Your HR Support knows and understands the strategy and the detail that underpins it.

Good HR support should always align to the strategy; regardless of their experience they should be able to take the strategy and apply it across the organisation, constantly asking themselves, ‘what does this mean to the employees?’ and ‘How does this impact on the way in which they work?’ followed by, ‘Do we have the right people with the right skills?’ Good HR support should be able to explain why changes are necessary and how they link to the strategy.

It is no good having HR support that comes up with initiatives that do not have a clear line back to the strategy; If your strategy is all about cost cutting, let’s have recognitions that don’t cost you money. If your internal communications need improving, let’s not have a newsletter (yep, we still see them!) but instead find a way to use technology to send out short relevant timely messages. If you are looking for flexibility in your workforce, does your HR support review your contracts to ensure they reflect this? Does your HR support know what the recruitment market is doing, and can they identify the most cost-efficient way of hiring the right skills for your organisation? Does your HR support constantly ask themselves, “how does this help us achieve our strategy?” Really good HR support should also be able to challenge appropriately when they believe an initiative doesn’t align to the strategy or more importantly has a negative impact on the people and or the organisation.

Not getting this from your HR support, perhaps they don’t have the right level of experience for the role. If you would like a confidential chat with one of our experts about what sort of support you need and how to go about getting it email us at hr@alpaca.uk.com

Hint: HR people that can read financial reports, analyse the data, and translate it into simple meaningful actions and communications are worth their weight in gold!

Where does it really add value? What do you get as an organisation from different HR roles or levels? What should your HR function be doing for you? What should your HR function NOT be doing for you?

Welcome to part one in a series of HR blog posts over the coming week.

Anyone that has recruited an internal HR professional will know that the job titles are a minefield, and to be honest most HR professionals also struggle to figure out what they mean. We have seen it all, ‘Heads of HR’ with no previous qualifications or experience, People Directors that have been home grown from a Sales Administrators and given HR because someone at the top thought they needed HR, HR managers who also act as the PA to the CEO; where’s their priority? Now it’s not to say that this approach will not work, and we love to talk about a T shaped generalist in Alpaca. It is just worth noting however that you are going to get a different level of support and knowledge from your HR person depending on their previous experience and qualifications and that might not always be what your business needs.

“What HR resource do I need?” we hear you ask, and “what value should I be getting from them?” Well, that will depend on a number of factors relating to your business including the size, number of employees, management capabilities, number of employment disputes, staff turnover and last but certainly not least whether you would value a strategic people plan to run alongside your company strategy.

“What do HR do again?” “I thought they were there to hire and fire!”

The CIPD states the HR function helps an organisation deliver its corporate strategy and objectives by effectively recruiting and developing people and managing their performance” Other than the corporate strategy piece at Alpaca we don’t agree with this definition, having worked with many organisations, large and small; some with their own HR team, others without, we now feel confident that we know what makes HR great and why it is important to you to get it right. A bold claim perhaps? Our posts for the rest of the week will explain this in more detail.

If you’re about to follow an annual tradition of pulling out last January’s sales strategy to tweak for this year and make a plan for 2021 then this is the one year that’s really NOT going to work!

It may only be 12 months ago, but quite a lot has changed in the world since January 2020. Whatever plans you had then for a successful year of selling your products and services, I can pretty much guarantee it isn’t fit for purpose now.

You are probably reading this thinking: “Crikey, we need a SERIOUSLY good plan for 2021 to get out of this mess” or something more like “Yeah, but we sold LOADS in 2020, so we’ll be fine”.

Either way, you are now having to deal with some or all of Lockdown III, the implications of Brexit, the changing landscape of the high street, a struggling hospitality sector and a care sector under more pressure than ever before. It is likely that somewhere along the way these will impact your business in one way or another – even if you don’t yet realise it.

Typical sales plans for the year would start with a similar theme:

• Who is our customer?
• What are we selling? How many do we need to sell? How much do we need to sell it for? Is our pricing going to change from last year? If so, by how much?
• How much do we spend on marketing, building our online sales channels, incentives, offering discounts or rebates?
• What really differentiates us? (Now be honest – is that REALLY unique?) and so on…

All of which is great, and is most likely still very relevant to your plans for 2021. However, where you’ll make real headway this year is to ask yourself a completely new sets of questions:

• Who ‘was’ our customer? Do they still exist? Do they have more or less demand for our products now than before?

