Five things SMEs should be doing

| September 16, 2019

Small and medium enterprise (SME) owners can often become so overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work required to work both in their business and on their business that they can overlook some of the most important tasks that could help them grow. Understanding how to maximise the value of their efforts by focusing on the right things is crucial, according to entrepreneur, CEO and elite business coach, Andrew Laurie.

Andrew Laurie said, “While recognising that every business is unique and, therefore, has its own needs, experience has shown that it can be easy for business owners to focus on things that don’t deliver the growth they’re looking for in the long term. Instead, they become distracted by day-to-day tasks. It’s important for business owners to take a moment to reconsider how they spend their time and where they focus their energy for long-term success.”

Andrew Laurie has identified five activities that business owners may not be doing and should start doing:

1. Delegate properly

Delegating isn’t just getting other people to do tasks; it involves genuinely handing responsibility over to qualified people, empowering and enabling them to get the job done, then getting out of their way. While it’s important to hold people accountable, it’s also important to have the courage to let go of these tasks. Business owners should delegate with clarity about what’s required, how, when, and by whom. Delegation is an important step for business owners who need to get better at valuing and managing their own time. Business owners must recognise what their time should really be worth – and respect it accordingly.

2. Focus on building the value of the company

Many business owners are so fixated on daily operations and generating profit that they never think about the activities that relate to actually building their company as an asset and increasing its value. It’s essential for business owners to recognise that their business should be a valuable asset and the business owner is the only person who is in the right position to focus on building that value. Owners should ask themselves what they can do in the next year to increase the value of their business. They should consider things like the business model, the quality of its core assets, and how the company would be valued such that the value can be increased.

3. Concentrate on being the chairman and the shareholder, not the CEO

Almost every SME owner is technically the chairman of the company. But very few think about what that job is, and even fewer actually do it. Instead they think about what they need to do that day. If they thought and acted like a chairman, the value of the company would likely go up. There should be a clear distinction between being focused as CEO on the current and immediate future operation of the business, running the team, and the day-to-day operations versus, as chairman, being focused on the value of the business and its longer-term development. Chairmen should be focused on the core underlying strategy of the business and, as a shareholder, they should be focused on the value of the asset. This is very different to the return it provides to the owner for working in it and getting paid a salary.

4. Invest more in learning

Business owners and their teams must focus on learning what they’re currently doing and how to do it better. The most valuable version of that is to not only learn from what they’re currently doing but understand where they’re trying to get to. Looking ahead even just a year or two is important to determine what the team needs to learn to get there. Learning includes both straightforward skills that can be improved by doing a course or reading, and thinking about ways to alter habits, disciplines, beliefs, and core identity. Most business owners aren’t doing anywhere near enough deliberate, focused learning. In the end, where business owners get to five years from now will be a direct result of what they learn between now and then.

5. Don’t look for balance; look for integration

Most SME owners spend some time on business planning but too few include personal planning as an integral part of this process. Effective planning should incorporate all of life, capturing what the owner wants to accomplish outside of work, such as spend more time with family, be a better friend, and make time for sporting interests, hobbies, charitable work, and more. Owners that don’t do this are exposed to the risk of doing nothing but business activities. Rather than look for an elusive ‘balance’, it’s more effective to view life and work as integrated activities and start by planning it all as one.

Andrew Laurie said, “Many business owners may already be doing some of these five activities but maybe they could give them more attention or add one or two from the list to their approach. There are so many things a business owner could do to improve the value of their business and the quality of their life, and the list isn’t limited to these five. However, this list provides a good start for most business owners. It’s important for owners to assess themselves honestly and set a course of action accordingly.”