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Laziness and intelligence.

Are you lazy? Do you know anyone who is lazy?

Whilst a lot of you won’t admit to being lazy (and I’m sure most of you aren’t in fact lazy!), some of you will know somebody who you feel is lazy.

Is it such a bad thing to be lazy though?

Perhaps not, as according to a study by scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University laziness could correlate with high intelligence.

The study found that people with a high IQ rarely got bored. As a result, they spent more time lost in thought. On the other hand, the study suggested that less intelligent people were more likely to be prone to boredom and consequently were more likely to do more physical activity.

The researchers worked with 2 types of students. The first group expressed a strong desire to think a lot whilst the second group were keen to avoid doing things which were mentally taxing.

The participants were then fitted with fitness trackers which monitored how much they exercised over a 7 day period. The study found that people who thought a lot were much less active than those individuals who avoided high-level thinking. Interestingly, this discrepancy in levels of activity only happened during the week and there was no difference during the weekend.

Before any of the lazy people out there start claiming that they are more intelligent, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the test was small and further tests will be needed to prove the correlation.

Would you stand for this?

Do you work in an office? Do you sit down at your desk most of the working day?

If you do, then it may be a good idea to ensure you stand up and move around a bit during the day.

Recent research has estimated that 1 in 9 deaths can be blamed on sitting down for at least 6 hours a day.

Let’s pause for a moment as that’s a shocking figure!

In the UK alone that would equate to thousands of people dying every year due to lack of movement and the cost to the National Health Service is estimated at £700 million annually.

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health estimated that 17% of diabetes, 5% of heart disease and 8% of lung cancer cases could be avoided with less sitting.

Leonie Heron from Queen’s University Belfast was the lead author of the study and said “You need to put your body under a little bit of stress to maintain a healthy heart and whole system”.

She went on to say that “It suggests that it is bad for our health how our working lives are structured for a lot of people. You can attenuate that risk by being more active in your leisure time, but it’s something employers can look at. Maybe they should be providing opportunities for employees to be active during the day, perhaps making sure people move every hour…or providing opportunities during lunch and coffee breaks.”

My guess is that a lot of you do sit down for at least 6 hours a day working at your computer. It’s probably a good idea therefore to remind yourself to get up and move a bit when you can as it will be good for your health.

Unless, that is of course, you’re getting up to walk out of the office to have a cigarette…

Superman helps hackers.

It’s a sign of the times that hackers are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses in people’s computer security systems.

Individuals can go a long way to making things more difficult for the hackers by ensuring they have up to date anti-virus software in place and that their passwords are good passwords.

But what is a good password?

Before answering that, let’s look at some bad passwords.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released a report on some of the most hacked passwords. They analysed hacked accounts where details were being sold by hackers.

In one year alone an astonishing 23 million people around the world with the password “123456” were hacked.

You should really hang your head in shame if your password is 123456 as it’s very easy to hack into.

OK, what about the name of your favourite football team as your password. Would that provide you with more protection?

Alas not as football team names are very common passwords.

Roughly 280,000 accounts were breached in a year with the password “Liverpool”. 

“Chelsea” and “Man-Utd” passwords were breached 216,000 and 59,000 times respectively.

Using the names of your favourite music artist also isn’t a good idea.

The most popular passwords using the names of music artists are “blink182” and “50cent” (these are probably popular as they satisfy the need to have letters and numbers in a password).

If you’re a fan of superheroes then avoid Superman, which was the most common superhero inspired password.

So, onto good passwords.

According to Ian Levy, the Technical Director of NCSC, “Using hard to guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”

There you go.

As easy as 123 or should that be, as easy as “123456”…

Exams for sale….

One of the five fundamental ethical principles is Integrity.

Being straightforward and honest is a vital characteristic of being a professional accountant.

Most people who are studying for their professional exams have one thing on their mind. Namely, to pass their exams but four students who were studying for their ACCA exams had other things on their minds and at the same time, were not the brightest individuals out there.

What they planned to do was to register for some Computer Based Exams (CBEs) and then whilst sitting the exams they would use their mobile phones to take photos of the computer screen showing the questions. They would then sell these photos with the questions on them via the internet.

The four individuals involved, Chen Yiyun, Hiujiao Ru, Zehui Gong and Ziying Wang decided to sell the questions on Taobao Marketplace, a Chinese shopping website.

They no doubt thought that this was an extremely clever way of making some money. What could possibly go wrong by taking photos of the questions and then selling them online?

One of the other fundamental ethical principles is that of Professional Competence.

Now, if these individuals had even a minuscule amount of Professional Competence, they would have reviewed the photos before selling them.

Alas for them they didn’t review them.

If they had reviewed them, they would have seen at the top of the computer screen in the photos their ACCA student registration number and the exam centre.

ACCA were made aware of the questions being for sale and made a test purchase on the Taobao Marketplace. Given the student registration numbers were on the screen, they didn’t need a team of top detectives to identify the individuals involved.

Unsurprisingly, the four individuals are now ex-students of ACCA having been found guilty of misconduct and they were ordered to pay costs ranging from £3,500 to £7,000.

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…

Remind me – what was I going to buy?

Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.

If this is the case then help may be at hand.

University researchers have suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.

Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.

Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.

In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.

This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”

So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.

That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…

(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).

Start walking…

Do you sit at a desk when you’re at work?

If you do, how long do you spend sat there before you get up to move around?

If you sit at your desk and work on your computer without moving around then I’ve for some unfortunate news for you because a sedentary lifestyle where you sit at your desk without moving around is bad for you.

Researchers at the University of Utah examined the health, exercise and nutrition records of over 3,000 Americans over a 3 year period and on average they spent 34 minutes sitting or lying down per hour whilst working.

Ignoring the question as to what were they doing lying down it will come as no surprise that the more time they spent on sedentary activities the more likely they were to die during the study.

Swapping sitting with standing up appeared to make no difference to the risk of death but what did make a difference was replacing 2 minutes sitting with 2 minutes of walking around

2 minutes of walking around per hour instead of sitting down reduced the risk of death by 33%.

So, the trick is to make sure you walk around for a couple of minutes an hour whilst at the office.

Of course, if those 2 minutes are spent walking to the vending machine to stock up on crisps and chocolate to eat at your desk there may not be that much of a benefit…

Standing up for productivity.

How would you feel if your chair was taken away from you at work? Probably not too happy I would guess.

A bit of research though may make your boss think otherwise.

Scientists from the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health installed “standing desks” in a call centre employing over 150 people. The standing desks could be adjusted so that the employee could work at them either sitting down or standing up.