• Where do we sit in the food chain for our market? Are we the Porsche 911 or Ford Focus in our sector? (There’s nothing wrong with either by the way, but knowing this can completely change your perspective on pricing, marketing, volume of sales and so forth).

• How do we fulfil orders? Can we pool delivery with others? Can we share warehousing? Do we need a pick-up/takeaway service?

• What demand fluctuations are we likely to see? Can we plan ahead? Make seasonal or peak buying/selling period decisions now around staffing, stock, pricing?

• What does our sales force need to look like? Are they able to embrace working from home? How do they do face-to-face meetings? Do we even need remote sales teams, or can they now be based anywhere and sell on Zoom/Teams etc? How are they now rewarded? Is the company car scheme dead if no one is travelling to client sites anymore? Do they have the necessary (& new skills) needed to sell in 2021?

• We have one of those great products that just ‘sells itself when people see it’ (a touchy-feely type product) – how do we ensure that enough customers are able to still see it, touch it, engage with it if they can no longer visit a store? Do we need to do samples? Testers? Free trials?

And we could go on, and on!

If 2020 taught us anything its that those who can adapt quickly, see new opportunities, embrace change and execute well thought out plans, can achieve huge growth in any market. And those that can’t – will struggle, or worse – go out of business!

There has never been a more important time to have a plan to accomplish your goals. That is why at Alpaca we devised the ‘Ambition Day’.

We use tools and techniques to flush out your purpose, your business goals and potentially any inconsistencies, tensions or obstacles that might prevent you from easily achieving them.

We deploy “radical candour” – meaning we will challenge your thinking and point out any issues or contradictions, not because we’re obnoxious smart alecs, but because we care, and we believe that this challenge helps you focus on areas that have been ignored and left or were maybe “too difficult”, which helps you improve, grow and achieve your goals.

So I’d put that 2020 (2019, 2018, 2017…) sales plan back in the draw, get a blank piece of paper, sit with your most creative, challenging, thought-provoking people and begin planning how you ensure you’re still thriving come January 2022! Or alternatively….give Alpaca a call?

Onwards…….

As Alpacas we like to gather and ruminate about what we are seeing out in the world of business. We like to be positive Alpaca’s and not weary Eeyore’s but there is something we have noticed that we wanted to share with you; there has been a noticeable upsurge in employee litigation and data subject access request (DSAR) submissions since the start of April.

We know from the work we have done to support clients through various restructures over the last few months, even if the process follows the letter of the law and is carried out in a respectful way, employees are still making claims. This is an unprecedented time. The number of people out of work means that the chance of finding alternative work is reduced significantly and in some sectors it’s non-existent.

Employees are quite rightly devastated when their jobs are no longer there and their reactions to some extent can follow the Kûbler-Ross Grief Cycle; for those of you not familiar with this, it’s a process of five stages that are the most commonly observed by the grieving population. The process starts with ‘Denial’, trying to avoid the inevitable. “This isn’t happening to me”; “Why has this happened now”; “They can’t manage without me”. The reactions then move into ‘Anger’, a frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotions; “The company haven’t thought this through”; “They don’t know what they are doing”; “What am I going to do now?”; “I’ll show them they can’t treat me this way!” After Anger comes ‘Bargaining’, seeking in vain for way out; “you have only selected me because….., you should have selected him/her instead”; “if you pay me more, I won’t make a claim against you”; If you let me remain, I’ll work the same hours but you can pay me less”. Depression follows Bargaining and for some people depression can manifest itself in hostility or feelings of helplessness. “they just haven’t listened to me, I’ll show them”; “what am I going to do, there are no jobs available?” Finally, the grief moves into ‘Acceptance’, finding a way forward. Not in the sense that “it’s okay I got made redundant” rather, “I got made redundant, but I’m going to be okay.” It doesn’t mean the decision you made for the employee was a ‘good’ thing, but its something they can live with and move forward.

