By Daniel Hunter

Taking time out from the day-to-day running of your business to put a detailed strategy in place is the vital first step in the pathway to growth, according to a new report out from GrowthAccelerator. Those who have taken the time to plan say it has put them, on average, 10 months ahead of where they would have been without planning.

Yet, a third of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) say finding the time to take a step back is impossible, citing it as a bigger challenge to their growth prospects than the current economic environment (33% compared to 29%). 63% of those surveyed said they spend less than two hours per week actually leading their company, spending the rest of their time doing day-to-day work. As one business owner said: “One minute I’m a builder, the next minute I’m an MD!”.

The Working On, Not In report from GrowthAccelerator, finds that of those who said they had taken time to work on, not in their business by paying for professional support, 77% believed their company had benefited.

These respondents said it helped their business achieve milestones quicker than if they’d ‘gone it alone’ - putting them on average 10 months ahead of where they would have been without it. And this showed clearly in their understanding of their business’ future - of those who had paid for professional advice, over two thirds (69.6%) were able to describe very clear business objectives, compared to just 30% of those who hadn’t received external support.

“Many business owners are consumed with the day-to-day running of their company, particularly if they feel they are under resourced or managing change in the current economic climate," Simon Littlewood, Director at GrowthAccelerator, said.

"However, whilst operational effectiveness is of course important, business leaders who want to achieve growth need to plan for it.

“A detailed strategy and plan can align management and allow a business to move forward, seize opportunities and unlock their potential, which could remain hidden if they simply focus on working in, not on their business.”

The report finds that those achieving the most significant growth have to plan for it. Those who have achieved the least growth in the poll are the most likely to deal with business challenges through simply trial and error. The results showed that only 21.1% of those who have achieved more than 10% growth have overcome challenges through trial and error.

Other key findings from the report include:

- The research finds men are more likely to seek external advice than women; 77% of male respondents saying it would have been helpful, compared to 57% of females.

- Lack of time to strategise presents a common challenge across all sectors, but some emerge as being clearer on their precise objectives than others, with Manufacturing and Technology leading the way (66% and 66.7% respectively).

“With 49% of decision makers agreeing that at times they’ve been unsure of the best route to take when growing their business, external support can provide that much needed sounding board and confidence booster to making informed decisions," Simon Littlewood added.

"And while it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, this research proves that those who are investing this time are reaping the most rewards.”

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