WEBINAR – Business and Growth Strategy to Maximise Opportunities after Business Lockdown

This webinar will give you an insight into growing the business post lockdown – putting systems, processes and teams together, how to analyse options in the “new normal” and create an actionable plan, and how mentors, board advisory and non-executive directors can help in different ways.

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Video Transcript

Hello everyone I’m Chloe Johnson and welcome to this Fresh Business Thinking webinar series: Lockdown Learning for Businesses supported by BT.

BT skills for tomorrow aims to empower businesses and their employees with the digital skills to help grow their business. The skills for tomorrow website includes free learning content that small businesses and their employees can access at any time on topics such as: connecting with customers on a mobile, making sure your customers can find you online, and much more. To find out more you can click the link in the comments.

Coronavirus continues to be a challenge for small businesses and entrepreneurs across the UK. The outbreak leaves an overwhelming uncertainty into the future for business owners but this is a time when as a business community we need to come together and support one another.

And we’re lucky enough to work with organisations and individuals who are passionate about supporting entrepreneurs during this difficult time one of those is our speaker today John Courtney, Founder and Chief Executive of Boardroom Advisors

John is a serial entrepreneur having founded seven different businesses in Bristol over a 40 year period. He has trained and worked as a strategy consultant, raised funding through angels  VCs and crowdfunding and exited businesses.

Today, John will give you an insight into growing your business post lockdown, how to analyze options in the new normal and create an actionable plan. Mentors, board advisory and non-executive directors can help in different ways.

John will be talking for around 40 minutes and then we’ll have some time for Q&A if you do have any questions you can leave them in the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen and we’ll do our best to get to them later on in the session. That’s all from me for now and I’ll pass over to you John.

Thanks very much Chloe and good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to this webinar. Let me share my screen with you in a second.

So I’m John Courtney, at Boardroom Advisors we’re a national organization providing part-time executive directors to funded startups, scaleups and SMEs. I was lucky enough to train as a strategy consultant and so I want to share some of the things that I learnt during that process and during 40 odd years of founding, running and scaling some different businesses.

So with no more ado let me share my screen with you and we’ll get to some of the slides. The slides will be available and Chloe will tell you how that is the case going forward.

So we’re going to be talking about growth strategy to maximize opportunities after lockdown and I gather that the Chancellor has this morning extended some of the packages that he put forward for furloughing and covering 80% of businesses.

Obviously as we come out of lockdown we need to perhaps to be doing some different things and while we are mainly in lockdown it’s a good opportunity to have a look at some of the things that we can do to revise some of our strategy for the current situation.

And more importantly as we come out of it, and business starts to starts to happen just a little bit more, so let me just do this slideshow on properly, so we can have a look at that. I hope everybody can see that properly. So if we just look through we’re gonna have a look at strategy and strategic direction first of all generally. And then we’re going to look at some specific things.

So when we’re talking to companies we obviously talk to them about their strategic direction. Do they discuss strategy and who discusses it, and how the company analyzes strategic direction and do they do it themselves through their board, do they have external advice or a non exec director or consultant or that sort of thing.

Obviously it’s a lot easier to analyze strategy with at least an external facilitator . Sometimes we all can’t see the wood for the trees so those are the cuts on the common questions and the reason why we look at strategy. Because it gives company clear purpose and objectives and obviously in the current climate that’s even more important.

We’re going to be looking at three different things which most of us will know very well. We’re not going to be spending very long on this at all but we’ll cover that very quickly.

Some crisis assessment, obviously very relevant for the current business and a particular tool that I learnt as a strategy consultant, MOST analysis. A lot of the business tools out there are very good, very useful and most of them have a what I consider a fatal flaw that they do get a lot of issues out on the table get them talked about but not many of the management tools out there actually do something.

So take the business forward, take strategic analysis and put it into an action plan which you can monitor and assess and change. And that’s really where the most among psious comes in. I found that very useful with many different types of businesses but all strategy in all management tools like this really help companies get from where they are now to where they want to be. 

And so it’s very important to to have a clear idea of where both things where you are now and where you want to be and you know it’s the single most important thing if you don’t have a strategic direction in your company if you haven’t really set that during the current climate then you’re really just storing up trouble. 

