Wednesday, 29 December 2010

How Private Sector Business can counter the cuts to UK plc

The 20th October saw the Chancellor, George Osborne, deliver the Comprehensive Spending Review Statement which was billed as the defining moment of the Coalition Government. After five months of discussion and brinkmanship between Whitehall departments and the Treasury, the Chancellor announced that public spending will be cut by £83bn over a five year period in order to tackle the huge budget deficit.Immediately, the markets picked up as their belief was that if cuts were slower, or not as far reaching, it would mean more borrowing and that would put market confidence and the UK’s triple-A credit rating at risk. This could have potentially resulted in UK plc going the same way as Greece and Ireland.

However, it was also predicted that some 490,000 jobs in the public sector would have to go. Predictably, the trade unions and the Labour Party claimed that George Osborne’s plans would send the UK economy into a double dip recession. But is this the most likely outcome for UK plc?

Public sector job losses and cuts will not necessarily lead to little or no growth, or even a double-dip recession. Indeed an Institute of Directors blog recently observed that between 1991 and 1997 public sector employment fell by around the same amount as we are likely to see following the CSR, but that this did not prevent a sustained upturn in economic growth.

Any recovery will, quite clearly, have to be Private Sector led, with spending cuts the only credible option. The alternative, higher taxes, would stunt growth and damage the Private Sector at just the time the country needs it to fire on all cylinders. Thus, the government’s plans should provide a stable economic platform from which to build a recovery. Furthermore, data suggests that between 250,000 and 300,000 Private Sector jobs have been created in the previous quarter, so business is more than capable of making up for job losses in the Public Sector.

Every cloud has a silver lining, so the saying goes, and the current situation should be looked upon as an opportunity for Private Sector businesses and not a threat. As the government looks to shrink the Public Sector, many opportunities may present themselves for the outsourcing service providers across the UK. The point is, services won’t necessarily be reduced but transferred from Public to Private Sector providers (along with the associated risk and reward).

Furthermore, in the CSR, the Chancellor retained a lot of the infrastructure projects across the country and this too must be seen as a boon to business (along with the Public Sector pension reforms which appear to be fair and equitable when compared to pensions in the Private Sector).

Recent “first cut” figures showed that the UK economy had grown by 0.8 per cent in the last quarter, which was double the 0.4 per cent growth predicted. Although this was a drop from the 1.2 per cent in the previous quarter, one has to remember that the previous quarters figures were totally unexpected and were the result of many non-normal economic factors. In summary then, the 0.8 per cent growth was a pretty strong performance given the current circumstances. It’s a given that growth will almost certainly be relatively subdued for some time, and one question doing the rounds is whether the Bank of England may have to inject more money into the economy soon. To counter this, it is also fair to say that inflationary pressures have also been with us for some time (with the Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, writing regular letters to the Chancellor for some months now) and this may ultimately head off further quantitative easing.

Overall then, from a business perspective, the Comprehensive Spending Review has probably given the country the best chance of a sustainable, private sector-led, period of growth. It’s now up to the business sector to get out there and make it happen. Let’s get to it!!!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Professional Services Company Award 2010

Intervallum Limited was a finalist (top 4) in the Professional Services Company of 2010 category, sponsored by Chantrey Vellacott DFK, at this year's Business Awards Ceremony.
In this photograph, Paul Hooper-Keeley of Intervallum Limited (centre) joins Chantrey Vellacott DFK partners Paul Fenner (left) and Nick Simkins (right).
Photo courtesy of Diamond Edge Events Limited

Business Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 - Highly Commended

Paul Hooper-Keeley of Intervallum Limited received a "Highly Commended" certificate in the Entrpreneur of the Year 2010 Award category.
Photo courtesy of Diamond Edge Events Limited

Winner of Business Networker of the Year 2010

Paul Hooper-Keeley of Intervallum Limited is presented with the Business Networker of 2010 Award by Louise Panayides, Director of Edge Creative Limited (sponsors of this award) at The Business Awards 2010 held at Aston Villa FC on Friday 19th November.

