18/05/2011

Know where you’re going!

By Gerard Burke, Founder and MD, Your Business Your Future

In answer to Alice’s question, “Would you tell me, please, which way I should go from here”, the Cheshire Cat replied “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

The fourth of our Seven Pillars of a Better Business is ‘Know where you’re going’. A business which knows where it’s going, and has a plan to get there, is more likely to succeed and grow than one that muddles through from day to day.

It might sound obvious, but few business owners actually take the time to formulate a clear and inspiring vision for the future and a plan of how they’ll get there. It can become even more difficult to set out a plan when two people are running a business together. They have to agree on goals, a vision and a future they both believe in and are committed to.

This was the situation Andrew Farrell and his brother Oliver found themselves in at the end of last year. Both brothers had joined the family engineering business, Cheshire-based Farrat Isolevel, from very different backgrounds. Oliver was an engineer by profession, while Andrew had studied economics and worked in commercial roles.

The business was doing quite well. It had established a reputation as a leading player in the field of vibration control engineering and machine mounting methods and had built up a team of 13 knowledgeable and technically-able staff. Their father, who had taken over from his father in the early 1980s, was keen to take more of a back seat, and let his sons take over the running of the business.

Andrew and Oliver had no trouble establishing what their respective roles should be – Oliver was keen to concentrate on sales and business development, while Andrew was happy to take over the mantle of MD (managing director).

At the same time, they were finding it more difficult to reconcile their views on what direction the company should take. And that prompted them to participate in the Better Business Programme run by Your Business Your Future in partnership with Cass Business School.

We didn’t have a coherent strategy,” says Andrew. “There were various avenues we could go down and several product ranges we could focus on. And, they were all competing with each other in terms of time, resources and money. We wanted to use the programme as an opportunity to set a clear direction for the company.”

He adds: “What made it more difficult was that Oliver and I were coming at the strategy from different directions and without a common view of where we wanted to be.”

The process which underpins the Better Business Programme helped Andrew and Oliver to realise that the best place to start was at the end. “We started by defining the end point, looking at what shape and feel we want for the business in five years time and working backwards from there,” recalls Andrew. “We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we had the same long term vision for the company: to make the most of our family heritage, to put greater emphasis on quality and focus on a smaller range of customers and projects. It was only through the programme that we were able to reach that common understanding of how we wanted the business to look.”

The brothers have set two five-year goals for the business: being the best at what they do on a worldwide basis and growing the business to three times its current size in terms of revenue and profits. The route to achieving these ambitions is now set out in a detailed plan, which they developed as part of the Better Business Programme.

We’d had strategy documents and meetings before. None of them were as thought-through and detailed as what we developed on the programme,” says Andrew. “There’s a lot to do, from investing in product development to installing a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.”

The plan has given them clarity and, according to Andrew, has motivated and inspired them. “The process of writing the plan energised me – thinking through every element makes you believe you can actually do this.”

The brothers have shared the plan with their father, and the next step is to communicate it to everyone in the company. “There won’t be any surprises as we’ve already had informal conversations with everyone individually,” says Andrew. “We really want to ensure that we communicate this well to make sure they all know what we’re working towards and that we’re all working towards the same goal.”

To find out more about how the Better Business Programme can help you articulate your vision and develop your strategy and plan to build the better future you want for your business and for you, come along to one of our Better Business Briefing Events. To book a place, please visit: Better Business Briefing Events

Visit our website: www.yourbusinessyourfuture.co.uk


Watch the video below featuring Jo Ray, Product Marketing and Strategy Director at Sage, discussing the importance of having a clear vision for your business.

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