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Published on: 26 Apr 2018
Some of you may have heard of the website Ashley Madison.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Ashley Madison, it’s a website where married people can register to meet other married people without their respective husband or wife knowing and then have an affair.
In fact, some of you may be registered members of the site (this does raise the question that if you are a registered member of Ashley Madison and are reading this business blog then at the moment you are finding business stories more interesting than having an affair so well done on that).
Ignoring the rights or wrongs of a website facilitating affairs, Ashley Madison has had an up and down ride over recent years.
Back in 2015, they were hacked. As a result the personal details of their users were leaked and there were a lot of users. When I say “a lot”, there were 32 million users.
The situation got worse for Ashley Madison though.
As well as their systems being hacked and details of who had signed up being leaked, it turned out that the vast majority of users were men and of the women who had signed up a significant proportion were Bots (i.e. a piece of software) or prostitutes.
All in all, not great selling points when trying to encourage new members.
In an attempt to build up trust (if trust is a relevant word for people looking for affairs that is…), Ashley Madison commissioned Ernst & Young to cast an eye over the membership data and see if it stood up to scrutiny.
There were some interesting results including the fact that 15,542 new members signed up each day in 2017 (that’s nearly half a million new users per month).
There were also more active women on the site than men. Globally, the ratio of active males to active females was 1 to 1.13 but there were variations on a regional basis ranging from Australia where the male to female ratio was 1 to 0.78 and Columbia where the ratio was 1 to 2.39.
Ernst & Young also reported that “The Client had used Bot programs to generate message activity with paying customers in prior years. The Bot programs were decommissioned in 2015 and our procedures related to calendar 2017 found no evidence that the use of Bot programs previously operated had been reinstated.”
So, in theory the registrations are human and there’s no danger of falling in love with a bot.
The full Ernst & Young report can be found at www.ashleymadison.com/2017report but I would be careful as if you’re viewing this on a computer at home and your husband or wife finds you’ve been visiting ashleymadison.com then there could be some difficult questions to answer.
Then again, if you start typing in the website and your web browser recognises it from a previous visit to that site then maybe…
Published on: 20 Apr 2018
If you’re a premier league footballer it’s kind of obvious that you’re going to make a lot of money.
Deloitte, the Big 4 accounting company, prepare annual reviews of the Premier League’s finances and has just released some figures from the 2016/17 season.
In total, Premier League footballers took home £2.5bn in wages. This was the highest figure on record and showed an increase of 9% on the previous season.
The increase in wages though was quite a bit lower than the increase in the clubs’ revenue.
Total revenue increased by nearly £1bn to £4.5bn in the 2016/17 season and this was also a new record.
Although revenue increased by a higher percentage than wages, the proportion of revenue spent on wages is still pretty significant with the wage to revenue ratio being 55%.
Collective pre-tax profit was also a new record high being £0.5bn. This was almost three times the previous record of £0.2bn from back in 2013/14.
Deloitte partner Dan Jones said “As predicted last year, the Premier League’s three year broadcast deals which came into effect in the 2016/17 season helped drive revenue to record levels.
“Despite wages increasing by 9% to £2.5bn, this increase is nowhere near the level of revenue growth noted. This relative restraint from Premier League clubs reflects both the extent of their financial advantage over other leagues and the impact of domestic and European cost control measures.”
The financial success was spread across all clubs with all 20 Premier League teams making an operating profit.
Deloitte’s full report on the Premier Leagues finances will be available in June.
Published on: 17 Apr 2018
We’ve all been there haven’t we? Long boring meetings that don’t seem to be going anywhere.
Maybe you’ve tried to give the impression of being interested in what was being said but in reality the meeting wasn’t relevant for you and your mind was wandering to other more interesting things.
Well, if you’re not a great lover of excessive meetings then you are not alone. In fact, you share the thoughts of an incredibly successful and admired business person. Namely, Elon Musk.
Mr Musk’s current business interests include Tesla and SpaceX.
In the past he founded x.com which later became PayPal. Paypal was subsequently bought by eBay for $1.5 billion.
He currently has a net worth in excess of $20 billion.
But what does he think about meetings?
In an email to his staff that was leaked to the electrek website there were a few productivity recommendations:
In the words of Mr Musk, these include:
– Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
– Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.
– Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.
– Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.
– Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the “chain of command”. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.
– A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.
– In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a “company rule” is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.
Nicely said Mr Musk.
Published on: 04 Apr 2018
Despite the growth of online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime it seems that we are still going to the cinema to watch movies.
Cineworld is the 2nd largest cinema chain in the world with 9,500 screens in 10 countries and they have just reported their latest financial results.
