When it comes to the social and economic wellbeing of local communities, business has a vital role to play. If the people are the lifeblood, SMEs are the beating heart. In 2017, 99.3% of all private businesses were small and medium-sized enterprises - and they provided 60% of all employment. SMEs have the ability to shape and influence communities at a grassroots level - and we’re not just talking about money.
How do you measure business success? While the most obvious metrics are profit or share prices, a societal shift towards sustainability and ethical values means there is another important factor to consider: environmental impact.
The phrase ‘negative externalities’ was coined to explain the unintended side effects of a business’ action in their pursuit of profit. This seemingly innocuous phrase covered everything from oil spills to childhood diabetes; the subtext being that profit and environmentalism or business ethics are at odds. To make the most money, someone somewhere has to take a hit, and if the fines metered out as a result of these externalities were less than the profits a business stood to make, it was a fair trade off. The planet, in many cases, came last.
Any first year MBA student can write a business plan, and it’ll probably be a good one - in theory. But a business is much more than strategy, numbers and the bottom line. Your business is a collection of people; and while some may be motivated by the basic numbers, many more want to feel part of something bigger; something meaningful. We’re talking about company culture.
The single most important asset in your business is your staff.
Big data is still big news. The likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with its acquisition of LinkedIn, are undertaking digital land grabs to hoover up large quantities of data, be it medical or social, to feed their need for information. With these companies building millions of data points to nourish their machine-learning algorithms, what does big data now mean for the rest of us?
When Google launched in the late nineties, it was a simple search engine designed to make the internet easier to navigate. In 2016, Google is unapologetically an ad platform, with the Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) service generating a whopping 97% of its $73 billion sales in 2015.
For many businesses, PPC is an addiction; their sole means of generating web referrals, because they’ve turned off all other marketing activities.
It’s a risky game to play. While PPC is certainly making Google a lot of money, it doesn’t work well for all businesses. Cost-per-click may be as low as £0.04 in some areas, but the highest ranking keywords – those which attract the highest number of searches and clicks – can command fees in excess of £35. So, while PPC definitely can work for some, it can be an ineffective, expensive drain on resources for others.
Which leads to the question, when should a business adopt PPC, and when should they leave it well alone?
72% of CEOs indicated that the inability to attract and retain employees with key skills threatens their growth prospects, according to PwC's 2016 global survey of CEOs. In response, as many as 41% of CEOs are revising their work culture and behaviours in an effort to engage more closely with the people their businesses need to remain relevant and competitive.
A critical factor in improving the working environment is trust. Employees and employers need to confidently rely on each other to produce results. Where there are high levels of trust, employees are more committed to the company and are more likely to recommend it to other potential candidates through peer review sites such as Glassdoor.co.uk.
Executives who have a bold strategic business plan perform better than their more timid counterparts, according to McKinsey.
When tackling strategy, it helps to aim for a continuous cycle of improvement, with execution of goals at the core.
But before you get to work on a strategic business plan, you need to know how you personally approach strategy.
Take our quick quiz, and answer honestly, to find out what type of strategic planner you are.