Half of the employees were given sit–stand desks to use whilst the other half were given traditional sitting desks. The performance of the employees was recorded over a period of 6 months and the results were surprising.

Despite the employees who had the sit–stand desks only using the desks in the standing position for a third of the time, their productivity increased by 50%. Productivity was measured by the number of successful calls that the employee made to the clients with “successful” being defined as being when the company earned revenue from that call.

Each employee typically made in the region of 400 to 500 calls every month and the company wanted them to achieve on average 2 successful calls per hour. Those with the sit–stand desks achieved the target whilst those with the traditional seated desks averaged 1.5 successful calls per hour.

Dr Gregory Garrett from the centre was quoted as saying that “having the ability to move throughout the day really makes a big difference”.

So, is it time to introduce standing chairs in your office?

Best to take it back…

Most of you have probably had an interview. In fact, some of you may have had a number of interviews but a boss of one of the top companies in Australia has recently disclosed a pretty unusual way of deciding who not to offer a job to.

Trent Innes, who heads up Xero in Australia said that he will greet the person when he or she arrives for the interview and then take them to the kitchen to offer them a drink before heading to the meeting room with the drink. Even if they aren’t tea or coffee drinkers they will generally walk away with a glass of water.

He explained in the Venture Podcast with Lambros Photios that after taking the drink back for the interview “one of the things I’m always looking for at the end of the interview is, does the person doing the interview want to take that empty cup back to the kitchen?”

He explained that what “I was trying to find was what was the lowest level task I could find that regardless of what you did inside the organisation was still super important that would actually really drive a culture of ownership.”

He went on to say, “You can develop skills, you can gain knowledge and experience but it really does come down to attitude, and the attitude that we talk a lot about is the concept of ‘wash your own coffee cup’.”

That’s quite a smart move by Mr Innes as he said that attitude was the most important trait he looked for when hiring people.

He said that “Especially in a fast growth company or a start-up environment or scale up environment – you need people with a really strong growth mindset and that comes back to their attitude.”

So, how many interviewees do you think offered to take their cups back?

Perhaps surprisingly, the number of people who offered to take their cup back to the kitchen was pretty high. According to Mr Innes only 5 to 10 per cent of the interviewees didn’t offer to return their empty coffee cup back to the kitchen.

So there you go. If you’re attending an interview and you go to the kitchen with the boss to get a drink, it’s probably a good idea to offer to take the cup back.

An unexpected ending…

A lot of you may have been on business trips but I bet your trip wasn’t as exciting (and tragic) as this gentlemen’s trip was.

What was also surprising was that his employer was found liable for his death as it was classified as an industrial accident.

The exact cause of death was a cardiac arrest whilst he was having sex with a stranger he had met on the business trip.

Now, whilst having a heart attack during sex with a stranger probably wouldn’t meet most people’s definition of an “industrial accident” a French court found otherwise. The court stated that the employer was responsible for any accident occurring during a business trip and ruled that his family were entitled to compensation.

The man who died on the job, named as Xavier X, was working as an engineer for TSO, a railway services company based near Paris and his employer had perhaps quite reasonably argued that he was not carrying out professional duties when he got into an extra marital relationship with a total stranger in his hotel room.

This opinion though wasn’t accepted by the court and they upheld the view that sexual activity was normal, “like taking a shower or a meal”.

As a result of it being classified as a normal activity on a business trip, the death was considered to be an industrial accident and under French law, partners or children of industrial accident victims receive up to 80 per cent of their salary until what would have been the person’s retirement age, with pension contributions paid from then on.

Should you employ good looking people?

Should you employ good-looking people or not so good-looking people?

Whilst the obvious answer would appear to be that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like as long as they can do their job properly, researchers in Japan have found out that the attractiveness of an employee can have an impact on the sales of a business.

Interestingly though, it’s probably not the correlation most people would think applies.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied retail sales in shops and found that the more attractive the shop assistants of the opposite sex were, the lower the sales were. The researchers found that male shoppers were less likely to go into the shop if the more attractive woman in the research study was serving.

Even if they entered the shop with the attractive shop assistant in it, only 40% of them bought something. This compared to 56% who purchased something when a less attractive assistant was serving.

Lisa Wan of the University said “attractive service providers can lead consumers to become self-conscious or embarrassed. This is especially true when the provider is of the opposite sex. Even when the attractive salesperson is the same sex, consumers may feel a sense of inadequacy through self-comparison.

In either case, the shopper may avoid interacting with physically attractive providers, rendering the salespeople ineffective”.

It’s worth mentioning though that the scientists undertaking the research were monitoring a shop selling figures from Japanese comics and the male shoppers were obsessed with computers.

“Male shoppers obsessed with computers” – surely they would only notice the female shop assistant if she was holding a computer?

Wave hello to a discount

The accountants amongst you will be well aware of the different methods of setting the price of a product or service.

Going rate, cost-plus and perceived value are all fairly common but what about basing the price of your service on the size of ocean waves?

This month, Alaska Airlines have segmented the market nicely and are targeting surfers by offering discounts on flights to Hawaii. These discounts are based on the forecast size of the waves which they hope the surfers will soon be surfing.

They have teamed up with surfline.com who forecast the size of the waves and the higher the forecast waves, the higher the discount.

The discounts start off at 10% for waves up to 10ft (3m) and go to a maximum of 30% for waves above 21ft (6.4m)

All in all, a nice way to target surfers

You can’t McFlurry Love

Until recently, Steve Easterbrook was the boss of McDonalds. He had been with them for a long time having started working for them back in 1993 as a manager in London.

Mr Easterbrook no doubt had a lot of affection for the company he ran but it turned out that he also had a lot of affection for a colleague as he had started dating a lady who also worked for McDonalds.

Although the relationship with his colleague was consensual, it didn’t go down too well with McDonalds.

According to the company, Mr Easterbrook had “violated company policy” and shown “poor judgement” (by “poor judgement” I assume that refers to him having the relationship rather than the choice of who he had the relationship with).

Now, whilst some people may say that it was a consensual relationship between two adults so let them get on with it, the key thing here is that it was against company policy and the two people involved had agreed to the company policy when they joined the firm so it’s a straight forward case of a breach of that policy.

More and more companies are having either outright bans on any relationships or are requiring individuals to disclose any relationships (I’m not a legal expert here but it does raise some interesting questions as to what is the definition of a relationship and how quickly after reaching that definition you need to notify your employer – is it minutes, hours, days…).

Mr Easterbrook won’t be short of funds to carry on wining and dining his new love as the termination package is pretty significant. He earned nearly $16m last year and will receive 26 weeks of pay on his departure.

Bloomberg estimate that his total leaving package which includes previously granted shares will be in excess of $37m.