Find the time to speak to employees, even if you have completed the process (the lawyers will kill me for saying this!), acknowledge their feelings and reactions. Make sure they understand that this was not about them as a person but about a situation outside of their control. Signpost them to support, which could be their GP. If you can arrange outplacement support, please do, there are some good companies out there who provide very personalised support who we are happy to recommend.

Which brings me round to how is this is being felt by employers. When employees are in the grief cycle there is genuine anger and hostility, in some respect they have nothing to lose by making a claim or submitting a DSAR as a ‘fishing’ expedition, but for the employer this becomes time consuming and potentially complex and costly at a time when their focus is on surviving in the current climate. A DSAR must be responded to, you can’t ignore it away. You can require the request to be more specific and you can also explain that it will take you longer to respond if it is complex and you then have three months to respond.

On a more practical note, we have seen that ACAS is overwhelmed with the number of claims being made and tribunals are allocating dates in 2021 and 2022 for hearings. We have experienced ACAS not having the resource to allocate a conciliator at early-stage conciliation, giving both parties the false impression that the other is not interested in settlement. This is the crucial time where a business can explore settlement and avoid costly litigation, but for some organisations this is being missed. If you receive a claim without any prior notification, contact ACAS immediately to find out why this is, as it does not necessarily mean the door is closed on an early commercial settlement.

Will it get any easier, possibly not! Looking forward, we anticipate one of the biggest issues for employers going into 2021 will be their working model, and specifically working from home and flexible working requests. During 2020, many employees were working from home and/or working hours around caring responsibilities. If you now want to get back to people working in the office and create that collaborative work environment, expect push back, expect challenges and be prepared in how you are going to respond.

So, although this started with a bit of an Eeyore moment, in the words of Pooh “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”

Keep safe

Joanne

Has there ever been a more important year than 2020 to give something back to our employees at Christmas?

While most of us cannot roll out the typical office Christmas party, I’d highly recommend you do something to engage your workforce! Even if people are Zoomed out, a good get together (even respecting social distancing) can mean so much and add more value to your people at this time of year.

Depending on your government inflicted ‘tier’, or your companies’ culture and core values, you’ll have plenty to think about.

So here are my top 7 tips to a successful and inclusive 2020 Christmas Party

1. Make sure its something your employee will really value

If you are planning a virtual Christmas party, consider whether this is something that your employees really want. Everyone loves Christmas, and is ready to party, right?

Well actually that’s not completely true, you have heard of the Grinch and Scrooge, haven’t you? On a more serious note, some people for one reason or another might not be inclined to take part in the festivities.

A recent poll of 2000 employees by Glassdoor, showed that 2/3 of the employees surveyed were not interested in a zoom party and would have preferred to have been offered a cash alternative.

Try and take this onboard when you are planning your Christmas events and definitely don’t force people into something, they might not feel they want to take part in. Sometimes these events can cause more negativity and stress for employees than the intended good you were hoping for. Know your people and know what might work.

My top tip would be to make any appearance either in the office or over zoom completely optional, no questions asked and definitely no grinch jokes!

2. Ask yourself “is this an inclusive event for a diverse workforce?”

Let’s face it, you are never going to please everyone with a one option approach and while we want to give back this year, lets also show consideration for those that might not be inclined or able to join your Christmas event.

In my experience the annual hotel Christmas party, you know the ones, mass catering, cold turkey dinners, Wham Last Christmas blaring out of a dodgy sound system and lots of red faces the following Monday, only thank the employees that are able to attend. The attendees are usually given a few quid for drinks as a thank you for their hard work for the year or the party is paid for by the company. For me there is always the debate regarding the employees that didn’t drink through either choice or religion, the single parents, or those with no childcare that simply couldn’t attend, how are they were going to be thanked?

Top tip number 2 would be to have different options for those that, either can’t or choose not to attend. Perhaps a care package or gift to their home would be more suitable to let them know you are thinking of them.

This is the year to shake it up and start thinking outside of the box.

3. Sober Up

Consider doing something that doesn’t involve alcohol, you may find that this means more of your employees are able to attend and also makes them feel that the events are more about giving back than an excuse to get smashed.

