My name is Paul Simister and I was a small business coach and consultant based in Birmingham, West Midlands.
I am obsessed with helping small business owners who are stuck or struggling.
It all started when I was a trainee accountant back in the early 1980s.
You get to see what’s really happening in a business.
I saw some hard working business owners doing well, getting the rewards they deserved and I saw other business owners, who devoted just as many hours to their businesses, struggling and slipping towards failure.
I also saw a few business owners who seemed to have it incredibly easy but were raking in the money.
I became fascinated about why this would be the case. Why did performance differ so sharply and what could be done to help the under-performers?
After I qualified as a chartered accountant, I went to work for bigger businesses but I continued to be fascinated by the bigger issues of business success. Being a bit geeky, I read widely and started doing MBA modules as part of my continuing professional education.
It turned out I had a special knack for improving performance and my responsibilities whilst employed have included finance, IT, sales, production planning, purchasing and stock control, transport and strategy.
I became self employed in 1995 and wanted to split my time between regular help for small businesses and project work for bigger businesses. Whilst the vast majority of my fees came from these bigger businesses – often in turnaround situations – I became increasingly interested in returning full time to my small business roots.
I was convinced to finish my MBA and my dissertation in 2003 focused on how small business owners who were struggling could get help from business advisors.
I developed serious health problems in 2009 and 2010 which still limit how much I can do. These days I am semi-retired but I can work with one main client per day (in the morning).
To help more small business owners, I have become a prolific blogger and perhaps the leading reviewer of small business books on Amazon.co.uk. This way, I can help and influence many more business owners than I can reach through my one-to-one coaching.
However that personal involvement with a business owner thrills me and I’ve tried to reach out to those who need help but may be put off by the high costs involved.
I’ve Retired As A Business Coach And Consultant
I started my independent consultancy business in 1995 and I decided to withdraw from providing professional services in October 2020.
However, I’m not disappearing. I will return to writing about business – both updating my blog much more regularly and, hopefully, getting the book I believe is inside me, down on paper and published. I’ll also continue with my popular reviews of other people’s business, finance and investment books.
I trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, joined a proper business as soon as I could and worked in both manufacturing and distribution businesses.
I was good at what I did and had a special knack of creating improvement so my responsibilities grew from finance and IT to include strategic planning, sales, purchasing, transport, production planning and stock control. This gave me a general management perspective and, of course, meant I had to make things happen rather than just report whether they were going right or wrong.
Marketing and strategy became ongoing passions, with strategy providing the bridge between finance and marketing.
As an accountant, it was easy to manage a finance department but when I was given responsibilities outside of my core knowledge, I developed an interest in process improvement. I believe that most people want to do a good job at work and like receiving praise but things go wrong because of the systems and procedures which have often stood still as the business needs have changed.
Since I’ve been self employed, I’ve worked in various roles that require finance, strategic planning, marketing and IT/process improvement skills for businesses ranging from PLC head offices to big subsidiaries to owner-managed businesses all the way down to one-man-bands.
My business qualifications are:
- Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA). Please note that I don’t provide any of the typical accountancy or tax based services and no longer hold a practising certificate to do so.
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) with distinction from the Manchester Business School.
- Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach (CGMC)
I combine these skills into an approach I call The Mind Of A Finance Director, The Heart Of A Marketer And Strategist
My Passion For Helping Small Businesses That Aren’t Doing As Well As They’d Like
When I was at university doing an Economics and Accounting degree, those studying accountancy knew they wanted to join a firm of accountants while those doing economics were often aiming at a a career in marketing. I was more drawn to marketing but I didn’t get the understanding of the “language of business” I wanted from studying accountancy so I felt I needed to know more.
When I looked for a job as a trainee accountant, what appealed to me most was learning how to turn around a business. My interviewers were very surprised when I expressed an interest in receiverships and turnaround situations.
I joined my firm of accountants in September 1981, in the middle of a recession. I remember one particular client in my first year who owned a struggling transport company. I used to get to the client earlier than my boss (a trainee two years ahead of me) and I started to talk to John, the owner about his business issues. He was worried and I think his house was used as security for the bank loan. I liked him but I couldn’t really help give him the advice he needed because I was still fresh out of university. About eight months later, as the client planning cycle came around, I asked the manager if I could go back to that client but I was told that the business had gone into liquidation and I felt sad for John.
