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  • Some More Thoughts on Negotiation

    Sunday 14th June 2009

    There are a number of similarities between selling and negotiating.  The main one is how vital it is to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.  In selling a business, for example, you are trying to make the buyer realize the benefits of your proposal to them – how much profit they will make, how the merging of their current business with the new one will save costs and so on.  You find out what these benefits might be by asking probing questions on a broad base of topics; seemingly insignificant things can in fact be important.  For example, I sold a business to an entrepreneur who was looking for a job for his son to do.  If I had not found that out during our early discussions I would not have known how important the deal was to him and would probably have sold the business for a lesser sum.
    In a similar way, the importance of knowing as much as possible about the other person negotiating cannot be over-estimated. 

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  • Making money out of other peoples’ money

    Saturday 6th June 2009

    I am interested in both business finance and personal finance.  Start with business finance.

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  • Learning from MP’s and their expenses

    Friday 29th May 2009

    Is there anything entrepreneurs and business people can learn from the current mess over MP’s expenses?  I think there is.  I can’t believe that all of them are crooks; though I can believe that some might be.  Remember, though, that like us they are very busy people, and that we can all get into trouble if we are unlucky.  So, ignoring criminal intent, MPs probably went wrong for one of three reasons:

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  • Understanding Bankers and Getting Loan Capital

    Thursday 21st May 2009

    I believe that starting a business in a recession is perfectly possible and, funnily enough, offers opportunities that the good times don’t.  There is, however, one big problem at times like these and that is, during a credit crunch, the difficulty of borrowing money from banks.  Take time out for a moment to make sure you understand where financial lenders are coming from. 

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  • Charging The Best Price

    Sunday 17th May 2009

    How much should you charge for your product or service? There is no fixed answer or formula to that question.  In deciding, the first key is to make sure you are charging enough to make a good profit.  Don’t forget that the profit you make on a deal has to make a contribution to all your costs and overheads, as well as paying for the direct costs of the product. The second key is to make sure your pricing is competitive; but don’t forget that reputation and trust have a value.  If you give first class, reliable service you might be able to charge a premium and risk not being the cheapest bid. But, customers and prospects will be looking at more than one bid, and you have to think about handling price objections.

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  • Can you still make a million in the current recession ?

    Monday 11th May 2009

    You bet you can! Bank finance may be in short supply but there are lots of great low cost opportunities out there – especially on the Internet.

    The key commercial considerations about setting up a new business as follows:
    •    Do you have an idea that will appeal to a market that you can define and then reach?
    •    Do you feel passionately about that idea and the fact that you can do a better job than the people already serving that market?
    •    Are you prepared to work extraordinarily hard to get the business started and thriving?
    •    Have you got or can you get the skills and experience for the actual job you are going to have to do.
    •    Can you get the funds necessary to start the business up?

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  • Can Anyone Become a Millionaire ?

    Thursday 7th May 2009

    The other day, a friend started a lengthy conversation by claiming that he could never be a millionaire because he wasn’t very good with money.  Now, I personally believe that you don’t have to be a financial genius to make a million.
    As an entrepreneur, I believe I have the ability to think outside the box; spotting, for example, opportunities that others don’t.  Perhaps, too, I take risks that no one else would even consider and get the benefit of that basic business principle – the higher the risk the higher the return. I also relish a sense of accomplishment and enjoy the financial rewards that come with it.  Some people say that I was born to be a millionaire and in some ways this may be true.  However I believe that I was born to be an entrepreneur and along the way I made a few million.
    You can certainly learn some entrepreneurial skills; so I believe millionaires can be made as well as born.  In my opinion a little bit of talent can go a very long way!  Take thinking outside the box; here’s a simple exercise you can do that will help you to develop that skill.

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  • Sunday 19th April 2009: Work Smarter

    Thursday 2nd April 2009

    Hello and welcome to my blog. Unless you're an avid reader of the business sections of one of the Sunday broadsheets you probably had no idea who I was until you saw me on the BBC's online version of Dragons Den. after all I am not a sports star such as David Beckham or a pop star like Lily Allen or even someone who makes other people famous like Simon Cowell I just build and help businesses make money  and yet I am not a banker I am an entrepreneur
    I hope that my blog will help more people not only understand what an entrepreneur is but also to get on one of the most exciting and biggest adrenalin rides in the world.  I’m not talking about bungee jumping the 341-foot plunge from Victoria Falls I’m talking about running a successful business. It doesn't matter whether you set up a new business or buy an existing business and turn it round to make it profitable.  The buzz is exactly the same; although these days I seem to prefer the latter.
    When I grew up I never thought that I would end up being an entrepreneur. I went to Strathclyde University to study corporate law. After I graduated I went to work for a Legal firm in Glasgow. Before my first day was out I had decided that working for someone else wasn’t for me. A chance encounter with an old friend on the train home that day led me to become involved in the IT business.  Before I knew it I was running a multi million pound business retailing and supplying computer equipment to consumers and businesses worldwide.
    Fast forward a few years and there I was, twenty nine years old having over achieved every possible goal I had set myself. I was a multi millionaire and could have, if I had wanted to take it easy for the rest of my life. I decided that I would take it easy and perhaps go back to university again but prior to that I thought that I should set up one more business and then came another business ………..and so the pattern has continued and my business portfolio continues to grow.
    One of the big misconceptions that people have is that they think you have to have a revolutionary idea to be successful in business. People are always trying to think of something that has never been done before. Do you know this is so untrue? I have bought so many businesses and assets over the years and sometimes within several months I have improved them and made them more efficient.  Sometimes selling them on for ten times more than I paid for them!  More about this later....
    Often the best strategy in business is reinventing an old idea and doing it better and more efficiently then anyone else for example Mcdonalds didn’t invent fast food and Ford did not invent the motor car but both companies came up with strategies that made them better and more efficient than the competition.
    When I was around 12 years old I used to work in my fathers newsagents in Stirling. To this day I remember a conversation I had with a gentleman who used to come in every morning to get his copy of the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald.  Most people only read one or the other but this gentleman bought both everyday.  As a child I used to think this was very strange!  What I found to be even stranger was that he used to arrive every morning in a gleaming brand new prestige car.   One day he would be in a 4x4, the next day in a 7 series BMW and the day after that he would arrive in a gleaming Mercedes.
    Some days he would be dressed as if he was going to work in a Stockbrokers office with his expensive suit and crisp shirt, complete with gold cufflinks.  On other days I would see him wearing a grotty shirt, a pair of jeans and the oldest boots I had ever seen.  They were always absolutely covered in what I thought at the time was muck.  However he would always be driving a very expensive car.
    All sorts of theories formed in my mind as to what he did for a living.  Some days I thought he was a secret agent. Other times I thought he was just driving his boss’s car. It took me about six months before I finally plucked up the courage to ask him what he did for a living. I was a bit confused when he finally told me he was a coal merchant.

    My next question which I blurted out without even thinking was “Can you make a lot of money selling coal?” He looked at me a bit bemused.  I’m sure he thought it was a strange question coming from a twelve year old boy.  He finally imparted on me the first words of business wisdom, which I have filed away in the back of my head and hope to share with the readers of my blog. He said " not really but we work smarter then every one else". So here you have Lesson One in Shaf's world of business:
    You don't have to have a revolutionary idea.  You just have to do an existing idea better then everyone else. You have to be more efficient and you have to work a bit smarter than everyone else. Note the use of the world smart rather then hard.

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