Photograph courtesy of Diamond Edge Events Limited

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Intervallum Wins at the Midlands Business Awards 2010

We are delighted to announce that the Midlands Business Awards 2010 Dinner and Ceremony, held last night at the Aston Villa FC Conference Centre, was a night of great success for Intervallum Limited.

Nominated in 3 categories, Paul Hooper-Keeley won the Business Networker of the Year Award and collected the "Highly Commended" certificate in the Entrepreneur of 2010 category.

Furthermore, Intervallum Limited was one of the four finalist companies in the Professional Services Company of 2010 Award.

It is a great tribute to the work and dedication of the Intervallum team to be recognised by the Midlands Business community at such a prestigious and high profile event.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Intervallum receives 3 Awards Nominations at the Midlands Business Awards 2010

Paul Hooper-Keeley, Managing Director of Intervallum Limited, commented, "I was absolutely delighted to be informed this week that Intervallum Limited has been nominated for 3 awards at this year's Midlands Business Awards in the categories of Best Professional Services Company, Best Small Company and Networker of the Year. This comes on the back of the 2009 nomination of Intervallum as Best New Company, and is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the Intervallum team in creating and providing high quality Interim Finance Director services to industry and commerce".

The 2010 Midlands Business Awards ceremony and black tie dinner will be held at Aston Villa FC on Friday 19th November in the prestigious Holte Suite.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Business Networking Diary Dates

Although there is little of the year left before the Christmas break, there are still a few good business networking opportunities to be had: -

Tuesday 16th November - Delivering more with less, a CIMA event focusing on the Public Sector post Comprehensive Spending Review. This free event commences at 6.30pm at the Haughton Hall Hotel, Shifnal, Telford. Contact for details.

Friday 19th November - The Midlands Business Awards & Black Tie Dinner, Holte Suite, Aston Villa FC. Contact Jo Bailey at for more details of this gala evening.

Friday 26th November - Alexander Daniels are holding a Private Equity Breakfast Event (8am to 9.30am) at Baskerville House, Birmingham. Contact them via the Alexander Daniels website to book your place.

Thursday 10th December - CIMA Social Media Workshop with guest presenter, Liz Cable. This free event commences at 6.30pm at the Hatheton House Hotel, Penkridge. Contact for more details.

Tuesday 14th December - Cooper Parry Corporate Finance Breakfast, Pride Park Stadium, Derby. This excellent bi-monthly event costs £15 and runs from 8am to 9.30am. Contact them via the Cooper Parry website to book your place.

See you there!!!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

“If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs.......”

Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”, has always been a great favourite of mine and in many ways encapsulates the spirit of great leadership across its four verses (along with many essential mottos for one’s personal life).

Verse 1 – in times of great adversity and difficulty a great leader must keep his head, even when other less skilled people are trying to blame the leader for their company’s woes. A leader must be level headed, clear thinking and brave. He/She must also have the humility to understand why others are falling to pieces under the pressure of the situation, and make allowances for their “heat of the moment” comments and feelings.

Verse 2 – a great leader must have vision for the business, but not pursue them at all costs if new facts come to light that change the picture. But it is important to have time to think – to work “on” the business as well as “in” the business. There’s always going to be bumps along the way, but a true leader will not be knocked down for long, and will get back up and, with tenacity, take the business back onto an upward plane.

Verse 3 – Big Hairy Audacious Goals, as Jim Collins would say, means taking big risks for big rewards – though you might not win every time. But if you have the backbone, the moral fibre, to come back from a heavy defeat with grim determination and a will to win, then you have a lot more chance of achieving your goals than those who fall away at the first real disappointment.

Verse 4 – Communication. A successful leader has to communicate at all levels as well as walking the four corners of their business. It’s also imperative to know the competition and understand what threats they pose to you. In summary, you need to earn the respect of your friends and foes alike.

If you, as a leader, can keep a cool head in troubled times, create an inspiring vision for your Company, be brave when the big decisions need to be made, and can communicate effectively and earn widespread respect – then, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son”.

"If" - by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you give your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Insider Midlands Dealmakers Awards 2010

Once again, Insider Magazine provided an excellent Midlands Dealmakers Awards at the Metropole Hotel, Birmingham, last Thursday.

