Not the best day in the office for this lady…

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Winning the lottery is a life changing experience.

The recent Euromillions lottery had a first prize of £38 million.

In a lot of companies, groups of individuals get together to form a syndicate and they combine their money and enter into a lottery.

The idea is that by combining your money you have more entries and you’re more likely to win. To be honest though anyone with a basic understanding of maths will realise that the chances of winning are still infinitesimally small.

When colleagues from an organisation set up such a syndicate to enter the lottery it’s advisable to have a written record of what was agreed (for example what happens if someone is away and can’t pay their share of the lottery money).

A group of 13 bus drivers working for the Stagecoach company in the UK formed a lottery syndicate and agreed to put in £2 per week to enter the lottery.

Six months ago one of the syndicate, a lady by the name of Miss Loveday (or Miss Unlucky as she will soon no doubt become known) decided to withdraw from the syndicate as she reportedly couldn’t afford to pay the £2 to enter each week.

Fast forward to last week and the winning lottery numbers matched those chosen by the syndicate.

Their winnings? A rather pleasant £38 million which works out at over £3 million each.

Having withdrawn from the office syndicate 6 months ago Miss Loveday doesn’t get anything from the lottery win.

Now, we’ve all had bad days at the office but finding out that you’re not an instant multi millionaire because you stopped paying your weekly £2 entry fee 6 months ago probably ranks up there as being “a really bad day at the office”.

One of the winning drivers wasn’t overly sympathetic about her plight though as he was reported as saying “You’ve got to be in it to win it”.

The one piece of good news for the unlucky Miss Loveday is that she doesn’t have to listen to any of the winners celebrating their win as all of them resigned immediately from their £17,000 a year jobs and didn’t bother going into work the day after winning…

Would a pizza encourage you to get a vasectomy…

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Companies often offer incentives to encourage people to sign up for their products or services.

BOGOF is a term that’s well known in marketing circles.

It stands for “Buy One Get One Free” and as the phrase implies it is a sales promotion encouraging people to buy a product or service. If they pay for one they’ll get the other one free.

In a somewhat unusual approach to promoting a particular service, a doctor in Massachusetts in America is currently offering a free pizza with every vasectomy.

Now, call me old fashioned but the decision as to whether or not you get a vasectomy should in my opinion be driven by other factors other than the offer of a free Spicy Meat Feast Deep Pan Pizza.

Evan Cohen, the manager of Urology Associates who are offering the promotion was quoted as saying that March is the most popular month for vasectomy operations.

Apparently the Spring weather offers a more comfortable recovery period than other months and also for sports lovers March has what is known as “March Madness” when the NCAA’s college basketball tournament takes place. This tournament features 68 basketball games on television throughout the day and evening for most of March.

So, there you go. Who needs a BOGOF promotion as what better incentive can there be to have a vasectomy done that sitting at home with your feet up watching basketball and eating a free pizza??

The TV commercial by Urology Associates advertising the free pizza offer is below.

How would you start the biggest advertising agency in the world?

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What have the Olympics, The European Football Championships and the American presidential elections got in common?

Well, if you’re WPP, the world’s largest advertising and marketing group then they are all hopefully going to make it a bumper year for profits.

The WPP Group make a fascinating case study.

On Thursday they released their results for 2011 and they were pretty spectacular.

Pre tax profits in 2011 were 18% higher than the previous year and broke the £1 billion mark for the first time. Revenue also increased by a healthy 5% to exceed the £10 billion level.

2012 is also expected to be a good year for them as “high spending advertising events” such as the Olympics and the US presidential race are all taking place this year. 2013 could be more of a challenge for the company though as there aren’t any of these big spend events on the horizon.

So, WPP are the largest advertising group in the world in terms of revenue and they’ve got an interesting history.

The name WPP originates from “Wire and Plastic Products” which was a UK manufacturer of wire baskets and was nothing to do with advertising.

Back in the 1980s a gentleman by the name of Martin Sorrel (now Sir Martin Sorrel,) who was previously the Finance Director of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, was looking for a listed company to use as a vehicle through which to build a worldwide marketing services company.

He invested in the “Wire and Plastics Products” company but had no intention of owning a wire basket manufacturing company.

No, instead he used it as a vehicle to buy up companies in the advertising field to create a global powerhouse in terms of advertising groups

As the picture above shows, there are numerous brands within the current WPP group and these include some of the world’s largest firms in the areas of advertising such as JWT, Ogilvy Group and Young & Rubicam.

So, there you go. Buy a company that makes wire baskets and you could end up running the largest advertising agency group in the world.

CIMA and AICPA. Who made the first move?

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Life can be difficult if you’re a man. You fall in love and decide to get married. The challenge is that you have to ask the love of your life to get married and what happens if she says no?

It’s a leap year this year and today is the 29th February. This means that today is the day where tradition says that ladies can ask men if they would marry them.

