PLUS Awards dinner

Tonight is the night!

For the first time ever I am going to the world renowned PLUS Awards dinner. What is the PLUS Awards dinner some of you less educated in the lofty world of fund raising may ask?

Well PLUS is one of the London stock markets – in fact it is two markets, but let’s not get too technical.   At one time, PLUS was seen as the salvation for entrepreneurial Britain as the London Stock Exchange with AIM were going after loftier targets.

There were three fundamental problems for PLUS:

  • Very few people know of its existence
  • It is cheaper than AIM but still much too expensive for smaller companies
  • It forgot its purpose in life.

These challenges are no different than those faced by any business which is struggling and they are certainly addressable.

To make PLUS better known takes some focussed marketing. The PLUS Awards dinner (organised by Threes a Crowd) is nice, but it preaching to the converted. Some road shows were held, I am told, but I never saw any.

I always ask people who are seeking to raise money if they have ever heard of PLUS. The answer is always the same – who? I have even asked fund managers, the people who manage the cash reserves of charities or high net worth individuals and others and again the answer is almost always the same – who?

PLUS wanted to become another AIM and set about building the same, expensive structure. The thinking was reward the advisers and the companies will follow (screw the shareholders), but SMEs tend to watch their cash more closely. PLUS forgot an important rule: develop your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and be different. If you want to be cheap, then really be cheap but go for volume. If you are going to simply discount against the leaders then you will just become a cheap cast off, and this is exactly what happened to PLUS.

And then the final and in my belief most important point: PLUS forgot that it was a market and it tried to be a regulator. There are plenty of regulators – leave them to it. Follow the regulations but focus on your purpose in life: to be a market and to stimulate it.

So tonight is the night and I am attending my first and possibly last PLUS Awards dinner. Why last? PLUS appears to be running out of cash (they spent £9 million in administrative expenses in 2010 to generate a £3 million turnover – can anyone explain that?) and the shareholders are fed up. Quite right too, but what a loss to enterprise Britain and what a loss of opportunity.

Tonight though I will enjoy the dinner thank you.

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