4. Plan it on Company time

Organise the event in work time to ensure that as many people as possible can attend, if they choose not to, let them have the time back either then or at a later date.

5. Scrap the theme

If they don’t have a Christmas jumper, you shouldn’t expect them to have purchase one to feel comfortable to attend and no-one really wants to be putting on a ball gown or tux to sit in front of their laptop!

6. Gain Buy in and Ideas

Get your employees involved in the planning to support buy in and gain further insight into what they might be hoping for.

7. No need to Flash the Cash

You don’t have to spend a fortune on anything flashy, a small gesture and a thank you can mean so much more!

If all else fails, plan something for the spring, but please take the above advice if you do.

I would love to hear what you are planning and how it’s all goes, be sure to get in touch and let us know.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

At Alpaca we are having lots of conversations with our clients about their business and their need to change as a result of the pandemic. These changes can be big or small but the question we keep coming back to is ‘have you explored everything, before deciding this is the plan you are going to implement?’

I can hear you ask, ‘Well how would I know I have explored everything?’ ‘Would I know if I have missed something?’ It’s not easy and particularly when you may feel rushed into making a decision or you don’t know what the future holds, so I’m going to share one of my favourite* analogies with you.

Changing your business is like baking a cake and with the end of this seasons GBBO in sight what better analogy to use!

Before we begin

You have made it to the tent, congratulations. This means you must have an intention to bake (change your organisation) but do you have a good idea of what you are going to make?

Do you know what cake you are baking? Is it a Victoria sandwich? Perhaps you fancy trying beetroot and chocolate as a combination; is that a genius innovation or a nasty surprise when it comes out of the oven? Are there people around you who can advise you?

Do you have a recipe? Where has the recipe come from? Is the recipe written down so you can follow it and if necessary, anyone else can follow it for you, or is it scribbled on a tatty piece of paper that you keep in the bottom of your drawer?

Do you have all the Ingredients you need? Have you considered dietary requirements? This might be the same cake you always bake but now you have gluten intolerance to deal with. Are there some ingredients that have passed their sell by date and are no longer suitable for using in the cake?

Do you have the time to make this cake? It’s no good trying to deliver a ‘showstopper’ cake that takes 8 hours to create when you only have 4 hours in which to deliver it.

And finally, before you even start the bake, do you have the right equipment; bowls, mixers, weighting scales, measuring spoons, pans, trays, oven capacity?

In business terms this all equates to what is your business and what is it doing now; what does this look like in terms of your finances, people, processes, systems; where is your plan and is it written down in a way that is clear and everyone can understand what the plan is.

Is your organisation ready for the change, will they adapt, can they envisage what is coming in order to help you or are they lost until the change is finished in which case the plan may go awry?

Have you looked around to see if anyone is doing something similar, can you learn from them?

Can you make this change within the time required with the resources and expertise you have, or do you need external support?

Is the ‘equipment’ currently within your business enough to deliver your plan, do you know what investment is available to you and where you can access it?

And Bake!

Are you all set, do you know which order you need to work to create your masterpiece? Did you need to do any preparation before hand such as butter out of the fridge to soften or get the oven on before you do anything else? Do you need to re-read your recipe before you start?

What if it’s the ‘technical challenge’, you’ve never made this cake before and you only have a basic recipe perhaps you could have a look around and see what others in the tent are doing and if it looks sensible, copy it. However, if this is your recipe and you are comfortable with it don’t be put off just because Bob behind you is doing something different. It’s ok to know what you are doing and crack on with it!

You have a disaster! You used salt instead of sugar in your cake mixture. Damn those kilner jars that all look alike when you are under pressure. Stop, take a breath, take stock, can you save this, or do you need to start again? What can you adjust in the recipe to make sure you have something to present to the judges?

Getting back to applying this in your business. Do you have the skills and experience to undertake and sustain this change; do your team have the required skills and experience to cope with the change; would you benefit from running a pilot scheme first; do you have any ‘what if’ plans; is there knowledge out there you can tap into; have you told those who need to know that you are making this change such as the bank, serving a break notice, raising the funds?

5 minutes!