That should buy a few romantic meals at Burger King for the two love birds.

Would you do this for a bit of chocolate?

What’s one way of increasing the chances of getting hold of someone’s password?

Does it involve the use of the very latest supercomputer? Does it involve some clever IT geeks hacking into a computer for you?

Or does it involve chocolate?

A bit of research published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour attempted to find out how people are obligated by the kindness of others. Or in other words, if someone does something nice for a person, how likely is it that the person will be nice back to them?

The researchers in Luxembourg conducted a survey of random people in the street asking them about internet security including questions about passwords.

Some of the people interviewed were given chocolate and some weren’t.

30% of those that were not given chocolate revealed their passwords which to me is a surprisingly high percentage and just goes to show that quite often human stupidity is the weakest link in internet security.

For the people who were given chocolate at the beginning of the interview the figure rose to 44% and if the chocolate was given just before the question on passwords was asked an incredible 48% gave their passwords! Yes, nearly half of the people asked their passwords as part of a survey told a complete stranger their password if they had been given chocolate.

Andre Melzer, the author of the study said that “when someone does something nice for us we automatically feel obliged to return the favour”.

So, in conclusion, if someone walks up to you in the office and offers you a piece of chocolate be careful what you say…

You’re fired…

How many CEOs of top global companies were replaced last year?

Well, the answer may surprise you and what also may surprise you is the reason they lost their job.

PwC have been keeping track of the movements of the CEOs of the largest 2,500 global publicly listed companies since 2000 and the most recent data for 2018 has been released and it shows some interesting things.

In 2018 the number of departures of CEOs reached a record level with nearly 18% being replaced (up from 12% in 2010).

It was the reason for their departure though which raised some eyebrows.

CEOs can leave their jobs for a variety of reason and PwC categorised the reasons as planned (e.g. they were due to retire), forced (e.g. they did something a bit “naughty”) or M&A (e.g. they were no longer needed due to a merger or acquisition).

The latest split showed the 18% of departures as:

Planned – 12.0%

Forced – 3.6%

M&A – 2.0%

Digging a bit deeper though into the forced departures shows some worrying reasons.

Historically the main reason CEOs were forced out was due to poor results but for the first time the largest group of CEOs forced out was due to integrity reasons.

In 2018, 39% of those forced out were due to integrity reasons. Ten years ago in 2008 the corresponding figure was only 10%.

These integrity issues could include scandals such as improper conduct, fraud, bribery, insider trading, environmental disasters, misleading CVs, and sexual indiscretions, according to PwC.

So, in summary more CEOs are being fired and the main reason is integrity issues.

All in all, a pretty poor performance…

Dog seized to pay tax bill…

It’s always best to keep up to date with your tax affairs. Although most people don’t enjoy paying their taxes, it’s the law and if you don’t pay there can be serious consequences.

Over in Germany reports have emerged that make it fairly clear that you don’t mess with the German authorities when it comes to taxes.

An unnamed lady was behind in paying her taxes.

The authorities sent a debt collector around to collect whatever assets the family had to settle the tax liability.

According to the lady in question, two valuable items were identified.

One was the wheelchair of her paraplegic husband. Now, before even getting into the rights and wrongs of taking a disabled person’s wheelchair to settle debts, luckily for the family it was not an issue as it turned out that it was owned by a local association and was not the property of the family so the debt collectors couldn’t take it.

The authorities though have denied they tried to take the wheelchair and a spokesman said “Mobility aids for the disabled are absolutely exempt from being seized as collateral.”

One item though which was not exempt from being seized was the family pet.

Alas for Edda, the family dog, she was taken by the debt collector.

Edda is a pug and they are a pretty fashionable dog breed at the moment and the debt collector took the dog as settlement for the debt.

Edda was then listed on eBay and was sold to Michaela Jordan, a local police officer for €750 (approx. £650).

There’s a twist in the “tail” though in that the new owner has now sued the local authorities who sold Edda as apparently, she was advertised as being a healthy dog but has required veterinary treatment costing approximately €1,800.

We wish Edda well.

Would you send a selfie of your legs for a bonus?

I’m all for equal rights in the workplace. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is or your religious preferences. The only thing that does matter is whether or not you can do your job.

Not everyone shares the same view though and in Russia, aluminium manufacturing company Tatprof is offering a bonus to its female employees if they wear a skirt and makeup.

Oh, and to get the bonus they have to send a selfie of them showing their legs and make up to their (mostly male) bosses.

The bonus is 100 Russian Rubles (approx. £1.25) and it’s been reported that 60 people have so far sent in selfies to get the bonus.

Some may say that there are 2 sides to the argument.

The first, and probably most obvious, is that this is a step backwards in the workplace. A person should be judged by their ability to do their job rather than what their legs and make up look like. It’s 2019 for goodness sake and not the 1950s.

A counter argument though was put forward by Anasasia Kirillova, who works for the company’s department of corporate culture and internal communications who said that “Many women automatically put on trousers, so we hope that [the campaign] will increase our ladies’ awareness, allowing them to feel their femininity and charm when they make the choice of wearing a skirt or dress”.

It seems the message is coming from the top of the company.

According to Ms Kirillova, Tatprof’s male CEO Sergei Rachkov “really wants to maintain the female essence in every female employee of the company, so that young women do not have male haircuts, do not change into trousers, so that they engage themselves in handicraft, project all their warmth into raising children”.

Now, I’m personally not convinced by this counter argument but what about opening up the bonus option to everyone in the company?

What about offering the bonus to men as well as women who send a selfie of themselves wearing a skirt?

Causing a bit of a stink…

There’s no room in the modern workplace for bullying and intimidating work colleagues.

Companies should have anti bullying practices in place and in most countries around the world there are laws to protect people who are being bullied.

The Oxford dictionary defines bullying as seeking to “harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable” but in some situations it’s difficult to decide whether or not an activity is actually bullying.

Over in Australia a worker claimed that he was bullied by a colleague who repeatedly broke wind at him.

David Hingst claimed that his ex-colleague Greg Short would “lift his bum and fart” on him up to 6 times a day.

Mr Hingst didn’t take this well and sued his former employer for A$1.8m (nearly £1m).

Now, let’s pause here for a moment and hold our breath.

Bullying in the workplace is clearly wrong but claiming damages of nearly £1 million when somebody breaks wind in front of you does seem a bit steep.

Mr Hingst was adamant though and last year took his case to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The Court found that there was no bullying.

Mr Hingst didn’t agree with the decision and appealed against it and last week the appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Hingst reportedly told the Australian Associated Press that “I would be sitting with my face to the wall and he would come into the room, which was small and had no windows. He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day”.

