Change is good
Your business needs to adapt if it is to grow, says Ashley Ward
Controlling a fast growth business has been likened to driving at top speed down an unknown, winding road in the dead of night on a low beam as the driver, or the chief executive or managing director, can’t see much of what is ahead. The only certainty is that nothing is actually as expected and there can’t be any guessing if you’re to stay on the road. It’s a matter of staying wide awake and being prepared and flexible for every imaginable event, and more. Indeed, the most important thing to remember is as the business grows it may need to change to become more profitable or adapt to market changes.
The best approach to managing change and growth is to keep the infrastructure under stress. By not building fixed overheads before you need them, a business can be flexible enough to scale when required. The safe bet is to have the capability to discard as much cost as possible from a business for the least cost. In short, if it’s a ‘buy or build’ decision, buy until you know the exact formula for the build. On that basis, outsourcing could be a welcome option for some small businesses because it provides the flexibility to scale up or down as the business changes.
Another key trap not to fall into is thinking that organisational structure provides any answers to commercial success, because in small businesses it just doesn’t. Certainly everyone has to know what they are responsible for but some managers find themselves constantly changing reporting lines. Get the right people and seek answers in your talent and not the org chart, and don’t forget to inspire them. Even the most motivated people can easily become de-motivated by an uninspiring leader.
From a financial perspective, how many times have you heard the old adage ‘cash is king’? Forecasting is the most important thing to get right and therefore has to continually be updated, however one of the biggest problems faced by business leaders is that a forecast based on real-life numbers inevitably looks different to the original business plan.
In order to survive and succeed as a growing business, it’s important to remember that change is good. It’ll help ensure the road ahead becomes clearer by the day.
Ashley Ward is chairman of the European Leadership Programme – a personal and professional development programme for founders and chief executives of high growth companies in Europe ( www.european-leaders.com) .