So I just want to talk briefly about the SWOT analysis and SWOT has been around for ages. Most people know it and I do think it’s a useful tool, I’ve put it up there not to rubbish it but to praise and I think it’s very useful for getting issues out on the table. 

Often you know boardroom advisors we do this with with clients and in old money we would have people around a ball table with a flip chart and really it’s a matter of brainstorming these things. 

So just to give you an idea obviously strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats makeup SWOT. Very important to remember that strengths and weaknesses are internal things. And opportunities and threats are external, so that’s external to the opportunity. So strength might be good financial control because that’s an internal issue whereas an opportunity might be well corona virus might be an opportunity.  we can come to that later but that’s something that’s external to the organization.

Also I think it’s important to make sure that these things, all of them are particular strengths and opportunities are helpful to achieving objectives and weaknesses and threats are harmful, it’s obvious isn’t it. So what we often do is to hold a brainstorming session often with the directors of a company. And we’re facilitating and it’s a matter of just going around the room and shouting out where any with any brainstorming session as I’m sure most of you know it’s a matter of shouting out what comes to the top of mind, not discussing not analyzing certainly not being critical of anything that anybody says it’s a matter of getting the ideas getting them up on the board as quickly as possible just getting a list up there. 

And eventually when you start to run dry as a group you know the list may be five it may be 15 it may be more and then you can start to assess and analyze some of those ideas perhaps dismiss some that are not applicable, perhaps look at some of the smaller ideas, perhaps joining one or two of them together to make perhaps a bigger one. 

And also getting a sense of scale, so which are the most important strengths and the worst weaknesses and greatest opportunities and the really terrible threat says it. So get some idea of the most important ones; because it’s very difficult in any organization to tackle everything so it’s most important to tackle the big issues blindingly obvious but just need say.

I skipped over a slide but that’s fine, that’s actually where I want to go. So let’s go back to that so as I say, SWOT analysis great for getting some of the issues out on the table doesn’t do anything with it but we’ll come to that because some of these other tools will start to use that information so we’re going to park SWOT or if you’ve at some stage within your group done a list of strengths strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats do it park it because we’ll be coming back and using it a bit later. 

One of the other management tools that I wanted to talk about something we’ve developed over a while, it’s a kind of you know we’ve magnified from other tools really but a crisis assessment strategy. Very pertinent with coronavirus but can be used in any other type of crisis you know 2008 financial crisis, God help us World War III. Whatever the situation is and it can also be used in perhaps a crisis, perhaps not a global crisis, it might be a countrywide crisis, it might even just be an industry-wide crisis. 

So just some trigger questions really to go through and we would go through this in a group and really  just as a group answer the questions one by one. 

So the most important thing is defining what the crisis is in one sentence. Now in coronavirus land that’s pretty easy but in other circumstances perhaps it’s a crisis in a particular industry, it just helps to define exactly what that crisis is because people around the table may have slightly different understandings of the crisis.

So defining it might take a minute but it’s important I think to do. And then to think once that’s defined what’s likely to change in the world. Now for coronavirus obviously lots of things unlikely have already, many things have already changed in the world. And for us today this is perhaps more about what’s likely to change on a longer term basis, that’s assuming, hoping that this particular crisis only lasts for months perhaps only a few more weeks if we’re really lucky.

But on an ongoing basis, what’s likely to change in the world, there are some obvious things from the top of head. It’s possible, not certain, but it’s possible that more people might work from home, it’s possible that more people might use zoom, or another type of communication tools, so those are some obvious things. 

What other things might happen might change on an ongoing basis in the world generally. And I don’t mean for your business for your industry at this stage it’s just kind of breaking this down into bite-sized chunks. So what’s the big picture, what’s likely to change in the world and then perhaps in the business world as well.  

And then you can move down on level again in terms of what’s likely to change in your particular industry. Some industries are going to change drastically, you know pubs, restaurants, hospitality. 

So for example, in those industries, seating arrangements, so it might be that outdoor seating becomes extremely important certainly in the short term that’s likely to happen. In the long term, don’t know but it’s a possibility. 

So, these sorts of issues what’s likely to change in your particular industry and to some of these questions the answer may be none. But that it’s just a checklist to go through and to talk about and to try and get some sort of perspective.

And then digging deeper into your business, how will these changes, referencing the changes that we’ve just talked about in your industry, you know in the business world and in the world generally. How will these things affect your revenue streams, will they affect them and how will this change, will it change your value proposition so it’s worth going back to your value proposition.