A sell out event, this packed room contained almost everyone who is anyone within the Midlands Dealmaking community. Hosted by comedian Dominic Holland (the young Fabio Capello!!!), and with a keynote speech from Insider Magazine's editor, Andy Coyne, the awards were once again dominated by Martin Draper and LDC (who have remained incredibly active throughout the downturn in the economy).

The complete list of winners were: -

Dealmaker of the Year - Martin Draper, LDC

Venture Capitalist of the Year - Martin Draper, LDC

Deal of the Year - Deb Group

Private Equity House of the Year - LDC

Turnaround Team of the Year - Orbis Partners

Young Dealmaker of the Year - Matt Caffrey, ISIS Equity Partners

Corporate Finance Advisory Team of the Year - Catalyst Corporate Finance

Corporate Finance Adviser of the Year - Andy Currie, Catalyst Corporate Finance

Corporate Bank of the Year - Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets

Corporate Banker of the Year - Ian Howey, Yorkshire Bank

Corporate Law Firm of the Year - Eversheds

Corporate Lawyer of the Year - Stephen Kitts, Eversheds

Fund Manager of the Year - Midven

Asset-Based Lender of the Year - Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance

I would like to add my personal thanks to Rob Lawton and Greenwell Gleeson (who sponsored the Turnaround Team of the Year award) for inviting me on to their table of turnaround specialists - they were excellent hosts and the other guests on the table were in fine form.

Here's looking forward to a continuing rise in deal activity within the Midlands region over the next 12 months.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

CIMA Diary Dates - Business Events in the Midlands

I will be hosting 2 events for the Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CIMA) in the North West Midlands area in the next few weeks: -

Tuesday 21st September - 6.30pm
Private Equity at the Best Western Hotel, Festival Park, Stoke-on-Trent

Paul Harper of Barclays Private Equity (and Midlands Young Dealmaker of the Year 2008 & 2009) will be giving a presentation on what Private Equity is, the conditions in which it makes an investment, the details of how a deal is made up and the potential returns on offer to investees (i.e. the management team). He will also be discussing the effect that the recession has had on Private Equity and what the environment will look like to them in the forthcoming recovery.

Tuesday 19th October - 6.30pm
"Faff" at the Roman Way Hotel, Cannock

Author, presenter and business man, Mike Pagan, will deliver his presentation, "Faff", based on his book of the same name which was published earlier in 2010. He will highlight the many ways we have of "Faffing About" and doing anything other than the things that we really should be focussing on. He will also highlight a tool kit and templates to assist you to keep focused on the things that really matter if you are going to succeed in your endeavours.

Both of the events are free to attend but require an email to to let us know that you will be coming (in order to assist with housekeeping matters such as room layout, handouts and refreshments etc).

I look forward to seeing you at one or both of these events.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

PHK Presentation to the Association of Accounting Technicians, 16th September 2010

CV Writing Tips & Interview Techniques from the other side of the FD's Desk

7pm 16th September 2010, Best Western Moat House Hotel, Festival Park, Hanley, Soke-on-Trent
Cheshire and Staffordshire Branch, Association of Accounting Technicians

Details: -
  • how to design a CV for maximum impact
  • suppositions don't matter, it's the numbers that count
  • why you should always take a copy of your CV to an interview
  • a good first impression is crucial to success, but so rarely achieved

The Financial Director's perspective

Speaker: Paul Hooper-Keeley, Managing Director, Intervallum Limited

Monday, 9 August 2010

Why it is in every Company’s interest to train their operational managers in finance.

A recurring theme I’m getting from many of my clients centres on the role of their operational managers and their ability to perform back office functions around their duties.

To me, an effective operational/area/regional manager should operate as any business person would and have a full grasp of at least the spectrum of business basics.

Unfortunately, it seems that far too often, some people operating at this management level want to focus solely on the operational delivery of a service or product line and avoid the paperwork and administration associated with this management role (and therefore also the performance measurement and monitoring of their team and its activity).