Mr Short, the alleged perpetrator of this “crime” had said that he may “have done it once or twice” but denied doing it with the intention of distressing or harassing Mr Hingst.

Alas for Mr Hingst, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and found there was no bullying.

Mr Hingst though isn’t taking this sitting down and reportedly has said that he plans to appeal to the High Court.

Nicely said Mr Musk

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.

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.

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%).

It’s maturing nicely…

“Don’t worry, it’s secured with cheese” isn’t the most common phrase you hear when discussing the bond markets but a €6 million bond issue may well change that.

When a company issues a bond, the investor is lending money to that company in exchange for the bond. When the bond matures the company will repay the money that was lent (together with interest).

If you put yourself in the shoes of the investor, then what type of company would you invest in?

The chances are that you would be looking for large, well established and financially secure companies to invest in. That means that smaller companies generally find it challenging to raise funds via bonds.

An Italian cheese manufacturer has found a novel way around this problem.

4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia is a relatively small Modena based cooperative firm which produces 75,000 wheels of Parmigiano cheese annually (nearly 2% of the world production of the famous cheese). It has issued a €6 million bond offering an annual yield of 5% with the capital being repaid in 5 annual amounts starting in 2018 and ending in 2022. The funds raised will be used to support their commercial expansion plans.

The interesting thing about the bond issue though is that it is secured by Parmigiano cheese worth 120% of the bond value. This means that if the company fails to repay the money the investors can get Parmigiano cheese from the company.

€7.2 million worth of cheese – that’s a lot of cheese! Let’s hope the bond matures nicely without any problems.

Would you do this for a bit of chocolate?

What’s one way of increasing the chances of getting hold of someone’s password?

Does it involve the use of the very latest supercomputer? Does it involve some clever IT geeks hacking into a computer for you?

Or does it involve chocolate?

A recent bit of research published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour attempted to find out how people are obligated by the kindness of others. Or in other words, if someone does something nice for a person, how likely is it that the person will be nice back to them?

The researchers in Luxembourg conducted a survey of random people in the street asking them about internet security including questions about passwords.

Some of the people interviewed were given chocolate and some weren’t.

30% of those that were not given chocolate revealed their passwords which to me is a surprisingly high percentage and just goes to show that quite often human stupidity is the weakest link in internet security.

For the people who were given chocolate at the beginning of the interview the figure rose to 44% and if the chocolate was given just before the question on passwords was asked an incredible 48% gave their passwords! Yes, nearly half of the people asked their passwords as part of a survey told a complete stranger their password if they had been given chocolate.

Andre Melzer, the author of the study said that “when someone does something nice for us we automatically feel obliged to return the favour”.

So, in conclusion, if someone walks up to you in the office and offers you a piece of chocolate be careful what you say…

Is this the best time to leave the office?

When do you think it is a good time to leave the office on a Friday night? After all, if the sun is shining and you’ve got a nice weekend planned it would be good to be able to finish at a reasonable time.

In some jobs though there can be pressure to finish projects which legitimately means that you’ll have to stay late to meet the deadline.

In other companies though there can be a culture of staying late as there’s “always something to do” and never enough time to do it all or there can be pressure to stay late to “prove” that you are busy and working hard.

As an aside, when I was younger I used to work with a colleague who would bring in a spare jacket to leave on the back of his chair when he left the office at the end of the day – his boss would see the jacket on the chair together with an open file on the desk and the screensaver active on his computer and think he was still working hard and in a meeting somewhere else in the office.

Back to 2016 though and Credit Suisse, the leading investment bank, has introduced a new policy called “protecting Friday nights”.

In an email leaked to Reuters, Credit Suisse said it would be ordering all employees to stop working at 7pm on Fridays.

Marisa Drew, co-head of banking and capital markets in London reportedly told workers that she “had given a great deal of thought into how we can provide some time off for our bankers”. Ms Drew went on to say that this would allow “employees to make firm plans with family and friends and ensure that this time will be respected”.

So, good news for Credit Suisse employees as (unless they are working on a deal) they have to leave the office by 7pm on Friday.

When do they have to be back in the office though? Well, they have been told that they cannot go back to the office until midday on Saturday.

Yes, a whole 17 hours to relax, see the family and get some sleep…

Thank you 200,000 times from ExP…

WOW – thank you so much. We’re celebrating 200,000 fans on Facebook so a big, big, big thank you to all of you that follow us on Facebook – it’s much appreciated!

Whether you attend one of our classroom courses, our online courses or access our free courses on our website thank you so much for your trust in us and we hope we’ve helped you in your professional development.

Thanks again from all of us here at The ExP Group.

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…

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?

No personal deliveries to the office please.

If you wanted to buy clothes 10 years ago the chances are that you would have purchased them in a shop. Nowadays though things have changed and in a lot of countries internet shopping is incredibly popular.

After all, why travel to the shops, try to find somewhere to park and then purchase your items when instead you can order the items in the comfort of your own home and they can be delivered to you the next day.

One challenge though is the delivery the next day as where will you get your shopping delivered? If you’re at work you don’t want your shopping delivered at home as you’re not there. The obvious solution is to get your internet order delivered to your office.

Well, if you thought that getting your internet shopping delivered at work was a good idea then you are not alone. According to the office for National Statistics in the UK, 75% of Britains have brought at least one item online during the last year and a lot of them are getting their shopping delivered to the office.

That’s great news for the companies that are selling online (more sales means more revenue), great for the buyer (items delivered to the office so no waiting at home for the postman) but it’s not so great for the employers.

The cost and security implications for handling all the personal parcels delivered to offices have caused a number of firms to tell their employees to stop having personal items delivered to the office.

In Canary Wharf, the east London financial centre, there were reportedly more than 130,000 parcels delivered in the last year alone. One Canada Square (the main office building in Canary Wharf) has over 11,000 deliveries per month with an estimated 30% of these being private parcels.

The extra cost of receiving, storing and security testing these parcels has resulted in a number of companies telling their staff not to have personal parcels delivered to the office. HSBC, Citigroup and JP Morgan have all now instructed their employees not to have personal parcels delivered.

Is this a good move in that it helps keep control of costs and minimize security risks or is it a bad move in that it could demotivate staff?

Only time will tell but one thing for sure is that other organisations are not standing still.

Doddle, which is a collection service where parcels can be delivered and people can pick them up has recently opened a depot at Canary Wharf. My guess is that they will soon have plenty of people picking up their parcels which can no longer be delivered to the office.

Dancing towards a big mistake.

When you’re at work it’s always worth taking a step back and doing a reality check every now and then to check that everything is ok.

