Four Elements

Strategic Consultants
Four Elements is a partnership between experienced entrepreneur Paul Freedman and HW Fisher & Company, a top 30 accountancy firm with 30 partners and 250 employees

About us
We bring a fresh pair of eyes, fearless honesty and a wealth of commercial experience to bear on clients who have the desire to grow, the courage to change and the curiosity to explore.

WHAT WE DO
We help the owners and managers of SME's identify strategies to re-invigorate their business. We advise on ways to operate more profitably, to grow organically or via acquisition, raise fresh capital, or prepare for exit.

HOW WE DO IT
We work with clients who have passion and talent, regardless of the field they work in.

They know they should be achieving more but they need help figuring out how.

We identify the gap between where the business is today and where they want to take it, draw up a plan of action and then work together to implement it.

No "12-step process" with a catchy name in sight - just honest conversations, fresh ideas and focus.

PAUL FREEDMAN
"a very rare knack of seeing right to the heart of things and coming up with commercially sound yet creative solutions"
Paul is an experienced entrepreneur whose career started in 1991 in the Corporate Finance division of Citigroup. After a spell in which he helped re-structure his family's textile business, Paul founded Timestrip, a smart label technology business in 2001, which floated on the London Stock Exchange (AiM) in 2004 and he led as CEO until 2012.

Prior to Four Elements, Paul held various senior interim and permanent positions, culminating in his role at Dyson as Managing Director of Lighting, their newest global product category. Paul is also an investor and Non Executive Director at BluefinLED. Full Profile here.
WHAT MAKES US SPECIAL
Empathy
More often than not we have already walked in our client's shoes - we speak their language.
Unconventional
We look beyond the obvious for unusual and often surprising ideas.
Connected
We have an extensive network of brilliant people around the world - and we love making connections!
Incisive
We cut through complexity and find root causes…quickly.
Listeners
The answers usually sit with our clients. Our job is to extract them.
Truth-tellers
Honest and forthright, however inconvenient the truth may be.
BLOG
How to talk to an entrepreneur
I was recently invited to give some insight to a group of savvy financial advisers on how to talk to and handle entrepreneurs. It's a subject I feel quite comfortable with – I've been behaving like an entrepreneur since the age of 12, selling Belgian chocolates in the playground for Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. (a story for another time perhaps)

Planning for this talk made me stop and consider whether it's even possible to talk about entrepreneurs in ways that aren't absurdly stereotypical.

So here's what I did. view full blog here


It was one hell of a ride!
The year was 2000 and the widely predicted Y2K apocalypse had passed, leaving everything in tact except the IT budgets of millions of companies who had succumbed to the oldest sales trick in the book - fear.

And me, well I was feeling fearless. With a second child just born, a job that gave me freedom and a good lifestyle, I decided that it was the perfect time to pack it all in for the total uncertainty that has since become known as a #startup.

My amazing 'wife-for-life' hooked me up with one of her oldest friends, who was to become like a brother to me in the years to come. A kindred spirit, he too was dissatisfied with his well-paid job. He was a product guy, an innovator, a visionary. I knew how to charm and kick ass in equal measure. We were the perfect companions on what was to become the wild trip that our first ever investor once described to me as follows: "Whether I lost money or made, it wasn't all that important - you gave us one hell of a ride and I'd do it again with you!"

We both quit our jobs and like Butch and the Sundance Kid we took a running jump off the edge of a cliff. And just as with Butch and the Kid, I remember him saying just before we jumped that he wasn't certain that we could actually make the product he had envisaged. To which I told him not to worry - I wasn't certain I would be able to raise the money we needed. We jumped anyway.

Over the coming months we licensed a technology, hired people to develop it into a product that no-one had ever thought of but everyone understood the need for, built custom machinery to manufacture it, and opened a factory (because no-one else was crazy enough to do it for us). We learned what it feels like to be slowly hugged to death by large corporates. Hunting whales with a fishing rod takes optimism and resilience, and our organisation had both in plentiful supply.

We had fun and we made memories along the way. We had the agonising crisis of whether to tell the CEO of a major US company looking to license our technology that, unbeknownst to him, the sample he had been holding had leaked a permanent red oil all over the cuff of his $5,000 suit. We ran at a hundred miles an hour stopping only to refuel the bank account every 12 months, selling our dream, our vision and our infectious passion. We IPO'd the company inside 3 years and were even described in the press as the new TetraPak.

Our shares were worth, at times, many millions of pounds. At other times along the way they weren't worth the paper they were printed on. Some investors made good money but others inevitably lost out. As stressful as things were at times, I never lost a night's sleep because I loved what I was doing, I believed in it, and I was alive and kicking.

I'm proud to say that the business is still very much alive and kicking under the stewardship of my now ex-partner, who is still like a brother to me and always will be. It didn't become the next TetraPak, but we did what is now called a 'pivot' and it turns a nice profit and makes great product that doesn't ruin $5,000 suits any more. It even saves lives as a vaccine reminder in Pakistan.

