On 29th March 2017 Theresa May triggered Article 50 and called on Britain to unite as we begin the process of divorce with the European Union.
While the UK economy appears in good shape, with employment at a record high and the stock market performing at unprecedented levels, many business leaders will be worried about the uncertainty ahead. How can businesses ensure growth during the challenging times ahead?
A key thing for leaders to do is to go back to the fundamentals of leadership and remind their employees of their company’s mission and purpose, the company’s goals and where it is heading.
Businesses also need to be agile and ready to adapt to change. Now is the time for leaders to make contingency plans for potential change. We can’t predict the future, but leaders who plan for different scenarios will be better prepared.
Creativity and innovation should also be encouraged. In times of adversity some of the greatest innovations have appeared, for example, the first electric dry razor and car radio were invented during the Great Depression in the USA, and in the UK in the 1930s Sir Frank Whittle invented the jet engine.
Here some other tips for ensuring business growth:
Create an aspirational growth plan
Base it on where you want to be in three years’ time, but be realistic – where CAN you be in three years’ time? This requires a level of open and creative thinking that may not be habitual.
Set new growth targets and KPIs (key performance indicators) and frequently review the plan and progress.
As businesses grow they can become more process driven and lack flexibility which will inhibit growth. Having a flexible mindset in the leadership team can correct this. For example, offering flexible or remote working as a way of enabling those with family responsibilities or long commutes to be more productive members of the team.
Communication is key
Growth can be as unsettling for some employees as it can be exciting for others. Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping the team informed of growth plans. Keeping a clear and regular channel of communication will motivate employees to contribute as well as reassure them.
Challenge the status quo
Ignore accepted wisdoms and assumptions about your business, the market, competitors and customers. Accepting the status quo, the paradigms and ‘the way things are done around here’ is the start of the rot that kills mature companies.
Listen to your customers
What do your customers want from you in terms of services and products? Only a deep understanding of their needs will allow you to provide true value to your customers. Don’t assume that you know. There will always be a significant surprise when you dig deep into the customer’s world.
Measure standards and add value
Add 25 per cent to the quality and standards of services you are currently providing. That’s always assuming that you are measuring standards today, of course. If not, then start now, define the levels now and those aspired to with firm metrics. Change and growth will follow.
Crowdsource growth ideas
Ask employees what works and what doesn’t. Companies that thrive on employees going that extra mile have an empowered workforce, which feels able to come up with new solutions.
Learn from the competition
What are your competitors doing to perform well and badly? Learn from their successes and mistakes to stay on top of the game. Is their failure a foretaste of a risk relating to your business?
Maximise exposure in your industry at events and through PR
Be targeted and be sure to understand the response and reaction to all communications. Be careful about putting too much effort into social media at the detriment of other communication channels.
Try to talk to customers and have a short cut for them to talk to you.
Eliminate the default phone system whereby it’s all automated. Make the “speak to an associate” an easy selection. Companies that provide live, human contact get high ratings from customers. Don’t be faceless!
There are opportunities for growth even during turbulent times. Enlightened leaders understand this and can successfully guide their business no matter what challenges come their way.
Stephen Archer is a director at Spring Partnerships.