Steve Pallet, a Jersey politician is no doubt a busy man but he should have taken a step back to review things a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier this month, in what was probably one of the simpler tasks on his to-do list, he needed to fly from the UK to Bucharest, the capital of Romania to be present at the handover of the Dance World Cup.

This year’s Dance World Cup took place in Bucharest where nearly 3,000 competitors from 32 countries took place in the annual dance event.

Jersey is hosting next year’s Dance World Cup and Mr Pallet was flying to Bucharest to attend the official handover where he was due to make a speech and receive a special flag from his Romanian hosts marking the fact that Jersey will be hosting the next World Cup.

You’re probably thinking that there’s nothing particularly difficult about flying from one country to another to give a short speech, receive a flag, shake a few hands and no doubt have a nice meal and a couple of drinks.

Whilst most people would probably agree with the assumption that it was a fairly simple exercise, Mr Pallet decided to prove everyone wrong. Instead of flying to Bucharest in Romania he flew to Budapest, the capital of Hungary which is about 500 miles (800 km) short of where he should have been.

Mr Pallet only realised his mistake as his plane was coming in to land in Budapest. It was too late for him to arrange transport from Budapest to Bucharest and as a result he was unable to accept the official handover of the World Cup flag.

When the news of his error broke he pointed out that the flight booking had been made by a colleague of his but this isn’t really a particularly good excuse as it was him personally who got on a plane flying to the capital of Hungary expecting to land in Romania.

He did apologise though and said “It is really disappointing, I have to apologise for wasting taxpayers’ money and for letting down the Dance World Cup. I don’t know the exact cost as I’ve still got some figures to come back, but it won’t be less than £1,000. All I can do is apologise for what is a schoolboy error.”

He mentioned it was a “schoolboy error” but given Mr Pallet’s geographical knowledge (or rather, his lack of geographical knowledge), then I guess he probably made plenty of schoolboy errors in his geography lessons at school.

Not the brightest individual.

Be honest now – have you ever thought that it would be nice to be able to cheat in your exams and get away with it? Have you ever thought it would be great to be able to pass your exams with ease without putting in any real effort?

blog-exam-cheat-man-275x275Well, if the thought has crossed your mind you are not the only one. The girlfriend of Ayan Zhademov thought it would be a good idea to cheat in her exams and she managed to persuade 20 year old Mr Zhademov to help her cheat.

Unfortunately for the lady (but fortunately for all the hard-working honest students who were sitting the exam) the plan wasn’t the smartest and her boyfriend didn’t look much like a woman.

“Didn’t look much like a woman” – why does it matter whether or not he looked like a woman I hear you say?

Well, the plan was for Mr Zhademov to pretend that he was his girlfriend and to sit her exam for her.

When the day of the exam came around, he wore her clothes together with a wig and lots of make-up.

It was reported that despite his efforts to dress up as a woman he simply look like a man wearing a dress and make-up which had been put on badly. The exam invigilators noticed something was wrong and became even more suspicious when he spoke as he had an extremely deep manly voice.

The end result was that he was caught out, his girlfriend failed her exam and he was fined £1,400.

The morale of the story is that it doesn’t pay to cheat and no matter how tempting it may appear to be, just don’t do it. Not even if your girlfriend or boyfriend is a genius and looks exactly like you.

Is this the most expensive typo in history?

We’ve all made typos in the past but I bet your typo wasn’t as expensive as this one.

Typos, where you misspell a word or put in a wrong word by mistake, are fairly common. This particular typo though was incredibly costly as it resulted in a company going out of business, 250 people losing their jobs and the government having to pay £9 million in compensation.

business closingBack in 2009 Mr Davison-Sebry, the MD and co-owner of Taylor and Sons Ltd was enjoying a holiday in the Maldives when he received a phone call asking why his company had gone into receivership.

Receivership is very often the first stage of a company going out of business. It typically occurs when a company is suffering financial difficulties and an independent “receiver” is called in to run the company instead of the directors.

Taylor & Sons Ltd was a successful company. It had been established back in 1875 and was doing very well so why the call to the MD asking why his company had gone into receivership?

Well it turns out that Companies House (the organisation in the UK that publishes official notices about companies) had issued a notice saying that Taylor & Sons Ltd had gone into receivership.

Unfortunately for all of the people involved with Taylor & Sons Ltd, it was a typo by Companies House and the company that had actually gone into receivership was Taylor & Son Ltd and not Taylor & Sons Ltd.

Companies House rectified their “one letter mistake” within a few days but it was too late. There was a snowball effect as one supplier after another heard about it and despite being told that Taylor & Sons Ltd was financially secure, they terminated the orders and cancelled the credit agreements.

Within 3 weeks all of the company’s 3,000 suppliers had cancelled agreements and would not supply the company anymore.

The end result was that Taylor & Sons Ltd lost all of their suppliers and as a result couldn’t produce anything for their customers so they ended up going out of business.

The end of a 140 year-old company and all due to a one letter type.

The directors were understandably unhappy about this and took Companies House to court where they were recently successful in their case and won nearly £9 million in damages.

That was probably the most expensive one letter typo in history.

Will you do this when you are 90?

As an education technology company we’re supporters of people who are keen to learn. Priscilla Sitienei ranks high up the list of people that we admire in terms of determination to obtain new knowledge.

And what makes Priscilla so special?

old studentWell, what makes her very special is that she is 90 years old and attends primary school together with six of her great-great-grandchildren.

Priscilla lives in Kenya and is believed to be the oldest person in the world attending primary school and if I’m honest I can’t imagine many other people older than her heading off to to school every day.

She missed out on going to school when she was younger as she got married young, raised 10 children and then worked 65 years as a midwife.

Interestingly, her job as a midwife involved delivering some of her schoolmates who are now aged between 10 and 14.

She’s living proof though that you’re never too old to chase your dream and 5 years ago enrolled in the Leaders Vision Preparatory School.

She recently told the BBC:

“I also want to inspire children to get an education… Too many older children are not in school. They even have children themselves…. I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just going round and round, hopeless. I want to inspire them to go to school.”

You certainly are an inspiration Priscilla.

[Image of Priscilla via BBC]

Probably not a good idea to do this before an interview.

Interviews can be stressful occasions. The best you can do though is to be as prepared as possible, be confident and answer questions as well as you can.

Unfortunately for this particular individual though, no matter how well he performed in the interview he was never going to get the job.

tube stationMatt Buckland was on the tube in London heading to the office. Anyone that has been on the tube in rush hour will know that it gets very crowded but generally people can get in and out of the train without too much drama.

Matt got to his station and was waiting for the doors to open to get off the train when a gentleman behind him started pushing and trying to get past him.

