17/08/10

By Martin Wing, Kepner-Tregoe

So, with the hard fought election battle in the not to distant past, what exactly did we learn from the creation of the coalition government? What message did this give to business leaders of today or tomorrow? Was it that you can only win if you can beat the opposition into submission through a war of words and half baked truths? Businesses don’t succeed like that. We have to know our strengths and how to use them to compliment those of our clients and our suppliers. A client, who in this instance shall remain nameless, once said to me during a strategy review session that he thought his clients were dumb because they paid for help and support. He added that I must have thought that he was dumb and that this is why he needed my support. Quite the opposite I responded. I thought he was informed to know both his and our strengths enough to use them at the right time.

This type of collaboration is paramount if we are to survive the economic rollercoaster we are currently riding. Here are my three top tips to remaining buoyant throughout a credit crunch.

TIP 1: Winning in business is about knowing your strengths and ensuring they compliment those of your allies, clients, suppliers and partners.

The ever growing national debt and the strategies to deal with it are being debated long and hard by politicians across the UK. So, how can we cut costs and yet improve the quality of service? Our lessons should be those companies that have stood the test of time and have been doing this for years. Businesses are unable to survive unless they remain competitive and adapt. As consumers and technology evolve, so these competitive services change shape and scope.

Many years ago I was involved in an out-sourcing deal for a major manufacturer in the Aerospace industry. A relationship was forged with an outsourced IT company; trust was established with both parties, acknowledging the different but complementary goals of the parties involved. This enabled both parties to overcome their initial reluctance and embrace the collaboration, which benefitted both. The manufacturer received the expertise from the outsourced IT company which itself forged a career path from through building business relationships with the manufacturer’s partners.

TIP 2: Recognise the scope of what you want to do and know what to focus on ….

If you’re in government, this will be a familiar cry from the Conservative front bench. Of course resources have been deployed, an abundance of them have been poured into the NHS and other well deserving government departments. However if the decisions can’t be made about how to deploy or spend the resources then little progress will be made. Investment simply won’t be affective if stakeholders are not aligned. There needs to be acknowledgement of other people’s concerns so that people collaborate, working together for effective delivery.

TIP 3: The easier and clearer implementation is, the more likely you are to succeed.

Breaking things down into manageable pieces and prioritizing them for an organization is essential. People simply cannot always take on new things. This is why progress in organizations need to be kept visible and the more collaborators you have, the more visible and transparent you need to be.

‘Communicate, communicate, communicate’ was the mantra of a Managing Director of one of my client companies who was leading an management buy out of a 400 strong team from the UK division of a Japanese multi-national. Tailored communications to the various stakeholders involved was paramount. Local governments, union reps, clients and suppliers all needed their own specific information regarding the fruition of the buy out. Ultimately, by communicating effectively with target audiences, you create a great likelihood for operational success. It is important that you identify the different stakeholders, target these audiences and communication with this audience as clearly as possible.

In conclusion

All recent economic data tells us that everything is looking good again. Yet why do so many organizations then still feel stretched? Simply, this is a result of competition. So to succeed in the future and to support your recovery, the key is to acknowledge fundamentals to business success, including the power of consolidation with our suppliers, customers and sometimes even our competitors (through consolidation).

During times of recession, the shrinking market means businesses must focus on core strengths and cut back on those expensive and more speculative activities. Developing new capabilities takes both time and money. In the current climate, decision makers are less likely to take risks with bankers and stakeholders looking for more predictable returns. So knowing what you do well and looking for synergies with other organizations that have capabilities you can utilize together is key.

Collaboration and outsourcing is fundamental to sustainable growth. If companies are to evolve and thrive as we exit the recent economic turmoil it is paramount that the tool of collaboration is one they draw upon into the future.