Whatever your views about the ongoing Brexit discussions, there can be little argument that the situation is creating uncertainty for UK businesses and their leaders. A slow-down of economic growth, falling house prices and sales, a devaluing currency and rising inflation have all adversely affected the confidence of UK consumers and made the case for further domestic business investment more difficult to make.
At one FTSE 250 business I’ve worked with the response has been to pull down the shutters. The executive team, reflecting on the company’s falling revenues and profits, have decided to stop any discussion or thought of longer-term development and are now focusing exclusively on making the next sale and controlling and cutting costs. ‘Strategy’ is now a dirty word in that organisation.
At another plc client, with equally challenging trading conditions, the CEO and his team have taken a different approach. They have re-committed to their long-term aims and priorities, and are currently going through a process of identifying new opportunities for growth.
I believe that this business has a far better chance of sustainable success. All the evidence shows that those companies that continue to invest in downturns and uncertain economic times – including marketing, R&D and acquisitions – perform far better once the economy recovers.
In other words, the key to success in 2018 and beyond is not to focus on Brexit or Bremain, but to focus on Brexcellence and becoming a true leader of your chosen markets.
There are four critical strategies for you to pursue:
The changing business and economic landscape not only brings new threats, it also creates new opportunities. Now is the perfect time to review, agree and develop the biggest opportunities for profitable growth for your business. Critically, you can’t pursue every opportunity – as Richard Baker, the Chairman of Whitbread, once told me, you can’t spray and sprint! – but you might find, for instance, that a fall in the value of the pound may open up new international growth opportunities. What are the big changes in your markets, and what new growth opportunities could your business pursue?
When it comes to pursuing new growth opportunities, speed is more important than quality. The winners in most markets aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ but the ‘first’ to deliver a relevant solution. The route to success is not to perfect a particular idea before launching it, but to get it out there, work on it, improve it and continue to lead. If there’s one strategic action that I recommend you take in 2018, it is to increase the speed of your organisation. This includes your ability to prototype, test and trial new concepts and work faster and more effectively across different teams and functions. How could you step-change the speed of your organisation in 2018?
Innovation is no longer a strategic option, it is an imperative. Successive studies have shown that the most valuable companies are those that lead on innovation. There is no Brexcellence without a true and lasting commitment to innovation-driven growth. Amazon, for instance, has, for the past decade, focused its factors on three key objectives: faster delivery speed, more range choice and lower prices. Elsewhere, my own client, Topps Tiles, has focused its innovation on a market-leading range, inspiring service and greater convenience over the past few years. What are the handful of strategic priorities where you could focus and ramp up your innovation efforts?
Willpower beats horsepower in delivering success. It isn’t necessarily the biggest businesses that win. Instead, it is those companies and leaders who have the discipline to follow-through and remain focused on their priorities that best drive growth and performance. This isn’t simply a case of reviewing monthly management reports, but getting hands-on with your biggest priorities. Back in the early 1990s, for instance, Archie Norman and Allan Leighton led the recovery of Asda by committing to weekly sessions with managers to review in real-time the development of the company’s latest growth ideas. What steps are you taking to improve you and your organisation’s discipline and willpower to see things through and deliver rapid results?
These four strategies – focus, speed, innovation and discipline – may not sound radical, but they are the foundations of sustainable business success and growth.
Let 2018 be the year that you invest in each of these four strategies, allowing you to ignore any downsides of Brexit and, instead, deliver lasting organisational Brexcellence and growth.
© Stuart Cross 2018. All rights reserved.