Decision Makers' Dinner: Cash Management, People and More

It’s often said that the position of Managing Director or Business Owner is a lonely place to be and feedback from clients and contacts has consistently been that they would value a forum within which they could discuss their issues and challenges, on a confidential basis, with people that face the same challenges that they do. 

From an advisory perspective, we’re constantly searching for new ways to engage with entrepreneurs and the wider business community, build advocacy across our client base and create thought leading content to share with our network.

With that in mind, last week saw the inaugural ‘Decision Makers’ Dinner’. Over supper, in one of the Leeds’ business community’s best loved venues, a select group of business owners from a range of sectors gathered together to discuss a variety of common issues.

Even though the businesses - superficially at least - had very little in common, the broader strategic and operational challenges that entrepreneurial businesses face are consistent across almost all industries. The conversation began with a discussion around funding, but quickly moved on to an increasingly passionate and lively conversation across a wide array of other topics - including access to grants, training, apprenticeships, millennials, the minimum wage, data management, use of KPIs, people and supplier & customer management.

Key takeaways included:

Borrowing

  • The banking community could still be doing more with businesses to understand their objectives and provide support, advice and solutions that are aligned with those objectives
     
  • SME businesses in particular are feeling unloved, not helped by perceived high levels of staff turnover within the banking sector and an (understandable) ambition among younger bank relationship managers who see SME banking as a stepping stone to a more lucrative ‘corporate’ banking role

Cash management

  • Government backed initiatives to encourage large corporates to adopt more reasonable payment terms, although well meaning, are wholly ineffective 
     
  • Successful supplier and debtor management is about relationships and trust as much as process - this evolved into a broader conversation about the importance of relationships across every aspect of business, even in an increasingly digital world

Data

  • Data is increasingly important across all business sectors. However, despite the abundance of data available to all of us, all of the guests generally refer to a small number of critical KPIs - effectively a business dashboard - to help them to manage their business, with markedly less reliance on traditional management accounts 
  • The extent to which management information is shared across the wider teams differed widely, with some business owners favouring full transparency to maximise engagement and accountability, while others favoured a ‘less is more’ approach. The general consensus, however, was that the sharing of management information across teams can be a powerful motivational tool

Grants

  •  We were joined by representatives of Leeds City Council and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who shared their insight and gave an update as to the current availability of business support in the Leeds City Region
     
  •  Take-up of LEP grant funding across the group was high, although certain business owners are confused by constantly moving goalposts and the lack of clarity on how to apply and links to job creation

People

  •  The cost of skilled labour within the Leeds region is rising fast. Large corporate employers taking capacity out of the labour market are driving up wages in finance, digital and marketing 
     
  • Meanwhile, manufacturing and engineering businesses are facing a chronic shortage of skills, not helped by Brexit. Although this is not news, it was felt that much more needs to be done to support employers. Take up of apprenticeships is low and recent government initiates to promote apprenticeships have not been effective. All business would welcome the opportunity to take on more young people and school leavers, but feel that the way funding is currently structured (and its interaction with other forms of grant funding) makes it undesirable for employers and unattractive for potential apprentices
     
  •  Leeds UTC came in for praise for the way that they have engaged with the local engineering community
     
  • High rates of employment, a rapidly evolving digital landscape and a short term approach adopted by millennials, means that fluidity within the labour market is at an all time high and the notion of a career for life are being eroded. Millennials are favouring short term ‘jobs’, fluidity, freedom and flexibility over longer term stability. One of the participants quipped - ‘if you think this lot are bad, wait until the next generation hits!’

Unsurprisingly there were many more insights gathered over the course of the evening and the feedback was that further events, on the same format, would be very much welcomed. 

If you’re a business owner and can relate to any of the topics discussed above and would like to share your issues and challenges with fellow business owners over dinner in a ‘Chatham House Rules’ environment, please drop me a email

Email Matt

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