Matt politely told the other individual that he was getting off at that station but the other guy just ignored him, pushed him out of the way and then turned to him and rather aggressively told him to, how can I say it, but perform an act on himself which as far as my understanding of biology goes would be physically impossible.

Anyway, the grumpy individual carried on his way and Matt headed into the office where he was due to interview some people for a job.

In a fantastic coincidence, one of the people that Matt was interviewing that day was the grumpy guy who had told him to “go forth and multiply with himself” on the tube.

Brilliant! A rude person pushes past you and swears at you but you then meet them again a short while later to decide whether or not they should be offered a job at the company you work for.

Needless to say the individual didn’t get the job and as a learning point from this it’s best not to be rude to too many people on the way to an interview.

A pretty unusual team meeting for all to see.

Professionalism and confidentiality are two important features which should be present in today’s business environment.

Unfortunately for two individuals working at Marsh Insurance in New Zealand they undertook some activity in the office which was neither professional nor confidential.

cheeringA married manager in his 40s was working late with a junior colleague in her 20s when one thing led to another and before you could say “how do we record this on the timesheets” they were getting down to let’s just say some “activities which would be difficult to record on a timesheet”.

Whilst people having relationships with colleagues in the office maybe isn’t that unusual, what was unusual about this situation was what they got up to and also that they left the lights on and the blinds in the office were open.

This, together with the fact that the Marsh offices were directly opposite the Carlton Bar and Eatery which at the time of the “short term intimate team building exercise” was hosting a live band playing a concert with over 50 people in attendance.

This meant that the “teambuilding exercise” was viewed by all of the people in the pub with a number of them filming the action and subsequently posting it on facebook and YouTube.

Despite the cheers and encouragement from the pub the two office workers didn’t notice that their indiscretions were on view for all to see. When they finished the “teambuilding” the band in the pub across the road even struck up a rendition of King’s of Leon hit “Sex on Fire” but the couple were still unaware that their indiscretions had been recorded and proceeded to get dressed and head out of the office back home to their respective partners / homes.

With the viral power of the internet, word soon got around and my guess is that there was a fair amount of explaining needed both at home and in the office regarding their professionalism at the office.

It’s not been reported what the colleague whose desk was used for the “teambuilding” thought of the matter.

Your phone – a communication or translation device?

English is often considered to be the international language of business.

Whilst you’re (or is that your?) not expected to speak 100% perfect English to pass your professional exams you are however expected to be able to understand English to such a level that you can effectively communicate business concepts to other business professionals around the world.

professional examsThe global professional bodies such as ACCA and CIMA are certainly international. ACCA for example has over 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 173 countries and it’s a fair guess that the majority of ACCA students and members speak another language other than English as their first language.

Whilst the number of English speakers in the world has been steadily increasing there is an interesting debate as to whether technology will result in fewer people speaking English and instead other languages taking off.

Most of us have heard of or used Google translate which translates written text from one language to another on the internet but Skype has recently announced a novel approach to translation.

Skype offers VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calls and enables people to speak to each other free of charge over the internet.

They have just announced a beta version (a test version) of Skype which will provide near instantaneous VOICE translation between Spanish and English.

In other words, I can call a Spanish friend who doesn’t speak English, I speak in English on Skype and my Spanish friend will hear the words in Spanish rather than English.

Ignoring the question of how we became friends if neither of us speaks the other person’s language, this is a pretty impressive bit of technology.

Whilst it is still very much a test version and a lot of the initial calls may well be translating English and Spanish swear words, there are some interesting potential uses in the not too distant future.

Will we for example all have our own mini voice translation device with us in 10 years which will enable us to understand 50 different languages (or swear in 50 different languages)?

Will some lesser spoken languages become more popular than they are now?

Only time will tell or should that be only technology will tell?

Would you dress like this in the office?

As the end of the year approaches, it’s common in a number of offices to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well in the year just gone.

The bosses of the Australian Tax service will have an interesting bit of reflecting to do.

office wearSome of the 23,000 Australian tax office workers were reportedly sent a memo by taxation service delivery chief Robert Ravanello telling them that there were too many “street casual outfits” being worn and too much “bare flesh” was on display.

Mr Ravenello told his staff that some of them were “dressing too casually or immodestly, therefore impacting on the perceptions of the professionalism of the Australian Tax Office (ATO)”.

He went on to say that items of clothing including thongs, board shorts and revealing attire were inappropriate for the ATO workplace.

Now before some of you get alarmed that people are walking around in thongs in the tax office it’s worth pointing out that in Australia the word “thongs” refers to flip-flops (sandals) and not underwear.

While some people would argue it doesn’t matter what you wear in the office of long as you can do your job properly and that tax is exciting enough without all this showing off of “bare flesh”, I guess the key message is that you should dress professionally and appropriately for wherever you work.

All of this is interesting but if you are like me and are based in Europe where its currently winter I think it’s unlikely I’ll be walking around in board shorts, showing off bare flesh and looking out the office window in my thongs (whether they are on my feet or around my waist).

The team here at ExP are now heading off on our Christmas break and so on behalf of everyone here at ExP I’d like to thank all of you that read our blog and especially those of you that have got in touch with your kind words and comments.

Thank you also if you’re one of our 125,000 Facebook fans and have a great festive season and we’ll be back blogging in January 2015.

This idea by Levis is certainly a good fit.

The first pair of blue jeans to be made in the world were made by Levi Strauss in 1873.

levi jeansSince then, the company Levi Strauss has gone on to sell millions of pairs of jeans and their turnover last year was $4.6 billion.

Interestingly the shares of the company are not publicly traded as the company is a private company owned by the descendants of the family of Levi Strauss.

As well as being a company with an 141 year history it is also leading the way in terms of the ethical treatment of its suppliers.

It has recently announced that it will start offering low-cost working capital to its suppliers who meet certain environmental, labour and safety standards.

It was announced that the company will provide loans with progressively lower interest rates to those of its 550 suppliers who perform well in terms of their environmental and safety standards.

This is an admirable move by the company.

Their suppliers are often from developing markets such as Bangladesh and to encourage their suppliers to adhere to better ethical conditions they will provide loans to them at interest rates that get lower the better the suppliers perform in terms of their environmental and safety standards.

A great idea and will we see other companies introducing similar schemes to encourage ethical approaches to their supply chain?

This is how not to cheat in the exams…

Passing professional exams is a tough exercise. You’ll only pass them if you work hard and put in the hours of studying that are required.

Occasionally people will no doubt try to cheat and maybe try to grab a quick glance over at the person next to them to see what they are writing. The advice is simple. Don’t do it and instead focus on preparing properly in the first place.

