One of the biggest barriers to growth for many businesses is that the MD or senior team is too busy with the days work to make changes that would make life easier. Quite a number of MDs are firefighting daily.. or chasing after a short term opportunity at the expense of a longer term growth priority.

As a result, time is a scarce resource and MDs are often isolated from peers and customers due to business pressures. They can therefore, miss out on bigger picture growth opportunities.

Does any of this sound familiar?

A priority focus on “here and now” issues meaning:

You are constantly changing priorities

You feel like you are controlling rather than leading and don’t know how to change it

You are not taking the time to either actively listen or communicate clearly and therefore deep down you know that the team doesn’t have clear direction

You are always having to micromanage

Team morale is suffering

There is a limited innovation culture and you feel that the new ideas always have to come from you?

Having engaged with hundreds of companies over the years I have seen the above scenario many times. I have also seen the positive impact that can come about when an MD is open to investing some time up front to effect positive change, thus creating the whitespace needed to facilitate growth.

A simple strategy

Developing a simple business strategy for example and putting some processes / procedures and measures in place will free up time for you to focus on those real growth priorities.

A strategy need not be daunting. It is a simple plan which considers the medium to longer term. It allows you to engage, develop, agree, share & commit to ideas of growth, change, new markets,  products and customers. The plan and its priorities should be developed, reviewed and challenged with your team and you should be open to different perspectives and ideas. Focus firstly on the ‘what’ before trying to determine the ‘how’.

On completion, this gives you something which you can ground and communicate so that everyone understands what (functional) they are here to do and why (motivation). Keep it simple – the objective is that everyone in the team understands the big picture, the value which the company provides to existing and new customers and how their role contributes. This is empowering.

Get the right people on the bus

From a business structure perspective, getting the right people on the bus is important, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. Responsibility can then be devolved to the right people and thereafter what gets measured gets done… metrics should do “the talking”.

Business processes can then be developed / refined for the various areas of a business and underpinned using metrics as the enabler for; pre sales, sales pipeline, creativity and innovation!, operations, production / value add service hours, quality, customer service and finance. The key for effective implementation is to fully understand and identify what the business is selling (value), identify those key functional areas, identify the key metrics per functional area and tag appropriate owners to the right metrics. Processes can be refined over time.

What gets measured, gets done

A metrics dashboard should concentrate as much if not more on the forward view, defining targets and recording actual numbers (when available) for last month, next month, year to date and the 12 month horizon. The important metrics should be made available and produced accurately and on time so that they can be reviewed and so that informed decisions can be taken. The root cause of any downward trend should be fully understood before acting on the associated metric. 

Achievement of the strategy in this way allows the MD  to measure, adjust and track progress. It serves as the business scoreboard integrating the team’s work, reducing emotional management and supporting effective decision making. It allows the MD to let go, in a controlled way. It can therefore also assist the process of succession..

Foundations for true innovation

The establishment of the above is foundation-building and important in the establishment of an innovative culture and an innovative business model. It allows for a healthy harmony between the integrated entities of a business. Gaps in this regard often manifests itself in differences of opinion, significant reactive management time, poor business performance and an inability to focus. Once in place, the creative and implementation elements of innovation can be easily overlaid (built in as an integral part of the strategy) and there are equally effective processes and tools for planning and executing on that agenda successfully which I’ll cover in future posts.

A good investment

“Thinking outside the box” innovation is difficult if not impossible in situations where the above foundations are not in place. Why not invest some time foundation building for growth using innovation as the enabler instead of running around putting fires out.

Do you need help with any of the areas covered. Perhaps you’re not sure where to start? Please get in touch – contact details or mobile +353 (0) 87 417 4681.

Also feel free to share the posting and leave your comments on the topic.

Kieran Fegan is helping a number of SMEs and entrepreneurs across Ireland, providing assistance with business development, innovation management and investment.  He has recently moved to Co. Meath and would be delighted to help with your business development opportunities and challenges.

Contact details again or mobile +353 (0) 87 417 4681.