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'Tween Times

In the between dates - Christmas and New Year - I am not really doing any work. Certainly, I don't intend to bother you all with lots of blogging to not get read until you are back in the office. However, writing is fun, and it is a good habit to keep.

Silly, but fun

Another great way to waste time... dig a hole.

Bad Journalism

A dreadful wrap up article written in our local rag on the subject of unwanted gifts has to be the worst example of the 'holiday's in review' type of article I have seen in quite a while. The format is almost inevitable, but it doesn't have to be awful. We all give bad gifts from time to time, but these days it is easier to avoid. Online stores operate wish lists precisely to avoid this type of problem, a great example of e-commerce making markets more efficient - you see there is always a financial angle! But if that isn't your thing, communication and forgiveness might be commended.

Good Journalism

A much better example of seasonal journalism is the wrap up of the news. TVNZ's peoples choice issues of the year is a great example. Farrar's blog also has some great wrap ups - including  a comparison of political insults, comments on the big stories, greetings from a fetching Swede  (although sadly not an obvious candidate for financial advice). Link.

Back to the Bad

Of course, this can be taken as an opportunity for people to spin events into a dubious manifesto: I read one piece in the Herald (lifted from the UK's Observer, because the Herald has most of its journos on holiday) which linked Putin's Russia, Blair's Britain, Bush's America, and Berlusconi's Italy all together as 'the worst examples of anglo saxon capitalism' and bemoaned that these should have replaced communism. Hmmm. These are all very different countries, ruled in very different ways, with very different forms of economies - although all would be considered mixed - and very different approaches to redistribution. The only thing they have in common is a statist enterprise, rather than a capitalist one: Iraq.

Holiday Fun

Spending time with the kids, kayaking, tunning, eating, sailing, swimming, its all good. It's a great way to re-charge. With two extra adults in the house (visitors from Ireland) and no work to do - and the baby sleeping through... well, its puts one in a damn positive frame of mind. Friends keep saying how well we look!


Proving, almost weekly, that predicting weather more than a few days remains almost entirely beyond human science right now, seems to deter people not at all when wishing to make forecasts of global warming, or cooling. Reading a series of past predictions, of which half can be supported by observation on any given day is therefore amusing. Link.

The 'Reason for the Season'

Renewal. Whatever flavour your spirituality, or even if you have no such beliefs, 'renewal' is a great theme for the season. It cheerfully covers all the bases. With Christmas in New Zealand co-inciding with our long summer break, its all about renewal. Fresh ideas, re-charged batteries, and new plans for the New Year. So, enjoy your break, renew, and I wish you all the best for the New Year. We shall enjoy the New Year on 'Tiger Time' at the Auckland Zoo (a sensible 9pm countdown the kids can enjoy) and I shall hopefully be up in time for a run at dawn on 1 January.

Off to Enjoy Christmas

As I put out in my Christmas note, “…new era of increased change was perhaps heralded by the merger of ANZ-National bank, the formation of a taskforce on adviser regulation, and the recently proposed tax changes for investment products.” That was actually in my note two years ago - and that prediction has proven to be correct. But Christmas is a time to be grateful. About to present a speech to the Society of Accountants a couple of weeks ago I got to hear Michael Stiassny on regulation. If you think ours is bad, try theirs.

And we've had a great year, and so have so many of our clients, which is really good fun. Consulting is my main focus, and I get to sharee that work with associates - like Phillip Matthews, Tim Arrowsmith, Margaret Stanley, and Michael Larsen depending on the size and nature of the work. All in all, we're 22% up on last year. But we've also built new distribution - hands on - by developing L.J.Hooker financial services here on the shore and helping to build across the country too.

Christmas messages come in many forms - take this one, from Telstra-Clear boss Alan Freeth for example - astonishing. This appears to be a kiwi version of what The Economist refers to as a "...disturbing trend in the literary genre of leaked corporate memos..."  they quote liberally from the 'Peanut butter manifesto' published by the head of Yahoo! Concluding by noting: 'He then signs off with a final exhortation: “Catch the balls. And stop eating peanut butter.” Is it any wonder that Yahoo! is struggling?' I kid you not.

Dr. Freeth is both cooler, because he use film rather than lunchbox metaphors, and grittier, because he wants his people to behave more like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill than Captain Feathersword from The Wiggles.

