Nightclubs and lemons

What have nightclubs and lemons got in common? The answer may not be that obvious but the common link is the “inflation basket” of the 700 most used goods and services which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) uses to determine price movements for the inflation rate.

This inflation basket dates back nearly 70 years and the ONS currently uses around 180,000 separate price quotations for goods and services within the basket every month to come up with an inflation number for the whole UK economy.

Each year the items within the basket are updated to take account of changes in consumers spending patterns and a dozen or so items are added or dropped from the basket.

This year nightclubs have been removed from the basket as the younger generation are now preferring to do other things rather than go to nightclubs.

In the last 10 years the number of nightclubs in the UK has fallen from over 3,000 to less than 1,750.

In a great illustration of the impact that changes in the PESTEL environmental analysis model can have, there are several reasons for the decline in nightclubs including:

Economic – student grants have been replaced by student loans and as a result the students themselves now have less money to spend on expensive nightclub drinks.

Social – socialising with friends now more and more involves social media. Why meet up in a dark nightclub when you can Snapchat for example? Also, very dark nightclubs will limit the opportunities for photos for your Facebook feed…

Technology – whereas in the past people would often go to nightclubs to meet new people, websites such as the dating site Tinder now make it easier to meet new people without having to go to the trouble of trying to communicate with someone by shouting at the top of your voice in a nightclub which is so dark you can hardly see the person you’re shouting at…

Legal – the smoking ban imposed in recent years has impacted on the number of smokers who go to nightclubs (incidentally, electronic cigarette refills have been added to the basket this year following the increase in popularity of e-cigarettes)

What about lemons? Well Lemons have been added to the basket.

An increase in the popularity of home cooking driven by all of the cooking programmes currently on TV has led to a surge in demand for lemons.

So lemons are in and nightclubs are out.

Other changes include the removal of GPS satnavs for cars (more people are using their smartphones for directions) and the addition of mobile phone covers.

In case you’re interested here are the full details of the basket and how it is compiled.

What’s in a name?

The Indian car manufacturer Tata Motors, part of the Tata Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates recently skilfully averted what could have been a major international marketing mistake.

Tata motors, who also own the Land Rover and Jaguar brands, are about to launch a new small hatchback car. They debuted it at the recent 2016 Auto Expo as the Zica (short for Zippy Car) but following the rapidly spreading Zika virus which has infected over a million people in Latin America and which was declared an international health emergency, they decided to change the name to avoid any unwanted links between the two names.

The car will now be launched as the Tiago and the change was impressively dealt with by the company. They reacted quickly to the similarity and ran a competition via social media for the public to choose the new name. Over 30,000 names were put forward in the competition but Tiago was selected by the public as the winner.

However, if you look up the definition of Tiago in the Urban Dictionary the top two definitions are firstly, “Tiago is a great Portuguese king” and secondly “Tiago is a sex God who is…”.

I’m not sure the Tata marketing guys looked at the Urban Dictionary before agreeing to Tiago but in any case, if you see a man driving a Tiago then surely he’s either the Portuguese king or a sex God…

Are you better looking than your boss?

So who’s better looking – you or your boss?

Well, if you are male and your boss is also male there could be some disappointing career news for you if you think you are better looking than your boss.

A recent study has suggested that male bosses are less likely to promote good-looking men who work for them.

The study by University College London’s School of Management concluded that good-looking men were considered competent by their male bosses but as a result were also seen as a threat to them and their own personal career aspirations.

This raises an interesting point. Organisations no doubt want to employ the most competent people but if a male boss is reluctant to recruit or promote good-looking men because they take the view they are a threat to them personally then it means that good-looking men could be discriminated against whether or not they are competent.

Dr Sun Young Lee, the lead researcher on the study was quoted as saying “organisations want to hire competent candidates but individuals have their own agenda. When employing someone, they do not want the newcomer to do better than them and show them up”.

“What about good-looking females” I hear you say?

The study concluded that the same prejudice did not apply to women. Being a good looking lady was not associated with competence according to the study.

The study was published in the Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes journal and Dr Lee felt her results suggested that organisations should consider appointing external recruitment consultants to avoid personal preferences impacting on recruitment decisions.

One additional point though is that if you yourself are male and have recently been overlooked for a promotion by your male boss then surely the only reason you didn’t get the promotion was because you are better looking than him…

My Little Pony or My Little Font?

My Little Pony is a very successful entertainment brand developed by the giant US toy multinational company Hasbro. The My Little Pony range of products first started back in the early 1980s when a line of plastic pony toys was introduced.

Since then the toy line has been joined by a number of animated TV series as well as an animated full length feature film.

All in all, a great success but there’s now a potentially very serious issue concerning the font they use on their products.

Typeface company Font Brothers design fonts and last month filed a law suit against Hasbro claiming that My Little Pony uses one of their fonts without permission.

According to Font Brothers, Hasbro used their “Generation B” font for their My Little Pony products and website without obtaining the correct licence. In other words, they are claiming that My Little Pony is using a pirated font.

Now whilst some people may say that using a font is a minor issue, if the courts find that they have been using it without the proper licence then it could be a very serious matter.