Ok, speech over with and now let’s look at the husband of Finland’s president who if I’m honest would be rubbish at trying to sneak a look at the answers of the person next to him.

Mr Arajarv is married to the President of Finland and together with his wife was recently attending an official function where he was sat next to Princess Mary of Denmark.

Now frisky Mr Arajarv didn’t try to have a sneaky look at Princess Mary’s exam paper. No, he tried to look at something more… how can I say it… but more personal.

Alas for Mr Arajarv his attempts to grab a quick look at Princess Mary’s “exam scripts” were spotted by the Princess and his attempts to look innocently at the ceiling afterwards are hilarious or pathetic depending on your point of view.

Unfortunately for Mr Arajarv (but fortunately for all of us) his performance was caught on TV and can be seen below.

Husband hides money in oven and then wife decides to…

There’s a saying that “money makes the world go around” and as finance professionals we should all have a good solid understanding of the importance of cash flow and treasury functions.

With the recent history of banks failing and the turmoil that is currently taking place in certain European countries there is also the question as to how safe is your money.

Both companies and individuals should therefore make sure that their money is kept in a safe place.

Now, this doesn’t just mean ensuring your bank account is with a reputable bank. No, it also means don’t try and hide your money in a pretty stupid place…

As an illustration of where not to “invest” your money, according to press reports in Australia, a gentleman in Sydney stored his money in what must rank as one of the most stupid places to store money.

Due to the slowdown of the building industry that he was working in, the unnamed individual had been forced to sell his sports car to pay various bills and mortgage obligations.

The individual had just sold his Toyota Supra for AU$15,000 and when he was looking for a place to hide it until he could get to the bank the following day he decided that the best place would be to put the cash into the kitchen oven.

Now let’s just stop for a moment and think. Was this a good idea? Was there any chance that the oven could get turned on, become very hot and as a result the cash become pretty worthless??

Yes, you guessed it.

His wife came home and decided to preheat the oven so that she could cook some chicken nuggets for their children.

20 minutes later and as she went to put the nuggets in the oven she found a pile of melted money (interestingly, Australia has plastic banknotes which last longer than the traditional paper banknotes although not if baked to 200°C).

The gentlemen went to the bank the following day to see if they would replace the damaged money. In some countries the central bank will replace damaged bank notes with new bank notes but it’s unclear how much if anything the individual got back in this case.

So, the moral of the story is if you’re going to put your cash in a safe place then make sure it is safe.

Instead of hiding it in the oven then why not try hiding it in the trash bin…

Forget about Harry Potter. What about Alan the Accountant and his pants?

The Harry Potter books are a publishing phenomenon. Who would have thought that a story about a boy wizard would be so successful? Here we are more than 10 years after the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the movies alone have earned more than £4 billion worldwide. Add in the books, merchandise and rights and you have a hefty sum.

But will there be a challenger to the Harry Potter crown?

I’ve just come across another children’s book and forget about wizard characters such as Harry, Hermione and Ron and instead welcome in “Alan the Accountant”.

Author Jinky Fox has produced a book about the likeable accountant Alan and whilst I haven’t yet managed to find a “window of opportunity” to read the book yet it does sound an exciting read.

Publishers Flaneur said that “as a student the author Jinky Fox planned to become an accountant, but was sidetracked into fine art”.

‘The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on,’ commented Jinky.

So, as an accountant myself I’m pleased to see this potential challenger to the Harry Potter crown.

As one of the publicity shots for the book shows on the left he even looks like a fashionable accountant when he’s in his trendy pants.

A colleague in our marketing department though joked that seeing as it’s a book for children starring an accountant it will no doubt help children to fall asleep at night.

Getting the wrong measurements can be expensive.

In any project it’s important to take a step back and check that important things haven’t been missed.

The French train operator SNCF has just discovered that 2,000 new trains it had ordered are too wide for some of their platforms. The trains cost €15 billion.

The error arose because the national rail operator RFF gave the wrong platform dimensions to the train company SNCF. The national rail operators measured a number of platforms but all the platforms they measured were built within the last 30 years.

Unfortunately, they didn’t measure any platforms which were built more than 30 years ago as these were designed for slimmer trains and are too wide for the new trains to pass through.

It must have been a stressful day in the office when the mistake was identified and the solution to the error will be far from simple. Over 1,000 platforms will need to be adjusted before the new trains can become fully operational.

The total cost of amending the platforms will be more than €50 million.

This poster came in handy.

Although some of the less ethical students may be tempted, it’s never a good idea to cheat in your exams.

plymouth-university2

 

The time and energy spent in trying to devise a method of cheating would be far better spent by revising the key areas in the syllabus.

Plus of course, the professional exams are very well invigilated and as a result there is a high probability that anyone who does cheat will get caught and that doesn’t bode well for a long term career in that particular area.

Plymouth University decided to emphasise to their students that cheating was not a good idea. Unfortunately, their good intentions didn’t really work out as planned.

They prepared anti-cheating posters and put these on the walls of their exam rooms.

Reddit reader hazzaap123 who was a student sitting an exam at the University took the photo above and posted on Reddit that “Just took a maths final with this on the wall of the exam room. It has formulas on that were needed in the exam. The poster got me an extra 10% on the paper”.

Yes, the anti-cheating poster prepared by the University included a picture of a hand with a formula written on it and that formula was needed in the exam that was taking place…

Royal Navy seize inelastic items.

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A joint operation by the British and Australian navies last month resulted in the largest ever haul of heroin at sea. The drugs weighing 1,032 kilogrammes had an estimated British street value of more than £140 million and were found on a boat 30 miles off the coast of East Africa near Kenya and Tanzania.

This is great news for the authorities but what link does this have with the exams?

HMS EdinburghPrice elasticity of demand (PED) is a core area of pricing theory. PED measures the sensitivity of customer demand to a change in prices and is calculated as

PED  =    % change in demand
% change in price

There is usually an inverse relationship: when price goes up, demand goes down (and vice versa).

Addictive drugs such as the heroin seized by the British and Australian navies however are an inelastic product and in fact are approaching perfect inelasticity. A perfectly inelastic product is a situation where price goes up but the quantity demanded stays the same. In the case of addictive drugs, the drug addicts will still need their “fix” so the quantity demanded by them is largely unaffected by price increases.

100,000 thanks plus your chance to win a free ACCA or CIMA course.

Wow – it only seems like yesterday that we started our blog and Facebook page and yet here we are this week celebrating 100,000 fans on Facebook so a big, big thank you to all of you that read the blog and follow us on facebook.

free-acca-cima-coursesOur blog readers really do come from all around the world. Our latest readership report showed that our blog has been read in 180 countries in the last 30 days!

