Coffee, doughnuts and Jimmy Choos

With celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo is one of the most famous shoe brands in the world.

It is a real success story having been started 21 years ago by Malaysian shoemaker Jimmy Choo, who trained at the renowned Cordwainers Technical College in London, and Tamara Mellon, a former editor at Vogue magazine, with a loan from her father of £150,000.

The pair started the business after Ms. Mellon met Mr Choo during her time with Vogue. Mr Choo used to make a small number of handmade shoes which the magazine used for photo shoots. Ms. Mellon saw the potential in scaling up the business and 21 years later there are now over 150 stores around the world with prices for some shoes being well in excess of £1,000.

So, why has the business been so successful?

Whilst design and quality are obviously key features, the brand arguably took off when famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Beyonce started wearing them.

But it’s not just shoes that they sell. They have also expanded into items such as handbags, sunglasses and scarves. In business speak this is referred to as “brand extension”.

The original founders sold their shares in the business a number of years ago and the company is now quoted on the London stock exchange with the main shareholder being JAB Luxury GmbH, owned by the German billionaire Reimann family.

They have recently announced that they were putting the company up for sale. In a statement, they said that “The board of Jimmy Choo announces today that it has decided to conduct a review of the various strategic options open to the company to maximise value for its shareholders and it is seeking offers for the company.”

It’s been reported that the company could be worth in the region of £700 million.

So why is JAB looking at disposing of a very successful fashion brand?

Recent acquisitions made by the company may give a clue.

JAB, the gigantic investment firm backed by the billionaire Reimann family has made a number of significant purchases recently.

They already have controlling interests in food and beverage brands such as Keurig Green Mountain, Douwe Egberts, and doughnut maker Krispy Kreme.

A few weeks ago they purchased the US bakery business, Panera Bread, for $7.5bn (£6bn).

It looks therefore like the owner of Jimmy Choo is more interested in concentrating on building up its food and beverage businesses than growing a high fashion business like Jimmy Choo.

I guess we’re unlikely to see doughnuts and Jimmy Choos in the same shop…

I’ve got too much on my plate to start dieting…

According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than 10% of the world’s population are now classified as obese.

In the UK, NHS obesity statistics suggest that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight.

The number of hospital admissions in the UK linked to obesity has increased 10 fold from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016.

Now whilst this obviously isn’t good news for the health of the individuals concerned it also raises challenges for businesses which are affected by this increase in weight.

Airlines for example will soon need to be looking at different sized seats or charging people over a certain weight for 2 seats.

Theatres and cinemas will also no doubt be reviewing seat sizes when the venues next come to be refurbished.

Clothing manufacturers will face higher average material costs and in the public sector, hospitals and ambulances will soon need to invest in stronger beds and stretchers to transport the larger patients.

According to recent reports for example, ambulance services in the UK are now having to purchase specialised ambulances costing significant amounts of money to transport the most obese patients. The London ambulance service has purchased 3 specialist bariatric ambulances and strechers which can take patients weighing up to 70 stone (444.5kg).

These ambulances aren’t cheap and can cost in excess of £100,000 each. Specialised heavy duty stretchers alone cost between £7,000 and £10,000 each.

These are some pretty significant costs and some people may argue that people should simply lose weight rather than rely on the National Health Service to fund these expenses.

Whether these people will get themselves down to the gym though is a different matter. Whilst there could clearly be an opportunity for businesses such as health clubs to try and target these individuals are they simply too busy to head to the gym and do they literally have too much on their plates to find the time?

KPMG fires unethical partners

Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.

You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.

Do you:

(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or

(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?

Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).

The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.

A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.

The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.

We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.

Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.

The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.

The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.

In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.

38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.

Not the brightest fraudster

There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.

Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.

Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.

If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.

This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.

His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.

Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.

These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.

Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.

He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.

He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.

He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.

Should you employ good-looking men?

That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.

Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.

The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.

This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.

Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.

Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”

He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”

He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.

Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.

A bit of a tpyo

We’ve all done it. Pressed the wrong key on the keyboard and before you know it you’ve sent an email or report with a typo in it.

Most of the time these are fairly harmless. This, together with spellcheck facilities means that normally it’s not a major problem if there’s the odd typo.

Unfortunately though, if you’re a software coder then a typo can have a major impact.

Cloud services are where companies store their data on remote servers held by companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Last week, numerous websites which use Amazon’s cloud servers went down. These were major websites such as quora.com and soundcloud.com. Amazon subsequently revealed the problems were down to an employee who was trying to fix a software bug in a billing system but typed in the wrong string of characters.

Amazon said that “the command was intended to remove a small number of servers. Unfortunately, one of the inputs was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”

Amazon quickly resolved the issue though and stated that they had “added safeguards to prevent capacity from being removed when it will take any subsystem below its minimum required capacity level. This will prevent an incorrect input from triggering a similar event in the future.”

