A consultant that thinks like a client
You need to know the rules in order to break them successfully
The poor soul didn’t know it was impossible, he just went ahead and did it
A tweak of the engine is usually sufficient, but sometimes you need to hit it with a hammer
The better the presentation style, the more the message will be believed
Not-for-profit organisations measure success by acclamation
Lack of ruthlessness causes business development initiatives to fail
Things go round in spirals. It just looks like circles from a certain angle
‘Assurance’ is like a faulty walking stick: lean too heavily and it will collapse
If you build it, they really do come
Financial modelling is a ‘gateway’ skill: it gains access to more senior positions
Working in the public sector, large numbers of people are looking over your shoulder
A harsh, uncomfortable existence is the best way to ensure corporate success
An unexploded risk just detonated
Selling is partly about enjoying the game
Analysing financial accounts will help you ask the right questions but the answers lie elsewhere
Experienced HR people get into character for an interview
Really talented people are quite rare in business, as in any walk of life
What have you got to negotiate with?
Creative people have a talent for borrowing
Anyone reporting financial results in a quoted company knows the pressure to avoid surprises
Sail around the world, just make sure you can afford to return
‘Where’s economic growth going to come from?’ Seriously?
Let out your inner crazed dictator
Problems are dimly perceived, solutions hazily understood, and outcomes unknown or unknowable
Risk is the name investors give to losing money
Decision-making begins when analysis finishes
Sometimes leaders have to be ‘ahead’ of public opinion
Loved by consultants, loathed by managers, benchmarking is a powerful analytical tool
Things are constantly changing, yes, but the way we live changes quite slowly
We get to know each other by telling stories
The role of a Chairman is chief executioner
In all innovation strategies, you must – above all – kill bad ideas quickly
Scottish independence is a lovely idea, I just think it’s going on the wrong direction
You don’t need to be good with numbers to be good at finance
Work comes first
If you want to know what life will be like in the future, I can tell you. It will be exactly like life today
Just before a meeting starts there’s always someone sharing a pet theory
‘I want a new job’. No you don’t! Otherwise you’d get one
Raising finance is like pitching a film or TV programme. It’s about who you know, darling
Net Present Value doesn’t convey much useful information
Barring a couple of months in early 1998, I don’t think I’ve ever been bored at work
Double entry bookkeeping ranks among the glories of the Renaissance
You’re not your budget
The first thing you should expect from your audit partner is an invitation to lunch
Like a doctor that smokes, I ignored personal finances until my late thirties
Corporate life is constantly changing, full of suffering and slightly absurd
A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking big numbers
The average earner pays 36% in tax. Is it just me, or does this seem a lot?
Ask a professional firm how proud they are with the work they’ve done
An MIS system that is boring and reliable is a necessary condition of good decision-making.
Both sexes need a mix of masculine and feminine skills
Without a cost we’re unable to value anything
Even standing on the moon watching the Earth rise must get a bit dull after a while
Perfect mental health is as rare as elite athletes, requiring similar levels of training and commitment
I’ve lost £0.5m
Where did we get the idea that we live in times of accelerating change? The way we live changes quite slowly
You need to keep cutting the tale. It regenerates
ERP systems are a devil to implement
All progress is achieved through projects
Leaders are 56% born, 34% made and 10% learned
EBITDA is like a list of technical financial terms put in descending order of confusion
We should be aiming for a valuation that is accurate to within, say, + or – 15%.
A wonderful, clear and distinctive brand is a thing of beauty
Unlike donkeys, people will move forward, or not, because they want to
You might plan to build a bridge, but you need a strategy for defending it.
Management of the public sector is one of the great challenges for the next generation
No one ever does what they say they’ll do
Investing in start-ups is a form of Russian roulette where each chamber except one contains a bullet
Anyone with a clear mind can do strategy
The ideal amount of work is slightly more than you can cope with
So that’s the plan. Now I’m going to pretend to listen to your petty concerns
Give me a difficult person any day. It’s the reasonable people that you have to watch out for
Introverts have to make more of an effort to speak and extroverts have to make more of an effort to listen.
The future is non linear, meaning our assumptions about it will always be wrong
Save more. You’re welcome!
Being a decent employer has limited impact on employees’ satisfaction levels
Treating everyone equally does not mean equalising everyone
Playing games can teach us a lot about business strategy
If God didn’t exist, we would need to invent Him
To those that have, more shall be given
This is what auditing is like. Most of the time, you have no idea what is going on
Publishing market forecasts is like being professionally obliged to make a fool of yourself
Understanding how culture works is important if you want to change it

Organisational culture

I used to find the term culture difficult to grasp, at least as it is applied to organisations, until I read the story about the five monkeys and a banana: Five monkeys are in a cage with a banana suspended from a rope.  The banana is out of reach unless the monkeys climb a set

Financial forecasts

You have to pity analysts and financial journalists having to publish their market forecasts.  It’s like being professionally obliged to make a fool of yourself. My prediction for the 2018 year-end position of the FTSE is 7,636 (it is 7,017 at the time of writing, as the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement is published).  The truth


My first audit job was John Brown Engineering.  Sadly no longer with us, in the eighties the company made gas turbines.  It used to make ships.  The QE2 was built in the John Brown yard in 1967.  The leader of our audit team had been taken to the launch as a little girl.  When I