The dreaded call for 5 minutes left, are you going to complete in time, how are you presenting your bake, is it looking like a masterpiece or a disaster that might pass with a sprinkle of glitter? You walk the cake up to the table and hold your breath; does it pass muster or is it destined for the bin; can you take the feedback and learn from it or will we see the same mistakes next week? What are you going to tell you family and friends about your experience and how will this differ to what they see when the show is aired?

We know that for the GBBO competitors it’s a raised eyebrow or if they are lucky a handshake but what about your cake, what are you doing with it afterwards? Are you selling the cake, parcelling out little pieces for different people or having delivered this cake agreeing to bake regularly for the customer; do you know what you should be charging for the cake, are you going to charge more if the customer wants extras on the cake; who’s responsible for your quality control; what if the customer wants a different cake next time? Have you got the necessary agreements in place; do you need to make changes to your contracts of employment, commercial terms and conditions, licencing agreements, fee structure etc?

What have you communicated so far, will your employees, clients, customers, suppliers know the change is complete? What will look, sound, feel different and how will this compare to what you communicated at the beginning? Will you be honest if errors are made or your change didn’t quite go to plan?

You are through to the next week – congratulations!

If redesigning what you do as an organisation feels like it’s too hard think about using the baking analogy; imagine your change as a recipe. Be aware of the steps you need to take and follow them. Even if at the end of this your cake wouldn’t win any awards, you used a recipe and you made what you believed to be the right ‘cake’, with the ingredients and the time you had available to you. I call that a result!

*My favourite analogy is comparing Alpaca and what we do to ‘The Pips’. Some of you may not have heard of Gladys Knight but she is considered an amazing singer and performer in her own right but when she had ‘The Pips’ as her backing singers she become a legend! In their early Motown career, Gladys Knight and The Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Dianna Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to her soulful performance overshadowed Dianna Ross. Berry Gordy (music mogul and founder of Motown records) later told Gladys that she was giving Dianna Ross a hard time. That’s what we do at Alpaca, we help you become the performer that overshadows the main act!

*terms and conditions apply. No actual guarantee implied. Investments can go down as well as up. Applicants must be 18 or over. Some sequences shortened. Delivery mileage included. Goods must be returned in the original packaging within a 28 day period. May cause drowsiness. Do not operate heavy machinery. John’s Cupcakes are licensed and manufactured in the US of Ireland.

See, it’s rarely a good idea to simply cut and paste your Ts and Cs from somebody else’s website, even if it just seems like a boring, “tick box” exercise that needs completing. Just because you’ve never been burned by having bad (or no) legal agreements doesn’t make them a bad idea. And yet so many small businesses feel that this is the only way to protect themselves. As you can see above, it usually has the opposite effect, simply confusing your customer.

Geek moment – there is also a legal principle that says if you ever need to try and rely on a clause in court, any ambiguity will be interpreted against you. So you might just find that you’ve made your life harder by trying to find a shortcut.

And yet this doesn’t mean you should spend the earth and months of your life creating the best legal agreement the world has ever seen.

But working with Enlightened SMEs on a daily basis we often find ourselves having to educate clients as to the rationale for these documents. Many are resistant to spending on legal or “compliance” issues, often because (as above) they’ve never been burned.

“I operate on a handshake”, we hear often. Which is lovely, but if your clients or suppliers don’t, then you may find yourself in a pickle. Also, Coronavirus, people, please; handshakes are so 2019.

Trust us, having simple yet robust, fair, clear terms and conditions, contracts with suppliers, shareholders agreements and similar documents is a good idea. I can think of at least three reasons:

1. It makes the sales process easier and stops your sales team answering the same questions every time;
2. It makes you more attractive to investors, as they can see you take governance seriously; and
3. It might just save you thousands in legal fees or disputes down the line.

It may seem painful to invest a few thousand pounds to get these right upfront but the cost of getting them wrong almost always outweighs the investment.

So often we speak to clients who are having trouble with wastage, returns, unpaid debts or internal disputes who don’t realise that these issues would never have materialised if decent contracts were in place upfront.

Similarly, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve worked with business owners who have been pushed out of their own companies because they failed to have a shareholders agreement and could not then believe that they had no rights or ability to stop the other shareholders “ganging up” to vote them off the Board. Tens of thousands in legal fees later, they end up starting again with no reward for years of hard work.

