If current events have taught us anything, it’s that nobody can predict what’s around the corner. However, in business, it’s crucial that we try. Although there’s no way of knowing exactly what the future holds, it’s guaranteed that at some point something unexpected or undesirable will definitely come along.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’. While it rings true in most aspects of life, it’s perhaps most pertinent in business.
How do we know what the landscape of UK business truly looks like?
Gaining an understanding of the ‘real world’ concerns of UK business leaders helps inform our own business strategies. It provides important insights into how we manage and mitigate risk and how we prepare for the future.
What are the ‘real world’ concerns of business leaders across the UK? In late 2019, we canvassed our members to better understand business leaders’ priorities for 2020 and beyond.
The thought of expanding your business into new territories can feel like standing on the edge of a cliff; terra firma beneath your feet and beyond, the vast unknown. You’ve established a business in a home market you know and understand, profits and growth are good, so why take that terrifying leap into unchartered waters?
In his essential entrepreneurial tome, “The Business of Expertise”, David C Baker explains that it’s often difficult to read the label on the jar when you're inside the jar yourself. This, in a nutshell, is why consultants exist. It can be difficult for business leaders to highlight the real issues when they're so close to them. It’s one of the reasons SMEs in the UK alone spend around £60 billion a year on expert consultants.
Making investment decisions for your firm is one of the great privileges of leadership. It's also, however, a responsibility that many business leaders still struggle with. As US business magnate Warren Buffett wrote in a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholder in 1987: “The heads of many companies are not skilled in capital allocation. Their inadequacy is not surprising because most bosses rise to the top because they have excelled in an area such as marketing, production, engineering, administration or, sometimes, institutional politics.”
Small things change direction much more easily than their larger counterparts. If you’re going around a sharp corner at top speed, you’d rather be in a nifty sports car than a cumbersome people carrier. The same is true in business.
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.