Situations that result from this lack of back office focus include purchase orders not being raised (or even worse from a financial control perspective, raised in arrears), invoicing left until the end of the month (the company is losing out on the collection of cash in a timely manner) and paperwork returned for amendment of basic errors or left in “in-trays” for long periods of time. Furthermore, these are all common causes of month end issues in revenue recognition, payment applications and the late collection of debt adversely impacting on the working capital position.

The easy responses to these issues include, “Do nothing – they need to remain focused solely on operational output”, or, at the other extreme, “Let’s get them on a structured Head Office course on Finance for non-Finance Managers”.

My solution would be neither of the above, but to visit these managers in their field centres, therefore in very small groups, and give them a basic business grounding at local level in Profit & Loss, Cash, Budgets & Forecast etc and perhaps even the basics of what a Balance Sheet is.

A formal Head Office training course often involves a presenter talking at a room full of delegates for the majority of the day, but doesn’t really allow you to gauge the level of knowledge transferred to this mass gathering. Attention soon wanes until the main area of focus is on what lunch will be provided and how soon will it start!

Small groups at a local level allow you to tailor learning requirements to the manager’s level of knowledge and needs, with the managers able to use the IT at their centre and to demonstrate that the training received on purchase orders, invoices, new starters etc. has been properly absorbed to the trainers standards (or an immediate refresh of the process can be run through again very quickly to compound the knowledge of the procedures). It also gives the managers the chance to ask questions in a more informal setting (which they may not ask in a more formal Head Office training room) and brush up on other areas that they may not be quite up to speed on.

Another frequent grey area in the field (and, more worryingly, sometimes at higher levels too) that needs covering off is the difference between a profit and loss item and a cash item – for non-financially trained people, this can often be quite confusing. And as for the Balance Sheet – I’ve seen the very mention of them cause some manager’s eyes to glaze over in an instance.

One basic piece of logic that all operational managers should be encouraged to take on board is the concept of the basic reality check on their business unit’s monthly activity. Is the revenue stream at the level it was expected to be at in the latest forecast? If not, why not? Have all the costs gone through in the period and been recorded in the profit and loss account or are there other costs that the Finance Department and/or Head Office need informing of in order that they can be reflected in the final set of management accounts (often highlighted in the GRNI report (goods received but not invoiced) and in the purchase order wash-up process)? Have HR been informed about any new starters and/or leavers?

The bottom line really is the bottom line – do the draft results for the month make sense? If not, this needs investigating and explaining or amending before the final monthly accounts are published.

The aim of finance training for operational managers is not to produce a multitude of accountants all around the business – the goal is to have all round business savvy operational managers managing effectively at the sharp end of the business by taking the responsibility as well as the authority for their own area of the commercial enterprise.

For a professional manager in an enlightened business, that should not be too much to ask – and for many businesses this could make all the difference between success and failure!!!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Train To Gain – Be a Professional Director

In the recent recession, when costs needed to be managed especially closely in order to survive, the first things that many businesses chopped from the budget as not mission critical were training and marketing. The justification was that belts had to be tightened; training was a luxury that business could do without as the hatches were batoned down and marketing was an unnecessary area - who promotes their Company when others are cutting hard? But was this thinking the right way to go?

If all businesses take the traditional route of cutting marketing spend in a recession, this actually provides a great opportunity for those companies brave enough to keep their marketing spend intact. They are not now competing with a number of other marketing budgets but will have the field pretty much to themselves, with the result being a compounding of returns on their investment and an opportunity to grow market share (businesses don’t just stop dead in a recession so customers will still be making expenditure on the right products and services).

The training budget is a similar story – when recession hits, the training budget is slashed to almost nothing. But does this make good sense? With a likely freeze on new recruitment then I would suggest that it is all the more imperative that employers are able to get the best out of the staff that they do have. And the only way to do this is by identifying skills gaps and then closing this gap via training.

In the West Midlands we have a strong advocate of improving individual’s skill sets in Lord Digby Jones, who regularly makes speeches encouraging skills training at all levels across the region. And at national level we have the new coalition government attempting to streamline the Employability programmes and Work Place Apprenticeship schemes by cancelling the Flexible New Deal 2 scheme (amongst others) and working to introduce a new Work Programme scheme by summer 2011 that will remove a lot of the bureaucracy and inefficiencies previously criticised.

