Insight Associates provide outsourced accounting and Finance Director services to ambitious and growing businesses. We work as your only resource or with existing staff to give you complete financial support including monthly management accounts, high level financial advice, robust controls and financial systems, funding and business planning, payroll & compliance, VAT returns and statutory compliance.

Successful business leaders have all the information they need to make good decisions…Do You?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Millions, Billions and Trillions ...

A guest Blog from our friends at
Independent Banking Consultants 

Since 2008 references to “millions” “billions” and “trillions” have become commonplace; but do we really appreciate how big these numbers are?

In 2008 the collapse of Lehman Brothers signalled the onset of the global financial crisis, which in turn has escalated into the present sovereign debt crisis. Throughout this time references to “billions” and “trillions” have become commonplace in discussions about GDP, bank bailouts, quantitative easing and the like. So just how big are these numbers?

Before we try to put them into context lets first define the numbers themselves. Historically the international definitions of these numbers differed but the following are now the accepted ones:

1,000,000 - One Million (a thousand thousands)

1,000,000,000 - One Billion (a thousand millions)

1,000,000,000,000 - One Trillion (a thousand billions)

The problem is that these numbers are so huge that it is hard for the human brain to comprehend them without adding a frame of reference. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to relate them to a recognised period of time. Take ‘one second’ for example; there are 86,400 seconds in one day.

Therefore a million equates to more than eleven and a half days when measured in seconds.

A billion equates to roughly 31 years and eight months: in other words, if you had started a clock ticking when Margaret Thatcher first became Prime Minister it would only have passed the billion second mark last year!!

And your clock would have taken a staggering 31,709 years to count out a trillion seconds!!!

Putting some recent events in context

If we now apply the same frame of reference to some recent events it really helps to put them into context.

  • At the time of writing the UBS rogue trader has cost his (former) employer $2.3 billion – that’s nearly 73 years when measured in seconds, so you would have had to start your clock in 1938, the year before the Second World War started 
  • In April Lloyds TSB set aside £3.2 billion to cover the cost of payment protection insurance mis-selling – measured in seconds that equates to over 101 years, so that’s the same as your clock running since 1910 (two years before Titanic sank on her maiden voyage) 
  • Recently the cost of separating retail and investment banking was put at £7 billion – that’s 222 years, or back to 1789 (the start of the French Revolution) 
  • There is talk of increasing the European Financial Stability Fund to two trillion Euros in order to cover European bailouts and recapitalise its banks – that’s 63,418 years which would take us back to the time of Neanderthal man 
  • The USA recently increased its overall debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion – that’s an eye watering 453,438 years!! 
Small numbers are often not as benign as they may seem

So what conclusions should we draw from all this?

Well, you can remember this as a fun thing to entertain your friends with, although there is also a serious side to it that stems from our tendency to overlook the reality behind many numbers – sometimes numbers that can appear quite small and innocuous.

In our world we see this all the time, whether it is borrowers who fail to appreciate the difference that interest rates can make to the overall cost of some loans; or not appreciating the creeping effect of compound interest on the total amounts repayable.

It is always worth taking a reality check with numbers – especially when talking about loans that your business will be responsible for repaying, or for which you might be giving a personal guarantee. Getting the detail right can makes a BIG difference to the end result…

Independent Banking Consultants Ltd

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Love and Loss - Steve Jobs

In amongst all the material being realised this week in the aftermath of the untimely and tragic death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, this really hit me. It is so true in everything we do, but in particular business. It is often what makes the difference between success and failure.

Steve Jobs gave this as his second story of his Commencement Address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005.

Love and Loss

I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started?

Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT.

I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple.It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.

Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. 

Don't settle.

Steve Jobs

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