So, thank you, dankie, shukran, do jeh, grazie, gracias, asante, merci (in fact sorry but we can’t do 180 languages but thank you all anyway!)

We’ve also got a little something to give back to you. We’ve got a short 2 minute survey and 5 people who complete it will be selected at random to win a free online ACCA or CIMA course.

If you’ve passed all of your exams or aren’t studying for them then don’t worry as if you are lucky enough to win the free ACCA or CIMA online course prize draw you can transfer the course to the person of your choice.

To complete the 2 minute questionnaire to stand a chance of winning a free ACCA or CIMA online course click here.

Thank you again for all the nice messages you’ve sent us over the years and here’s to the next 100,000 Facebook fans.

Good luck in the draw for a free ACCA or CIMA online course.

Do you ever feel tired at work? If so, then maybe you should…

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…wear a tie.

Japan is famous for the long hours that some of their office workers undertake but there is now an invention that will maybe ease things a little bit for hardworking office staff.

A new tie called “Nemuri Tie” is now on sale in Japan.

Nemuri Tie means pillow tie in Japanese and if the advertising is anything to go by it will enable hard pressed office workers to grab a quick sleep at their desk.

It’s a relatively simple design in that it’s a normal looking tie but it’s got an inflatable pillow in it which can be blown up to provide a handy place to rest your head when you fancy a nap.

It can be inflated when the user is wearing it so there’s no need to keep on taking your tie off and putting it back on every time you fancy a sleep.

The Sleep Tie is currently on sale for just under £20.

It’s not clear whether the tie is stain proof for anyone that dribbles in their sleep.

If you have enough wine you’ll look even more beautiful…

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when wine was first made, it is commonly thought to originate from many thousands of years ago.

Since then people have drunk it, enjoyed it and on occasions no doubt regretted it following an almighty hangover the following day.

face_maskOver the years the methods involved in making wine have stayed fairly consistent. Grapes are crushed, the wine is fermented, stored and then drunk.

In management accounting terms the grape skins left over from the crushed grapes are considered to be a by-product.

In other words, the crushed grape skins that are removed during the wine making process have a limited value and are basically thrown away.

Spanish wine maker Matarromera has recently identified a novel use for the grape skins that are left over from the wine-making process.

The left over grape skins are rich in antioxidants and Matarromera has now launched a cosmetics brand called Esdor which mixes these grape skins with other natural products to produce cosmetics including nourishing creams, eye contours and moisturisers. The company claims that their products can help with anti-aging and anti-wrinkling.

Moving back to management accounting terms and given the success of the cosmetics line then the grapes will result in joint products – namely, the wine and the cosmetics.

There’s a saying in English that if someone has had too much to drink then they are “off their face”. Maybe with this wine it will be “on their face” as well.

Does it matter if the swimmers are naked or not?

During the summer holidays at university I was lucky enough to have a temporary job as a life guard at the local swimming pool. Thankfully there were no emergencies and the most exciting thing that happened was when a locker became jammed.

businessman-in-poolI graduated from university and now I’m an accountant. My job now involves looking at figures on spreadsheets rather than figures in the pool.

In Austria, the management of Vienna’s public swimming pools carried out a survey and found that bathers were consuming on average 5,000 litres of chlorinated pool water a day.

5,000 litres of water a day is a significant amount of water. Looking at this from a finance point of view this in turn means that this is a significant amount of cost in replacing the water. In addition, the authorities have to spend £20 per day to replace the chlorine that disappears with the water.

How come so much water is being lost? Surely the swimmers are not drinking the water and it would take an awful lot of splashing to lose that amount of water.

The answer is that apparently a lot of water gets removed from the pool via the material of the swim wear. When a person wearing Boardshorts for example leaves the pool 2.5 litres of chlorinated water is trapped in the material and is removed from the pool.

So, picture the scene. You’re an accountant at a sports complex and are attending a meeting to discuss cost saving initiatives for the year ahead.

Given the above findings then would a cost saving solution be to suggest that swimwear should be banned?

Now whilst this would save the cost of chlorinated water being replaced I think the number of swimmers would decline dramatically.

Importantly though I think they would save on the cost of your salary as you probably wouldn’t be in the job for much longer after that suggestion.

London cab drivers, “the knowledge” and mixed costs…

I think that London taxi drivers are brilliant. There’s never a dull moment and if you want a conversation you’ll certainly get one when you’re in a black cab. To be honest, half the time if you don’t want a conversation you’ll still get one.

london-taxiLondon cab drivers have to pass rigorous tests before they are licensed to drive a black cab. “The knowledge” is a term used for the exams that the drivers have to pass and ensures that they know their way around the streets of London without having to refer to satnav systems or maps.

My own personal view though is that “the knowledge” also refers to the fact that the drivers generally have a strong opinion on most things and seem to know everything about everything! To be fair I was quite impressed with the driver of the cab I was in last night. When he found out that I taught finance he went on to point out that the taxi fare I was about to pay him was classified as a “mixed cost” as it was partly a fixed cost (the minimum fare) and partly variable (the charge per mile traveled).

I’ll give him credit where it’s due as he was absolutely right. Fortunately for him though the journey came to an end before I could test him on other costing methods…

Ernst & Young ladies – are they good looking enough?

It just doesn’t matter how good-looking you are, if you work for Ernst & Young then you will never win this beauty competition.

So there I was spending a pleasant evening looking at the eligibility rules for people who want to enter Miss Texas, or to maybe clarify that a bit, the rules for those ladies that want to enter the Miss Texas USA beauty competition.

Now whilst this may be a prestigious beauty pageant where the winner could go on to become Miss USA and if all goes well then Miss Universe, what exactly does this have to do with finance and business? Or to be more precise, what has this got to do with Ernst & Young?

Well, if you look in the rules and regulations and look past the items which neatly ignore certain discrimination issues such as “must never have given birth to a child” and “must be a naturally born female” there is the phrase “No contestant or any member of their immediate family can be employed by ….  Ernst & Young, or any of its subsidiaries”.

There you go. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most beautiful lady in the world (or should I say most beautiful “naturally born female”), if you work for EY you’re just not going to win Miss Texas USA.

So, any ideas why EY ladies are not eligible to enter?

It’s nothing sinister and in fact it’s all very ethical. It’s down to the fact that EY are the official vote counters for the contest and to avoid any potential accusation of anything underhand such as deliberate miscounting, EY staff cannot enter the competition.

Looking on the bright side for EY staff though there must be some pretty happy gentlemen who have been selected to work on the Miss Texas USA account.