For most companies to stand a chance of survival, it is vital to have the best Board and Management Team possible. As Jim Collins said in his seminal work, “Good to Great”, employees aren’t your greatest assets, the “right” employees are. Get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, before you start your journey (vision/strategy). This will make all the difference when the entire economy suffers a trauma such as the one we have recently experienced and the business relies on its top level to steer the Company round the rocks. At the senior level, to support previous experience and functional qualifications, there is one training route that stands out above all others – the IoD’s course in Company Direction leading to the Chartered Director qualification. This is still the only qualification route in the world for professional Directors, and the only designation in this field that can help investors gain confidence that the Chartered Directors running a particular Company have been suitably trained for the role.

Train as a Chartered Director and gain the credibility and marketability that this professional qualification will give you in your business career.

Paul Hooper-Keeley is the IoD’s 25th Chartered Director and Managing Director of Intervallum Limited, a provider of Interim Finance Director Services ( He can be contacted at .

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Intervallum Conference 2010

The Intervallum Conference for 2010 has now come to a close, but once again it has proved to be extraordinarily beneficial to the strategic direction of the business.

As always with these types of events, it is absolutely necessary to get the entire team away from their normal organisational surroundings (and phones/emails) to have some uninterrupted and quality time working "on" not "in" the business. This really does lead to the most incisive creativity of all.

And it worked well. Some very good thoughts and ideas were brought into play, particularly with regard to business development and additional services that can be offered to our clients (and clearly relevant during this prolonged economic downturn and very slow recovery).

The end result is that the whole team have been left fully enthused and totally focused about getting back into the workplace, working on the new ideas and projects formulated at the conference, and taking Intervallum (and our clients) forward.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Book Review - "Faff" by Mike Pagan

In his book, "Faff", Mike Pagan highlights the way in which so many business people have a tendency to allow their focus to drift and "Faff About" doing the things they like or want to do, which don't necessarily add any value to their business, instead of doing the things they need to do to take their company or idea forward.
The book is full of anecdotal and humorous stories from Mike's experience, and gives lots of practical advice and tool kits to help you to focus on what activities really are important to you and need your attention if you are going to take your business, career or life forward.
As Mike himself says, you can dip in and out of this book and use the tools when required (i.e. you shouldn't be running all of the tools at the same time) and come back to some of his other templates and suggestions as and when you need to.
This is definitely a book to read now to de-clutter yourself and move onwards more efficiently - don't faff about, get your copy today.

Monday, 31 May 2010

What is an Interim Finance Director and how can one add value to your business?

Many business people are not totally clear on exactly what an Interim Finance Director is. The objective of this article is to answer that question for you and suggest areas where an Interim FD can add value to your business.

When would you need the services of an Interim FD?

This can vary from client to client, but the 3 main requirements are:-

1) The owners of the business want to sell their company and therefore need a financial professional to get their business in order, assist with the preparation of the sales memorandum, take the company through the due diligence process and then assist in the negotiations to achieve a satisfactory deal and take it to legal conclusion. In 2005 I assisted in the sale of a Telecoms business to Lord Young, and on 3rd April 2008 (just hours before the Capital Gains Tax rule change came into force) I helped a £200m t/o construction business to go through a £154m secondary buyout, assisting the owner/directors to realise personal wealth.

2) A safe pair of hands - when a company's permanent FD resigns, he can often be gone within a month. The search and selection process, interviewing routines and successors notice period can on average, be a 5 to 9 month period. An interim FD can quickly enter this company at the point of original resignation to spend almost a month with the outgoing FD to quickly understand his knowledge and experience of the business in order that projects can continue and that the valuable company knowledge from the original FD can be kept warm and the baton can be effectively handed over to the incoming permanent FD.