Sales increased by 12% to £891 million in 2017 and profits showed a healthy jump of 23% to reach £121 million.
It’s probably stating the obvious but the success of a cinema chain is largely driven by how good the films are. Cineworld said that their 2017 box office performance had been “underpinned by a strong film slate”.
In 2017 the top 3 films they showed were Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Dunkirk. Together, these 3 films grossed £197.4m for Cineworld.
If you compare this with their top three films in 2016 (Star Wars: Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Bridget Jones’s Baby) the figure was £149.4m.
A difference of nearly £50 million.
It’s not just the ticket price that brings in revenue for them though as movie goers buy a lot of popcorn and fizzy drink on their night out.
Almost 25% of their revenue in 2017 was from refreshments and this showed an increase of 11% on the previous year as it rose to £220 million.
I guess a key question for the business is whether the blockbuster films will continue in 2018 and whether people will still be filling themselves with popcorn and coke.
The company seems positive and are expecting the strong results to continue. With films such as Solo: A Star Wars Story and Jurassic World scheduled for this year and Minecraft: The Movie and Frozen 2 due in 2019 who would bet against them.
Published on: 22 Mar 2018
We’ve all made mistakes but the key thing is how you recover from those mistakes. ASOS, the global internet clothing company recently made a mistake but recovered from it really well.
ASOS is an incredibly successful company. They sell over 80,000 products on their website and last year had over 15 million active customers and sales of nearly £2 billion.
One thing they are not that good at though is using the spell check function as they printed 17,000 packaging bags with the slogan “discover fashion online” spelt using “onilne” instead of “online”.
Now, what would you have done in that situation?
Would you have ignored it and hoped that no one noticed or cared about it?
Would you have scrapped the bags?
ASOS did neither of those and recovered brilliantly by tweeting:
“Ok, so we *may* have printed 17,000 bags with a typo. We’re calling it a limited edition”.
So, depending on how you look at it you’ve either got a bag with a typo on it or a limited edition collector’s item.
A brilliant recovery by ASOS. Turning a typo into some great publicity.
Published on: 16 Mar 2018
Homelessness is a growing problem in a lot of countries but coffee company “Change Please” has come up with a brilliant business model that could help.
They’ve brought together the problem of homelessness with people’s love of coffee and have created a radically different coffee company that is now looking to expand around the globe.
Their whole focus is on helping people whilst at the same time providing an excellent cup of coffee to the end customer at a fair market price.
When it comes to suppliers, the coffee beans they use are from farms that support local communities. For example, one of their suppliers from Peru helps victims of domestic abuse and a supplier from Tanzania helps people injured by landmines.
Once the coffee beans arrive in the UK, the people who roast them and serve them are people who have been homeless and sleeping on the streets. They are trained as baristas and work at one of the company’s locations. They are paid the Living Wage of £10.20 per hour and are given help in terms of opening bank accounts and finding housing.
Whilst the big coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee are discussing introducing recyclable cups, Change Please has beaten them to it as all of their cups are 100% recyclable.
All profits are being invested in helping reduce the level of homelessness.
Things are going well for the organisation and they are planning on expanding the number of locations they operate from in the UK. They are also in talks to open in Australia and America with the same ethos of helping homeless people get back on their feet via a well and truly ethical cup of coffee.
They have also signed agreements with 2 big supermarkets, Sainsburys and Ocado, to stock packets of Change Please coffee beans.
It’s a common sound on the streets of cities in the UK to hear people asking if you have any “Change please”. With this fantastic business model for a coffee company, hopefully it will soon be a common sight to see the request for “Change please” replaced by coffee outlets called “Change Please”.
Published on: 07 Mar 2018
I guess a lot of us have been there – we stagger out of bed in the morning half asleep and get in the shower. Suddenly we start to have some great business ideas and wish we had a pen and piece of paper.
Now, if I’m entirely honest with you this has never happened to me and I doubt it ever will.
The thought usually going through my mind is more of wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit longer in bed rather than be in the shower getting ready for work.
It seems though that not everyone shares my lack of business enthusiasm in the shower.
Marriott hotels in the US undertook research which indicated that half of business travellers felt that their best ideas came whilst showering.
So why all this talk about showers and ideas?
Well, Marriott have turned some of their shower doors into digital notepads.
Yes, after the door steams up, guests can write their business ideas on it (or for that matter draw a rude picture of their boss if they wanted to) and then their completed creation will be emailed through to them.
In the words of Marriott, so that “their brilliance doesn’t wash away”.
I’m not convinced that I have too many moments of business brilliance in the shower but fair play to Marriott for coming up with a clever use of the shower door.