I saw more businesses get into trouble and, in my third year with the accountancy firm, I was made the assistant to the partner who helped turnaround companies. It was an interesting experience and I started to expand my knowledge into marketing. I knew how to plan cash flow, monitor profitability and cut costs but I didn’t know how to generate revenue.
Experience In Industry & Commerce
At that stage, I wanted to be more involved in the cut-and-thrust action and I left to join a real business and made a number of moves.
Whilst working for a small quoted company, I had a cradle to the grave experience with a consumer products business selling cutlery, crystal and giftware. I was asked to help two entrepreneurs start a company but we discovered the underlying strategy was flawed because the costs were too high.
It was this business that sparked my enthusiasm for marketing, partly because we spent a lot of money and I wanted to know how to get a return and partly because I could go into shops and compare our product with the competitors and “think like a customer”.
When we were around the break even point after changing the strategy, there was a big argument with the group executives, first one and then the other entrepreneur left and I was asked to manage the business while I closed it and sold the stock.
I moved to another group and initially profit increased rapidly but the 1990/91 recession eventually saw profits fall from over £100k per month to a loss of £90k (before redundancies) in the worst month over a six month period. I’d never seen profit drain from a business so quickly as volumes shrank, prices were slashed in a price war with our competitors and our manufacturing costs shot up as employees on a two or three day week slowed down their productivity.
With drastic action, we got the business back into profitability in that financial year but we never came close to the profitability levels we’d seen before the recession. The price war had changed the trade permanently, the product was standardised so we had to compete on service.
I was given responsibility for production planning and stock control where we had too much stock but often suffered from shortages, even of our best selling “A lines”. I managed to boost our first time deliveries to 98% as well as reducing stock levels. Later I was given responsibility for export sales, which we took to record levels and the UK sales office. I knew my time with the company was limited because I didn’t want to be the MD. I wasn’t keen on the trade and I resented the intrusions by the group.
My Own Consultancy
In 1995 I started my own consultancy / training/ coaching business. Whilst I also worked with profitable businesses, I was still attracted to turnaround situations and found myself working on long assignments with two groups that had made poor acquisitions financed by tens of millions of pounds of bank loans. These companies were handicapped by unsustainably large debts that should never have been made. One group was broken up and sold to the management teams of the subsidiaries. I worked with one of those for several years. The other group went through an insolvency procedure to convert some of its debt into equity. My health problems caused that relationship to end.
My MBA & Other Studies
In the late 1990s I started to study for my Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to help broaden my knowledge in a structured way. My dissertation was titled The Role Of The Business Advisor In Promoting A Rescue Culture For UK SMEs In Financial Difficulty. It received a distinction and has been added to the academic library at the Manchester Business School.
I am a business geek. I will admit it. You can see the very large number of business books I’ve reviewed on Amazon here and you can read the reviews split between the best business books (awarded 5 or 4 stars) and the other business books.
Or you can browse through my main categories of books – Getting Unstuck Books, Business Turnaround Books, Profit Improvement Books, Marketing Books, Theory Of Constraints Books, Business Strategy Books
Why I Decided To Focus On Small Businesses
In amongst working with these larger companies, I also worked with some small, privately owned businesses and had much more fun and satisfaction. For one thing, there was less politics or fewer referred decisions and for another, it was easier to see what difference the improvements made to the owners and their lives.
Helping small business owners that are stuck or struggling is more than work to me, it is a calling. Even after suffering serious health problems that have caused me to retreat into a semi-retired state, I’m motivated to help a small, select group of business owners.
Get To Know Me Better On Social Media
If you’d like to learn more about my ideas, you can connect with me on various social media websites:
I don’t understand the attraction of Facebook at all. I think I’m toooooo old.
I am based in Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom and I can be contacted by:
I work through Planning & Control Solutions Ltd, a company registered in England No 3897173
Registered office, 17 Beachburn Way, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, B20 2AU, United Kingdom