3) Turnaround situations and cash issues - as the credit crunch took hold, and the economy tanked, several businesses found themselves reducing in activity levels and strangulated by a lack of cash. Several Private Equity companies moved from potential outward investment to an inward look at their portfolio of businesses, as some of these came under pressure - which was exasperated by the debt funding that had to be serviced. Therefore I have been called into such businesses in a "dash for cash" to meet loan repayments, followed by a restructuring and cost cutting exercise (and in most cases a refocus on strategy) in order to turn the company around and allowing them to continue as a going concern.

How can an Interim Finance Director add value to your business?

The fact that the company is maintained as a going concern after the extreme scenario of a turnaround means there is still value of some description for the business owners (and employees and creditors for that matter) as compared to a total wipe-out and liquidation. Successful negotiations with the crown by an interim can effect a time to pay arrangement and give valuable breathing space to get cash in. A good Interim FD will quickly get a grip on the cash management, effecting a daily cash report and forecast to highlight any future pinch points and navigate the business around the rocks.

Once the position is stabilised, the financial process and systems will be reviewed and "best in sector" solutions will be applied i.e. to ensure the most efficient collection of cash.

In a sale situation, an experienced Interim FD can quickly prepare the necessary financial data to support the sales memorandum, oversee the due diligence process and resulting negotiations, and ensure that the best price has been attained at deal conclusion.

Acting as a safe pair of hands protects valuable company information and ensures its safe transfer to an incoming permanent FD, rather than leaving a finance vacuum at the top of the company and a very steep learning curve for the new incumbent, which can prove very costly.

In summary then, "What is an Interim Finance Director?" He or she is a vastly experienced financial professional, often overqualified for the role, who can parachute into your business at very short notice to assist with a specific issue, project or transaction and deliver results quickly.

At Intervallum we pride ourselves with the delivery of high quality interim service provision combined with the ultimate flexibility - you turn the tap off at the point when you have had all the required targets and services delivered, and your thirst has been quenched. Whether you are looking to sell your business, have a need for a safe pair of hands between permanent Finance Directors, or require urgent assistance with getting cash into your company fast, your Intervallum Interim will add value to your business from day one.

We are the sledgehammer to crack your walnut - remember, when you need and Interim, choose Intervallum.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Election to Vice President of ITC Powertalk Lichfield

I am delighted to announce that I have been invited, and unanimously elected, to take up the position of Vice President of the ITC Powertalk Public Speaking organisation in Lichfield.

The speech that I delivered earlier in the evening was very well received and possibly contributed towards my being nominated for this role.

I look forward to assisting in bringing more people to this organisation to learn the skills and receive the mentoring for improving their own public speaking techniques and presentation structures.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Alexander Daniels Launch Event

It was a great pleasure to be invited along to the Hotel du Vin in Birmingam recently.

One of Britain’s most prominent business leaders helped to boost Birmingham’s standing as a financial services centre by officially launching the Baskerville House offices of new financial recruitment consultancy Alexander Daniels.

Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham was among more than 80 guests including representatives from leading Midland companies and accountants, lawyers and other financial professionals at the firm’s launch event.

The former Trade Minister and Director-General of the CBI spoke optimistically about the economic outlook for the Midlands and applauded Alexander Daniels for bringing high quality value-added financial recruitment services to the city.

Digby gave one of his highly amusing, passionate, yet poignant trade mark speeches; full of his pride in the West Midlands and his determination to improve the region's skill sets, much criticism of our current political system, and his astonishment at how this country repaid it's greater ever leader, Winston Churchill, for saving the free world - by giving him the sack in the 1945 General Election.

The major networking occasion was hosted by experienced founder directors Jamie Rodden, Nick Pearce and Ian Mourbey, who were joined by the firm’s backer entrepreneur Andy Foote.

A highly successful launch event that was well attended by the business community and enjoyed by all - well done Alexander Daniels.

Friday, 16 April 2010

10 Top Tips to Improve Your Cashflow

Although many businesses still use profitability as their main Key Performance Indicator (KPI), if you run out of cash then you have no business left to operate (and the measure of profit or loss becomes completely irrelevant).