If we’ve time I’ve got a slide on value proposition a bit later, if not I can forward it on to people who are interested. But having a look at your value proposition again getting it up on the screen, talking it round as a group, is this still relevant, is this still valid in the current situation do we have to tweak it. It’s part of you know if you’re in hospitality, if you’re a pub for example and if you have a massive beer garden then perhaps part of you know that might be part of your value proposition.  Certainly it might be a major part in in the early days but you know it may be more important. 

So just have a look at your valued proposition, revisit it, what does it change, if anything. And have a look at some of the other marketing pieces, so what about your customer segments or your customer segments going to be the same,  are you still serving the same segment of the business community or the consumer world, are those segments going to shift a little bit.

So for example restaurants, they were often majoring in dining, eating and short-term a lot of those have gone to take away or take out as the emergency. So those sorts of changes happen perhaps in your value proposition, perhaps in your customer segments, you might serve different segments with eating and takeaway.

And what about the relationships with your customers, how is the current coronavirus crisis going to change that. If anything certainly, where perhaps at the moment more at arm’s length with our clients and our customers also creates lots of opportunities; here I am I’m talking on webinar – not quite sure how many people 83, it says on the screen. And I’m doing this from my home office before I had to travel around the country to reach this audience. So have a think about your prospects as well as your customers and clients. And how might it all to your distribution channels and your partners. 

Again it’s just a time to reflect, to look back at your marketing plan if you have one, what are your distribution channels, are you going direct all the time, are you are you going through partners and are those partners are likely to still be there, are they going to change, are you going to change the types of partners that you have and your channels, are you likely to go more online than you have in the past.

So for example, supermarkets we’ve seen a massive queue physically outside the supermarket but also a massive queue for online shopping and it’s likely possible that online shopping will become a much more major part of the supermarket’s delivery. 

So that may help, that may change their distribution and what about resources given possible changes, distribution and so on and so forth the earlier points we talked about. And what about your resources they can’t have to change, you can have to do something different, are you going to have to resource and so on.  So again with the supermarkets they’re gonna have to have more delivery drivers, perhaps more people on the website maintenance, those sorts of structural changes. 

And how is your cost structure going to be affected, what does that mean. So for a supermarket does it mean that you have more people, probably. Does that mean you have less in store, well quite possibly, unless the whole supermarket sector is growing, unlikely. So it’s just a matter of looking at your cost structure, how it’s going to be affected by some of the changes. 

So these are all just common sense questions really but once you’ve got a checklist of questions to go through, you can then analyze and decide what if anything needs tweaking. And now perhaps when sales are lower than they might otherwise have been perhaps there’s a little more time to look at some of these questions and just make sure as you come out of lock down but you can analyze some of these questions and make the necessary adjustments. 

I just wanted to turn to another tool, I mentioned earlier called MOST analysis. It sounds very similar to SWOT. SWOT is very simple, useful but very simple. MOST analysis looks at first glance to be very simple but actually it’s a bit like an onion and as you peel away the layers, it gets a little bit more complicated. Best not to overthink it really, best to treat it as a relatively simple tool. 

And what it’s going to help us to do, is to take the issues that came up in the SWOT analysis and it’s going to take some of the issues that we’ve just talked about in the crisis assessment. And then actually to try and do something with them, to make changes in our processes, make changes, in our structure and our organization and the things that we do and critically right the way down to people’s to-do lists. 

That’s one of the problems about strategy sometimes, you know it’s  great and a good workshop session and we’ve produced this strategic plan on a bit of paper and that’s great. We’re all enthusiastic and then sometimes the bit of paper goes into the drawer and then it’s looked at again for 12 months. And that isn’t really what we need to be doing with strategy. It needs to be a living breathing document because things change, not just once a year they change continually all the time. And you have to continually assess to make sure that you’re on the right track.

And to adjust strategy according to the reality but neither of those tools we just talked about and certainly you know none of the rest of the tools that I’m conscious of do much in terms of implementation. So MOST analysis kind of does that. So just go through it from bottom less, so M is M stands for mission. So its organization’s purpose by this I mean the business purpose, I don’t mean anything wider than that I certainly don’t mean a vision. I really mean it’s helpful I think to think about hard things here so by that, I mean turnover and profit. Keep it simple. 

