There’s no denying there has been a considerable amount of volatility and turmoil of late. The persistent uncertainty over Brexit means sterling continues to fluctuate while Trump’s presidency provides unpredictability on a whole new level! In addition, businesses have had to deal with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.
We ought to be used to dealing with this amount of uncertainty but instead the temptation in hard times is often for businesses to pull up the drawbridge. Far from doing the very thing that would help, such as development and innovation, budgets are squeezed and projects put on hold. The message is often to cut back, keep your head down and not do anything different.
So if you’re a CEO, MD or FD, what should your response be instead? How can you position your business for growth as opposed to decline?
Firstly, the automatic response shouldn’t be to put everything under minute scrutiny or tighten up on expenses. In fact, at times like these you should be empowering your team and giving senior staff their own budgets (after all, they’re closest to the day to day operations and can best understand what cuts can be made without negative consequences). You’ll still be in a position to have the oversight of the overall financial health of the business but your senior managers can make the decisions they need to be able to.
Concentrate on utilising technology to give your people the information they need. Make sure you have a single system that is easy to use where data can be easily accessed and stored. This will ensure staff aren’t tempted to design their own micro-systems where you wind up with masses of similar (but not matching) spreadsheets, all in peril of not being kept up to date. If you can give them genuine performance data that links to their own budgets on a daily or weekly rather than monthly basis, you’ll find this clarifies goals and encourages action.
Try not to over control and meddle so much that you suffocate imagination and supress new ideas. In times of financial instability or recession, leaders can unfortunately sometimes become dictators, obsessed with targets and ticking boxes. If, instead, you can set a clear vision and promote a feeling that you’re ‘all in this together’ you are more likely to finish up with an effective and enthused team. Rather than battening down the hatches you’ll then be in a situation to do business while your rivals may well be withdrawing.
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