A colleague told me yesterday that a mutual client has called him by mistake, when they were trying to get hold of me. As the client launched into a detailed explanation of their challenges and voicing their ideas, he hadn’t been able to explain that they had dialled a wrong number until after a few minutes.
The thought crossed my colleague’s mind that the problem the client was describing might be something he could help them with. But on reflection he knew he had to stop the conversation and direct the call to the right person.
My colleague and I chatted about how important it was that the right person helps at the right time. The “presenting problem” is rarely the real issue. As a business consultant/coach, my role is to find the heart of the real issue, and to help suggest and implement some solutions. Sometimes it’s gut instinct, sometimes it’s noticing particular words, sometimes it’s just about asking the right questions.
Consultants are sometimes accused of borrowing your watch and then charging you to tell you the time. But if your problem is that you don’t know how to tell the time, then asking a consultant for help seems like a good idea to me.
Life is difficult, and there are enough challenges for each of us without having to feel like we must do everything on our own. Asking for help from the right person at the right time can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.
Who is harder to please, trustees or shareholders?
There is a perception that professionals in the public or third sector are not up to the demand of the private sector. The cut and thrust of commercial life, with private equity funding, hard nosed corporate deals, and focus on the bottom line is thought of as a tougher environment than the soft, touchy feely world of charities and public services.
I beg to differ.
Having worked in both sectors, I can happily state the obvious, that they are different. Beyond that, the range of stakeholders in a third sector organisation requires more than attention to profit and shareholder return. Financial sustainability is key to every organisation, but so are the people.
The single minded pursuit of profit in a commercial business is sweetened by the financial rewards that individuals are offered. The third sector has long realised that such incentives can be offset by greater flexibility, offering a quality of life, and recognition of the difference that each person makes.
Those who lead commercial organisations usually do so with a combination of the carrot and the stick. As an employee, this simplifies the relationship. In an organisation that is led by passion, profit is not enough to be deemed a success.
A shareholder’s primary duty of care is their financial return, a board of trustees asks for far more than that. Trustees are quite rightly harder to please. The commercial world could learn a lot from them.
This seems like a simple question. However, particularly at this time of year as they submit their tax return, many people find out that what they thought was a business expenses, isn’t.
The answer to the question is not defined by you, but by the tax office.
Take your telephone bill as an example. The tax office is happy to accept a telephone bill, even a mobile phone bill, as a business expense if you are a limited company, but not if you are self employed. If you are self employed and have a mobile phone, the tax man will assume that the contract is mainly for personal use. To prove your business use you need an itemised phone bill and details of which calls were for business, and which were personal.
Another area that often causes confusion is food and drinks (entertaining). Meals and drinks bought by a limited company can usually be called a business expense, but only very rarely if you are self employed.
If you are unsure about what is or isn’t a business expense, ask a professional, and then make sure that you understand what they tell you. I heard a story recently about someone who thought they knew what was allowed, only to find that their accountant had disallowed some items on their tax return (and not told them).
The logic behind the tax office’s decision on what is (and isn’t) a business expense may be archaic or confusing, but when the tax man knocks on your door and asks to see your accounts, the argument becomes irrelevant, as all that matters is the law.
If you would like to know more, or have questions, please ask.