Don’t think about areas of distribution or numbers of staff or your product range or sounds. Just keep it at a really high level, strategies about where you are now, where do you want to go to and this is about where do you want to go to.

This often takes the biggest time with a group of people. It’s actually getting everybody bought into exactly where you want the company to go, in terms of sales and profit over a period of time. First of all choose a time scale, one year is always good. You can have two time scales at one year, and in the three year. Larger companies perhaps might do a five year thing. Smaller companies, five years just so far away,  perhaps not that useful. So either one or one and three I would suggest. So where are you now, so first of all, get a clear idea of what is the current turnover and what is the current profit of the business.

And I had a session with a company recently, that actually couldn’t quite nail that down. They could go back to what was filed at Companies House that’s true but that was months and months ago. And actually their current situation they didn’t have too much of a handle on and it turned out to be one of the weaknesses in the SWOT analysis.

Anyway, you have to make the best stab you can at what is the current position on sales and profit. So you know where you’re starting from and then you can say well, where do we want to be in the years time, sales and profit. And where do we want to be if you’re doing a second time, say in three years time.

Now what often happens is round the table everybody kind of wants to go at a different pace. Typically you know the board around the table, all the partners or whatever it is, you know they’re different ages. They want to do different things over a different time scale perhaps one wants to exit in a year, one wants to exit in ten years; one wants to grow very fast and one wants to be more slow and steady.

So getting consensus about the mission, the business mission, the sales and the profit that you want to do in one and three year time is more difficult than it sounds. Sounds very simple doesn’t it but it’s more a matter of compromise and discussion and negotiation. Sometimes I do hold a whole day session with a company on MOST analysis and a half the day might be spent on the mission, getting people to agree where it is that they want to go over what period of time.

And you can’t really move on until you’ve got that because otherwise everything else is built on sand. One person wants to go slow and steady and one wants to grow super fast, you can see those kind of an inbuilt conflict in there; but really useful as a group to agree that because suddenly everybody is on the same page and very commonly that hasn’t been the case before a session like that is it’s done. 

So hopefully at the end of that session, you’ve agreed where it is that you want to get to in a period of time. The tricky bit is obviously getting there. Now needless to say the speed at which you want to grow, if growth is impacting the mission, but the speed determines the number of things that you need to do. 

So if for example, you want to grow by 10% over three years you don’t have to do many things in order to do that. You kind of just you have to have to secure the land that you’ve got rather than march forward in military type terms. If however, you want to double in the year; you have to do an awful lot. So that’s the way you’re going, the mission drives a lot of the strategy going forward. 

The next section on this is, objectives. That’s the O in MOST obviously. So what are the key things that are going to help the company achieve the mission? The key planks, it doesn’t really matter what the words are. people don’t get worried about the language you know people mix up objectives, goals, strategies and tactics and it all gets a little confusing at some stage, management jargon really. It’s one of the key things that are going to help you get to your mission, that’s in English what it means.

Now, it is very difficult to think about such things and to come up with ideas like that in isolation, much easier to go back to the two tools that we’ve just looked at. So have a look at the SWOT analysis. Have a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Have a discussion around what are the key things you can’t work you know as you go through MOST analysis you’re going to come out with action plans, you’re going to come out with things that go and people’s task list, you can’t work on too many things at once or you just get blinded and you know you end up in the headlight. 

So what are the big issues? Are there any strengths that are relatively simple? Are there any absolutely core critical strengths that you need to hang on to or actually the whole business model the whole value proposition starts to fall apart? If there aren’t and don’t even use any strengths but if there is one and then perhaps put that in place. 

Weaknesses is a ripe area for work because weaknesses and the things that are going to hold you back. Unless you solve the big ones then you’re unlikely to be able to move forward and perhaps grow by 50% over three years or 20% whatever it is. 

So what are the key weaknesses? It may be perhaps a lack of perceived financial strength, just to pluck something out of the air. If that’s absolutely critical because without that you can’t grow to the stage that you want then that’s perhaps something that we should convert into being an objective. I’ll tell you how we do that in a second. 

Looking at the opportunities; opportunities again are really ripe for converting into objectives and you know top of everybody’s list at the moment will be coronavirus. It does create opportunities for a lot of people, it does create threats for some and things can be both an opportunity and a threat. They can be both a strength and a weakness.