Published on: 28 Feb 2018
Have you ever exaggerated anything in your CV? My guess is that some of you may have exaggerated a teeny weeny little bit but I doubt if any of you have taken the exaggeration to the level that David Scott did.
In fact, it was far worse than an exaggeration as Judge Peter Armstrong called it “deliberate fraud” when he jailed Mr Scott for 12 months.
Mr Scott was hired as managing director of Mech-Tool, a UK engineering company after his CV contained several qualifications which he never actually obtained.
The made up 3 degrees from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and Imperial College London.
He put on his CV that he had a first-class honours degree in petroleum engineering and claimed he wrote a prestigious academic paper (as it turned out this paper was written by an American professor who had the same name as him).
On the basis of his outstanding CV he was given the job as managing director on a salary of £120,000 a year.
So far so good for Mr Scott but things started to go downhill for him pretty quickly as he was put in charge of two new multimillion-pound contracts in Kazakhstan and his colleagues found out pretty quickly that he didn’t have a clue when it came to petrochemicals.
The company’s strategy for the contracts in Kazakhstan was prepared by (you guessed it), Mr Scott. It was a disaster for them and they suffered financially as a result.
They took legal action against him on the basis that he had committed a fraud against them due to his false CV (far from having 3 degrees he in fact had no academic qualifications).
In summary, a valuable lesson for all.
12 months in jail for Mr Scott for the fraud and a financial loss for the company as a result of not checking out his CV properly.
Oh, and when it comes to your CV I wouldn’t worry too much about where you’ve exaggerated that your interests are listening to classical music and keeping fit rather than playing around on Facebook and eating fast food…
Published on: 21 Feb 2018
It will hardly come as a surprise to you but people aren’t sending as many postcards from holidays as they used to.
Back in 1997 about 70% of people in the UK who went on holiday sent a postcard home to family or friends. That figure has now fallen to 28%.
There are two main reasons for the reduction.
The first is the impact of the selfie generation and the increase in social media. People are posting pictures of themselves on sites such as Facebook or Instagram instead of sending a postcard. After all, why send a postcard of a generic view of the place you’re visiting when you can post a nice selfie of you on holiday on social media.
The second reason for the reduction is the change in the holiday habits of a lot of people. The rise of low cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryan Air has meant that people are taking more shorter breaks rather than an annual 2-week holiday.
If you’re on a short break of a few days why bother sending a postcard from a short break as you’ll be home before the post card arrives.
Unsurprisingly there have been some corporate casualties as a result.
J Salmon is Britain’s oldest publisher of postcards.
Actually, I should rephrase that and say that J Salmon was Britain’s oldest publisher of postcards as it recently stopped producing postcards.
The company has been run by the same family since 1800 but recently stopped producing postcards due to lack of demand.
At the moment the company is still trading and is selling diaries and calendars.
I wish them well but when you think about it, people stopped sending postcards because they could take photos on their phone and post them on social media.
The question is how many people keep their diaries and calendars on their phone?
Will diaries and calendars go the same way as postcards?
Published on: 09 Feb 2018
Businesses can pay significant amounts of money for celebrities to endorse their products.
For example, the American singer and actress Selena Gomez is reportedly paid USD 550,000 per post that she promotes to her 133 million Instagram followers. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese footballer on the other hand “only” receives USD 400,000 per promoted post to his 120 million followers.
But not everyone is happy for famous people to be associated with a product.
Charles de Cazanove is a Champagne house that was founded by Charles de Bigault de Cazanove way back in 1811.
The Cazanove brand is now owned by the GH Martel Group and they have launched their latest Champagne vintage in a promotion with Clara Morgane. The champagne is imaginatively called “Le Champagne by Clara Morgane” and sells for €50 a bottle.
So, do you know who Clara Morgan is?
If you don’t and you’re a lady then ask your husband or boyfriend if he knows who Clara Morgan is.
If he does know who she is then there is probably another question you should ask him as Ms Morgan is famous as an adult movie actress.
Although Ms Morgan now performs with her clothes on (she’s a singer), it’s not good enough for a descendant of the founder of the Cazanove brand.
Count Loic Chiroussot de Bigault de Cazanove, who apart from needing a very long business card, isn’t happy that his family’s name is being associated with an adult movie star.
He reportedly said that “I am truly shocked. It’s simply scandalous. How could anyone associate the name of my illustrious family to that of Clara Morgane? It’s inconceivable.”
Although the family sold the brand back in 1958, the Count has been reportedly getting lawyers to try to remove his family’s name from the Clara Morgane vintage.
Either way, with all this publicity I’m sure the GH Martel Group are drinking to the success…