Red Sofa Interviews

Mike Feuer on The Red Sofa

Watch the full interview here

Interviewer: Welcome, Mike. It’s nice of you to join us on The Red Sofa.

I understand your from Compass Business Development.

What do you regard as your main USP?

Mike: So, the purpose / the reason why I set Compass up was to provide hands on help to resolve operational issues. And those issues affect profits and cash flow, but on the basis that money is the symptom and not the cause. Focus on the cause, which is the operational stuff.

USPS. The idea that the USP is that it’s real hands-on help, it’s right at the centre of the operations. So, you’re doing the job.

Interviewer: So it’s not just coaching and training?

Mike: No, it’s definitely not coaching. It’s not training, it’s not advice, it’s not report and run. It’s get stuck in, fix it what needs sorting.

Interviewer: And how long have you been doing this for?

Mike: Just over 20 years now. Yes. Great.

Interviewer: What does Compass do for its clients?

Mike: What Compass does is it resolves the issues by working in the operations, seeing first-hand what’s happening and then making and implementing a plan with the team to sort out and stay on top of the operational issues.

When I use the examples later, this will become a lot clearer.

Interviewer:  And why is there need for this?

Mike: Operations are often neglected. People focus on money, and as I said before, money is a symptom, it’s not a cause. The nuts and bolts of how things work and the consequences of things not working, it’s just not attractive. People don’t always want to get involved in that.

But I love it. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s clear where I’m starting from, it’s clear what I need to do and it’s clear how it’s progressing.

Interviewer: So, if I was one of your clients, what are the benefits and how long would it take to see those benefits?

Mike: So, it’ll be reduce stress, it’ll improve profits, it’ll create better cash flow, you’ll get better customer service out of it, which is good for your reputation, and it’s also good for staff retention.

How long does it take? Depends on the size and the scale of the operation. Is it multi-site, is it single site? It depends on the scale of the issues. Do they have lots of customers, do they have lots of suppliers to deal with?

And sometimes one thing that you’re sorting, one issue can lead to other issues that need sorting.

It’s not always fixed what the mission will be, because there’s other things that come from it, but it could be my shortest is five weeks, my longest is 18 months. But I’ve got associations going back for over 19 years.

Interviewer: So, with 19 to 20 years’ worth of experience behind you, what sort of sectors does Compass operate in?

Mike: It’s been a huge variety of sectors. Retailing, which is clothing, vehicles, manufacturing of the plastics, textiles, garments, medical equipment, healthcare, housing associations, digital, forensics, homeware products and a whole load of others.

Because it’s not that it’s had to be sector specific. It’s about understanding the company, what they’re trying to do and the factors that influence them within their sector. But there’s people in the companies that do that.

So, putting the experience together, it’s a mindset of how to get the best out of your assets. It’s not just only about knowing the sector.

Interviewer: And what sort of size of companies are these that you’re going into?

Mike: The smallest has probably been about 300K turnover. I’ve done a couple of start-ups, but it was properly well funded, and I’ve done up to 85 million. I’ve worked all over the UK, worked in mainland Europe and bilingual and French.

It’s been a huge spread. But that’s not the issue. The issue is when the owner says, I need some help, that’s all I need. The size is not a consequence.

Interviewer: And what prevents this advice being effective?

Mike: Okay, so first, remember, it’s not advice, it’s really hands on help, sticking my neck out, making things work. Because sometimes you get resistance from people, there’s, particularly people who’ve been doing things for a long time and don’t want to consider any other alternatives. They’re not necessarily looking at the impact.

So, the sources of the resistance will usually be predictable. I’ll see it, but I’ll get a tip off from the owner to say, watch this one, watch that one. But really, it’s up to me to win these people over, show the benefits to them, be transparent and then earn the respect for what I’m doing. Because it’s a very unusual approach to go into a business and work like this with your heart in somebody else’s business.

Interviewer: So, what would be the trigger for someone to give you a call and seek your hands on approach?

Mike: So, a number of different circumstances. It could be somebody’s very busy but not making money. They may have an idea of what cause of the problem is, but they won’t necessarily be able to deal with it, because people just focus on the latest email.