Don’t be afraid of having things in two boxes but what are the key opportunities that if you take advantage of them that will really help you get to your mission? So it’s  just working through those, working through also the crisis assessment that we looked at. Is anything coming out very strongly through that crisis assessment that “my god unless we get this in place no they you know we’re really not going to be able to get to our turnover and and and profit”. 

So taking those big issues, how do you then convert them into an objective? Well, again we mustn’t spend too much time with management’s speak but I always say just try and put “which will” at the end. The phrase “Which will”. 

So I just plucked out of the air denying example of perceived lack of financial strength. So how do we convert that into an objective? We just turn the sentence round a bit. To increase our financial perceived financial strength it may not be real but may just be the perception. To increase our perceived financial strength which will (what will it do it well again I’m making this up but you’ll have your own answer) but it may allow us to be partnered more frequently by enterprise companies.

So there must be a reason that it’s a key thing, what will it do? What will it change? And the phrase which will; just kind of helps you and if you can’t think of which will do what then is it really a key thing that needs to be an objective. So the key lists you’ve got a list I suggest not too long, half a dozen, doesn’t say roughly that’s not an exact number but too few it’s a bit thin too many you’re trying to tackle too much. Keep it to the big issues because for each of these objectives, for each one of these, we want to design some strategies or some options in order to tackle the objectives and that’s what strategies are. 

Strategies are just options and if you get you know some stage going through this process; there’s always a blur moment where what’s the strategy? What’s detecting? What’s an objective? What’s the goal? What’s oh god You know just go back to simple stuff. Strategies are options; so what are the options so if you want to change your perceived financial strength. What are the options? What can we do? And again it’s a brainstorming you know people say “well you know strategic planning is very boring”. No strategies are great fun, it’s exciting! 

You know it’s not so brainstorming, it’s coming out with ideas, it’s poking ideas, it’s testing ideas, it’s seeing what works and what won’t work. Maybe I’m just a sad strategy consultant. Anyway so go around the room, so who wants a change in our perceived financial strength? What can we do? What are our options guys and you go around the room, “come on what do we got”. Okay we could get a financial control or in more financial director, we could get an accountant, we could get a non exec director, we could get some funding in and you know there’s lots of I don’t know what the answers are for these. There were lots of options on there and that’s all that we’re doing at this stage. 

We’re brainstorming, we’re not criticizing, we’re not analyzing, we’re getting it up on the board. And then only afterwards when we’re starting to run dry; we start to pick them apart because you know if there were ten options up there, we can’t work on ten options. We can’t, it’s just impossible, too many. 

So we have to wiggle it down but only once were kind of running dry of ideas. Perhaps the smaller ones again, join the smaller ones together so you know perhaps get a bigger one and then rank them.  And it’s not obvious what the big one is or big two. You know you might have a couple of options, a couple of strategies that you might want to run but I suggest no more than two. Otherwise, you’re probably trying to bite off more than you can chew. 

Which one of them is most likely to be successful? If it’s not obvious, go around the room; rate them, you know we’ve got ten options right in one to ten. I’ll knock out those small ones you only got three left, like right in one two three go around the room. And you find a consensus and with a consensus then with a strategy or strategies so you need an example, you might want to get a financial director on board and you might want to get some investment. You might run with two strategies in order to achieve that particular objective and that’s fine just you know one or two I suggest no more than that. And that’s what you’re going to run with but that’s still not actually getting people to do things.

One of the keys of the MOST analysis is then taking those strategies, those options and putting them on people’s to-do lists. That’s the team tactics, how are the strategies going to be put into action. And tactics need an owner, who’s going to do it and it needs a time scale, so it’s who’s gonna do what by when. So if you’re going to with that example, perhaps take on a finance director then who’s got the armband. “Okay you Mr. Chairman, you’re going to take the armband and you’re going to do it by the end of the first quarter.” So what are you going to do? Actually there’s those several things that the chair might have to do. He might have to research the marketplace, he might have to speak to recruitment companies, he might have to hopefully speak to companies like ours. You know he looks at the various options, he’ll then have to interview people and then perhaps a panel will make the final decision so there might be two or three tactics, two or three actions, two or three things that go on his to-do list or task list that might spill out of that. 

