Ben Fletcher, the chairman of Growth Builder, explains why business success largely hinges on the mundane
Entrepreneurs are so often described as dynamic, businesses as disruptive and teams as innovative and forward thinking. This is all fantastic, and precisely the spirit the UK technology space is becoming so well-known for.
But in reality building a real and profitable business, one that is future-proofed for growth, will come down to more than just brainstorms and beanbags.
So often the long-term success of a business comes down to – frankly – the more mundane and dull work around processes and objectives.
Keep it simple
Business growth is the aim and we all know that the idea behind growth is simply: you want to execute your service or sell your product, and you want do this with more people, to more customers. And yet, in the hype of growing a business, this simplicity often gets lost. I’m sure all CEOs of fast-growth businesses would recognise that moment of concern over ‘is this business still doing what we designed it to?’ At times like this, the best bet is to return to basics. Choose just three things and make sure your business is doing them well or is on course to do them better. This might be a new product feature, a HR process, or customer service best practice. By forcing yourself to focus on three key aspects, you’ll be forced to think about what the key business objectives are for the next 12 months. Be brutal! This process isn’t supposed to be easy, but the alternative – a lack of focus – will inhibit growth.
Avoiding Chinese whispers
Once the three – yes, just three! – key business objectives for the year are clear, the next step is communicating these to your biggest asset. It’s time to get your staff on board. If you woke up a member of your staff at 3am, would they be able to tell you what the business’ aim for the year is? Well, actually yes – if the message about the business is simple and straight-forward. And it’s important that they understand the bigger picture. If you’ve encouraged any sort of collaborative and friendly workplace, then your employees will be talking to one another, and Chinese Whispers can result in seemingly simple messages becoming distorted. So what would you want your employee to say about your business at 3am? Communicate this message, putting in processes to make sure your staff, customers and stakeholders know what the business is moving towards.
Your staff don’t care
Okay, so this isn’t true. But specifically your staff care about doing a great job in their particular role. As the CEO, your job is to set the context of their daily roles within the bigger business plan. They won’t be staying up late at night trying to work out the best company strategy, so you need to have processes that spoon feed that to them and then let them get on with doing a great job.
Fresh pair of eyes?
Whittling years of hard work and complex strategy down to three objectives for the next year is not easy. This is where external help can come in handy. For one thing, the very act of having to explain your business in simple, easy-to-understand language to a third party will help start the journey. Then a fresh pair of eyes – and an unbiased opinion – will help you be more brutal about identifying the objectives that really matter.
Innovation and disruption have their role to play, but be brave – embrace these seemingly boring tasks of defining and communicating your objectives. It will pay off in the long run!
Ben Fletcher is the Chairman of Growth Builder, a business growth programme built by Government, entrepreneurs, UK universities and leading UK corporates.