There are lots of advantages of using cloud servers but as this illustration highlights there are also disadvantages.

How do you feel?

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people get sick. In the winter months especially, there can be a lot of cold and flu bugs going around.

But what percentage of working hours do you think are lost to sickness?

The ONS (Office of National statistics) in the UK has just released details of the number of sick days in 2016. The number of hours lost to sickness as a percentage of working hours was 1.9% or to put it another way, about 137 million working days were lost due to illness in the UK last year.

This may sound a lot but of the number of sick days taken has fallen over the last few years. Last year the average number of sick days per worker was 4.3 whereas when records began in 1993 it was 7.2 days per worker.

It looks like the fall in sick days could be down to a number of factors.

The economic downturn in the late 2000’s arguably caused people to “struggle on” through an illness rather than risk losing their job. Companies are also more flexible nowadays when it comes to letting people work from home. If someone isn’t feeling 100%, a lot of employers will let them work from home and even if they are not up to full speed at least they will be doing some work.

The details also show that there’s a difference between the public sector and the private sector. The percentage absenteeism in the public sector is 2.9% compared to 1.7% in the private sector.

The most common reasons for missing work last year included minor illnesses such as colds (25%), musculoskeletal problems such as back ache (22%), mental health problems including stress and depression (11.5%), stomach upsets (6.6%) and headaches and migraines (3.4%).

Your new (waggy tailed) baby

It’s a busy time for new parents when a baby comes along. Lots of employers give maternity and paternity leave for the new mums and dads but what about when your “baby” has 4 legs and a waggy tail?

Artisan Brewers BrewDog are a Scottish beer company who are very successful and sell their craft beers around the world.

They are also pretty unusual. They have grown from having two staff and two investors in 2007 to a current global team of in excess of 500. It has broken crowdfunding records with more than 32,000 shareholders.

More recently though, they became the first major company to offer their employees a week off if they get a new puppy. This will enable the humans to bond with their new pets without worrying that their work will suffer.

Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who themselves founded the company with their dog Bracken, said in a company statement that ‘Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both.

‘So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff help to settle a new furry family member into their home,’

If any employees are thinking of getting a new puppy, then they won’t be the first in the company with a dog.

As well as providing time off for new dog owners, BrewDog also allow their employees to take their pet dogs into the office and there are currently over 50 employees at their head office alone who take their dogs to the office every day.

Restaurants and children…

Nowadays more and more children are eating at restaurants with their parents. Whilst this can be great for the restaurateur, there can also be problems.

On the positive side, allowing children into restaurants with their parents should bring more family customers into the restaurant but on the negative side, if the children misbehave or run around causing chaos then some customers will be put off spending time in the restaurant.

If you head to a child friendly restaurant such as the fast food giant McDonalds then you would expect children to be children and to be loud, excitable and bouncing around.

But what about if you run an upmarket, select restaurant with clientele who are looking for a quiet time to relax over a good quality meal and fine wines. Boisterous children could damage the image and banning children from the restaurant would be a bit extreme.

Antonio Ferrari, the owner of an upmarket restaurant in Padua, Italy has come up with a novel approach to encouraging good behaviour amongst the junior member of families visiting for a meal.

He has introduced a “polite children discount” which offers 5% off of the bill if children are well behaved.

The Times newspaper quoted Mr Ferrari saying “We are not set up for kids – we have no crèche, the spaces are tight, bottles can be knocked over and we have a clientele that spends a bit of money to be tranquil while eating well.”

Has it been a success?

Well, one thing’s for sure and the discount hasn’t been offered that often.

In the 6 months the scheme has been active, there have only been 3 occasions the polite children discount has been offered.

Goodbye tax advisors?

Do you know anyone who works in tax?

If by any chance you are in Australia then if I ask you this question in 5 years’ time, as a result of Ailira the answer may well be “no, as no-one works in tax”.

“Who is Ailira?” I hear you say.

Ailira is the brainchild of Adelaide based tax lawyer Adrian Cartland and stands for “Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Resource Assistant”.

Mr Cartland created Ailira to help people with their tax affairs and believes that she could eventually replace human tax agents.

He told the Australian Business Review that “Your tax agents will probably be gone within five years”.

What was interesting was that although to a certain extent Ailira functions like a search engine, you can ask it tax questions in the same way that you would ask a person who works in tax.

Mr Cartland said that “The one thing we had difficulty with is that people are so used to doing keyword searches that they struggle to ask a question as you would to another human.

“So we did some upgrades of Ailira’s interface to encourage people to treat Ailira like a human, more in plain English.”

That’s an interesting phase “plain English” as anyone who has worked in tax or studied tax will appreciate that it’s not always possible to explain tax in plain English as the tax laws can be pretty complex.

Still, good luck to Mr Cartland and importantly, good luck to Ailira who by the sound of things may well be doing a lot of work in the future.