Last month I attended an event with some great entrepreneurial speakers and lots of updates and lessons in the world of business.

There was so much content that I am going to split it into two parts with this being part 1 and part 2 will follow next month.

In this part I cover some of the general content from the conference and specifics from a few of the speakers including the very entertaining Dave Fishwick (aka Bank of Dave) and Mike Michalowicz.

Dave Fishwick

If you haven’t heard of the name, you will probably have heard about the Netflix film made about him called ‘Bank of Dave’. Dave Fishwick was the person who tried to open a new community-based bank back in 2011 in Burnley. He initially used his own money and then planned to take in deposits to lend to local people and businesses. Certainly, in the early days he was the person going out to see every potential borrower face to face to understand them and see what they were looking to do, i.e., a bit like the old-fashioned bank manager used to! He was also prepared to guarantee that no depositor would ever lose any money.

Dave was a really entertaining speaker and went through his life history. He was a very hard worker and always had a great entrepreneurial side to him and used the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ a lot during his talk. He left school with no qualifications and was working as an apprentice on a building site, but his passion was cars. As he didn’t have the money to sell cars, he went to every car dealer he could find to ask them to allow him to take their worst car that he would do up and then sell, pay them their cut and he would keep his profit. Eventually he found one and was able to do the car up and then sell it for a profit, which he reinvested in the next car and then the next. He then was offered a van by a dealer to do up and sell and whilst he was initially unsure, he did it anyway. When he put it up for sale, it sold straight away, and he received call after call for the van. This gave him an idea as at the time vans were sold on farmland and dodgy backstreets, and not sold like cars from showrooms. He therefore expanded into vans and then minibuses. Jumping forward he is now the biggest minibus supplier in the whole of the UK, and also fast becoming Europe’s leading supplier of 17-seater minibuses.

He told a great story about his sales to Spain. He was a huge exporter of the minibuses to Spain for the tourist trade. The Spanish customers would come over and then when it got to payment, they would speak their native tongue and Dave would wonder what they were saying. He therefore decided to secretly learn Spanish on the side and whilst he never let on to his Spanish clients, when they then used to come to his office and talk to themselves about what they would and wouldn’t pay, Dave knew exactly what they were saying and could react accordingly.

The Netflix film followed his journey of trying to set this bank up, and whilst there are some elements he admits are exaggerated including the Def Leppard concert, the general story is spot on and the establishment and the big banking players and regulators did try to put major road blocks in place at every turn and did everything they could to stop him. He said that he had one meeting in London with a senior player in the banking industry/regulators and he was asked what public school he went to, what his wife did and what his parents did, and when his answers were not what the person was looking for, he told Dave that there was no way he could establish this new bank as he just didn’t have the right credibility and background to do so.

However, they did not ‘bank’ (no pun intended) on Dave being such a determined individual and when they said no, he would always find another way.

He ended by saying he had 4 rules of life, which are:

Never lose money
Never forget rule number 1
Never give up
Never ever give up

Numbers (1) and (2) may look familiar as they are always rule of life of the legendary investor, Warren Buffett.

Mike Michalowicz

This was the first time Mike had ever spoken in England. Mike is a renowned author in business and written books including ‘Profit First’, ‘Fix This Next’, ‘Clock Work’ and ‘The Pumpkin Plan’

His talk was mainly about his ideology called ‘Profit First’ which has the headline ‘Transform your business from a cash-eating monster to a money-making machine’

He explains that for most businesses profit is the last thing you see, in other words Revenue Less Expenses = Profit

He argued that it should be Revenue Less Profit = Expenses

It takes a little bit to get your head round it at first, but then it does make sense as an idea. At its simplest it is saying that monies should be allocated in a different order to ensure the owners are paid and profit is made before you look at the expenses. If after the owners have been paid and profits are taken, then there is insufficient to pay the expenses, it firstly suggests the business has a big problem, and secondly it makes the business adjust the expenses down and manage them better. There is something called Parkinsons Law which is the concept that work expands to fill the time given to complete it. So, in the same way if you have less money available to spend on expenses, you will change behaviour and naturally adjust accordingly down.

There are four stages to his full idea, but he does suggest people should start off small and take baby steps rather than go full into the whole process from day 1.

Stage 1 – Smaller Plates

You would set up 5 different bank accounts, which would be
Income
Profit
Owners Compensation
Tax
Operating Expenses

All the money that came in would go into the income bank account and then it would be allocated into the different bank accounts at a pre-allocated percentage. This could be 10% to profit, 10% to owners’ compensation, 15% to tax and 65% to operating expenses.

Stage 2 – Have your Vegetables First

This is then following the important order so that the profit is taken first, then owners’ compensation, then tax and then operating expenses.

Stage 3 – Remove Temptation

It might be tempting to ‘borrow’ the profit if needed to cover the expenses. Don’t! The suggestion is the money is even put in a different bank to remove the temptation.

Stage 4 – Frequency

This is about the frequency of when the allocation and transfers take place. The suggestion is the 10th and 25th of each month and then every 90 days take the profit out completely of the business to the shareholders/owners or pay off debt.

AI

There were several sessions on the use of AI, and its use seems to be expanding everywhere. The key takeaways I obtained from the sessions were:

  • I was quite surprised just how much detail you can put into the likes of ChatGPT in order to source the best and most compelling responses.
  • You can ask AI to write in a particular style and with a particular tone of voice, and you can tell it what not to cover in its response too.
  • Some of the prompts we saw used were very advanced and were pages long in order to get the best out of the technology. It is very much the case that better prompts = better output
  • There are a number of platforms out there that can link directly to your own systems and covered such areas as analysing call recordings and scoring them, summarising recorded calls, automatic replies and personalised follow ups with tone and language.
  • AI can use many different data sources, analyse the data and present it to the business for use. This includes financial information, online analytics, CRM systems and social media strategies.
  • You can white Label your own version of AI within your business
  • There is another AI system that’s just come out called Claude 2 which can analyse a lot more data that ChatGPT4.
  • A really simple one that takes out the ‘Americanisms’ in its responses is to ask it to use ‘British English’ in its response.

Part 2 of the findings will be in the newsletter next month.