Ignoring jokes about there being no men on the streets today as they are all hiding, what has all this got to do with the world of finance?

Well, what about CIMA and AICPA?

They have recently announced a joint venture or if we’re feeling romantic let’s call it a marriage.

They have launched the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation and I have to say that I think it makes a great joint venture marriage. They are both leading professional bodies and the marriage will increase the recognition of management accounting worldwide.

Further details of the marriage can be found at the CGMA website but with all this talk of wedding proposals it got me thinking about who made the first move in the relationship between CIMA and AICPA?

Who proposed to whom? Was it love at first sight? Was it a case of “I like you, do you like me?”

Whatever was the story behind the first signs of romance between the two bodies it was certainly more successful than the poor guy below.

Now, let me think. What can be more romantic than proposing in a shopping mall with your friend strumming away on his guitar…

Underwear: should you wear them or name yourself after them?

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Tonga is a beautiful island in the South Pacific. They have great beaches and lovely weather but what they don’t have are a lot of are icy mountains with toboggan runs.

That hasn’t stopped Tongan Bruno Banani from becoming a pretty successful luger and he recently entered the luge World Championships in Altenberg, Germany.

The interesting twist to this story though is that Bruno was born Fuahea Semi but then changed his name to Bruno Banini.

So why did he change his name?

Well it just so happens that Bruno Banini is also the name of a leading men’s underwear company in Germany and they sponsor Bruno (or Fuahea as he was originally known).

A classic guerrilla or ambush marketing stunt.

Change your name to that of your sponsor so that Bruno Banini (the underwear company) doesn’t have to pay for official sponsorship at events as they are hoping that Bruno Banini (the individual) will do well at an event and get lots of mentions in the press.

Bruno, or “Pants” as he’s probably known to his friends, is hoping to enter the 2014 winter Olympics in Russia and it raises some interesting challenges for the Olympic authorities as they want to avoid any ambush marketing.

Olympic Committee Vice President Thomas Bach was asked about Pants changing his name from Fuahea Semi to Bruno Banini and called it a “perverse marketing idea.”

An interesting challenge for the Olympics as if he has legally changed his name it will be difficult for them to block it.

On a different subject though I should mention that if anyone from Ferrari is reading this I am prepared to change my name to Red Ferrari…

Is it ok to fall asleep in the office?

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Have you ever felt the need to close your eyes for a few seconds at work? Maybe even for a few minutes? In fact, have you ever fallen asleep at work?

Now, whilst there may be occasions where people are working such long hours that they are physically exhausted and maybe grab a quick rest, there are also some people who are just, how can I put it, but plain lazy.

If you have lazy people working in your team there are various ways to deal with them. For example, setting clear targets and finding out what really motivates them.

Over in China though some senior employees at a tax office in the Shanxi province were told to attend video conference training on how to get rid of laziness in the office.

The aim of this training was to remind officials that they couldn’t play games or undertake other recreational activities at work.

Although this was a good idea in principle, in reality it didn’t prove to be particularly successful.

The training was by way of 2-way video conferencing and five of the senior level officials from the tax bureaux that attended the “laziness prevention video conference” were spotted either reading newspapers or sleeping.

Brilliant! You’re told to attend a conference on dealing with laziness and you then go and fall asleep during it.

The end result was that they were all suspended from their jobs.

Looking on the bright side though, being suspended from work will of course enable them to catch up with some sleep at home.

Is it better to be loyal or disloyal?

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We’ve all heard of the big coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee and with their growth over recent years it’s become more and more difficult for the smaller independent coffee shops to compete.

Over in Singapore though a novel approach to competing with these “coffee shop big boys” has just been introduced.

Lots of businesses have a “loyalty card” programme whereby people earn various points each time they spend money with a company. They can then use these points to buy various items with the company.

The giant Tesco supermarket chain for example has one of the largest loyalty card schemes in the UK whereby “Tesco points” can be used to purchase Tesco products. Most international airlines also have loyalty programmes such as Sky team and Star Alliance where the points earned can be exchanged for free flights.

Antic Studios, a creative agency in Singapore has just come up with a new concept and it’s a “disloyalty card”.

The aim is to help a group of 8 smaller independent coffee shops in Singapore develop.

The idea is that an individual picks up a disloyalty card at one of the independent coffee shops. If they then visit the other 7 independent shops they get their card stamped and can then return to the original coffee shop to claim their free drink.

It’s a novel way of smaller companies who are in effect in competition with each other joining together to create awareness of themselves and encouraging people to try them out instead of staying with the big guys.

Smaller competitors working together to create stronger competition against the big coffee chains – a nice idea and well worth discussing over a cup of coffee.

Does $300m mean bigger is better?