I'm richer for the hundreds of things that I learned, the snakes I met and the ladders I climbed. I lived to tell the tale and I impart that experience every day in my work as an adviser and a coach to owner/managers and leadership teams of SMEs. They bring the energy and the firepower to blaze a trail and I make sure that their energy is focused and that the trail is headed in the right direction.

Eisenhower's Decision Matrix (aka The "Important/Urgent" principle)
If you are an Owner/Manager then there's a strong possibility that you aren't spending enough time on the things that will really improve your business. You're getting sucked into URGENT stuff that is either really important (time critical) or not important (at least not to you).

Here's what to do.

1. List out what is really IMPORTANT to the successful growth of your business. It's the NOT URGENT stuff that always drops down the list - like making sure you have the right skills and mindset in key roles; ways to diversify your product and client portfolio; time spent listening to your key suppliers, clients and employees; planning for a sale or succession. Anything that doesn't make this list is, by default, either URGENT or NOT IMPORTANT.

2. URGENT/ IMPORTANT stuff might be a client proposal that has to meet a deadline, or chasing an overdue payment that is bunging up your cash flow. Deal with these issues efficiently - as if it's the last day before your holiday. If there are too many issues like this every day then figure out how to delegate more responsibility so that it doesn't always fall on your plate.

3. If it's URGENT/ NOT IMPORTANT then take a deep breath, delegate it and track progress. The worst that will happen is that it will become URGENT/ IMPORTANT further down the line. Treat these like a training ground for the future delegation of the really IMPORTANT/URGENT stuff.

4. If it's NOT IMPORTANT/NOT URGENT then just stop doing it altogether.

This approach will help you carve out some precious time for the stuff that was on the IMPORTANT/NOT URGENT list you wrote out - and this is where the business will really start to improve.

This concept is one of the most important mechanisms we use to unlock growth with our clients. If you'd like to know more about the way we work then get in touch for a chat!

More

The Muppet Show (aka My First ever sales call)
If you expect this to be a story about sales techniques or how to cope magnificently through adversity then don't waste your next five minutes reading this. If you enjoy hearing about the excruciating experiences of another human being, then read on and enjoy – at my expense.

Click here for full blog......
Stop saying "yes" to everything
"Do you know where you are going?"

This is the the first question I usually ask an SME business owner when considering a new assignment. Too often, I then watch the thousand-yard stare as they either try to remember what they wrote in a business plan once upon a time, or improvise a mission statement on the spot.

If you can't answer that question quickly and clearly then you need to spend some time thinking about it – and soon.

A clear plan creates a story. It describes a journey that people will either get behind or run away from. Either outcome is fine.

It also allows you to recognise the opportunities that are likely to divert you from your intended destination. Without a destination in mind, everything starts to look like an interesting option. The energy you expend on exploring these options is wasted energy. A plan helps you to quickly say "no thanks' – and to explain why.

In his brilliant book Wine Bar Theory, David Gilbertson recommends that you imagine what your business could be one day, and then draw a picture of it. Compare that picture to where you are today and then colour in the road between the two. Work out how long it will take to travel that road, what needs to happen and by when.

The truth is that most SME's only need a 50-page business plan if they are raising money or selling up. They are too busy making the next payroll run, chasing payments or new business. And rightly so.

At the very least, carve out some time to draw that map and then make sure you always carry it around with you. It could be the start of a revolution in the way that you run your business.

More
Two simple questions
I love simple questions that cut through the BS. It's nice to be the one asking them but I have also been on the receiving end.

I was once discussing my career with a proven business leader whose opinions I respect. He asked: "What are you really good at, and what are you passionate about?"

My hesitant, stumbling response to these simple questions revealed to me that my career was drifting. It was only when I could confidently answer these questions that I was able to make some changes and move forward with new clarity and purpose.

When you are doing what you are really good at, in a field that you are passionate about, success normally follows. I not only use these questions on myself from time to time, but also when I am assessing whether a business has people with the right skills, doing what they are best at, in areas they are passionate about.

Try these two simple questions for size and see where the answers take you.

More
Frank advice
Faced with making a truly monumental decision, but unhappy with any of the options laid out, a character in House of Cards is reminded of one of Frank Underwood's favourite sayings: "If you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table."

Some call this 'out of the box' or 'lateral thinking'. James Dyson describes it as 'wrong thinking' and I prefer that phrase. Dyson frequently apply 'wrong thinking' to the product design process with massive success. However, applying it to wider business situations, especially when you are under extreme pressure, can be far more challenging.

Click here for full article.
Contact us
Four Elements Consulting LLP
Acre House 11-15 William Rd
London, NW1 3ER
Phone: +44 (0) 207 874 1161
E-mail: advice@4econsulting.co.uk
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