But, if you’ve got actions and you’ve got owners and you’ve got time scale then everything at the tactical level joins up with the strategies. They make the strategy’s work. And there’s the acid test, is this a good tactic? Well does it move the option on? Does it actually do something with that option to make it happen? If it doesn’t want it, perhaps that’s not really a tactic. If it does, if it moves it on, great. And is it going to go on somebody’s task list, yes right. 

And if those strategies work, then is that going to help achieve the objective? Yes? Well in that case, we’ve got a good strategy or strategies. And if we meet those objectives, are we likely to get towards our mission? So there’s an acid test at each stage, to make sure that you’re on track and to make sure that everything is hanging together as a unit. 

And one of the great things that, no I think the two great things about the MOST analysis is one is that things go on people’s task lists. And the other is when strategies don’t work; and some of them don’t work. This isn’t foolproof you know it’s going to work every time. It’s a process, it’s a structure. So when strategies don’t work as well as you’d like to see them, it gives you a point to go back to without dumping it all together.

So let’s say getting a finance director doesn’t work as well as you like you either can’t find the right person or you get a person in and it doesn’t solve the issue and whatever that perhaps was a faulty strategy. And rather than dumping the whole thing and saying “well you know we’ve just got to live with the fact that we ever perceived financial weakness “ it gives you a step back to go to. 

Well, what were the other strategies we looked at? What were the other options we considered as well as getting a finance Directorate. Well we talked about fundraising, okay and what were the other ones? And you go back to that, do they have to you look at the three or four strategies that you discussed at that time, reassess them. 

And say well actually yeah perhaps fundraising is the better way in hindsight of doing this. Shall we go ahead without strategy guys? And you’ll see you’re not just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And that’s the problem without a structure, without a stretchy process, you go from A to Z very quickly. And then Z doesn’t work and you throw away and just have to start from scratch.

This gives you somewhere to go and because of the tactics it gives you tasks and things on people’s to do lists really.  I hope that makes some sort of sense. I’m conscious of time so where are we?

This is the MOST analysis,  the same subject again. This is just expressed in a different format, top to bottom. Run random little semi circle but it just gives you some a checklist here.

So the mission now at the top, so where is it you want to go and in what time scale? That’s the checklist for objectives, so go back to the SWOT and also go back to your crisis assessment if you use that. Strategies are just options and with tactics there their tasks and time scales and owners as well. 

Okay so that’s really just a run-through of three tools to have a look and to reassess your business strategy, particularly in the current crisis time but in any crisis time, use the time as best as you can. Use it sparingly. Use it cleverly at the moment so when you come out of lockdown you’ve a chance; you know your were ship was going in one direction reassessed it’s now going in a slightly different direction possibly. And you’d be better meeting the opportunities as they come up.

So we’re going to go to some questions in a second. I’m conscious it’s just gone forty minutes. And I’ve been rattling on, I haven’t been able to have a look at the questions that come in. We’ve got some coming in on Q&A and someone comments I think. So Chloe, I don’t know if you’re there if you have a chance of passing some of these questions, I’ll try and tackle them. 

Thank you very much John that was filled with some great advice for our audience. Let’s have a look at some of the questions. 

QUESTION: We’ve had one from Anita “There is a lot of talk about the needs to be flexible pivoting and taking advantage of the short term opportunities. This seems to be the opposite of strategic planning and direction. How can we reconcile the two approaches?

ANSWER:  Well I disagree, I think opportunism there’s nothing wrong with it. And you can add it in the planning process so that’s really what we’ve done here. If you look at the crisis assessment that’s saying well actually what can we take advantage of? What can we do differently? What do we have to change? What we want to change? As a result of changing circumstances so that particular structure I think that kind of does it really. there’s nothing wrong with you’ve got to remain flexible, particularly in smaller businesses. 

You’ve got to be flexible in the marketplace and adapt to circumstance s and listen to what we’ve seen recently,  the number; the flexibility we’ve seen how many emails have we all got from people who have designed face masks? For example how many companies have changed their production processes to come out with PPE. Just fabulous, the innovation and the flexibility. So we’ve got to be able to do that but you can do that within the structure and using those questions I put is a way of doing that.

QUESTION: Next question comes through anonymous. When most SMEs have lost revenue and cash flow, how can an external consultant help out when they fired people and don’t have capital? 

