Business Strategy, it’s all in the Planning

We are almost one month into 2016, have you stopped to think where your business is heading this year? If not then now may be a good moment to make time to contemplate your business strategy.

If your business strategy isn’t clearly defined you will find it difficult to develop your company and achieve growth.

What is a Business Strategy?
Put simply a business strategy is a long term business plan, typically covering a period of 3-5 years. It defines the objectives and direction of the business. Do not let long term planning put you off, it is very easy to manage your strategy through short term goals and objectives and your strategy is ever evolving.

While your business strategy should stretch your ambitions it should also be realistic and achievable. It is great to aim high and to target being the market leader but is not always an essential element of a successful business, it is as much about understanding the opportunities the market has to offer.

What Should Be Included in a Business Strategy?
Your business strategy is a summary of how your business plans to achieve its goals.

Strategy is typically about identifying:

  • Where your business is heading in the long term, usually but not always driven by a financial ambition
  • What products and services should you be offering
  • What market sectors you should be competing in and where from a geographical perspective
  • How your business can gain a competitive advantage in those markets
  • What resources you require to get where you want to be (e.g. marketing, people etc…)
  • What operational issues you will have to resolve to enable growth to occur
  • What external factors may affect the business

Your business strategy should be created in a format that works for you and is fit for the purpose it is intended. There are many templates you can use but in my experience simpler is better.

Why is a Business Strategy Important?
A business strategy is critical to your business success. It identifies where you want your company to go and without knowing this then how can you plan? Ultimately if you don’t know where you are going then don’t expect to reach your destination.

It is also extremely important to understand that your strategy defines your objectives and the actions that must be taken to achieve those aims. Without action your strategy will not be achieved.

The most important element of a business strategy is the planning not the plan. You are making that conscious effort to drive forward your company and look to future.

Digital Pace Ltd are specialists in helping companies to develop their business strategy, if you would like to discuss further then please contact us.

 

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Manufacturing Predicting Growth

I attended a very informative breakfast event today at HSBC in Fulwood, Preston. The event focused on developing growth strategies for Lancashire manufacturers. There were some interesting messages coming from the event, which I have summarised below.

According to the 2014 MHA Manufacturing and Engineering Survey Report:

  • 92% of Manufacturers surveyed are expecting business growth upwards of 10%
  • 62% are expecting an increase in staff numbers
  • 85% of Manufacturers are predicting investment in Research and Development activities
  • There is a lot of optimism within the sector although the most significant issue is the skills gap

This information was backed up by Darrell Matthews of EEF who stated that confidence within the Manufacturing sector is the highest since 1992 and that the UK is at the top of the EU growth list. He also raised concerns over the skills gap with the biggest risk coming from rising energy costs and carbon taxes.

Overall good to see so much positivity within the sector.

 

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Key Elements to Successful CRM Project Management

When selecting a CRM system it is important to firstly realise that this is not about a comparison of features from the various software vendors but recognition that you should make decisions based upon an analysis of your own requirements. This is the first stage in any CRM implementation process and will include investigating the current processes as well as recommending areas where a new system can provide benefits. These requirements should be recorded and form the basis of a system specification document.

The second stage is to identify a shortlist of potential candidates and to circulate the system specification to this shortlist to establish an interest in the project from the potential solution provider. The third stage is to complete a detailed selection process that may involve multiple meetings depending on the complexity of the project and should include the project team, business management and key users of the system. The fourth and final stage of the selection process is to assist in the contractual and financial negotiations with the preferred solution provider. Once this stage has been completed it is important to project manage the implementation of the system so that it continues to meet with project timescales.

All the above stages involve very close project management and we have identified 10 key elements to successful CRM project management:

  1. Executive Support – the project may have been identified by a particular area of the business and supported by a senior executive, now is the time to make sure that all the executive team is in full support of the project
  2. Set Expectations – once the project has been clearly defined in terms of budgets, scope, staff involvement, business measures and expected deliverables it must be clearly communicated to all the stakeholders in the project. There must be a clearly defined method to communicate changes to any part of the project
  3. Create and Maintain the Project Plan – once the project has been defined a project plan needs to be created that details all the tasks and how they will be achieved in terms of meeting milestones and timings
  4. Project Teams – a successful project will be delivered by small functional teams that work well together. These teams should have the responsibility to make decisions for their area and be fully supported by the executive team
  5. Risk Management – in implementing a CRM system there will be a number of risks that must be clearly identified and documented. These risks need to be analysed by the project team in an attempt to reduce the probability and impact of that risk. There are approximately twenty standard risks associated with any CRM project such as lack of training and lack of end user involvement
  6. Scope Management – during the implementation the scope of the project may change, which is called scope creep. Once the project plan has been defined and agreed any change in scope must be processed through a change management procedure and approved before being released
  7. Quality Assurance – in order to ensure that the project is delivered across the organisation on time, in budget and to the required quality means that the system needs to be fully tested, procedures need to be documented and training material generated and delivered
  8. Communication – communication is key ingredient to the project, too much may switch people off, too little and people won’t know what is happening. Different companies have different cultures so the communication plan needs to be developed by the project team to meet the requirements of the project and culture of the organisation. Often technology such as Blogs, Twitter. Facebook and SharePoint can help with these issues
  9. Change Management – change is going to happen during the implementation of a CRM system but if managed and communicated well to the key users then this change can be seen as a positive move and will be adopted and embraced by all users. If the change if not managed and communicated well then the implementation will fail as the key users will not be engaged with the new system
  10. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) – during the early stages the project team and managers will identify a number of key areas were improvements will be expected. The KPI’s will be measured before the implementation of the new system and measured some period of time after go live to see the improvements made

Project failure or premature closure is quite often the result of a number of factors:

  • changes in a business’s strategic direction
  • lack of senior management support and commitment
  • lack of commitment from project team members
  • poor selection of project team and board members
  • unrealistic delivery timeframe’s and expectations
  • lack of project management experience

It is therefore vital that industry best practice project management tools and techniques are used to ensure projects are delivered on time and in budget whist meeting the business objectives of the project.

If you are looking to implement a CRM or ERP system then please contact us now.

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Innovation Funding Within Lancashire

The Lancashire Innovation Network is a European supported project from Regenerate Pennine Lancashire that is available to SME businesses based in Lancashire, defined as the 2 unitary authorities, Blackburn, Blackpool and those authorities in the administrative county of Lancashire.

The project aim is to increase levels of innovation within Lancashire small businesses and increase levels of employment.  The fund will encourage them to evaluate, consider, commission and implement innovation and technology developments that they may not otherwise have undertaken.

A grant is available on a 50% matched basis with up to a £5k contribution from the Lancashire Innovation Network (e.g. £10k total project cost, client pays £5k, project pays £5k).

We understand that the definition of innovation and technology is open to revision during the lifespan of the project but will include: information technology, e-business, process improvements, manufacturing innovation and product innovation.

This is a £3.7m fund that will run until March 2013 and if you need more information then please contact us.

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Leadership and Management Advisory Service

The Leadership and Management Advisory Service provides tailored advice and support to senior leaders within small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises that can clearly demonstrate the potential for high growth.

The service provides access to funding of up to £1,000 to be equally matched by the business on a 50% basis to invest in training and development of the owner or senior manager.

Eligibility

The business must be:

  • based in North West England
  • between 2-249 full time equivalent employees (excluding volunteers)
  • a Small to Medium Enterprise (SME)
  • a private sector company or social enterprise (which must not more than 50% publicly funded)
  • assessed as having the potential for high or fast growth.

The definition of potential for high or fast growth is as follows:

  • established SME (those trading for more than 12 months) with the potential to increase turnover 20% each year for 3 years
  • start-ups (those trading fewer than 12 months) with the potential to achieve a turnover of £500,000 within 3 years of starting
    trading.

Digital Pace have created a Leadership & Management Programme to that uses this funding to offer a mentoring service that will stimulate and support your business growth.

For more information on the funding scheme please visit www.business-enterprise.net/leadership.

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What I Learnt From Setting Up a Business

I have advised hundreds of businesses in the past but never set up my own and even though I can sympathise with owners and Directors I never truly knew what life would be like.

Like many start-up businesses I work from home and I know this is a big change for many but I had fours experience of doing this for my previous employer. The big change for me was realising that I had made a big change. On the first day of my new business, I got dressed for work as I normally did and walked into my home office as I had done for the previous four years.

So here are a few things that I have learnt from setting up in business:

  • if you have contacts then use them, even if it doesn’t lead to business it will give you many ideas that you can use in your own company
  • don’t assume that larger companies like the Banks and Mobile Phone companies will make it easy for you, if you know a smaller business who can get you what you want then you will probably get a much better service
  • it takes hard work and long hours
  • stay focussed and optimistic but open to new opportunities

My business is only three months old and I have many more lessons to learn, which I will be sure to share with you.

Thanks, Ian

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