Good cash management is imperative to every business, but never more so than in the current economic climate. With optimism slowly returning to the business community, there is incredible pressure on companies to return to a growth profile at the earliest opportunity. This can be very dangerous because if working capital is already stressed, and business picks up, then the need to increase working capital at a time when lenders are looking to keep it held back could push the company into a scenario of slow cash flow strangulation or, even worse, to over trade.

By properly organising the credit management area of a business and injecting some structure and metrics into the cash collection process, as well as getting “stuck-in” to the traditional chasing routines (phone calls, Dunning letters, instigation of legal action etc.), you can make a huge difference to your working capital at a time when it really counts.

Here I highlight my “10 Top Tips to Improve Your Cashflow”: -

1) Credit Check – it is key to the whole process that you ask any prospective customer requesting a credit account to complete a form detailing their trading status, registered address, company number, VAT number etc in order that their credit status can be reviewed by one of the industry standard providers, such as Dunn & Bradstreet, and an opinion can be formed as to what credit level (if any) would be appropriate to start trading on.

2) Purchase Order – you must make sure that a valid purchase order is obtained from the customer in line with their accounting policies and system. By omitting this stage you are running the risk of the client suggesting that whoever made the order request wasn’t acting on behalf of them, and this could therefore cause delays in getting paid on that order.

3) Terms & Conditions – ensure that terms (i.e. payment due 30 days after the date of invoice) are fully known for each customer, and that each customer is aware of them too (you would be surprised how often these details are not fully known internally or externally!!!).

4) Daily invoicing – wherever possible, raise invoices on a daily basis. The earlier the date of creation (and therefore the tax point), the sooner the invoice will become due and payable, and the more efficiently you will be able to unlock the cash from it. Never leave the invoicing process to one large batch run at month end, otherwise you will add a significant amount of days to the cycle and risk greatly damaging your cash flow.

5) Forecasts – ensure you have a minimum of at least 12 weeks forward forecast visible, but preferably longer. This will give you a rounded cash position for the business, highlight pinch points and what action needs taking as a result, and help to define each month’s targeted collections for the Credit Control team.

6) Targets - set monthly collection targets for the credit control team and, if possible, write this on a white board in full view in order that the credit control staff can visualise this target. In addition, give them a daily update beneath this figure so that progress can be monitored as the month progresses. A target and actual daily average collection figure can really help to motivate the team towards achieving their goal.

7) Telephone chasing – as soon as an invoice becomes overdue (i.e. beyond terms) then the process of telephone chasing should begin. This will let the customer know that you are organised and systematic and serious about getting your cash in. During the call, ensure that there are no issues or disputes with the invoice – if there is an issue, it is imperative that this is resolved internally immediately in order that the customer’s query can be resolved, and that any further barriers to payment are removed. For repeat business clients, it also gives your team the opportunity to create relationships with members of the client’s Bought Ledger team which, if done well, can then help to make the collection process more efficient on a month by month basis.

8) Dunning letters – the Company should operate a strict regime of chasing letters to be activated on 15, 30 and 45 days beyond terms, with the vocabulary getting stronger with each. If a customer believes they are about to be taken legal then this will often unlock the outstanding cash.

9) Directors/Sales/Operations Team Members – if the telephone chasing and Dunning letters are getting nowhere, then a further step before going legal is to ask your Directors or members of the Sales and Operations teams to help. They may have relationships with key individuals in the customer’s company built during the initial marketing or sales negotiating process. Again, a call to the right person in the customer’s team can often help to unlock the cash quickly.

10) Legal action – if the telephone and letter chasing produces no results, don’t be afraid of going legal. There are many solicitors out there who will undertake the initial legal letter to customers for £2 + VAT each. No business likes to have CCJ’s entered against them, but will often wait for the legal letter to arrive before finally paying up.

Remember, the longer you leave it to chase overdue cash, the harder it becomes to eventually collect it!!!

If you need any further assistance with your cash management process then you should consider the services of an Interim Finance Director who can help you to ensure that the requisite systems are put in place and are fully functioning to their best effect. Email to arrange a meeting to discuss this further; Intervallum Limited can make a huge difference to your working capital at a time when it really counts.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

PHK’s Budget Comments on ITN National News

Many thanks for all the kind comments and emails that I have received since appearing on the ITN National news on budget day, where ITN were filming from the “marginal” constituency of Burton-upon-Trent.

