Stuart Ross, High Growth

Stuart Ross, High Growth

Businesses should act now to prepare for the transition out of the Covid pandemic, says Stuart Ross, CEO of High Growth, a coaching business which helps high growth SMEs scale up.

Businesses need to take action now to prepare for the transition out of the Covid pandemic, says Stuart Ross, CEO of High Growth, a coaching business which helps high growth SMEs scale up.

He says: “Part of the challenge that businesses are facing at the moment is they are starting to transition out of Covid, but into a very uncertain world. It is not going to be the same as it was previously.”

He highlights several key areas that businesses need to focus on in order to achieve sustainable growth in an uncertain trading environment:

Adapt your Leadership skills. “The only way businesses are going to survive going forward is if the leaders of the business are growing faster than the company itself. So leaders have to be totally committed to growth – their personal growth, their team’s growth and business growth. And they need to learn how to learn - they need to be sponges of new knowledge and be adaptable and flexible.”

Have strategic clarity. “The companies which are most likely to succeed beyond the crisis are committing now to a clear and specific growth strategy. They are still focused on the end vision but they need to be flexible as to how they get there, because the route to delivering it is likely to have changed. You need to have faith that you are ultimately going to be successful but you also need to confront the brutal truth in terms of what is happening now.”

Instil operational efficiency. “This is about reducing costs and protecting your margins, so you are still maintaining your services but delivering them in a more efficient way. It means that when we come out of this crisis you will turbo-charge your profits in the recovery phase.”

Pursue innovation. “Cutting back on innovation does not guarantee your success or even your survival. Instead companies should be focusing on selective research and development, innovation and investment which will put them in a good position for when we start exiting Covid. This is not necessarily about massive projects; it is about saying let’s try delivering our service in a improved way, for example.”

Invest in marketing. “The companies that did best coming out of the 2008/9 recession were the ones that continued to invest in their basic marketing and sales teams as a top priority. That is essential for growth beyond recession. You need to have your marketing ready to go for when things start turning up again.”

Focus on the short term. “I find it incredible the number of businesses I come across which are still going through a rigorous budgeting process and saying they need to achieve ambitious financial targets over the next year. Unless you have got a crystal ball I don’t see how you are going to be able to predict what you can achieve in a very uncertain business environment. At the moment businesses shouldn’t think about a year timetable for planning - the best you can do is plan for the next three months in detail and then in three months’ time plan the following three months. You need to be flexible and focused for three months at a time, which will give you the opportunity to maximise any opportunities and minimise any risks as a new business environment emerges.”

Listen to your customers. “There are some fundamental structural changes in consumers behaviour taking place right now and nobody quite knows how it is going to pan out. So I would recommend at the moment to stay close to your customers and deliver your product or service around what they actually need, as opposed to what you used to do. All assumptions are there to be challenged.”

Stuart’s top tips for businesses right now

1. Commit to your vision about where you want to take the business and make sure that everyone across the organisation is aligned behind it.

2. Make sure you have the right team around you.

3. Ask yourself what your business is going to stop doing. Research shows that if you try to achieve more than two or three goals in a particular time period, you will not achieve any of them with any excellence. So decide what two or three big things you need to focus on in your business right now, and what you are going to stop doing to allow that to happen.

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