Ask the Experts: People and Planning

Tim Meehan from Business Doctors offers advice about business principles, people and planning for growth.

Q: How can I ensure that my staff can grow with the business?

A: One of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is recruiting and retaining the right people.

So, how can you sort out your people issues? It is critical that you understand your personal core values – these are your defining principles and work ethics that define how you do business and how you relate to your customers, your suppliers and each other (your people). Although you may not have actually articulated these or written them down, they will almost certainly exist – they normally relate back to the original driving force that motivated you to start the business in the first place – things that you didn’t like with a previous employer or a personal belief that you could make a difference and do things differently. Once you know what these are, it is essential that you only expand your business with like minded people that actually share these values with you.

These may be things like: Customer Focus, Trust, Commitment - or as recently demonstrated by one of our clients in the Construction industry – Perfection. They employed a high flying Operations Manager with an excellent track record at corporate level and despite his exceptional credentials, it soon became apparent that he didn’t share the same values. He was happy with giving the customer 90% when our client’s business had been built on a reputation of perfection and always delivered 100% on time in full! Clearly this was never going to work and they agreed to go their separate ways.

So, when growing your business, make sure that anyone who joins your business absolutely shares the same values and understands that they will be a direct measurement of their performance.

Q: What is the difference between a Business Plan and a Strategy?

A: A Business Plan tends to be one of those documents that we are forced to write when we first set up a business or when we are looking for external financial support. In other words they are not written for the business, they are written for someone else – usually the Bank – and they all follow the same format (templates are readily available on the internet). In our experience, Business Plans rarely bear any relation to what is actually happening in the business. Business Plans are usually found in the bottom of your desk drawer and only see the light of day when it time for your annual review with the bank.

A strategy is very different. It isn’t a static one dimensional document – it’s a living and breathing commitment to realising the business’s market potential, demonstrating a shared vision for growth, clearly defining the business capability and competitive advantage. Crucially, a strategy will provide a clear focus on how this is to be achieved.

In essence, a strategy is about aligning your unique business strengths and key points of differentiation with the most valuable and achievable market opportunities available to you. In other words it gives you a focus, it simplifies your proposition to your customers and your staff and it provides a map for achieving both your personal and business aspirations. Most importantly, developing a clear business strategy gives you the opportunity to stop working IN your business and start working ON your business.

More information about the services provided by Business Doctors can be found on their Hub partner page

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