I was asked to go along by the Chamber of Commerce to give the view of the business community, and was more than happy to do so.

On the day itself, after a "live" feed on the news before the budget speech was made, I was questioned for my opinion on the budget on “live” national TV just moments after the Chancellor had sat down (and with little or no time to reflect further on the points delivered), and was then subsequently filmed for a recorded piece for the news bulletin at 6.30pm.

For those of you that have asked, some of the footage can still be viewed at the ITN site via the following link: -

It was a thoroughly interesting experience, although I feel the real budget decisions are yet to be made and won't come until after 6th May.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Immediately Available Interim Finance Director

Paul Hooper-Keeley of Intervallum Limited has just completed an assignment with a Private Equity backed business and is now immediately available to take on a new project. He can be contacted via and 07958 155705.

Monday, 8 February 2010

LDC Opportunity Club

A big thank you to LDC and the excellent LDC Opportunity Club event that they hosted at the Piccadilly Le Meridien last Thursday evening.

An evening of fine wine tasting was provided by Edward Parker Wines, with Edward Parker on hand to tell us about the "Walking With The Wounded" project where he will lead a team of enthusiastic volunteers and wounded servicemen on an attempt to walk unsupported to the North Pole in April 2011 in support of "Help For Heroes".

LDC CEO Darryl Eales commented on his starring appearance in the previous Sunday Times Business section, arguing that LDC were a benefit to the tax payer (who now own a large part to Lloyds TSB) due to their continuing profitability (as opposed to the continued negativity for the sake of a story in the press). He also had a few words to say about the new Formula 1 team that they have invested in (having been at Silverstone that very afternoon).

For me, it was good to have the chance to meet up with Chris Thomas, previously a Director of Hanson plc and more recently with his LDC backed MBO of Electrium (and subsequent sale to Siemens), whom I had the pleasure to work with at Bullock Construction Limited (another LDC investment), and some of the LDC team from the Birmingham office who I know.

A fine (if a very late) evening indeed.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Happy 1st Birthday Intervallum!!!

Although Managing Director, Paul Hooper-Keeley, has been providing Interim Finance Director Services to industry and commerce since early 2004, today is exactly a year since Intervallum Limited was first incorporated. And what a year it has been.......

Our thanks go to our clients over the last 12 months, Dunedin Private Equity, CET Safehouse Limited, Diamond Edge Events Limited, M Exceed Limited and Purple Cat Limited who have used Intervallum’s Interim Finance Director Services to assist in a refinancing, a relocation of head office, “a safe pair of hands” between FD’s, preparation of Management Accounts and Year End Statutory Report & Accounts, Company Secretarial services, Heads of Agreement on an earn out acquisition and advice on business start-ups amongst other things.

Other highlights of Intervallum’s first year include: -

Intervallum being recognised and nominated in the “Best New Business in the Midlands 2009” category at the Midlands Business Awards held at Aston Villa FC in November.

Paul Hooper-Keeley being invited to become a regular writer for the Institute of Directors West Midlands magazine and having articles published in the summer, autumn and winter 2009 issues.

Organising and hosting an event on “Inspirational Leadership” for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants at Stoke City FC’s Britannia Stadium in December.

Being invited to speak at the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry event on “The state of the economy” in September.

Paul Hooper-Keeley/Intervallum profiled in the IoD news magazine in May 2009.

Accounting Technician magazine featuring an article on Intervallum Limited’s provision of Interim Finance Director Services in its July/August 2009 issue.

Intervallum Limited were proud to sponsor 2 prizes at the Masquerade Summer Ball in aid of the Brain Tumour UK charity in June.

The coaching and mentoring of 5 executives in their career development and progression plans.

Starting a new Company in the face of what was almost certainly the deepest recession to hit the world since the Great Depression was certainly a huge task – but the team at Intervallum have certainly risen to the challenge and have had a very successful first year. And with a number of new projects and opportunities currently being developed for 2010, the next 12 months looks likely to provide a very busy second year.