June 2012

You don’t have to be good at drawing…

Published on: 20 Jun 2012

In today’s tough economic climate more and more companies are looking at barter arrangements.

A barter arrangement is where goods or services are exchanged by two parties without any cash being transacted. You could argue that a less technical term for barter is simply “swapping”.

A hotel in Sweden has just launched an extremely unusual form of bartering.

The Clarion Hotel in Stockholm are offering free hotel accommodation for one night in exchange for a piece of art created by an artist.

Now this artwork doesn’t have to be by anyone famous such as Picasso. No, it can be by anyone including a middle aged accountant who writes rubbish blogs.

Yes, anyone can classify themselves as an artist and exchange a rubbish drawing piece of minimalistic artwork for a free night’s accommodation at a very nice hotel.

The only requirement is that the artwork is A4 sized and ownership of the piece of art is transferred to the hotel. Oh, and to prevent anyone sketching 365 pictures and then expecting to stay free of charge for a whole year, the maximum number of free nights in exchange for artwork is two.

All in all, a great idea by the hotel and I hope it’s a success.

Good and bad news for PwC…

Published on: 18 Jun 2012

If you work for one of the top firms of accountants in the world and you’re an audit partner it must be [a refreshing change/really annoying – delete as appropriate] when you yourself are audited.

Well in the UK this has just happened for some of the major accounting companies.

The Professional Oversight Board is one of the bodies that works towards improving the quality of audit work and audit firms. They have just published their 2011/12 inspection reports and there were some interesting findings.

Their public report on their inspection of PwC for example commented on a number of items including PwC’s “audit transformation programme”.

The POB said that

“During the year, the firm launched its Audit Transformation programme, the stated objective of which is to enable audit teams to focus on key judgment areas, standardise the firm’s approach and improve audit quality. However, the guides issued to date under the programme appear to focus on improving audit efficiency by reducing audit hours.”

The Report then went on to say that

“The programme also includes increasing the use of the firm’s off-shoring capability, now through two overseas centres, one in India and the other in Poland. Work performed in 2011 by these centres accounted for about 4% of the firm’s core audit hours and is expected to increase to 6% in 2012.”

The POB work was quite thorough as they also looked at PwC’s “staff performance evaluation” forms where interestingly they found that “approximately a quarter of the appraisal forms and objectives for the following year were signed off after the due date.”

The good news for PwC was that the vast majority of the 14 audits that were examined by the POB were either performed to a “good standard” or an “acceptable overall standard”.

Unfortunately for them though there was one audit which was singled out as requiring “significant improvement”.

In case any of you are interested in reading the reports on PwC and some of the other major accounting companies, they can all be found here.

Somehow though I don’t think the partner responsible for the “significant improvement required audit” will be showing all his friends a copy of the report.

Are you strong enough to buy this?

Published on: 15 Jun 2012

Now let me think. Drinking lots of beer and running as hard as you can into a metal vending machine. What could possibly go wrong?

In today’s competitive business environment it’s normally the case that companies want to make it as easy as possible for their customers to buy their products.

Over in Argentina though a beer company has taken an unusual (but in my opinion a brilliant) approach to selling beer.

In fact, if you’re talking in strategic exam business terminology, an unusual approach to the outbound logistics found within Michael Porter’s value chain.

Salta beer has designed a vending machine for all the rugby fans out there.

In order to get your can of beer dispensed from the vending machine you put your money in and then you have to body slam into the vending machine as hard as you can.

The nice twist to this is that there is a meter on the vending machine which is similar to the “hammer strength tests” that used to be found at old carnivals and fairgrounds. In other words, the beer will only be dispensed if you can run into the machine with a hard enough force and reach the “strength meter”.

It’s been designed to appeal to rugby fans who are used to seeing rugby players tackling their opponents.

The machine can be seen in action below and the next time you are sat down in a quiet Argentinean bar enjoying a relaxed drink lookout for the big guy behind you taking a long run-up and heading with his shoulder down towards the vending machine…

Would a chocolate bar motivate you to…

Published on: 08 Jun 2012

It’s a great feeling in the office when you’re working hard in a team and you achieve a good result.

Whether it’s delivering on a project, winning a new client or deciding on the location of the Christmas party that will take place in six months time, achieving a good result can result in some great feelings.

As well as the intrinsic rewards (i.e. feel good factors!), there can also be extrinsic rewards such as bonuses when things go well.

Torbay Hospital in the UK recently won a prestigious award. The hospital was chosen as the “acute healthcare organisation of the year”.

20 of the hospital’s senior staff celebrated the achievement at the awards in London but there were in fact 4,000 staff who worked for the hospital. Management decided to reward these other people in a way that may certainly be memorable for them, but possibly in the wrong way!

Whilst the 20 senior staff enjoyed a great time at the awards in London, the rest of the team were all given a voucher.

Now let’s just think about this for a moment. The organisation you work for has just won a prestigious award. You’ve been working hard to contribute to this. You receive a voucher as a reward.

So what voucher would you have been happy with?

Well, the excitement was no doubt building for the 4,000 workers when they realised they were getting a voucher but alas for them when they saw the voucher it was for a chocolate Kit Kat bar.

Yes, after the hospital won the prestigious award the team members were given a voucher to buy a chocolate bar with a value of 60p.

Now, I’m never one to turn down a free chocolate bar but I’m not sure that a 60p Kit Kat bar is a suitably motivating reward.

Then again, if they offered two chocolate bars…

The ExP Group