Adding steps.

3) Make value Flow. The process should be continuous, avoiding batch production and queues, or at least minimizing them. Aim never to delay a value adding step with a non value adding step. If NVA steps are unavoidable they should be done in parallel with VA steps.

4) Operate via Pull not Push. The system should be driven by the customers demand avoiding unnecessary over production.

5) Strive for Perfection. Minimize defects and aim for Total Customer Satisfaction.

Adopting these 5 Lean principles leads to a Kaizen journey of Continuous Improvement.

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I Robot ?

AIStudents at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently learned that the ‘Teacher’s Assistant’ they had been reacting with all Semester was actually a robot !

‘Jill’ powered by IBM’s Watson analytics system helped undergraduate students with an online artificial intelligence course.

‘I thought I was talking to a real person’ confessed one student whilst another was ‘gobsmacked’

This raises a number of ethical issues around the use of A.I – should we be informed whether we are talking to a ‘robot or a human being.

This also begs the question whether A.I systems could be said to have passed the ‘Turing Test’ and essentially be indestinguishable from a Human Being.

A.I Technology is progressing at breakneck speed & has profound implications for all kinds of services such as banking, insurance, customer service etc etc – indeed any industry which relies on person to person communication will be revolutionised by the pace of Artificial Intelligence.

This will inevitably lead to massive job losses in these industries but will also create many alternative careers in Engineering & Technology Development.

There is little doubt, though, that those highly skilled & highly paid roles will not be populated by the same staff who used to work in the call centre leaving another dilemma for Society.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Honesty is the best policy…………………..#business

There has been the-steelworks-in-port-talbot-284676182much wringing of hands & gnashing of teeth over the impending closure of the Port Talbot steel works by Tata Steel. Politicians of left and right have dug out their Road Atlases & rushed over to be photographed consoling the poor sods who work there demanding they ‘Save our Steel’. The Government will promise a lot & deliver nothing. Labour will urge the re-nationalisation of the failing plant which is reportedly losing £1 million per day. So who would pay for that £365 million per year to save 13,500 jobs – The British taxpayer – the same taxpayer who would be moaning about the loss of their local library or maternity ward.

What the workers desperately need is some brutal honesty:-

  • British Steel is no longer economically viable in the global market place.
  • The total volume of world steel production produced in the U.K is less than 0.1%
  • There are lots of British companies benefiting form cheap Chinese steel.
  • No one is going to buy Port Talbot & run it in its current format.
  • The Government will do NOTHING to save the plant.

So what should be done:-

  • The Unions should focus on obtaining maximum redundancy pay.
  • If any of the ‘higher value’ operations can be salvaged this is where the emphasis should be.
  • The Government needs to do more to encourage alternate employers to the area by the extension & creation of enterprise zones.
  • Employees need re-training & re-skilling.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Are you losing the ‘dressing room’ ? #leadership

Football Fans are beginning to wonder whether Manchester United Manager Lois Van Gaal has ‘lost the dressing room’ in much the same as Jose Mourinho did a few short weeks ago at Chelsea.

mourinhovanghalThis Management phenomenon is not confined to the World of Sport – it is surprisingly common in the fields of Business & industry, so what are the symptoms:-

  • Directions which once went unchallenged are now contested, sometimes vigorously.
  • Staff turnover, once steady & low, increases, sometimes dramatically.
  • There is a definite lack of motivation.
  • Deadlines are missed & increasingly challenged.
  • Tasks become ‘bogged down’ & remain uncompleted.
  • Tempers are increasingly frayed.

So what are the causes of this sad state of affairs.

  • Poor communication & direction from Senior Management.
  • Unrealistic demands to meet unrealistic timescales.
  • Workers overloaded with bureaucracy.
  • Too many new systems.
  • Middle Managers pointing the finger of blame at subordinates.

If you find yourself in this unenviable position of ‘losing your dressing room’ getting the Team back onside is never easy but try this:-

  • Be open & honest, not only to the Team but to your Senior Management. This may be painful in the short term but is key to success.
  • Stop pointing that finger.
  • LISTEN as well as you talk.
  • Eat a small portion of ‘humble pie’ even if it sticks in your throat.

chris@amberhill.biz

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What #DavidBowie taught us about #innovation….

David BowieDavid Bowie was undoubtedly one of the greatest & most influential musicians & artists of the 20th Century –  so what did he teach us about Innovation.

