Would you let your managers run your business?

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Will Abbott, Head of Business Advisory at UK200Group member firm Randall & Payne LLP talks about the importance of business skills.

One of the requests I regularly receive from clients is to, “Teach their managers how to be commercial”. There is not usually a definition of what this means, but I believe it is driven by frustration at a missed opportunity, an under-priced contract or lack of awareness of costs that erode profits.

There is no shortage of high quality leadership and management training, which is undoubtedly appropriate in the right circumstances. It tends to be focused on developing improved performance from a company’s management team, which can add significant value to a business. However, it only represents one end of the scale. The other is typically based around those technical skills that everyone starts to learn from the day they start their first proper job.

What lies between them? Most business owners would claim to be business savvy or to possess business acumen. This comes from experience and a few years of learning from mistakes. I rarely hear owners talk about their managers in these terms though. Perhaps that is because the managers that possess it end up running their own businesses. Given the difficulty recruiting good people found by most SME recruiters, it seems a pity to lose these people, especially if we can’t replace them or train our own.

It strikes me that where there is a lot of noise around leadership there is a deafening silence around business skills. And the latter is, I believe, different from management or leadership, although it must contain some elements of both.

What else might it contain? An understanding of your market and pricing, competitive advantage, sales process and marketing; systems and processes, finance and cashflow, vision and strategy, goal setting and key performance indicators would all be skills. In fact, the list starts to look an essential checklist for business success, but I wonder how many business owners assess their managers’ skills against this list or think about developing their own skills in these areas?

The imperative behind this is the constancy and speed of change that we all face in our business on a day-to-day basis. It is no longer sufficient to have these skills embedded solely in the Managing Director, nor to have the only specialists with the individual skills in the C suite. People everywhere in the organisation need to be adaptable, be able to spot opportunities and be able to respond to and resolve problems, if the strategies of the board or owners are going to be implemented successfully. Those are business skills.

As our business advisory work has grown, we have found ourselves helping to develop the business capability of the management teams with our client’s organisations. It is the missing part of the process - vision strategy, capability, accountability and perhaps, not surprisingly, something we have adopted to naturally given the many years of combined experience working with successful businesses.

So when considering your next investment in your workforce, ponder this question: Which is more likely to succeed – an organisation full of leaders or an organisation full of business people?

Will Abbott
Head of Business Advisory
Randall & Payne LLP

Tags: UK200

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