ANSWER: Well yes it’s difficult, isn’t it? You know if you have an external consultant then you have to find a way of paying them. Otherwise, they’re less likely to be committed to the process and won’t want to enter to the process at all. If you let staff go but then you get an external consultant, do you feel bad about it? Well I think you have to go back to common sense and you know if you genuinely think that getting an external consultant is going to help you help the business, get on a shore footing and go forward with more confidence. And in turn to be able to re-employ people then that’s quite possibly a good decision. It’s more of a feeling. Is it likely to produce the results? If it is then it’s certainly something I would consider.

QUESTION: The next one is from Valerie. I am in the infant stage of creating my fault service event management business. And I’m currently going through a large database of potential clients to identify and target my market. Any suggestions as to how to approach the task?

ANSWER: Yes I’ve got another webinar which is about adjusting your marketing and your growth plans according to the strategy. Whereas this one is looking at the business strategy, business as a whole but that’s looking at growth and marketing in particular; so it’s too big a question to answer right now I’m afraid but yes there are processes. The principle again goes back to look at your marketing plan. look at the pieces of it such as the value proposition such as what you know what’s unique about your company, look at your marketing channels. and all of these various subsections of marketing and growth. And assess what you’re doing and get a plan going forward. We have a date Chloe I think for another I don’t have it to hand but that’s covered on my next webinar I think.

QUESTION: Okay the next one is from Steven. What percentage of companies’ time should be spent planning?

Answer: Well it’s one of those how long’s a piece of string? You don’t want to sit there and contemplate your navel all the time. And you also don’t want to do it too infrequently. So, there isn’t really a number you can put on it. My recommendation is do a thorough plan at least annually, and assess it and now’s a good opportunity. Assess it on a regular basis, you know for big companies that might be monthly. Or for smaller companies perhaps that’s quarterly. So if you’ve got a plan written down so a MOST analysis is what we would do with clients. 

Get the most allowances out, get your advisor back if you can, do it yourself if you can’t but look at the plan, discuss the plan, are we still in the same place? How is that strategy? Is it working? Is it not working? Do we need to tweak it a little bit? Is it working really badly and we need to dump it and start again? Assess it regularly, that would be my suggestion.

We’ve had one from AC and who is a personal development and health coach. said if the customer cannot know what is going to change in the future, how can we facilitate further?

ANSWER: Well I think it’s always best guesses. People say that to me, so how can I do a forward budget? I don’t know. I’m just guessing. well yeah, so what you do with a forward budget is, you use best guess, you look at the history. And you look at the factors that got to where you were in the past. Are you going to make an educated guess going forward? and that’s all we can do if you’re doing strategy forward within a structure, choose any of these that I’ve shared with you today or others. Make an educated guess  and try not to do it alone, try and do it with others because then you get a more rounded view but it often is a best guess it’s an estimate. Is it more or less likely that a garden will be useful to a pub going forward? My best guess is yes but I don’t know for certain. So I would use that process.

Fantastic well we’ve whisked through all those questions and there’s not any more at the moment. Is there anything you’d like to add John?

No, except thanks very much everybody for listening, it’s been fun. I think these slides are available. If people want to contact me, do I need to put my contact details up on the screens. There we go, so there my contact details my email address on the right and underneath it the web address and I think Chloe I think you’ve got my LinkedIn connection details.

 yeah so I’ve just put your LinkedIn profile in the comment section so if you do have any questions for John and after the webinar or would like to get in touch with him for slides then you’ll be able to through that link.

And do please connect with me on LinkedIn just say hi and say you’re on the webinar today, and connect with me. And as Chloe says ask me any questions. Ask for some of the slides. And I’d be happy to help and nice to meet everybody. 

John, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on this webinar. If there is anything you’d like to catch up on from today’s session. We’ll be sending out a replay of the webinar coming shortly to our social media channels.

Our next webinar in the lockdown loon of business series, takes place on Thursday the 14th of May at 2 o’clock. And we’ll be joined by Linda from R&D tax credit; who will advise you on how to clean back up to a third of your cost spent on developing new products, processes or services. If you haven’t already, you can register for this webinar at www.freshbusinessthinking.heysummit.com or you can click the link in the comments. Thank you very much for joining us today and thank you again John. Thanks very much Chloe. Goodbye everyone.

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran six of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.