They could take on a magic new contract that they’ve been desperate to win and when they finally get it, they get swamped. Could be just profit is lower than planned and they don’t know if that relates to the job costings or the way that it was sold. Could be people are frazzled, so it becomes a customer service issue. Can’t find your stock. We know we’ve made it, we know we bought it, we know we should have it, but can’t see it.

You could have customers frustrated with the quality of service or just quality itself. And quality could be product quality, but quality can be service quality as well. So, work has to go back through the company and be redone. So, we’ve got rework on a service as well as rework on a product.

Interviewer: Without giving any names away are you able to share any real-life samples with us?

Mike: Yeah. So, this is a great opportunity. It puts it a bit more in context. It kind of translates what I’ve been saying. So, I’ll give you some examples. They’re not necessarily the best or the worst or whatever, it’s just to try and illustrate a spread of why this is relevant to companies.

One client I had was they made plastic items for the home. The issues they were faced was the profitability was poor, the stock was high, the cash flow was negative, and so we had to look at there’s a lot of different contributory factors. So, I had to improve the operating efficiency of the equipment, but that was down to planning.

Some of it was down to maintenance of the machinery, but some of it was down to planning. There are too many changes going on. So, by improving the planning, we reduced the waste, which then meant we also increased the recycling.

We made what was going to be sold instead of just running for the sake of running. And we controlled the way that customer orders and forecasts were managed. That then made sure that we made stock that was turning quickly rather than slow moving stock, and we could reduce the buying to match what was understood as a requirement. Instead of just buying quantities that we didn’t need and sit on for ages, we could buy what we needed. And that improved the cash flow as well.

That’s one example.

Another example, I worked with the housing association. It’s a change from public sector ownership to private sector. Several issues there, but one of them was that the tenants only had one opportunity to make payments in a month. Well, the people in housing associations, for them that was an issue, so I managed to set it up so that they could pay weekly.

They also had another issue where the cost control of repairs wasn’t as good as it should have been. A small repair bill, the cost would spiral because there wasn’t enough control on the actual process for how a request was made from a tenant and then how that was managed through to doing the work.

Another example as a vehicle retailer, multiple sites, 14 sites, but they were doing cars, vans, bikes, motorbikes. They had issues with their service department, which was specifically servicing seven brands, it wasn’t making a profit and the productivity was poor.

So when I looked through it, they couldn’t get enough cars through. They had lots of people employed, but not all those people were there all the time. I worked closely with the technicians to see how they were given the jobs, what timings they were given, how they were monitored in, supervised in those jobs, how they were helped in those jobs because they were struggling with a problem and not asked for help.

I also found that they weren’t doing all the billing and the reason they weren’t billing was because the reception people couldn’t read what was written on the document for the work done, so it wasn’t getting billed. That was absolutely killing the hourly rate. But by getting close and detail into the operation, I could see these things.

Another example, it was a surface cleaning products company. It’s a massive Italian group, but I came across them, they had stock in UK for a very, very well-known UK company. And this stock had to be reworked. It needed related, it had to be reworked.

And the advantage of reworking was, instead of chucking all the stock away, which was the fluid contents, as well as all the bottles in the packaging, we could rework the stock and then we could resell it because it had the right information on it.

But what I did for them was I found a company to do the rework, I did all the due diligence on them to make sure that they could support that level of rework and that they would do a good job. I arranged all the logistics for the uplift from the stock site to the rework site, put in place all the quality and the packing standards, so that when it came back, it was clean, progressed all the all the rework, then reorganised the logistics for the return on the time delivery to meet their ultimate customer orders.

So, there’s four examples there of a huge spread of different sectors and different types of activities.

The bottom line is its operational, it’s getting stuck in, there’s nowhere to hide. You’re making a difference or you’re not. It’s absolutely black and white and that’s what I’ve loved about it for the last 20 years.

Interviewer: I can tell you very enthusiastic about what you do, Mike, and I’m very grateful for you sharing your past and current workload with us on the sofa for today.

Mike: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Interviewer: Bye. Thank you.

Watch the full interview here

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