Stuart Clark: How to health check your business before you start out on the path of New Year Resolutions

Stuart Clark: How to health check your business before you start out on the path of New Year Resolutions

Stuart Clark

Stuart Clark, managing director at Glasgow-based Russell & Russell Business Advisers, discusses the importance of getting companies fit and healthy in the new year.

It is that time of year again. As regularly as the sun comes up in the sky every morning, the urge to get into shape seizes huge swathes of the population every January, and out come the diet books and the latest exercise regimes.

The impetus is particularly strong this year, with quarantine weight gain featuring as an aggravating factor, and there will be a stiffer than usual determination for people to fight back to their pre-pandemic weight.

And it’s not just us who are caught up in this collective frenzy. In 2020, the global weight management market was valued at $439 billion and is experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 8% from 2021 to 2026. The market for apps which measure weight, diet and exercise is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2028.

For business owners, however – though they may personally spend more time drinking smoothies and on early jogs round the park – the more profitable avenue of exploration might be to see what New Year Resolutions they could make to improve the fitness and health of their companies.

What can realistically be done at this time of new beginnings to lose some of the fat in the business, to build up alertness and responsiveness and to work towards greater strengths in core areas?

Well, just as on a personal health improvement programme, the first step is to establish a baseline, in the same way as you would weigh yourself on January 1 to establish your current weight and what you would aim to lose.

The fact is that many business people aim at nothing – and, to be fair, they hit it with amazing accuracy and regularity. But if you really want to make a difference, the first sensible step should be to liaise with professional business advisers such as Russell & Russell.

This will lead to a full, impartial and professional assessment of the business in all its component parts and all its complexity – the equivalent of stepping on to the scales to see how much you have to do.

Armed with this initial – but essential – information, the next stage is to set a goal on the road to business health and make the crucial decisions about what you actually want. Is it more sales? Upping the scale and quality of recruitment? Streamlining and slimming down? Investing in new technology to take you forward? Or looking for a successful exit? Once we start digging, the goals tend to be individually driven (i.e. more holidays, less time working in the business, taking home more pay) and we can put plans in place so that the business works for you – rather than the other way round.

Once goals are established, the next step is to track progress towards them. Professional guidance will provide a fortified tool kit, starting with the ability to measure – and increase – the business’s capacity for, and pace of, change.

A clear purpose, efficiently communicated, will bring employees and other stakeholders along on the journey. A recent survey by Bain & Company showed that during the pandemic, 86% of employees whose work satisfaction increased said their company had a purpose which they found meaningful.

The next stage is to define what services you will need to reach towards your goals, such as financial advice, marketing guidance, help with work pipelines or the use of surveys or polls.

Our Wally Seminars – the next of which is coming up in January – feature the legendary story of an Australian small businessman who built a highly successful pet shop enterprise by being super-effective and, quite unlike his competitors, delivering the things they tended not to, such as guarantees on the livestock and bundling packages to increase the average sale value.

As a consequence, he was able to charge more and received floods of customer endorsements which made his business even more successful. The seminars are a great way to address many of these issues and to focus hard on your business. They also allow a great opportunity to network with other business owners and share ideas.

The end of December is a time of reflection, a brief pause to look back, consider what went well and what could have been done a lot better. January is about making positive decisions and, if your business needs a New Year health check, the time to act is now.

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