The complaint filed at the New York federal court stated that “Defendant Hasbro has used or instructed others to use unauthorised copies of the Generation B Font in the creation of, but not limited to, all products, goods, merchandise, television and film properties, and advertising material connected with the ‘My Little Pony’ product line…”.

It went on to say that “Defendant Hasbro has created unauthorised and infringing copies of the Generation B Font software and impermissibly distributed the same to third parties.”

Some fonts are so similar that it is difficult to prove which font is being used but the style sheet on Hasbro’s website specifically mentioned the Generation B Font so it will be difficult for them to claim that they weren’t using the font!

It looks like Font Brothers tried to settle matters before it got to court as they wrote in their complaint that they had contacted Hasbro about the unauthorised use but the toy company refused to license the font for their products.

The matter is now in the hands of the court but seeing as the infringements cover such a significant product there is a chance that damages could amount to a significant figure.

It may well be that it wasn’t My Little Font but it was in fact Your Little Font.

Would you buy a bottle of whisky or invest in a bottle of whisky?

Buying whisky or investing in whisky – that’s an interesting question and my guess is that most people who buy whisky are planning on gently pouring it into a glass and maybe adding some ice or a mixer before settling back to savour the flavour (before possibly waking up the next day with a headache…)

But should you be buying whisky as an investment rather than as a consumable item?

Most people are aware of the leading share indexes around the world such as the FTSE 100 and the S&P 500 (which show the index for the largest 100 and 500 companies quoted on the London and New York stock exchanges respectively) but there are also a number of other indexes out there.

These indexes measure movements and one of the more interesting ones is the Rare Whisky Apex 1000 which measures the price movement for rare scotch whisky.

It’s a significant market and last year there were rare whiskies sold at auction in the UK amounting to £9.6 million.

There was also a strong demand for rare whisky in Asia. In August last year a bottle of 1960 Japanese Karuizawa whisky was sold for over £80,000 which is a pretty significant figure for a bottle of whisky!

Back to the indexes though and the performance of the rare whisky index last year was impressive. It grew by 14%. Other indexes in comparison performed as follows in 2015:

FTSE 100 – down by 4.9%
S&P 500 – up by 0.7%
Gold index – fell by 10%.

So the increase in the Whisky index of 14% looks very good when compared to the major indexes but I guess there could be one problem.

Namely, if you’ve had a bit too much to drink and are looking for something to finish the evening off you’re more likely to drink some of your whisky investment than consume some of your share or gold investment.

Should this have been predicted?

Picture the scene. You set up a company with two of your university friends. Things are going well but as is often the case with start-ups the work is hard, the hours are long and there is no initial salary.

Chris Hill-Scott was one such entrepreneur who founded a tech start-up business back in 2008 together with fellow Cambridge University graduates Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock.

After setting up the company and getting it off of the ground, Mr Hill-Scott decided that being an entrepreneur was not for him. He resigned as a director, left the business and transferred his shares in the company to Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock in exchange for a bicycle.

We’ve all done things that we have regretted but in hindsight Mr Hill-Scott should have stayed in the company. He now works for the Government Digital Service creating websites and it has been reported that the average salary for that type of job is in the region of £55,000.

The two gentlemen he left behind in the company though have faced a different journey. The name of the company the guys set up is SwiftKey and although you may not have heard of the company, you have almost certainly used their technology.

SwiftKey developed the predictive text technology which suggests the next word a user is about to type on their smartphone or tablet. It has been incredibly successful and their software is used on more than 300 million smartphones and tablets around the world.

The company estimates that the software it developed has saved over 10 trillion keystrokes for its users. Let’s just think about that figure for a moment. 10 trillion keystrokes – that amounts to more than 100,000 years of typing time and represents an awful lot of thumb pain which has been avoided.

SwiftKey is an incredibly successful company and yesterday Microsoft purchased the business for £174 million (or in dollar terms, just over one quarter of a billion dollars).

Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock will both make more than £25 million each whilst Mr Hill Scott will receive nothing from the sale as he transferred his shares in the business in exchange for a bicycle.

It’s not clear how much the bicycle is worth but I don’t think you have to be a technology expert to predict what words that Mr Hill-Scott was probably thinking when he heard the news the business he helped set up had been sold for £174 million and he had received nothing….

Would a good liar make a good accountant?

Do you have children? Have they ever told you a lie? Even a small teeny weeny lie?

Well, if they have then although you may not be particularly pleased with them, it may actually mean that they have good memories and excellent thinking skills.

Psychologists at the University of Sheffield tested 135 children and found that those children that lied performed much better than the honest children in the group.

The children in the study were aged between 6 and 7 years old and during the study they were given a trivia game. The answers to the trivia game were on the back of the card which they had been given. Initially, each child was in a room accompanied by one of the researchers but the researcher then left the child alone with the card with the answer on the back.

Before leaving the room the researcher told the children not to look at the answer but what the children didn’t know was that when they were alone in the room there were hidden cameras which were monitoring whether they would look at the answers on the back.

25% of the group subsequently cheated and looked at the answers on the back of their cards but claimed that they hadn’t cheated when the researcher returned to the room.