  • He never rested on his laurels. Despite  phenomenal success with any one of his characters he ripped it up & started again. If he had owned Apple he would never be developing the iPhone 7.
  • He never followed the trend – he led from the front regardless of popular opinion, when he went off to Berlin to experiment with electronic music it was a form which was right on the edge.
  • He made the rules – in all aspects of his life – regardless of societies norms.
  • He was a perfectionist – not a control freak.
  • He selected the best to work with & gave them free reign.
  • He wasn’t perfect – like all of us he made mistakes, but learned from them.
  • He may have grown old physically but his soul was forever young.

Farewell to a great Artist & a magnificent Innovator.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Wielding Occams Razor

FullSizeRenderThis week was the anniversary of the tragic 9/11 atrocity & a documentary on T.V presented an explanation of why the towers collapsed based on fundamental scientific & engineering principles which demonstrated how a combination of super-heated aluminium (from the planes)  combined with water to create a powerful explosive mixture which was the most likely explanation for the towers collapse. It was so refreshing to see & hear scientists & engineers, working from first principles, expound a theory which stood up to reasoned argument. No CIA conspiracy, no bombs planted in the towers, no bullshit.

This reminded me of a principle which seems to be in short supply these days, that of Occams Razor. William of Occam became famous for espousing that, ‘where there are numerous solutions to a problem, the simplest explanation is often the answer.’

This is  a valuable piece of wisdom that is rarely employed in the era of big data, risk analysis, DFMEA’s, Statistical Analysis etc etc

Next time you have a problem to solve listen to your inner voice & apply the Razor

where there are numerous solutions to a problem, the simplest explanation is often the answer.

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10 things we can learn from the #chinacrisis

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA07

1) What goes up MUST come down – I know it’s obvious but some people really believed it was possible for an economy to grow at 7% per year indefinitely – just ask the punters on the Shanghai Index.

2) Gordon Brown didn’t abolish boom & bust – but then we all learned that 7 years ago. Capitalism, for all its pros & cons, is inherently cyclical.

3) Every Market is interconnected – more so now than ever before, any crisis in China will be replicated to one extent or another around the globe.

4) No Government controls the market – whether its the State Capitalist Chinese or the Western Democracies – intervention is limited in its affect.

5) Transparency is a concern – Is the Chinese economy still growing at 6%, 5% or much less – no one knows & there is a distinct lack of trust in the data supplied by the Chinese government.

6) It will impact us all :- The Chinese economy is the second biggest market in the world & although exports vastly exceed imports the purchasing power of the Chinese middle classes will be severely curbed.

7) Social upheaval will follow – The political tensions in China will erupt (to one degree or another); The Chinese Government will struggle to keep a lid on the educated middle classes who have got used to continuous growth & increased wealth.

8) Capitalism is in crisis – as boom follows bust & vice versa Capital flows to the point of highest growth – leaving chaos in its wake.

9) What comes next ? – no one knows – but maybe we should be looking to develop a sustainable society based on full-filling human needs rather than continuously expanding Gross Domestic product ?

10) The sun still rises in the East, sets in the West & the world keeps on turning.

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Dragons dead…?…#innovation

Do you, like me, tune in to ‘Dragons Den’ every week to see wannabees compete for investment from ‘successful multi-millionaire entrepreneurs’ to make their dream a reality.

new-dragons-denDo you cringe when you see the hopeful saps flounder because they don’t know the difference between Gross & Net profit or snigger when they hopelessly overvalue their nascent company.

All great fun but, I don’t know about you, I think there has been a real dearth of Innovation on the show recently, and it all seems very very dated.

Nowadays there are some much better sources for funding innovation which don’t depend on the whim of the multi-millionaire but instead are based on crowd funding – investment from ordinary individuals like you & I attracted by the innovation process & the chance to partake in the creative process.

Here are some examples of these alternative sources of finance for the budding entrepreneur:-

Check them out for yourself:-

www.kickstarter.com

www.indiegogo.com

www.crowdfunder.com

www.rockethub.com

www.angellist.com

There are many more & they all represent a growing trend – a great idea, probably promoted via social media,  attracts a crowd of interested backers, the project develops momentum & its ultimate success rewards everyone involved to one degree or another.

Perhaps this is indicative of the way society is evolving – from Capitalism to Collaboration – where innovation is no longer dependent upon the whims of a small minority of wealthy individuals but is propelled by the shared interest & active participation of the many.
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