New XLOOKUP function in Excel

For those who geek out on Excel (myself included) the years of frustration with the limitations of the VLOOKUP function are nearly at an end. Microsoft is introducing a feature called XLOOKUP, which will bring new functions and make data lookup much easier. See link for the full story.



Photographing Chernobyl

The interest generated by the recent TV series on Chernobyl led me to this excellent article by the Polish photographer, Arkadiusz Podniesiński, who has visited the site many times including into the confinement arch.

Virtual working

The firm with 900+ staff and no office

Great BBC article on a company with over 900 staff working virtually with no office. The ultimate in premises cost saving!

The firm with 900+ staff and no office

Paperless template Meeting Notes

New ‘paperless’ templates for iPad or tablets

Many people are trying to go ‘paperless’ and for some it is a real challenge. Getting away from paper and pen has proved almost impossible, especially without the right tools.

I have developed a number of templates which, when used with an iPad app, mean that I can operate completely paperless in meetings, interviews and one-to-one sessions with colleagues.

Paperless template Interview Notes

I open a template in the app and, using an Apple Pencil, write over the template. It can be stored on the iPad or exported as a PDF with the template and text all able to be filed and shared.

I am now making the PDF templates available in the Infozio store. These are optimised for using as part of a paperless process and work well with various apps.

The templates available are:

Meeting Notes
Interview Notes
One-to-One Notes

There are a wide range of note taking apps which allow a PDF template to be used underneath the hand written notes. This enables the paperless workflow to be created meaning that you will capture and store your notes without paper.

Apps available include:
Good Notes
Adobe Reader for iOS
Adobe Reader for Android

I personally use Notability and think it is excellent for paperless working.

Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

My new cost reduction ebook

I have just published an eBook on Reducing Business Costs which may be of interest to those who are keen to get their costs under control this year. It is a quick read and contains some key steps for success in cost reduction and cost management. Follow the link here to get a FREE copy.


If you would like a Kindle or ePUB version as well as the PDF then please message me and I will send it over. Feel free to re-share this post using the links below if you think that there may be others in your wider network who will benefit from the book.

Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

The Kindle version can also be downloaded from Amazon here:

Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

Why is efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating more of a focus in tough times?

I was recently asked “Why is efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating more of a focus in tough times? Shouldn’t this be good business practice ALL the time?”

This is my answer:
In difficult times, depending on your sector, growing the top line organically can seem like very hard work, even impossible. This means that management teams tend to see cost reduction as the only viable way in which to deliver an improved bottom line.

In past dips in the economic cycle, the availability of capital has been (relatively) good. This has enabled some businesses to ‘buy’ top line growth through acquisitions, dominant mergers etc. In today’s environment this is much tougher to achieve leading again to the focus on cost reduction.

To answer the question directly, yes, of course “efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating” are all areas which should be addressed by management in good times and bad. However, for the reasons stated above, efficiency, cost reduction and process improvement are all receiving much more attention at the moment.

In the work I do on cost reduction I am receiving a lot of interest and enquiries at the moment. What seems to be happening is that management teams have delivered the ‘easy’ cost reductions themselves but still need to find more. This leads them to seek external, specialist help to squeeze the extra savings out.

Thankfully this is possible to do. Using my own Cost Reduction Method, I have regularly delivered additional savings of over 15% on cost areas which have already been ‘reduced’.


Losing experienced people

Do you believe that making experienced staff redundant would help your organisation achieve cost reduction goals? There are many arguments for and against this stance and it can be a tough decision when a company is faced with cutting their cost base significantly.

On the face of it, the last to go in an economic downturn situation should be the highly skilled, experienced resources as they will (should) be:

  • of great, demonstrable value to the organisation
  • and would cost an immense amount to replace when things get better

However, if the company has downsized, unlikely to grow to the same level again and clearly has a staff cost which is too high for its size then action must be taken or the business will eventually die.

I see many companies who suffer through not taking decisive action on staff costs when they should do. It is better to have retained some highly experienced manpower than for the business to fail and no jobs.

The best case scenario is of course that the business turns around and you are soon back to recruiting with ‘Interview in Progress’ signs appearing regularly at your office!


Paperless problems with credit card receipts

As part of my paperless drive I scan and destroy all my credit card and till receipts. Today I had an item to return to my local DIY store so searched and found (thank you Alfred) the receipt PDF, printed it out on A4 paper and went back for a refund.

The retailer, B&Q, have very distinctive orange backed receipts and it was very obvious that mine was not an original (see photo). I was told by the store staff that unless I had the original copy no refund could be given. I argued that my scan and reprint was legally valid but to no avail.

Eventually, after much debate, and because it was a low value (£7) item, as a “gesture of goodwill” they gave me a credit against more purchases.

I wonder how many people who are trying to turn their life ‘paperless’ have had similar problems. Was I right that a scanned and reprinted copy is legally valid?

Some have said that scanning receipts seems like too much effort but with a combination of a ScanSnap scanner and Hazel I have got a good workflow up and running.

Each week I empty my wallet out and run everything through the scanner on a ‘credit card receipt’ profile. This scans only one side, OCR’s and files as a PDF in a specific folder. Hazel picks it up, reads the date, renames the file and moves it to an archive.

This works very well and I can search the receipts out using Spotlight or Alfred, usually easily finding the one I need out of thousands.

I hope that retailers start to recognise that over time they will need to rely on electronically stored records and get used to customers making returns with non-original copies of their receipts.

Dropbox – still my most used software

I originally became a fan of Dropbox back in 2010. For those who are not users of this clever software, its a cloud based file storage service which syncs across all your devices, Mac, PC, iOS and more.

One feature that really interested me in the early days was that you were able to share specific folders to other Dropbox users, wherever they happen to be. In this way, it became like a network ‘shared drive’ that’s always available and not dependent on all the users being on the same LAN.

After many years of development, Dropbox continues to get better and better. Its apps on iOS and Android are excellent, giving access to all your files from virtually anywhere. They also have a business solution designed to remove the need for servers and other storage devices in SME organisations.

The basic Dropbox service is free although this gets you a rather small 2gb of storage space. I use the ‘Plus’ version which is £79/year but users receive 1TB of space. There are many Business plans with higher storage and team functionality.

Follow the link below to learn more.