At a later stage, all of the children had to perform a separate memory test and the research found that the children who had lied performed significantly better than those children who didn’t lie.

Dr Tracy Alloway, project lead from the University of North Florida was also involved in the research and said that “this research shows that thought processes, specifically verbal working memory, are important to complex social interactions like lying because the children needed to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the researcher’s perspective in mind”.

This has got me thinking as a lot of the readers of this blog are accountants or studying to be accountants.

“Thought processes”, “verbal working memory”, “juggling multiple pieces of information” and “keeping other people’s perspective in mind” are all skills which many accountants need.

Does this mean that you would make a good accountant if you were a good liar when you were a child?

Whatever your answer is, I’m not sure I would believe you…

Let’s not run this up the flag pole…

Most of us have been there. Sat in a meeting when somebody decides to use “management speak” or “corporate jargon” to make something sound more impressive than it is.

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “think outside the box” but what about “let’s not boil the ocean”?

Michael Sugden, chief executive of the advertising agency VCCP, recently put together a list of the most irritating metaphors used in the corporate world.

He wrote in Marketing Magazine that the increased use of corporate jargon in recent years has resulted in meetings degenerating “into a quagmire of nonsensical verbal piffle”.

He put together his top 10 of the most annoying phrases and in reverse order the results are shown below.

Oh and in case you’re “not singing off the same hymn sheet” I’ve translated the “management speak” into English in the italics below the phrase.

10. Think outside the box
– come up with new ideas…

9. I may have a window for you
– I can see you on…

8. Content is king
–  first used by Bill Gates in 1996 to indicate that content would drive the success of the internet. It now appears to be used for random purposes in meetings…

7. Let’s not boil the ocean
– let’s not make this too complicated…

6. Level playing field
– keep things equal…

5. Let’s workshop this
– let’s spend far too long talking about this in a meeting…

4. Shift the dial
– to be honest I’m not 100% sure but possibly means talk about something else. Either way it sounds very dramatic in a meeting…

3. Let’s socialise this
– let’s talk about this…

2. Fail forward
– when something doesn’t work but we try to learn from it (if we still have a job after the error of course…)

1. Growth hacking
– again, I don’t think anyone is 100% sure what it means but it does sound very impressive…

So, there you go. A list of 10 phrases to [impress / annoy – delete according to how you feel about the phrases] your colleagues at meetings.

It’s a horses what?!

Business is becoming very international nowadays and more and more people are spending time working as an expat in other countries.

If you do end up working abroad it can be a great opportunity to experience another culture. One thing that is highly recommended though is not to offend the locals when it comes to their traditions.

Michael Mcfeat, a British employee of Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine, learnt a valuable lesson recently about the dangers of commenting on local traditions.

Whilst at a New Year’s Eve party he posted on Facebook saying that his Kyrgyz colleagues were queueing up for their “special delicacy, the horse’s penis“.

Mr McFeat was joking about the national dish “chuchuk”.

Vegetarians and horses should look away now but chuchuk is a sausage made from horsemeat and horse intestines.

Now whilst a lot of people would have seen the joke that Mr McFeat was trying to make, it appears that not everyone shared his sense of humour.

Some of his colleagues who work at the Kumtor mine briefly went on strike and there were calls for him to be prosecuted as a number of people claimed his action of comparing one of their national dishes to a horse’s penis constituted “inciting hatred”. If he was found guilty of such a crime he could have faced between three and five years in prison.

It was good and bad news for Mr McFeat though.

Whilst he was detained by the state security service for questioning (bad news), he was released by them with only a warning (good news) but they found out that he didn’t have the correct work permit (bad news) and as a result he was deported from the country (bad news).

So, the end result is that he is now back home and no longer eating horse penis working as an expat.

Surely this is genuine?

How do you feel when you return to the office after a holiday?

Do you feel refreshed and raring to go?

Or are you at the other extreme and cannot stand being back at work and are just a whisper away from handing in your notice…

My guess is that a lot of you are somewhere in between. It’s nice to be back at work but if we’re honest an extra week of holiday would be quite nice.

If you could do with an extra week’s holiday then you are not alone.

One reddit user recently posted an excellent attempt at securing an extra week’s holiday. Whilst the culprit wasn’t trying to get an extra week away from the office. I think we can all learn something from her determination.

The reddit user who posted the image above explained that her “daughter got the mail today (it’s Sunday), apparently they have another week off school”.

A quick audit review of the evidence suggests a few problems.

First of all, it was delivered on a Sunday when there wasn’t a postal delivery. Secondly, “break” was spelt incorrectly.

But that’s only two inaccuracies I hear you say. What about the details that appear to indicate it’s a genuine letter?

For example, the information was written with a black pen whilst the signature was signed with a blue pen. Surely this indicates it’s genuine?

For me, the thing which convinces me that it is a real letter from the little girl’s school is that it has an official stamp on the letter indicating that it’s a genuine official letter from the school and the girl should be entitled to an extra week’s holiday.

Ok, so the stamp is of a pink princess but surely that would pass the audit review test?