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Here’s an interesting development. MP3 players such as the iPod Nano are getting smaller and smaller but due to advances in technology the sounds that they emit are getting better and better.

Whilst music fans are appreciating the portability of the smaller MP3 players together with the flexibility of having quality music players on their phones there’s a trend at the moment of the headphones getting bigger and bigger.

It used to be bigger players and smaller headphones but now it’s the other way around.

As is often the case it’s the fashion conscious younger generation that are driving the change.

HMV, the UK chain of music shops where people used to flock to to buy the latest CDs has unsurprisingly seem a dramatic drop in sales of CDs as more and more people are now buying their music online via Apple iTunes for example.

There is some short term hope for HMV though at least in terms of their sales of headphones and it’s been reported that their sales from headphones and other technology will shortly exceed their sales of CDs and DVDs.

Now these headphones aren’t cheap. Some of the better known high end headphone brands such as Dr Dre go for in excess of £350. That’s quite a lot when you consider the iPod Nano that the headphones could be plugged into retails for less than £100.

Manufacturers have started to segment the market nicely for headphones with for example the Bob Marley Reggae inspired “House of Marley” headphone range recently being launched by Bob Marley’s son Julian.

So, what’s next on the horizon in the business world when it comes to headphones?

I mentioned one of the best known brands of headphones Dr Dre earlier and you’ve no doubt heard of HTC which offer very good Smartphones and are in competition to Apple and their iPhone.

Well, earlier this summer HTC paid $300 million for 51% of a US company called Beats Electronics. What’s the main brand that Beats Electronics has? Yep, none other than Dr Dre.

This could be quite a smart move by HTC.

They are building up their technology and design on the Smartphone side of things and by buying Dr Dre they are getting a sudden jump up in headphone technology.

Will this be the sweet sound of success for HTC?

The Big 4 don’t appear to be happy about this…

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We blogged earlier this year about Michel Barnier, the EU internal market commissioner announcing plans to issue new laws which would dramatically impact the “Big 4” (namely Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC.)

Well, these changes have now got a bit closer as the draft law has just been released.

In an attempt to reduce conflict of interest and to introduce more competition into the industry the main proposal of the draft law includes the requirement for the Big 4 firms to separate their auditing and consulting divisions in the EU.

This is a pretty big issue as in simple terms if the law becomes final it could prevent the Big 4 “audit firms” from providing any non audit related services such as consulting, providing tax advice or running training courses.

This could see a major restructuring of the audit profession.

Other provisions in the draft law include banks being banned from insisting that a company uses a Big 4 firm if they are to be lent money by the bank (at the moment a number of banks make it a requirement for a company to be audited by a Big 4 firm before they will release significant loans.)

There is also a proposed requirement for audit firms to be rotated every 6 to 12 years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Big 4 are reported to be against any changes to the current rules (after all as the saying goes, “how many turkeys would vote for Christmas?”).

I’m pretty sure though that the “mid tier group” of auditing firms that are below the Big 4 in terms of size such as BDO, Grant Thornton and Mazars would maybe take a different view to the Big 4 and be in favour of Mr Barnier’s views as this could open up a number of opportunities for them.

Before everyone that works at a Big 4 company starts rushing to rearrange the office furniture though it’s worth noting that the law at the moment is only draft and the EU states and the European Parliament have to provide the final sign off before the law becomes a reality.

Will passing your ACCA or CIMA exams make you slimmer?

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According to a report released yesterday by Eurostat, if you’re in the UK and you’re speaking to a woman then there is a 24% chance that she is obese (or to use less technical terminology, she is very fat).

At the other end of the “fat scale” are ladies from Romania who have the privilege of being the “slimmest nation” in the EU with only 7% of Romanian ladies being classified as obese.

So nearly 1 in 4 ladies in the UK are obese. From an environmental analysis point of view this increase in the number of fat people over recent years is a classic movement in the “Social” part of PESTEL analysis.

As well as having serious implications for the health of those individuals that are overweight the movement towards “fat nations” can have serious implications for businesses over the medium to long term.

In the private sector, Airlines for example will need to invest in bigger seats and spend more on fuel costs to move all this heavier weight around the world.

The public sector will also be impacted with for example hospitals needing to have stronger and bigger beds.

One interesting thing I noticed within the Eurostat report though was the following statement:

The share of obese persons also varies according to the educational level. For women, the pattern is again clear: the proportion of women who are obese falls as the educational level rises in all Member States.

Wow – this is interesting as surely it means that the cleverer you are, the less likely you are to be fat?

So does this means that all your hard work spent improving your educational levels by studying for ACCA and CIMA not only helps your career but also reduces your chances of being obese??

This must be an additional incentive for studying and it also provides a great excuse for any gentlemen that are reading this.

After all, if your wife or girlfriend happens to catch you looking at a slim lady then all you have to say is that you were simply “admiring her intellectual ability”…