Column: Setting a firm strategy is the key to survival

Apprenticeships are much broader nowadays, with growing office-based opportunities in marketing, finance, accounting, business administration as work opportunities in the region change.
Apprenticeships are much broader nowadays, with growing office-based opportunities in marketing, finance, accounting, business administration as work opportunities in the region change.

Running a business is always a challenge, particularly as we’re living through a time of constant change. In my view, you need the same three skills to run a business as to survive on a desert island. They are: hunting (sales), shelter building (IT) and escape strategy (innovation).

A business can only survive in the long term if it has a strategy to innovate and adapt to future change. There are some things you can’t change - such as the drop in sterling or what the Chancellor of the Exchequer hands out or takes away in the Budget. And there are some you can.

To be clear about its strategic direction, a business needs to constantly examine the things that it can change for the better. The questions might include these: Is the current skill set right for the business? What will add value to our proposition? And are we ‘sweating the assets’ and getting the most out of our staff?

Staff costs are the biggest item on a service industry’s profit and loss account. So each member of staff needs to contribute and also to give the business diversity of scope and vision. One of the pitfalls for brokerages like mine is the temptation to employ people in your own image - because you feel more comfortable with them. But discomfort challenges us and it is often better to bring in someone who will shake up the status quo.

Above all, innovation calls for a robust strategy for handing over the baton. From my experience, a succession strategy means delving beyond senior boardroom levels into your second and third tiers of management, where the young and hungry are to be found.

In this fast-trading age, we are seeing the rise of the 40-something CEOs. The head of Goldman Sachs was 28 when he was appointed.

There is a pressing need to not only invest in talent but to make talented individuals aware that they can put themselves on a fast track to leadership.

Of course, there are many ways of bringing on successful people. Graduate and academy training programmes play a big part. Providing incentives also plays a role.

Running hard and passing back works only in an environment of trust, where everyone knows where they stand.

That’s the essence of team spirit.