Work out the value to you of having these in place. If you sell a hundred thousand widgets a day at pennies a pop, and your returns are less than 0.01%, you might be pretty relaxed about your terms and conditions. On the other hand if you sell a more bespoke product (or service) and the cost of getting it wrong runs into the tens of thousands, then surely it’s worth investing a little now to save a headache later on.

You want an analogy – imagine you’re buying a house. The survey is an expense you could do without, as are the legal searches. But do you really want to take the risk that the roof is rotten, the walls have dry rot and the driveway belongs to your neighbour ? Copying the searches from the last house you bought, because that went well and you never had a problem, isn’t going to help.
Same applies with your business.

A shameless plug for Alpaca ?

Well sure, we can help you sort this stuff but it’s just part of what we do. We’re not a law firm so we don’t HAVE to make our money selling you complicated legal solutions. We’d rather work out what protection you really need and tailor it to suit. But speak to your favourite lawyer if you prefer. If money really is too tight to mention (contemporary music reference there, for those paying attention), go online to a site like Legalzoom and have a crack yourself, but make sure they’re done with YOUR business in mind. It’s way better than having nothing and almost certainly more helpful than simply cutting and pasting from another company.

How do we convince clients that the documents are necessary ?

Frankly, often we don’t. We accept that the clients may never really care about them. Instead of getting all precious about our lovely legal agreements, we focus our client’s attention on the dramatic impact we can have on their profit line and simply make it a function of our Growth Programme to quietly take care of the compliance stuff in the background.

Basically we engage them with really exciting sales plans, we open doors to new clients, we return them huge great wedges of cash through R&D management and cost savings, and then use some of that free cash to deliver a compliance regime that makes them a scalable business.

Alpaca: Growing ESMEs since 2015*

*terms and conditions may apply 😊

Did you know the LEP is offering a GRANT of up to £3,000 to help you with professional support if your business has been affected by Covid-19, which covers 100% of the of the costs of that support?

Here’s how Alpaca can help.

We have been working with SMEs to support them through the pandemic looking at ways to build resilience, adapting products and services to meet customer needs and minimising future business interruption.

We know from experience that applying for grant funding can be a time consuming and painful process, so we have put together a couple of easy options of support packages for you to choose from and will help you complete the application process.

There’s only a short window for applications, which starts on Wednesday – so drop us an email at info@alpaca.uk.com with your name and we’ll be back in touch shortly.

Well that went quickly, three weeks where I tried my very hardest not to think about work, check emails, respond to calls from clients and generally spend time on things that were all about me. It wasn’t as easy as I thought and although there was an added distraction in the form of a beautiful Flatcoat puppy I still found it hard not to think about work, talk about work and generally get excited at the thought of coming back.

What I did do though was read, and lots of it. I love reading, it’s my down time, how I relax at the end of the day, my go to thing when I need a distraction; I like just about any kind of book, something that I can lose myself in, something that I can read and it challenges me to think differently, a book that can make me laugh out loud until I can’t get my breath (thank you David Sedaris, your books have been a tonic recently). Whilst I was furloughed I received a copy of ‘Non Bullshit Innovation’ by David Rowan which became my bedtime reading, and what a read it was, it could have only been made better had I had post-it notes at the side of the bed to mark all the interesting sections. It was the first book I had read that gave me the examples to describe why and how we do things at Alpaca; at last I could read about other businesses that felt familiar and that I wanted to be part of.

So, here’s my very short take on the companies whose strategy resonated with me because it’s stuff we are already doing.

As a result of the economic impact of COVID 19 there have been companies out there who have found new ways to do business. Did you know Craven & Co used to make metal & steel wire storage and handling solutions, but nobody was spending money on new catering facilities or shops, however with a few tweaks (well maybe a bit more than a few tweaks) they are now making medical equipment for the NHS Nightingale hospitals. Then there is the Dine Group who provide high end catering to weddings and other large events and also had a ‘Dine Delivered’ product. Much of their market; gone in a day! What they did was to change their business to only supply home dining experiences because folks still had birthdays and anniversaries during lockdown and called it the ‘Lockdown Dinner Box’. What about Masons Gin and Harrogate Tipple who started producing hand sanitiser alongside their Gin? All of these were fast pivots to respond to a rapidly changing market, but if you think these are innovative though, think again! In the book there is a chapter about OP Financial group who switched from being a long term, well established bank in Finland to be a hospital, how exciting is that? It was able to do this because it was a trusted institution that held fast to its core values of a cooperative and instead of trying to do banking better it took a long hard look at what its clients really needed and made that switch.

