The new year is here. It’s the season of fresh starts, hopeful resolutions and optimistic ambitions. Now is the time to think about what steps you should take to make your ambitions a reality.
As the daily grind resurfaces and the year ahead looms large, what changes do you need to implement to ensure that 2018 is a good year?
What’s the plan?
Many of the business owners I meet spend far more time working in their business than on it. It’s always tempting to place a higher focus on the daily challenges you face than thinking about where your business might be in months and years to come. Our latest research has shown that almost a third (31%) of business owners are only able to find time to work on their growth planning, strategy and business continuity planning during weekends and evenings.
The tendency to muck in and handle the constant demands of business ownership seem to overpower the need to plan strategically for the future. But planning really shouldn’t be viewed as optional. In order to grow it’s vital that you make the time to identify your business aspirations and how to deliver them.
This can be a challenge as many owners have built their businesses from the ground up. With a lack of previously held leadership roles or coaching, I find many business owners don’t know how to develop their vision into a more formal plan. This leads to business outputs, performance and future goals being held close to the owner’s chest, whether they mean to or not.
Some owners even see a formal plan as unnecessary, having gotten this far without one. This can lead to many business owners holding themselves back. Our research found that over a third (36%) of owners fear that they will cause their own business to hit a growth ceiling.
A surprising number also still view a business plan as nothing more than a financial forecast for the bank. We found that many SMEs with low growth (those with annual growth less than 5%) are the most likely to hold this opinion – true for more than half (53%) of low-growth SMEs.
Move from being a big small business, to a small big business
The benefits of taking a breath and looking further ahead are clear. The research shows that nearly half (49%) of businesses that enjoy 20% turnover growth or more have developed a detailed map of the company’s goals and how they will achieve them, including analysis of any significant company or market changes and risks. And that’s certainly no surprise. We know from working with business owners, that they find it far easier to reach their destination – and reach it faster – when they plan the route in advance.
To achieve true sustainable growth, your strategic knowledge – and the workload – needs to be spread among your team. Having multiple people involved will allow you to step back, innovate and pioneer. As your business and ambitions grow, you need to make a clear shift from running the business to leading the business.
A defined and shared strategy is also vital in protecting your business against ticking time bombs – creeping problems that are only visible with a birds-eye view. Then when setbacks present themselves you’ll have a predetermined course of action.
In our research, examples of these kinds of foreseeable, yet devastating, issues are abundant. With 48% of business owners admitting that they have a main supplier they could not live without, 43% with an indispensable client and 55% with an integral member of staff whose departure would threaten the very existence of the business.
Owning a business is a deeply personal endeavour. There is no doubt that implementing these changes will be hard, especially for the vast majority of owners who aren’t yet close to a best practice approach, but something worth doing is rarely easy. The difference will be evidenced in a business that grows faster and more sustainably in the long run.