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Green shoots of recovery? It is time to grow our own

PUBLISHED: 11:32 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:32 29 April 2013

Martin Reagan

Martin Reagan

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Martin Regan of Crowe Clark Whitehill Cheltenham discusses how to kick start our economy

Hardly a day goes by without the media, political commentators and business gurus alternating between predictions of a triple dip recession and sights of the elusive green shoots of recovery. With the government unable to borrow more funds and with the banks still struggling to lend to businesses, it is difficult to see what will kick-start the economic recovery, particularly with consumers still unwilling to spend. Is this the ’new normal’?

If we want to see a return to the good life, perhaps it is time for businesses to ‘grow their own green shoots’. A business improvement programme is a good place to start. This could involve a number of steps, a few of which are outlined below. These can be applied to any business, regardless of size.

A critical element is to have a plan. This is more than just the annual budget and must involve some visionary thinking. Businesses must ask themselves two key questions: firstly, ‘where are we now?’ and secondly ‘where do we want to be?’ Set out a clear structure of what you are going to do to deliver your priorities, and ensure that you are able to measure your efforts against your current performance so that you’ll know which elements of your plan are proving successful. Every business is different, of course, but keep a close eye on local and national competitor performance indicators. What are others doing that sets them apart? Having a business model you admire to emulate can help to keep your plan on track.

It is important to undertake this thought process as if ‘money is not an issue’ as this will allow uninhibited and creative thinking when considering the vision. Some specific strategic plans and actions will then need to be considered in order to move the business towards its goal; for example, at a time of recovery most businesses aren’t spending their precious budgets on marketing, but there are ways you can boost your profile without shelling out. Get out there and meet people by networking and join local business and enterprise groups. Social media has boosted many businesses’ profiles through the lean period and it’s continuing to prove its worth to businesses of all sizes.

Waste reduction could be an important factor for some businesses. No doubt many have already cut costs and reduced employee numbers as part of their business reviews, but how many have looked carefully at systems and procedures? Some significant improvements in business performance can be achieved simply by changing the way we do things: have you thought about the little things? Introducing policies to reduce waste across the business can save vital funds for use elsewhere; embracing the digital age and using file sharing software, rather than printing and posting, reduces not only your carbon footprint but also stationary costs. Circulating information, rather than copying, is extremely cost effective, particularly when you consider that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year: that’s around 20 reams of paper. Imagine the costs that could be saved if workers took notes on laptops or tablets – as well as the benefits to the environment.

Businesses should also consider assessing firstly those things that the business does well and which positively contribute to performance, and secondly those things that the business does poorly or which have a negative impact and hinder performance. By identifying the top five in each category and taking actions to double the impact of the positives, and halve the impact of the negatives, there can be a remarkable impact on the overall financial well-being.

The people who work in the business are usually critical to its success, and therefore any business improvement programme must have the full involvement and commitment of all staff in order to maximise the opportunities for success. A business is only as good as its employees, and not only is hiring the best staff important to your growth, but so is looking after their interests well once they’re part of your team. Developing your staff is key to progression, whether this is through training, diversification into areas of the business they are interested in, or simply rewarding loyalty and hard work. If they stuck with you through the hard times, they’re more likely to stay if their efforts are acknowledged and they too are given room to grow. n

For help in establishing the ‘green shoots’ for your business, please contact Martin Regan at Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP on 01242 234421 or email martin.regan@crowecw.co.uk.

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