Jon Moulton was on fine form at the Real Deals/Directorbank Buying into Buyouts conference in London. He has a hitlist to identfy bad managers. And he has a powerful warning about crooked ones. The really dangerous ones, he says, can do really good presentations. While all good managers will be reasonably competent at making them, persuasive bad managers – "often with backgrounds in politics or PR" – are "the most dangerous of all." Moulton’s technique: "ask them a question a few inches away from the presentation." Bad managers, Moulton observes, "don’t know about the numbers or care about them." They never meet their customers. Bad managers are arrogant. "These ones are usually smartly dressed, with nice offices. They are fussy about the tea and biscuits." Bad managers live very comfortably. They are picky about the airlines that they travel on, or the hotels they stay at. Good managers, on the other hand, aren’t fussed about their expenses sheet. Bad managers don’t have a "to do" list. They "drift about a bit," Moulton notes, and don’t have objectives for the year ahead. They don’t visit their own businesses. Plenty of stories here from Moulton about negligent CEOs who have never visited their own factories, shops or warehouses. Finally, bad managers may be crooked. "I’ve been defrauded more times than I would like to admit," says Moulton. This behaviour is evident in managers being vague about important information. "You will see a lot more crooks in the coming months," he warns, as managers "cheat to keep the business airborne."
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