Reading about Xiaomi (shao-o-mi) is the first time I have been able to understand a company and say, ‘that’s how Alpaca operates!’ Xiaomi is a technology company that designs and builds smart products such as Mi Phones, Mi Smart TV’s and Mi Pads, you get the picture. What it does differently is rather than expanding the business as the technology changes they invest in start-ups and other business to create a portfolio of products, that together create a lifestyle for their consumers. They call it an ‘eco-system’. They describe their strategy as akin to building a bamboo forest; traditional companies are like trees, they take time to grow, they are fixed and when they fall, they fall hard and fast, and we have certainly seen that happening recently, even pre COVID19! Bamboo forest don’t die off, new baby bamboo is always growing fast to replenish it. Alpaca is made up of numerous shoots of bamboo, we have our core product of professional services; we have start-ups that we invest in and support to grow through business advice; there are clients we work with where we take an equity stake rather than a fee (we call it putting our money where our mouth is!); and there are businesses that we purchase and add to our portfolio of services because we know our clients need that type of support. In a nutshell we are creating our own bamboo forest!

At Alpaca we often talk about our service and how we price it for clients. We don’t charge by the hour or the ‘letter’, whatever we charge we do our very best to add value to the client, but what does that look like? Heywood Hill Bookstore has a wonderful literary history and a royal warrant, but they were significantly impacted by the online retailers and just could not complete. Rather than cutting prices or closing the business they realised what they did have, that none of the online retailers had, was a team made up of dedicated bibliophiles who each read up to 200 books a year and understood the importance of matching the right book with the right person. They grew a subscription service where book lovers could choose a subscription based around the type of books they liked and how frequently they wished to receive a book and the staff would select them a book and send it with a beautiful personalised note. The cost of a 12-month subscription for 12 paperback books is £225. That’s approximately £18 for each paperback book, but according to their filed accounts it generated £313,068 in revenue in 2018. Let’s overlay that model with the Alpaca model; we are not cheap, and we don’t pull clients into services they don’t need, for example think about supermarkets where you can buy three books for £10. You end up with two books you want and one you don’t because it’s perceived as a bargain. Or what about online retailers that uses an algorithm to tell you what you need to read next; how many have you bought and not read or wished you hadn’t read it; I know I certainly have. Both simple examples that show how easy it is to waste money and time. At Alpaca we personally get to know our clients, we anticipate their needs, we make valuable connections for them that they didn’t know they needed and those who get it are absolutely prepared to pay for our service! Anyone any ideas how we get a royal warrant?

Four of us at Alpaca have now read the book, and we all picked out different chapters we got the most from or that resonated with us in regard to work we had done; which shows we all looked at this book with a different perspective. Imagine what that looks like for your business when you engage with us? Having a team of Alpacas working together, being innovative but without the bullshit!

Happy reading!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve all had to come to terms with many new sayings, phrases and acronyms;

Furlough,
CBILS,
Lockdown,
WFH,
Covidiot,
Social distancing,
Exit plan,
and ‘The New Normal’ …

But if ‘normal’ is now ‘new’ then is it not ‘different’? And if indeed it is different, then how do we know what to do? What is right and what is wrong?

It is not unfair to say that expert advice is hard to come by when none of us have ever been through something like this before? However, Alpaca have been working hard to collate the type of questions and queries we’ve been getting from clients and have pulled together a checklist of things you might want to think about to help get back to ‘normal’ – which isn’t normal at all – it’s new – and different …

Download our PDF below. It is by no means a definitive list of everything, but we hope it helps! And if you need any extra support with something you had not thought of – well you know where we are!

Alpaca new normal guidance

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