This type of strategy by memo is becoming ever more common. Perhaps long sessions spent on cushions in the company of corporate shrinks has had its day. Perhaps the outward-bound-lite corporate team-building event has also passed into history.

Definitely time for a holiday!

On a personal note, as we have guests from Northern Ireland with us we shall not be going far this Christmas. Those of you that have visited our small office in Birkenhead may know that my home is only 10 minutes walk from here - but taking the break is vital. It is amazing how putting the various ideas, opportunities, and challenges out of ones conscious mind for a while brings forth creative new plans. The only explanation I can think of is that the subconscious works on them for you.

More serious planning, we can now leave to January, when I shall be on hand, as ever, to help. In the meantime, let me share with you my goals for the holiday:

  • Have fun, play with the kids, unwrap presents with gusto
  • Be grateful for everything good
  • Go for a run every day
  • Have a snooze after lunch every day

Whatever your plans for the break, have a wonderful time.

Spent Ammunition

I have just gone thrugh my second powerpack for my laptop. It galls me that this simple piece of kit does not stand up to regular unpacking and packing, and eventually it breaks where the cable runs into the pack, creating a fire hazard. Well, it did gall me.

Now I have a new way of thinking about it. It's like a spent cartridge. Used ammo cases. A token of all the meetings, projects, and places I have been to. It's airmiles.


Once you have finished wheeling out your cheesy smile for another pair of socks or a tie... sneak off and have a look at the gift you will buy yourself in the New Year. You will find it at www.Firebox.com

Everthing from an Ariel Atom, to fighting grandads, rocking right on through tiny helicopters you can fly around your living room and Skype handsets. This is the coolest site I have been referred to in ages. Just a shame I didn't find out about it a bit earlier. All my UK relatives got presents from Amazon, but next year, it'll be Firebox.

Just spend half an hour drooling over it.

Team Building Fundamentals - Part Three of a Series

You need a programme to help you shift your business from a small practice, or practitioner and trainee (sorcerer and apprentice) to a team based approach.For the transformation of your adviser business into a genuine team success certain factors need to be present:

  • Motivated participants commencing the programme with a clear understanding of the requirements, especially, the investment in the process required.
  • Clarity of vision – do you really know what is required to succeed? do you have a model that is not just plausible, it must be proven – which you can turn to at regular intervals during the programme.
  • Ongoing commitment to the programme over a number of years.
  • Acceptance of a ‘bias towards specialisation' rather than repetition of the ‘general practice’ model which is not easily scaleable.

Perhaps only a third of all small GP advisers would meet this criteria, even fewer would  then be able to follow through with such a change to their business. The following personal characteristics would be necessary:

  • Experience – with more than three years as an adviser with personal productivity in the top half of the industry
  • Desire – the ambition to run a business and overcome the challenges of managing people
  • Attitude – exhibiting the ‘paradox of performance’ – possessing the self-belief necessary to succeed, but the self-critique necessary to learn from others.
  • Aptitude – demonstrating at least the potential for developing the interpersonal skills required to build an effective business team.
  • Capital – possessing the sums required to develop the business, and the balance sheet strength to sustain a period where personal income may drop.
  • Location – certain locations are unsuitable for the development of this model. A minimum immediate population of at least 30,000 is required

If you are such a business, and such a person, we can help.


Children Started This...

I love the spirit of scientific inquiry which led to this. In an otherwise boring news piece The Commerce Commission is taking Ribena to court because of of dubious Vitamin C claims. While these remain to be proved, I was interested that the whole investigation was started by two Pakuranga schoolkids that tested some Ribena a couple of years ago. Link. And by the way, Stuff's website has got a lot better too!

Even Muralitharan Can't Spin Like this Guy

Tony Blair's Government, of course:

"A total of four major government announcements were made on the same day that Lord Stevens delivered his milestone verdict on the death of the Princess.

It was also the same day chosen by the Prime Minister to be interviewed by Scotland Yard detectives..." Link

But try as I might I can't get upset about it. After all, its the function of democracy. Blair is being interviewed over Labour Party Finance scandals, which at least aren't being swept under the carpet or retrospectively legislated away... and spinning bad news the best they can is perfectly within the rules.