Taking your business to the next level

There are many good businesses out there, but far fewer great ones, why?

This question first started me looking at business development. It fascinated me how so many businesses would get to certain critical level and not move beyond that.

There is of course no one simple answer, it is a combination of factors. In this short article I am looking to highlight some of those factors that are essential for success.

The first is leadership, which may seem obvious but is often lacking in structure to allow the business to develop. When I talk about leadership, I do not mean that one iconic high-profile individual that sits at the top and everyone recognises. I am referring to a level of hierarchy that individuals can move through to achieve the ambitions of the company, rather than just their own. There is a right level for individuals that will work for them and the company, but there must be a system in place to recognise and develop the talent and put the right person in the right place.

Those that rise to the top will have a mix of personal humility and professional will. They will certainly be ambitious, but first and foremost for the company not themselves. I do not believe that the appointment of a high profile, or ‘celebrity’ figure as leader is a good tactic, especially as this often leads to those that do have the right qualities being overlooked. Where you do see that type of person at the top, they are often not the MD or CEO, but occupy more of a PR role then strategic.

When you then have the right people in the right places in your management team, you have to be clear where as a company you are going. It will be no surprise to those that know me that I am talking about planning! Without a clear strategic plan for the management team to follow and enforce you will not be making the leap from good to great. Goal congruence behind a solid plan is essential. The business plan should cover the next twelve months in detail, as part of a rolling five-year plan. What I mean by rolling is that the actual results are used to continually update the five-year plan, and keep taking it forward.

An important part of this process is to confront the reality of where the company is now, compared to where you want to be. This needs to be done honestly and critically. If you hide issues here rather than deal with them you are merely postponing the problem, and also when you can move from good to great.

The next factor is systemisation. If your business does not run on efficient well mapped systems then you will not move from good to great, simple as that. Great companies will also use technology to support their systems wherever possible. They will not however be obsessed with having the latest trendy technology, but will look at the best fit solution for their needs. They will use technology to accelerate momentum, not create it.

The proper use of systems reduces the dependency on individuals within the company, and so reduces the risk of performance if they are not available for any reason. Systems also help to free up time so that the management team can focus on strategy and growth, not day to day operations.

So, do you want to go from good to great? If you do, then the three areas above are where to start.

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